Top 3 Myths about Traveling Solo

by ARoadRetraveled /
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Nov 25, 2008 / 0 comments

Thank you for visiting my page on Wondering Educators.  I’m grateful to Jessie and the Wandering Educators for giving me the opportunity to share with you many of my experiences, stories, advice, and knowledge I’ve acquired about traveling through my own travels and what I’ve learned from others as well.

I’d like to start off by talking to you about traveling solo, something I enjoy immensely. Just me, myself, and I. Sounds scary? Lonely? Intimidating?  Forgetaboutit! Of all my trips I’ve ever taken, the most amazing, fun, adventurous and rewarding were those where I’ve traveled alone.
Here are some myths about traveling solo that I’ve heard and don’t believe for a minute:

Myth #1: Traveling alone is dangerous, there’s safety in numbers.

I’ll grant you that to an extent, traveling in numbers is safer – but only if you travel to places and areas that are not really safe to begin with.

Rule number 1: if you won’t walk alone in unfamiliar or unsafe neighborhoods in your own town/city/country, don’t do it on vacation elsewhere. If you’re not going to walk on deserted streets at night, leave a bar inebriated with people you “just met”, hitchhike or accept rides from strangers, give your hotel information to people you don’t know, by no means do that when you’re on vacation. Being on vacation is not an opportunity to leave common sense at home. Whatever you wouldn’t do at home by yourself, don’t do it elsewhere either.  Safety first.

Rule number 2: Don’t travel alone to remote areas or countries that are even potentially dangerous or unfriendly to tourists. I’ve met people who backpacked solo through exotic countries, but personally as a female, I won’t tempt fate and go to places I don’t feel safe. Safety should always be your top concern with traveling either solo or in a group.

Rule number 3: Don’t stay at hotels in questionable areas, without lit parking lots or entrance, with shady staff, or without nighttime attendants or security. Always make sure your door is locked when inside, and don’t open to door to anyone you’re not expecting. And of course, don’t give away your hotel and room number to strangers…no matter how many drinks you have or hot cute the guy you just met is!!

Rule number 4: Always have emergency numbers with you. If you’re stranded somewhere or need help, especially at night, call someone (even if it’s the local police station) before you wander off on your own or accept rides or help from strangers. While there are many good Samaritans out there, and God knows I’ve met many in times of need, don’t throw caution to the wind and put yourself at risk.

Rule  number 5. When traveling to busy and touristy cities like New York, Miami, Rome, Paris, London, Florence, etc., and visiting the tourist attractions, always keep an eye on your purse/backpack/camera bag, and carry it tightly next to as to not appear attractive to pickpockets. Pay special attention on busses or subways. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or carry wads of cash that would attract attention of thieves or worse. If you’re a female, dress modestly, don’t attract unnecessary attention to yourself especially when traveling to foreign countries that you’re not familiar with their culture or mores. And most importantly be always aware of your surroundings and the types of people that are around you. Thieves target victims who appear the most distracted and careless.  Don’t accept gifts from strangers as there are many thieves out there preying on people they can outnumber.  All of this advice applies to those traveling in groups as well. This is not meant to make you feel paranoid, just aware that these things can happen, do happen, and you don’t want them to happen to you!

Myth #2: Traveling alone is, well, lonely!

Honestly, the biggest problem I’ve had traveling alone, is not having enough alone time!! 

Over and over again, my experience has been that when I traveled alone, people took special interest in me, extended their friendship and generosity, and looked out for me: the girl traveling by herself. I befriended people everywhere: from the local market, coffee shops, museums, churches…and other travelers as well. Traveling alone also had perks. Being by myself was somewhat an oddity for some museum and church attendants and security guards. I can’t tell you how many times I was given “special” tours of the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, as well as other churches and museums in Italy. People are generally friendly, and many love the opportunity to talk and brag about their city or country. Locals I befriended during extended stays in Italy showed me some of the most incredible places in their towns that most tourists never get to see. They educated me on local food, best places to eat, what’s a tourist trap and what’s really worth seeing. These are gems you’d never get from travel books…and missed opportunities had I not chosen to travel solo and mingle in with the locals.

Myth #3 When traveling alone you have no one to share your experiences with.

If #2 answer doesn’t debunk this myth, nothing will…unless you plan on traveling to romantic places that are best shared with someone that you’re romantically linked with: gondola rides in Venice, holding hands in Paris, etc. But if you’re on vacation to explore, have adventures, and meet interesting people…frankly, having a travel companion would only cramp MY style. 

Think of it this way: when you travel alone, you don’t have to keep up with anyone’s pace and no one has to keep up with yours. You go when, where, and how on your own terms. You leave when you wan to, you stay as long as you want to. You eat where you want to and when you want to. You can make friends with people you meet without feeling like you’re abandoning your companions. You have only one person to answer to: yourself. To me, being able to enjoy my vacation on my own terms, and being open and available to the amazing opportunities of befriending locals and fellow travelers alike, and sharing in their stories and adventures is what makes me feel connected to the people and the places I visit in ways I know I’d never be able to if I traveled with companions.

 Traveling is more than being a tourist caught up in the tourist traps and taking pretty photos: it’s a personal journey, a discovery of you who are when outside your comfort zone and thrown into the unknown, an opportunity to grow by absorbing your surroundings and allowing them to absorb you, a chance to connect with people and cultures you’ll never experience again at home. You don’t want to come back with just photos and souvenirs; you want to come back a newly discovered person.

Simone di Santi is the Road Retraveled Editor for Wandering Educators

You can read our interview with her by clicking here.

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