Friday, July 6, 2018

travelling all bye:myself - five PROs and CONs

(Last Update July 2018)

When I've started my blog a bit over a year ago, it was mainly because I got asked so often about my solo travelling that I decided to share my experience not only with my friends but with everyone who might get inspired, informed, and benefit from it.


Museu Oscar Niemeyer in Curitiba
This picture was just too congruent to illustrate solo travel - you do not always walk alone!

Since then, I've been reading so many posts on solo travel, on how to do it, on where to go, on what to consider.
Over the past decades travelling solo, I've never noticed that hitting the road solo is such a complicated process with so many aspects to consider.
I picked a destination, I packed my bag, and off I went.
What a daredevil I seemed to be.

The other day, someone even contacted me since they want to 'raise awareness' for solo travel.
Raising awareness for solo travel - wow.
Has it really come to that? Is solo travel a disease? Are there awareness walks (which would nicely match with the cause 'travelling')?
Are you given sea blue awareness ribbons to stick to the lapel of your explorer vest?
Or is it just a disability, so you better travel to countries accessible for the impaired?

To me, solo travel was nothing more than buying a ticket for one.


Why Solo?



First of all, I think I need to demystify travelling solo.

Actually, I mainly travel solo because


  • not many of my friends travel as much and as often as I do
  • I don't feel like coordinating travel dates with others
  • I don't feel like compromising on a country
  • I don't feel much like compromising at all, 


especially since after decades of solo travel I've developed sort of an 'it's my way or the highway' attitude when planning the trip - or even a single day.

So there are no philosophic reasons like 'I want to break free', 'I want to feel my inner self' - no, it basically comes down to technicalities why for me it's more convenient to go bye:myself. And yes, over the years I got the hang of it for various reasons that I state below in the PROs-section.

Talking 'bout technicalities: That fact that you are travelling solo is nothing but a technicality.
The country you are going to will be the same whether you are by yourself or in a large group. So places won't be more or less dangerous and the weather won't be better or worse.
Another person - unless it's an expat or someone who already has been to the place of your choice - will not be necessarily of any help:
Instead of one lost fool not knowing where to go, you'll be two lost fools looking for directions.


Sign Via Appia in Roma
Not all signs are as clear as this one on the Via Appia.

You think that's better? According to my observations, travelling couples - lovers or friends alike - get approached, hassled, pestered much more often. Obviously, a couple of victims is more profitable than a single victim.

So yes, this post should neither encourage you nor hold you back from travelling solo. Thank God, people are different and have different needs and totally different preferences and that's great and makes the world a colorful place.

Honestly, I don't think that there is a particular place where to begin travelling solo. I'm positive that you can travel to any country solo. It might be a bit more complicated for women e. g. in Islamic countries, but even that is totally makeable.


Boutique in Kuantan, Malaysia
People were more reserved on the Malaysian east coast which is much more Islamic than the west.

The only thing that I personally would consider is the risk of getting sick which definitely is higher in certain places than in others - due to the climate and hygiene. And I find being sick bye:yourself in a foreign country can be pretty nerve wrecking. I'll tell you about it in the CONs-section.

Other than that, I believe that there is nothing else to consider that you don't have to think of as a family- or group-traveller, too.


Beach in Santa Maria, Ilha Sal, Cabo Verde
Sal, one of the islands of the Cape Verde atoll. One of the best beaches in the world - and I was as sick as a dog. A very sick dog, that is.

So all I intend with this post is to prepare you for what you will probably face when travelling solo. I will neither convince you nor hold you back.

I don't believe in missionary.


Early Trips



I had my first real solo travel experience in 1992 to the United States. Before that, I've been bye:myself to England, France, and Jamaica, but that was different insofar that I either stayed with a host family, with friends or have been there before in the company of friends. In1992, the trip to the US was just me alone going for the first time to a country I'd never been before.

I travelled the so-called "Deep South" resp. "Bible Belt" by Greyhound from Charleston, South Carolina, to New Orleans, Louisiana, and it was quite an experience. It was long before internet and smartphones, and when you were on your own, you were on your own. Anyway, after four very interesting weeks, I came back really inspired and bursting with confidence.

