Solo Travel Concerns and Fears
Solo Travel Fear #1: What about eating in a restaurant alone? Bring a book, newspaper, magazine, crossword puzzle… and enjoy! It is not a strange or unusual thing to eat alone, in fact people do it all the time. You may feel self-conscious, but there really is no need to be, because the truth is, no one is paying as much attention as you think they are. Most people are way too wrapped up in what’s going on at their own table to worry about you.
You’ll probably find you aren’t alone for very long. And on those occasions when you do happen to make it through dinner without making any new friends, enjoy the quiet time to reflect, savor your meal, write in a journal, and people watch.
Solo Travel Fear #2: Are hostels safe? You’re sharing a room with strangers, yes. But in fact they are fellow travelers, and there is an unwritten code, sort of an extension of the Golden Rule, perhaps fear of karmic lashback, or maybe people just really are generally good. Be smart, don’t leave your cash and valuables lying around, and if you don’t want to solicit unwanted attention from the opposite sex, then don’t wander around naked. Most hostels provide either individual lockers or a safe at reception. Take precautions but don’t be paranoid. This is true for solo travel as well as with group.
Opting for solo travel does not relegate you to choosing between an expensive hotel room or a grungy dorm bed in crowded rooms with clogged up showers down the hall. Hostels have evolved massively in the last decade or so, and most now offer a variety of accommodations, including mixed-dorms, female dorms, four, six or eight bed rooms, and even private rooms. So if you want to pay for a bit more privacy, you can have your own room whilst still be in the fun social atmosphere of a hostel, where it’s easy to meet fellow travelers. All of that said, I have never witnessed an incident in any hostel around the world. And indeed, new hostels appear and book up every day.
Solo Travel Fear #3: What if I get lost? Check a map, check your compass, ask for directions. Just like you would anywhere else. People tend to be kind as well as generous with their time when someone is lost on their turf. They may even accompany you there. Or invite you to dinner. Who knows? Solo travel opens you up to a world of possibilities.
Solo Travel Fear #4: What if I get robbed? Let’s face it, you could get robbed in your hometown. Unfortunately travelers are great prey for pickpockets. It’s a good idea to keep twenty dollars or so stashed for an emergencies, just in case. Take the twenty dollars (euros, pounds, whatever) that you have hidden on you somewhere (a location very inaccessible for pickpockets), get some local currency, and make the phone calls you need to (credit cards, bank, etc.).
If you did your travel planning checklist, you should have a photocopy somewhere with all the information and telephone numbers you need. Hit a payphone (or log on to Skype) and call those international collect numbers you collected before you left. If you need a new card mailed to you, and there are branches of your bank nearby, have them shipped there for you to pick up. If your passport has been stolen, go to the nearest consulate with your photocopy in hand. It’s also a good idea to file a police report. Then sit down, order a beer, and try to enjoy this wonderful place that you’ve so looked forward to seeing.
Solo Travel Fear #5: What if I get hurt or sick? Someone will help you. Language and cultural barriers dissolve in these instances. Find a pharmacy, talk to the hostel workers, talk to locals, talk to fellow travelers… in short, you’re not going to suffer a solitary demise in a hostel bed all alone in Shanghai. Be creative, point, mime, draw pictures if you have to. But you can also take precautions to lower your risk of getting sick on the road. You should also have traveler’s insurance which will take care of you if something major happens.
Solo Travel is not for Everyone If you simply can’t imagine yourself dealing with some alone time, or trying to navigate a new city by yourself, or entering a restaurant or even a hostel bar alone, maybe solo travel is not for you. That’s okay. It’s not for everyone. But please, please do not let that stop you dead in your tracks and kill your dreams of seeing the world. Check with your friends, and friends of friends, and then check forums. Lots of travel sites have forums where solo travelers can pair up to hit the road together. And who knows, once you get your feet wet and feel more confident navigating with different languages and customs, you may feel ready for some solo travel!