I go both ways.

In my many years of travel, I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with friends and family but I’ve also gone solo.  Like everything in life, both have their pros and cons.  I travel by myself for many reasons – I can’t get anyone to go with me, work has me in a country where it’s just a hop, skip and jump to another adventure, I want to challenge myself, I feel like being alone – whatever the reason is, the most important thing is that I don’t let traveling solo stop me from doing what I want to do.

The art of traveling solo – to me that’s a little heavy handed – there’s really not that much to it.  And challenging yourself to get out there can be the most rewarding experience ever.

Here are a few thoughts that I hope might set you on your own path:

Practice.  If you question your ability to travel by yourself start with small steps.  Most people are terrified by the idea of eating by themselves.  Get over it.  Everybody does it – or at least, the cool people do.  Pick a small restaurant in your area – one where you don’t know anyone – and book a table or belly up to the bar.  Plan on staying for just one drink or a small snack. Don’t over do it.

Bring a book, a magazine or even a small notebook to write in.  No one needs to know what you are writing!  Make your grocery list if it helps you feel comfortable.  If someone asks what you are writing – tell them you are a travel correspondent checking out the local scene!

Next time, go for a little longer.  Say hi to the people sitting next to you.  Always as the bartender/server their name.  It’s amazing how many new people you will meet and how many interesting conversations you can have when you are not glued to a friend.

Take a local organized tour – tell everyone you are visiting – they don’t need to know!

Go away for the weekend  – only 2 or 3 hours away.  Stay at a hotel and check out what they have to do in the area.  Give it a shot.  If you are really miserable, jump in the car and go home.

I have traveled all over the US, Canada, Europe, Central and South America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia all by myself.  As I blogged about in Planning and Having a Good Trip, researching and planning goes along way when traveling by yourself.

I always stay in a nice hotel and ensure the area I am staying in is safe and well protected for tourists.  I’d rather scrimp on a few other things to ensure that I have a helpful staff, a protective attitude and a comfortable place to hang out in the event I don’t want to go out for the night.

Research cooking classes, historical tours, wine tastings, cultural exhibits, etc. – of course, only do what floats your boat.

Ask the concierge or front desk staff for recommendations on places to grab lunch, enjoy a cappuccino or sip a glass of wine.  Bring your reading/writing material and go!  Go, go, go!!!

A couple of things will inevitably happen:

You will meet other like minded travelers because they go to all the tourist and popular sights.  Often they take you under their wing!

You will enjoy the anonymity of being alone.

You will soak up the culture, lifestyle, feeling for the place.

You will feel empowered and pleased with yourself for getting out of your comfort zone.

You might be romanced by a local!

Safety is incredibly important and you need to be smart and aware but, not paranoid and fearful.  Know the city you are in and what the biggest issues are – pick-pocketing and armed robbery are two different things.

Don’t drink too much and lose control of your ability to make smart choices.

Leave your valuables at home – no one cares about your jewelry collection.

Divide money up in your purse/wallet/travel pack. I take out smaller increments from ATM machines  and leave a chunk of it in my room safe.

Don’t wander into non-populated areas – especially after dark.

I often walk or take public transportation in the daylight hours and taxi’s at night.

Don’t wear flashy, loud outfits that draw unwanted attention – unless you want that!

If you are worried about no one knowing your whereabouts, tell the hotel security or management that you are going out and when you will be back.

I go out with my drivers license in my wallet but I do not take my passport.  I keep that in the safe at the hotel.  My license provides identification and a passport fi more difficult to replace.

Always have a card from your hotel with the name. address and phone number printed on it.

Have the doorman of your hotel arrange taxis so that they ensure you will not be ripped off and you will be taken to the correct place.  When returning, flag the doorman if you have a problem.  NEVER let the taxi drop you off  “close” to your hotel.

I have never had a major problem while traveling.  I am determined to enjoy what the location has to offer but I am respectful of the environment that I find myself in.  Magical things happen to me when I travel alone.  People want to help and take care of you – it’s nice – let them!!!

I’m not saying that traveling by yourself is easy – as I said – there are pros and cons to everything.  Traveling with friends and family can lead to arguments, conflicting agendas or boredom of each others company.  Traveling solo can make you more conservative, it may not include late wild disco nights, it can have lonely moments – but, I would rather get out and SEE things and DO things than wonder, what if.

It’s all doable – just set the appropriate expectations and go with the right mind set about WHY you are doing this.  Know that no matter how you travel there are pros and cons – adjust your plan accordingly.

Most of all ENJOY!

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