Travel

Tips for women on travelling solo

By: Marybeth Bond

iStockphoto.com Author: Canadian Living Credits: iStockphoto.com

Travel

Tips for women on travelling solo

By: Marybeth Bond

When I started travelling alone, at age twenty-nine, it was not by choice. I couldn't find anyone to travel with me. I had two options: stay at home and give up my dream, or go alone. So I swallowed hard, bit my lower lip, and told the world and myself that I could do it. I would do it. I would go alone. I did. And I loved it! I traveled solo for the next two years around the world.

Starting out alone does not mean staying alone. There are many other fascinating people out there travelling by themselves, just like you. At times I would hook up with a kindred spirit and we would travel together for a few days, even for a month. Many of these travel companions are still close friends. My decision to go alone was one of the best choices of my life.

What's so great about it? Solo travellers enjoy the freedom of making all the decisions, experience the world unfiltered by anyone else's perspective, live intensely, meet people more easily and are invited into their lives more readily, avoid difficult travel companions, and get in touch with themselves.

Now when I create the opportunity to travel alone, it is a self-indulgent luxury. If you give it a fair choice, you too will discover that solo travel is empowering, intense and exhilarating.

Divorce or the death of a spouse or partner can leave an avid traveller faced with the same dilemma I had. Do you choose to stay immobilized? Can you find a new travel companion? Or should you go alone? Eventually you'll begin doing day trips alone. In the time you may move on to overnights, then longer journeys, until you are surprised and pleased by how confident and happy you are travelling along.

Tips
• You can begin traveling solo at any age. Fortunate are the women who begin travelling alone when they were young. Often they tell me they never experienced any trepidation. For those of you who aren't too sure – try it. Don't let fear stop you. Other travellers on the road and local people will support you and you'll discover how much inner strength you possess.

• Consider taking a short trip first to see if you like travelling alone. Find a cute town close by and visit for the weekend. Bring something to read, a journal, and some CDs. Explore your surroundings. Be aware of your solitude and how it feels to be on your own. Then, if you're ready, plan a more adventurous trip. It's OK to start small.

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For more travel tips by the author, visit www.gutsytraveler.com.

Excerpted from Gutsy Women: More Travel Tips and Wisdom for the Road by Marybeth Bond. Excerpted with permission from Travelers' Tales. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. More tips
• Start smart.
Even if you want to be unstructured, book at least the first night's accommodation in advance. It will be easier to feel comfortable and get your bearings.

• When you travel alone, you accept the responsibility to reach out, be extroverted, and strike up a conversation with strangers. You'll find it much easier to make new friends when you are alone. You are more approachable.

• Trust your intuition, no matter what. You will have many great opportunities to explore new places and meet exciting people. One of the best things about travel is being open to these experiences. Just pay attention to your gut when you find yourself in a new situation. It will tell you when to go for it and when to get out. Always listen to your instincts and they will help keep you safe in the midst of your adventures.

• Women travelling alone share similar concerns about loneliness, safety, harassment, illness and accidents. Don't worry. Going alone is not necessarily more dangerous than travelling with a companion – it just requires extra awareness. You will discover how fine-tuned your survival instincts are. Most countries in the world are not as violent or dangerous as our own. If you need help, ask for it.

• Don't travel alone into backcountry – make sure at least one or two others accompany you. A backcountry injury without someone to help can pose a life-or-death situation.

• Buy a popular guidebook. The accommodations and restaurants listed will be full of other independent travellers, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to hook up with a variety of people. You may find yourself exploring the bazaar or eating a meal with your new friends, or you might even travel for a time together. Use your guidebook as an indication of things to see and where to start your journey, then travel farther off the beaten path.

• Don't isolate yourself in a hotel or rental car. It's much easier to meet people if you are out and about with locals and other travellers. Use public transportation and stay in hostels, local homes, or bed-and-breakfasts. You will probably meet so many people that you just might yearn for some time alone!

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For more travel tips by the author, visit www.gutsytraveler.com.

Excerpted from Gutsy Women: More Travel Tips and Wisdom for the Road by Marybeth Bond. Excerpted with permission from Travelers' Tales. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. • Check out the meeting places for independent travellers. Some guidebooks (such as the Lonely Planet series) will list them. Many cities have well-known meccas for independent travelers, with bulletin boards and unique calendars of local events. These are treasure troves of inexpensive tours, travel companions or rides wanted, free of almost-free local lectures, and social gatherings, that you can join. A morning job with the running group "Hash House Harriers" in Singapore or Katmandu can lead to local friends and social invitations. My hand-written note posted on a message board on a tree in the café courtyard of the Old Stanley Hotel in Nairobi led to a safari with wonderful people and dynamic friendships.

• Take advantage of your solo status and be willing to change your plans. One of the greatest things about traveling alone is that you get to do whatever you want to do, all the time. Make an impromptu side trip to the beach. Add an entire country to your anticipated itinerary. Stay in bed all morning on a rainy day. Revel in the joy of not have to compromise.

• Treat yourself to small luxuries like high tea at an elegant hotel or a manicure.

• When graciously offered, accept spontaneous invitation and hospitality, especially from women or families. Be careful, however, not to overstay you welcome or create a hardship on the family.

• How do you handle eating alone in a restaurant? Choose a bistro, café, or lively place. Go prepared with reading and writing materials – postcards, letters, and your journal. Comfortably dining alone is a learned skill. Eventually you'll find yourself enjoying watching people and eavesdropping. And you won't always stay alone after being seated in a restaurant. I have often been invited to join other travelers or vice versa.

• Don't be afraid to eavesdrop.
It's a great way to identify interesting people with whom you might share something in common. Find a sneak way to join the conversation.

Tips for overcoming that lonely feeling
• I am often asked, "Do you ever get lonely, and what do you do about it?" I am surprised by how rarely I do get lonely. Remember, just because you are traveling alone doesn't mean you’ll be more lonesome than at home.

• Fear of being lonely is common and can stop you cold in your tracks. To assuage fears, keep in mind that loneliness is a bit like PMS – predictable, irritating, and temporary.

• Different moments in your trip will require different approaches to coping with loneliness. Sometimes it's important not to sink into your loneliness. To counter loneliness, stay active. Take a walk in the park, eat in lively, crowded restaurants, initiate conversation with strangers, and shop for gifts for your friends and family. Other times giving in to your mood is the best possible medicine. At time like this, I become reclusive, reading, listening to music, writing in my journal or to friends and family.

• When you're feeling low, I don't recommend calling home. It can make you feel worse. But writing postcards or sending an e-mail from a cybercafe is uplifting.

• Take care of yourself.
When I start to feel lonely, it's often because I haven't eaten or slept enough or I've had too much caffeine. If I stay well fed, fit, and rested, then depression, loneliness, and illness are usually avoided.

• Treat yourself. I will pamper myself with a hot bubble bath, buy a new book and dig into it, or have a massage or manicure. In India and Thailand I bought garlands and richly fragrant flowers for my room. In Chicago I got dressed up and went to a posh hotel for a drink and hours of people watching.

Write in a journal.
When you find yourself missing your best friend at home, write down everything you want to tell her in your journal. Don't just put down what you saw that day – include how you're feeling about yourself and your trip. If you want to go home, write about it! Periodically read back over your journal and see how your journey is unfolding. Take yourself out to dinner when you realize how fabulous you are!

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For more travel tips by the author, visit www.gutsytraveler.com.

Excerpted from Gutsy Women: More Travel Tips and Wisdom for the Road by Marybeth Bond. Excerpted with permission from Travelers' Tales. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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Tips for women on travelling solo