Traveling alone has its advantages. You can do your own thing in your own time without having to worry about anyone else’s schedule or weird foibles. If you still need convincing, you can check out the upside of solo downtime here.
But how can you make being out in the big world on your own more fun? Even the most independent adventurers can get bored and lonely, so here are some ways to perk things up when you’re wishing you’d brought along a traveling companion.
- You’re Never Really Alone
No matter where your journey takes you, there are always other people within sight. Whether they’re fellow travelers, locals or transplanted ex-pats, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with strangers wherever you go. Sure, some of them will be rude, boring or downright obnoxious, but the point is you have an ever-changing pool of people with whom to have a conversation or share a meal. Never underestimate the power of a broad smile.
- Three Words: Hello, Thank You, and Yes
It’s not hard to learn three words in a foreign language, and these are the ones to carry with you. A simple hello opens the door to friendship. Saying thank you while looking someone in the eye guarantees a response, every time. Saying yes is the only way to overcome your natural urge to say no. Accept an invitation to dinner, join in on a pub crawl, or agree to spend some time with another solo traveler who’s heading to the same museum or landmark. Even if it’s a disaster, you’ll come home with a story to tell.
- Put Down the Phone
Sitting in a cafe with your head buried in your cell phone is a clear message to the rest of the world to back off. Try leaving your electronics in your backpack for a day and see what happens. You’ll find yourself paying closer attention to what’s going on around you and feel more connected to the here and now. Phones are great for keeping in touch with your friends back home, but they’re a killer when it comes to making new ones.
- Develop Your Adventurous Self
The great thing about traveling is that you have the freedom to explore not only new lands, but new ways of being. Try to do something every day that you wouldn’t (or can’t) do at home. Whether its riding a camel or looking for shells on the beach, your time alone will teach you as much about yourself as the places you’re visiting. Traveling is all about collecting memories, so be sure the ones you carry with you are unique and well worth the journey it took to find them.
- Take the Tour
For some people, taking a tour is like reading an instruction manual. You don’t need directions and would rather figure things out for yourself. That’s fine if you’re putting together a table and don’t mind having three screws left over, but it doesn’t work if you want to meet other people. Many walking and cultural tours are free, and the guide is often the most interesting person you’ll talk to that day. If you’re feeling anxious or isolated, being part of a group can really help to ground you and recharge your batteries with casual conversation and human interaction. And as a bonus, you might actually learn something you wouldn’t have discovered on your own.
Keeping solo travel fun is all about balancing your desire for solitude with a hardwired need for companionship. The great thing about going it alone is that you get to choose when and how you let others into your bubble. You can have a perfectly good time people-watching for a day, but if you feel the need for company, just reach out. Look for someone sitting alone and if they give you a smile, you’ve probably just spotted another lone traveler looking for conversation. Saying hello doesn’t cost a cent but sharing a story can be priceless.