As most of you probably know by now I live happily with “other half” as we call him here. We’ve known each other for 15 years. Before I met him I’d been travelling alone for years and being in a serious relationship wasn’t going to stop me…..
In the years I’ve known other half I’ve been Down Under ON MY OWN a million times, In South Africa, Botswana, Argentina, USA, England, Sweden etc. – all on my own. Some of these trips were work related – some not.
I get the weirdest reactions when I tell people I’m going travelling on my own. Most people seem to think that we’re in serious trouble. WHY would I want to travel alone, they ask – (pretending to be) worried.
It’s quite simple; I love travelling alone, I love the quietness, I love being able to do what I want – when I want it. And the trips on my own makes me appreciate the times we travel together so much more. I’m very much a “loner”. I’m an only child – I’ve always done things on my own and I find a great deal of comfort and calmness in that.
I do of course still want to chat to people. I can’t spend three weeks not talking to anyone at all.
When I was younger I stayed in hostels. It’s easy to talk to people here and I made loads of friends from all around the world. But being not-so-young anymore my hostels day are over. So a friend asked me the other day; but what do you DO when you’re on your own?
Well, here’s what I do:
Book a tour
I often book a half or a full day trip with some sort of activity. It can be a bike tour, a walking tour, kayaking, a running tour – anything that requires a minimum of physical activity. I find that people talk more to each other when they have to overcome some sort of physical barrier. A bus tour through a forest doesn’t really encourage you to talk to the person in the seat behind you whereas getting wet in a kayak makes you laugh – and you automatically start chatting. I know these small-talk situations are just that – small-talk. But it takes away the feeling of being alone.
Yes – I go out for dinner. On my own. I EAT ALONE. I don’t really mind being on my own. In a big city I might look for a place where I can sit at the bar. It’s less formal eating by the bar and it’s easier to talk to the person next to you. If I’m not really in a “eating-by-the-bar” country I might also eat at a time where no-one else is eating. This way you can get an interesting conversation with the waiter. A couple of years ago I learned a great deal about the political situation in Argentina when I did just that. I had an early dinner in Mendoza and got talking to the waiter. Excellent steak. Excellent conversation.
Or I bring a book/a newspaper/my tablet. Sometimes I even get invited to other people’s table. And yes, I do the same – ask people to join me. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s just dinner..
I stay at B&B, AirBnB – smaller places where you can chat to the staff or to the other guest over breakfast. Some of the nice B&B’s even have high tea/drinks before dinner – excellent place to chat to you fellow travellers.
Open your mouth
I chat to drivers, guides, people working at the supermarket, I go into weird looking stores and chat to the people working there – I chat to all sorts of people. I meet a person with a dog – I’ll start chatting to the dog. And because I’m not a native English speaker the dog-(wo)man will soon realise I’m a tourist/traveller (whatever you prefer – same same if you ask me) and start asking questions. And yes; I do meet weird people. But again; what’s the worst that could happen? You’re probably never gonna see that person again…. (And yes, mom; I DO take good care of myself).
Open your mind
I smile. And ask all sorts of questions. “Oh, wow – where did you get those shoes”? “How IS that book? I’ve heard about it but haven’t been able to find it”. “Where can I get the best coffee in town?” “Do you know what this mountain is called?” People love it when you ask them stuff. We all want to talk about what we like, what we know – and again; what’s the worst that could happen?
And yes. I do get lonely sometimes. When that happens I find a place with good Wi-Fi, drink coffee (or wine) and WhatsApp my friends. What’s the worst that could happen?
If you’re a woman, a solo traveller and speak Danish you may also want to take a look at this page: http://aworldofbackpacking.com/. Tine has some excellent tips for solo travllers!