Initiation to a life of travelling bye:myself.

Then the same year I got pregnant (which had nothing to do with that initiation, though) and my travelling changed. Not only because I now had a baby in tow, but because I began to work as a freelancer and switched from vacationing to temporarily moving to places.
Before my daughter started elementary school we stayed every year for a couple of months in Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica.


Market in Punta Gorda, Belize
Punta Gorda in Belize: Placing the toddler in front of a group of people allows you to take pictures in a more discreet way; and it's nice to have a pic of your child, too.

Besides the baby, I was bye:myself. Sounds tough? Actually, it wasn't. Because the fact that you're bye:yourself does not mean that you're alone. You meet people and you have the chance to maybe show a different side of your personality.
You make new friends who might have a totally different perception of you than your buddies back home. Because you are different. You are exposed to distinct situations that evoke sides of your personality that usually lie fallow.


Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Meeting a jolly bunch from Scotland and Italy on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. Usually, I'm not the kind of person that drinks whatever this was out of a blue plastic bucket.

After having travelled for almost twenty years together with my daughter, she eventually started to travel bye:herself and with her friends.
Since I don't have a steady partner to be automatically my travel companion, I had to look for some friend to travel with me. And agree on the destination. And on the route. And on the activities. And coordinate time and length of the trip - and agree on the budget. Phew! That sounds exhausting.

Travelling bye:yourself is like living bye:yourself: You can do whatever you want and whenever you want to do it. You develop habits and - yes, quirks. Eventually, you realize that you wouldn't want it any other way; and maybe that you hardly could have it any other way.

Just like living a single life has its pros and cons, travelling bye:yourself does, too. Here I'm weighing some pros and cons. If you choose to follow my example, you might find yourself travelling with the best companion ever: yourself.


P like PROs



Personality!


My blog's title bye:myself is not a typo! When leaving my hometown and my everyday's life,  I'm saying "bye" to my comfort zone and to a part of - myself. It allows me to show a whole different side of me, I address people much more openly - and not only because I have to be more open. I'm leaving my every day's self behind and give this other me more space.
This does in no way mean that I'm pretending to be someone else - on the contrary, finally, I have the chance to be absolutely myself with a clean slate.
This is of course much easier without someone in tow who constantly reminds me that usually, I'm like this or like that.

Actually, by bidding bye to one side of myself, at the same time, I say hello to another.


Power!


Needless to say that travelling bye:yourself gives you the luxury of freedom: From choosing your destination, the route, your accommodations etc. you can get up as early as you like or sleep as long as you want, skipping breakfast.
You can stay at stores, museums or on a park bench as long as you please.
You can talk to people or spend your day in silence.

When I was in Florence bye:myself, I visited eight (!) exhibitions in one day with a lunch break of only a couple of minutes; and I was happy and satisfied, it was just perfect for me.


Rosticceria in Florence, Italy
The only place in Florence that can slow me down - luring me with incredible food.

Most other people wouldn't call this a break or vacation.
Most other people would call this boot camp.
But I can spend my days exactly the way I like.


Public!


Many people tell me, they don't like to do things by themselves because they want to "share" the experience.
In a way, I can relate to that, especially when it comes to resting and dining:

When I'm resting between let's say two exhibitions, it takes a couple of minutes.
I sit down, drink my coffee or water - and off I go.
What else do you want me to do there? Stare at the wall? Stare at other people?
Then I rather stare at more paintings.

So that's not very relaxing, I give you that.
But as always there's an upside: I'm getting far more things done resp. I get to see and experience much more in a day because I'm not distracted. There's not another person who needs to go to the bathroom, who is thirsty, who's tired and needs to sit for a while, who sees something in a shop window and needs to check it out.
There's me, and I'm on a mission. My mission is to make the most of my day by seeing as much as possible.

Oh, and another thing: thanks to - yes, for some people a no-no - social media, I am sharing. I'm sharing with far more people than just one travel companion, I'm sharing with dozens of friends all over the world; who do not mess up my schedule by going to the bathroom.


