Ok, so you know if you follow me on twitter/Instagram that for the last week I’ve been travelling a bit on a trip to San Francisco. I’ll be telling you more about the trip over the next week or so as it’s been a really amazing week where I spent the time between exploring the epic Macy’s store in Union Square and doing loads of amazing San Francisco tourist things and a little bit of exploring some more of Northern California. If you read THIS post you will know a little about my existing love of California (and America in general) and how I haven’t been there since I was a teenager. It was amazing to go back and I love it just as much, if not more so now. Whilst I was there I did have a few little ponderings about travelling alone that I thought I would put down on a blog post.
This trip isn’t the first time I’ve travelled alone – it’s something I’ve been doing for 10 years now. Back in 2004, the first time I went to New York was a trip I went on alone. Whilst there are many differences from that first trip a decade (eek) ago, there are many similarities – so here they are. Feel free to leave comments and share any points you would add in too!
1. The freedom
As much as I love to travel with other people, there is a certain freedom that comes with travelling alone. Sure, there’s no-one there to enjoy the experiences, chat to over drinks (or split a cab or dinner bill). But generally every decision you make about where to go/what to do/where to eat is totally down to you. This lends itself for quite a rewarding time – as long as you don’t just retreat into the comfort and safety of your hotel room of course! This is of course the biggest appeal of travelling alone – getting to choose each day what you do can be a great experience in itself, there’s no need to fit in various people’s requests. When travelling alone you can be totally selfish which for many isn’t a liberty it’s ok to indulge in all that often – so taking time to travel alone can give you that freedom.
2. It can be lonely
Whilst you can have tonnes of freedom to do amazing stuff, honestly sometimes it’s just not the same without someone with you to enjoy it all with. This will of course vary depending what sort of travel you’re doing – if you’re backpacking then you’re likely to make new friends wherever you go. But it can be a little different when you maybe switch to hotels over hostels. But even when backpacking and moving from place to place you often only make transient friends and it might not be quite as good as having someone you have a great friendship with or love.
Personally, when travelling alone I’ve always found the daytimes totally fine, but the evenings are a little different – as generally the sorts of things you tend to do in evenings are basically ones to do with someone. Go out for dinner, is totally fine on your own – but does all tend to be over pretty quickly so not quite the full evening it would be with someone. Going for drinks solo is still a little odd in my mind… so it’s good to try make plans for evening a bit. Or just use that as chill out time I guess.
For me this was the one thing that held me back from doing a round the world trip when I was 20. I had planned to do this on my ‘way home’ from living in the US for a year. But after visiting NYC on my own, I decided whilst travel for some time on my own is great. I decided three months of talking to mostly myself just didn’t appeal. Definitely not a decision I’ve regretted believe it or not. It was the right thing for me to do as I still love solo travel. But for a week or so is different to months.
3. Makes lots of things easier
Ok, I can’t speak for ALL places, but when I’ve been travelling alone I’ve never had issues getting in to eat places. You often have the option to eat at a counter/bar as a solo person. If you’re hoping for better seats on a flight or perhaps even a cheeky upgrade – it’s certainly not guaranteed – but it’s a whole lot more likely to accommodate one person over a party. It also probably harks back to the freedom point too – as you’re not trying to keep more than just you happy for anything you do. The only thing it doesn’t make easier… carrying luggage.
4. The cost
Ok, so the cost side of things – some hotels still charge a single person rate. But this will totally depend where you stay. Obviously you will be paying for one rather than splitting it. But when it comes to day to day costs, it can be as cheap or expensive as you want really. This is something I learnt in San Francisco. I would eat when I was hungry, and didn’t always go for a sit-down meal option. It really varied. So some meals were really cheap.
5. Taking Photos
Ok, so thanks to the invention of the selfie rod…this isn’t so much of a thing anymore. But before, taking pictures where you maybe want yourself in the shot was a tad tricky. Obviously you always had the option of asking a stranger – but then you have to sort of do the old ‘quick smile, typical tourist pose’ thing and tell them the photos great so you don’t keep them too long. Or you can go or self timer set up. The selfie era has changed all this so you can always just go for the traditional option. Or you can grab yourself a selfie rod. A strange invention, but kinda genius at the same time. Ok, so you look like a total poser – but once you get over that you’re more likely to get some ok photos with yourself actually in them to mix in with all the pictures of what you ate and views you saw.
One thing I didn’t add in, but kept creeping into my head that I haven’t specifically included as a point is security/safety. Whenever you’re travelling or exploring somewhere new you need to be a bit aware of security and safety – regardless of being alone or in a group. I actually find that I’m probably a little more cautious and careful when alone than when with someone. Especially when I’m with Ollie as I basically inherently feel safe so I’m not as aware at all times. When I’m alone I basically just try and look as at home wherever I am as possible. When travelling alone safety wise there are a few little tips I’d always make sure I am keeping in touch with someone back home, don’t carry all your cards/cash in one place (keep your passport in a safe where you’re staying ideally), and do a bit of research ahead of your trip if there areas to avoid so you don’t stumble into them by accident. Just be sensible, careful but don’t let being alone hold you back.