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How to solo travel the world (when it's safe to travel again)

More people are choosing to explore in their own company. Play safe and you can have a great time, says Sarah Marshall.

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Travelling solo can bring rich rewards. solo traveller. Photo: PA Photo/iStock.

Travelling solo can bring rich rewards. solo traveller. Photo: PA Photo/iStock.

Press Association Images

Travelling solo can bring rich rewards. solo traveller. Photo: PA Photo/iStock.

For many people lockdown led to loneliness – but for others it sparked enthusiasm for spending time alone. That emerging trend is playing out in travel bookings, with more of us choosing future trips for one.

Specialist operator Cox & Kings has reported an increase in demand, fuelled partly by an eagerness from individuals to get out and explore – even if no-one else wants to come along for the ride.

“People have wanderlust in their DNA, so it’s no surprise that lockdown was a wake-up call for some people to dust off their bucket list and get something booked, no matter if it is without their family and friends,” says managing director Kerry Golds.

If you are thinking of striking out solo – at home of abroad – here are a few things to consider.

Play safe

Staying safe should be the primary concern for anyone planning to travel alone.

Venturing into new places can be daunting even in the same country, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent to exploring. By taking the right precautions and being sensible, it’s possible to have a smooth experience.

There are several apps aimed at increasing personal security: Find My Friends is a tracking device which shares a user’s GPS location with approved ‘friends’, allowing their movements to be monitored; bSafe works by sending a live video and audio stream to select contacts when activated via a voice alarm. They can also see your GPS location on a map.

Not all dangers are posed by other people, though. If you’re planning a long hike or a solo camping trip, always tell someone where you’re going and agree to check in at certain times so no-one sends out a search party.

Trust your judgement

One of the joys of solo travel is the confidence boost it brings. Learning to trust your instincts and make considered judgements will help you in all areas of life.

If a situation feels uncomfortable, leave quickly – and always err on the side of caution. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to try something new.

Weigh up whether something feels genuinely threatening or simply out of your comfort zone. Striking up conversation with fellow travellers might be intimidating but it’s not necessarily dangerous, for example. Conversely, wandering around an unfamiliar place late at night could be foolish even in company.

Know your limits

Whether it’s meeting new people or scaling a mountain, be realistic about what you can achieve. If the idea of big groups is daunting, start by introducing yourself to someone with common interests – perhaps a fellow traveller sharing transport and heading in the same direction as you.

In terms of physical demands, pick activities that suit your abilities. If you’re new to hiking, for example, choose simple walks to build up fitness. Likewise, if you’ve never been camping before, start off slow and opt for an overnight stay as a warm-up, rather than plunging straight into a week-long campathon.

Learn some lingo

When travelling abroad, it’s useful to have a few stock foreign phrases in your armoury. Apps like Google Translate offer a quick fix solution for menus and street signs, but it’s worth learning how to start a simple dialogue.

Babbel offer interactive courses in 14 different languages; FluentU contextualises words by captioning music videos, podcasts and news reports. Subscriptions for both apps apply.

Alternatively, carry a good book as a means of sparking conversation. Choose a paperback reflecting your tastes, and passers by will have immediately learned something about you, before words are even exchanged.

Enjoy your own company

Having fun doesn’t always mean mixing with other people, and you don’t need a second opinion to validate a travel experience. A beautiful mountain is just as beautiful even if you’re seeing it alone. In fact, one of the benefits of witnessing sights solo is the absence of any pressure to quickly move on.

For many, mealtimes can be challenging. People often complain single dining is lonely, but that shouldn’t result in rushed meals and supermarket snacks. Savour what you eat – it doesn’t matter if only one portion is being prepared. And don’t be afraid of reserving a table for one in restaurants; many have bar seating and single placings especially set up.

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