People!


It's a fact that as a single traveller you get in touch with other people - travellers and locals alike - much easier than travelling as a couple or in a group.


Daytrip from Medellin, Colombia
Cruising around the mansion that used to belong to Pablo Escobar, a lovely Colombian family shared their Aguardiente from a tetra pack and some laughs with me.

Many people are curious why I'm travelling bye:myself and how it works out for me. And often they find me interesting and my company pleasing so they suggest doing something together; and I can choose to go for dinner and a drink with them or have a snack watching local TV in bed - bye:myself.


Privacy!


You can stretch out on this huge bed, you can put all the pillows you want behind your back.
You have all the cute little toiletries for yourself and four towels instead of two.


Hotelroom in Figueira da Foz in Portugal
Double bed - for me alone. Just like the complimentary port wine and the petit fours on the tray. Actually, I don't get why the lovely people at this hotel in Portugal left  two glasses with it - what a waste.

Everything is just for YOU, you don't need to share a thing. You can be noisy, you can leave the light on as long as you please and when you're tired there's nobody there who wants to keep watching TV or needs the night light for reading.

The room is your oyster - and yours alone! 


C like CONs



Contact.


Travelling bye:yourself means you are...bye:yourself.
Even if you enjoy travelling bye:yourself - and being alone in general, for that matter - there comes a moment when you feel like hanging out with other people, chatting over a drink, sharing your travel stories and experience.
In a moment like this, you cannot just turn your head to the right and there is your travel companion.
You have to go out and approach people - and yes, they might reject you because they want a romantic drink in the sunset; without you. 
After years and years of travelling bye:myself I cannot remember this happening to me, though.
But that is also because I'm prepared and willing being bye:myself when travelling bye:myself.

If you're not ready for this, from time to time this might become a toughie.

Actually social media such as facebook can be an instant cure for this: share your day with your friends back home. With every comment and like you will feel less alone.

Going on an organized day trip can be a great way of meeting other people since you get involved quite naturally - free walking tours that are available in most big cities are perfect; but please don't forget to tip your guide.
And - being discreet is crucial. If you throw yourself on people and seem desperate, you will most certainly chase them away.


Walking tour in Curitiba
Walking tour in Curitiba: I guess this is not how you are picturing solo travel?!

Then from my experience, it's much easier to get involved with openminded and friendly people in smaller and - yes: cheaper - guesthouses than in luxury five-star hotels. It's probably even not the people's attitude, it's just that the whole atmosphere is more reserved and not encouraging to mingle. 


Cocktails.


Going out for an exclusive dinner, having a lovely cocktail at a posh bar - I hardly ever do this when travelling bye:myself.
And this is the situation where I feel like depending on others.

While sightseeing, going to a museum or hanging out on the beach can be fun with or without other people's company, having a special meal and a couple of drinks is always more enjoyable with others; and you depend on finding other travellers who want to share this with you.

When people travelling together go out for dinner, they take their time to order, They have a glass of wine, they talk, have another glass of wine, then they eat, talk some more, more wine (ok, now I'm making these good people a bunch of winos - so ok, forget the last glasses of wine, actually they're having coffee after their meal).

When I go to dinner, I order, I eat, I drink, I pay, I leave. 20 minutes. And even if I linger over a second glass of wine - 30 minutes.

While exhibitions demand focus, dining requires idleness.


Chiang Mai in Thailand
Sometimes it's really easy: At the Khantoke Dinner and Cultural Show in Chiang Mai, I was seated next to a lovely couple from the United States. They asked me to take their picture and offered to take mine in return - and then we spent the rest of the evening together having a fantastic time.

Costs.


It's indisputable that travelling bye:myself is more expensive than travelling with a companion.
Only in Europe, the price for a single room differs from a double room. Everywhere else you pay for the room, no matter if you stay there bye:yourself or if you share it with another guest.

You cannot share taxi fares, fees for drivers etc. Unless you find another traveller - or even a couple or a small group - that is willing to share these costs with you.

But your expenses are not automatically divided by two; and that sucks. Period.


Care.


