5 steps to go­ing solo

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Solo Travel -

Whether you book an or­gan­ised tour or travel in­de­pen­dently, there’s noth­ing to stop you go­ing it alone. Here’s how to make the most of what’s out there

1Find a friendly wel­come

The ma­jor­ity of us like meet­ing new peo­ple, but it can be dif­fi­cult. Book­ing an or­gan­ised small-group tour (typ­i­cally be­tween eight and 16 peo­ple) cuts through all that. Shar­ing the day’s ex­pe­ri­ences at din­ner is a rite of pas­sage, es­pe­cially on sa­faris and cruises when there’s plenty to be dis­sected. The same ap­plies for trips where you have to muck in; for ex­am­ple, ac­tive sail­ing es­capes are great for break­ing down bar­ri­ers, as you’re all in it to­gether. It’s no sur­prise that, along with over­land and rail ad­ven­tures, these trips at­tract the high­est num­ber of solo trav­ellers.

TOP TIP: It pays to ask op­er­a­tors be­fore­hand about the ra­tio of cou­ples to sin­gles on trips; you may not feel com­fort­able be­ing the only solo.

2 Em­brace your niche

Spe­cial in­ter­est and ac­tive tours are a good way to en­sure that you’ll find an open and ac­cept­ing group – and maybe learn a thing or two along the way. Such tours are nat­u­rally bent to­wards the solo trav­eller; af­ter all it’s rare that a cou­ple shares the same ob­ses­sion for trop­i­cal bird­ing or high-al­ti­tude trekking. A shared in­ter­est tends to open peo­ple up more. It also leads to plenty of ad­ven­tures, from driv­ing a team of huskies across Fin­land’s bo­real forests to pho­tograph­ing cari­bou in the Arc­tic wilds of Canada. TOP TIP: Ac­tive tours are not only a good way to meet like-minded souls, but mean you can travel fur­ther and deeper, es­pe­cially on trips where the lo­gis­tics of a week’s hike or kayak­ing mean that you can’t just travel light.

3 Do things to build up your con­fi­dence

If you feel awk­ward eat­ing out alone, make that your first chal­lenge. Bring some­thing prac­ti­cal to do, such as fill­ing in a di­ary or check­ing emails (a book can be iso­lat­ing) and don’t sit in a cor­ner; a counter is bet­ter, as it al­lows oth­ers to join you and for you to chat to staff, who of­ten have good tips. Or you could go to a Meetup event (see ‘Have Tech, Will Travel’), walk a trail, strike up con­ver­sa­tions. Re­main open to ad­ven­ture. Be­fore long, it’ll be your first in­stinct.

TOP TIP: For your first solo trip, pick some­where easy to nav­i­gate or an ac­tiv­ity you’re fa­mil­iar with (kayak­ing, cy­cling, etc) – it’ll help you get over the hump of be­ing alone in a new place.

4 Put your­self in other peo­ple’s hands

If you’re trav­el­ling in­de­pen­dently, home­s­tays, host­ing web­sites (Airbnb, etc) and hos­pi­tal­ity ex­change net­works such as couch­surf­ing can put you in the homes of lo­cal peo­ple happy to meet and share their knowl­edge. It’s far friend­lier than a ho­tel; some hosts will even show you around. It may also give you more con­fi­dence to meet oth­ers. Once set­tled, there are lots of sites and apps to put you in touch with lo­cals (see ‘Have Tech, Will Travel’). Or just take your new­found con­fi­dence and head out on your own. Solo trav­ellers can usu­ally be squeezed into lo­cal tours at the last minute (there’s al­ways space for one), so you’re more able to do things on a whim.

TOP TIP: Try to ar­range for some­one to pick you up at the air­port or sta­tion, es­pe­cially if you ar­rive at night; it saves on the stress of rolling up in an un­fa­mil­iar place and hav­ing to worry about safety or scams.

5 Don’t pay more be­cause you’re alone

Tours that fac­tor in ac­com­mo­da­tion typ­i­cally base their rates on two peo­ple shar­ing a room. When trav­ellers book in­di­vid­u­ally, a fee is added to ac­count for a sin­gle oc­cu­pant: the dreaded sin­gle sup­ple­ment. We’ve heard the ar­gu­ments ad nau­seam (ba­si­cally: ho­tels claim to lose money), but that doesn’t make it any fairer, es­pe­cially when sin­gle rooms are rarely half the cost of a dou­ble and of­ten pretty pokey. Speak to the op­er­a­tor and see if they’ll cut a deal or hook you up with a part­ner in a shared room. Al­ter­na­tively, look for times out­side the school hol­i­days when ho­tel ca­pac­i­ties are low and hote­liers are more likely to waive added fees.

TOP TIP: Tour op­er­a­tors that ex­clu­sively cater for solo trav­ellers typ­i­cally dis­pense with sin­gle sup­ple­ments, but not all do. Check first and don’t as­sume. ⊳

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