Getting sick on a trip is never funny. But getting sick when travelling bye:yourself is a pain...not only in the neck.
The only time I felt really abandoned on a trip was when I got sick in Africa and had to get up and get me something to drink and go to the doctor - all bye:myself.
I felt like vanishing from mother earth, I thought I would die bye:myself on an African island and nobody would ever know about it.
Yes, I was a little dramatizing the situation, but that was for exactly this reason:

I was alone!

I was bye:myself!

It's really annoying when you have nobody you can boss around to get you something to drink and get your drugs from the pharmacy and take every shit from you because you feel lousy.

Solution: Stop pitying yourself and get over it; or stay healthy.


Camera.


This single traveller problem shrunk significantly with the invention of smartphones and selfie sticks: You don't need to ask other people to take a picture of you in front of Buddha, you just take a selfie.

I personally don't like selfies unless they are meant ironically (or artsy like my Biennale-Project).
So I still ask people to take my picture in front of Buddha sometimes.
And sometimes I try to take a decent selfie with him.
And often I simply don't have a picture of myself with Buddha.


Ayutthaya Thailand
Me and Buddha in Ayutthaya.


So now you can weigh some of the CONs against the PROs.

If you think, travelling bye:yourself might be worth a try, go for it.
Maybe you can start with a weekend trip to another city and check out whether this could be an option for a longer travel, too.
It certainly will be a journey.


I'd be very happy if you'd share your perspective and experience on single travel with me in the comment section below.


If you have any question, I'd be pleased hearing from you!


If you choose to pin this post, please use this picture:




36 comments:

  1. wow, its good that you weighed the pros and cons. it is true - stop pitying yourself and get over it or stay healthy :)

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  2. Wow, that is awesome that you travel bye;yourself. There is so much empowerment and strength in that and I am so happy to meet someone like you. It lets me know that there are people out there living free and loving on purpose. Congrats to you and daughter for living so free. (FB: Addie Cotoure)

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  3. It's not easy to travel on your own but it's also life changing because you get to learn so much about the country and yourself. I think it's a great way to get away from your life and just enjoy a place without worrying if your travel buddy is enjoying the experience as much as you.

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  4. I think solo travelling must be so liberating, you get to explore everything on your own terms.

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  5. Your three/four reasons for traveling solo are the same reason I would like to do it more often. I enjoy traveling with people but sometimes, the freedom and flexibility of traveling by yourself is worth doing. Especially because I like to take random naps during the day and some people want to continually move.

    Your daughter is very lucky to have an example like you to go out there and travel!

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  6. Solo travelling is super exciting it helps in exploring the place, and you are the master of your own and do however you feel to do so... It's a way responsibility task to do but enjoyable.

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  7. This was a good read- you are right solo travel is just a different type of travel and not a disease. Though I have not been I imagine it would be fun and you can do what you want with no restrictions on someone stopping you. Love the camera point.. with modern technology you don’t need to get a lot of other peoples help for that photo

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  8. Totally agree with you! :D
    I love solo traveling because my friends always have some excuses - no money, no job, it's not a good time right now and so on. So, I just started alone and I didn't regret it, the best decision ever! :D

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  9. Your adventures are awesome. I admire you for being the woman that you are. :D

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    Replies
    1. Oooh, that's a nice compliment - thank you!

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  10. I travel by myself all the time for work. But never for adventure or leisure. You present very interesting pros and cons. I think it is great that travelling bye:yourself opens you up to meeting new people and immersing yourself in the cultures you visit. I love travelling with friends, but they can be a distraction at times.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

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  11. I barely travel and when I do it tends to be with family and or friends. I haven' really been one for solo travel although can appreciate it can be easier and fun sometimes.

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  12. I have always traveled with my family, but I would love to travel by myself someday. I know it would be quite of an experience!

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  13. You listed some very great points. I've always wanted to travel solo, I think it's an amazing opportunity to learn and grow and obviously an amazing experience. I've always thought that it would feel lonely and that by travelling solo you wouldn't get to know many people, but that's just because I'm very shy so an experience like this might also help me to get better in that department as well.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

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  14. I can understand after going so often on your own it would be hard to compromise on the places you want to go and the things you want to see while you are there. I get that. But I love sharing the adventure because I love having that connection and the mutual remembrance later.

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    Replies
    1. That's a very good point, David, that actually deserves a place in the CONs-list: While I very seldom miss sharing the moment, it is nice to remember - positive or negative - travel moments together. I can tell others about situations or people I met, but it's not sharing.

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  15. I love solo travel, but I agree that it can be lonely at times! I am good at making new friends wherever I am though, luckily :)

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    1. Same here - I always meet sooo many people. And thanx to Social Media, it became so easy to keep in touch.

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  16. Well, true, both have pros and cons. I don't like traveling alone, but often do for work. Happily I have friends in many places of the world.
    Sometimes though, I leave a travel group, when I need to concentrate on photography.

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    1. Yes, but meeting friends - or even staying at friends' homes - is not travelling together. I also love going to places where I already know people. Travelling with them is a whole different story.

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  17. I don't like travelling alone, so I always travel with my boyfriend. Travel is our bond :D

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  18. This a great balanced summary of the pros and cons of travelling by yourself. I like its neutrality and honesty. Having travelled by myself, I whole heartedly agree with them !

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  19. I love to travel on my own too! I agree that meals can be the worst sometimes as you are trying to drag them out, but I try to always make friends wherever I am.

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  20. Great post! I agree with so many of your points, both the pros and the cons. Costs can definitely skyrocket when you're not sharing, and with the importance of Instagram in today's travel blogging, it's always helpful to have a "photographer" friend with you. Strangely, I quite enjoy going out to a nice dinner or cocktail by myself. My first solo travel experiences were work trips in my early 20s and I'd always arrange the flights for extra days to take advantage, and at that time I got accustomed to treating myself out for a nice meal and a drink one of those nights... and the habit stuck! Cheers to solo travel and to many more trips to come :)

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  21. I've been wanting to write a similar blog post but you nailed it! I like the way you wrote this P for Pros and C for Cons. I can totally relate with all your experiences as a solo traveler.

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  22. Everyone is different and so has different ways of dealing with things. For some people being by oneself for a long time is unbearable, for some it's the only way. We all work by different ratios. Finding our own way is the key, not just on this topic, but in all things in life.

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  23. I honestly admire both your confidence and bravery to travel alone! I often think about it but I stress and worry way too much haha

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  24. Therese and I love traveling together, but we also love traveling solo - apart. We do it often. I am off on a week adventure soon myself, bye:myself. Though unlike you, I linger at cafes and restaurants over coffee, cake, wine ... I love to people watch, sketch and paint in my ejournal. I also love to engage with people when I wandering, eliciting conversation, smiles, laughter. It is all how one travels -- solo or with a friend -- that makes travel so interesting. I love your post, and the way you compared your views on the Ps and Cs of solo travel. Nicely done.

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  25. So far I just travel solo nearby & kinda enjoy the experience. I hope to find a place to start with; I believe travelling solo will gimme a different insight about many things. Looking forward to that :)

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  26. It was nice to read that people need not have always have a philosophic reason for traveling solo. Convenience and practicality can be a good enough reason too. Kudos to you. Happy and safe travels!

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  27. I didn't mind travelling alone for business but I love travelling with my family for vacations. Way better!

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  28. I really enjoyed reading this! I’ve never actually travelled by myself, but I do plenty of things bye myself when I’m at home - go hiking, go to the movies, etc. So I really would like to have the experience of traveling alone one day. Like you, I much prefer not having to coordinate with a bunch of different people!

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  29. It's so awesome that you travel solo! I don't like to travel solo, although I have lived in other countries solo. I guess when I am traveling I like to go with others, but don't mind living in other places solo. Sounds a bit strange!

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  30. Great post clear and easy to follow.Your article is very valuable for travelers because appropriate solo guide can be a powerful tool for spending great weekend

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  31. By looking at your list, I think the only two cons for me are the extra costs of travelling solo and the lack of care. I remember how much I missed having a friend when I got food poisoning in Dubrovnik :(

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