Get your passports ready!
While the idea of travelling alone might seem daunting and scary to some, especially since you wouldn’t have a familiar face to accompany you in an unfamiliar land, it really isn’t all that bad. Travelling solo will help you challenge yourself beyond your limits, and test your ability to cope with obstacles along the way. It also allows you time to reflect on things, and encourages you to love spending time with yourself. Try it, and you might find yourself travelling alone after discovering its joy and merits.
Here’s why you should travel alone and some tips on how to excel in it.
Why you should travel alone
1. You can go wherever you want
Because you aren’t deciding on a destination with a fellow traveller, you get to choose wherever you want to go. You can even throw a dart on a world map to help you decide if that’s what you’re feeling. Once you’re there, whether is it Berlin or Nepal, you have the freedom to plan your own itinerary however you want.
2. You don’t have to entertain your friend or partner
In a group setting, we tend to find things to do and topics to talk about. After all, you’re overseas with someone and subconsciously feel obliged to make the most of the time (and money) together and not waste it lazing around in the hotel room. As such, you pack the day with destinations and activities — that you hope they will enjoy too — and the entire trip can turn out to be more stressful than relaxing.
But if you’re alone, you get full control of how you want your trip to be. Sleeping till noon, taking an afternoon power nap or staying out past midnight are just some of the possibilities you can explore. Plus, you can change your plans on a whim and don’t have to face the ire of a travel partner.
Another bonus? You don’t have to listen to them complain about their life, the cost of travelling or their bosses.
3. You can interact more with the locals and experience the culture
Travelling alone will inevitably force you to interact more with the locals. Whether you’re talking to a guide or asking for directions, being alone would make you realise that the locals are the best solutions to your problems. In addition, you get to ask more meaningful questions and get a deeper insight into a foreign culture.
4. You’ll step out of our comfort zone
When travelling with friends, you get to take the backseat when hiccups occur because there’s always someone there to take the lead. Alone, you have to solve issues, think on your feet and rely on yourself. This builds confidence and allows you to hone the ability to handle pressure. Are you an introvert? You’d have to be more vocal and sociable while on your own. All these will only mean good things for your development.
5. You’ll discover yourself
And finally, as cliché as this sounds, especially with the whole Eat Pray Love movement, you’ll literally discover yourself while on a solo trip — such as what’s your travelling style, what do you value most in your travel experience (are you an adventurous daredevil or do you prefer to sit at a cafe and watch the world go by?) and how to survive alone. You get to know yourself more intimately and embrace every aspect that makes you who you are. Better yet, you can take on whatever persona you want since nobody there knows you. And soon, you’ll find yourself planning your next solo trip.
How to travel alone well
During my travels, I’ve met people who had no clue on what are some of the major tourist locations or what are the must-try foods and culture to experience. They end up wasting time cooped up in their room Googling away to plan their itinerary. Unless you’re of that travelling style, you should at least spend half an hour before your trip to plan your holiday so that you can really maximise your time sightseeing and soaking up the culture. If you’re really strapped for time, you could do your research on prominent dishes of the local cuisine or major tourist spots at the airport while waiting to board the plane.
There are also some important questions you need to search for way before your trip commences, such as: Do I need a visa to enter the country? Do I need vaccination? What’s the transport system like and what is the best way get around? Is the tap water safe for drinking? What currency do they use? What kind of electric plug do they use?
Perhaps one of the cons of travelling alone is that you can’t depend on your travelling partner for essentials you need, especially if you had forgotten to pack them. So make a checklist of items that you would most likely need, such as a travel adaptor, a portable charger, a basic medical kit, insect repellant, sunscreen, sanitary products, a working torchlight, a whistle for safety and the like. This is a category where you can be kiasu and overpack because while these products can most likely be purchased there, it pays to be prepared because you would never know what you need when an urgent situation arises. Another tip: Split your money and credit cards into various locations, such as your backpack, luggage and money pouch, so if one gets stolen or lost, you have back up.
We live in a world where the Internet has its grasp on almost every aspect of your life. While you like to disconnect from your work email and pesky WhatsApp messages, an Internet connection can come in handy. Say for example, you’re in a country that poses a language barrier, and you can’t communicate to your driver on where you want to go. It can easily be solved as you can whip out Google Maps and pinpoint the locale to them, or use Google Translate to utter a few choice words. If you’re looking for a quick massage or a good restaurant to have your next meal, you’re just a quick Internet search and a cab ride away.
To procure Internet connection, the failsafe way is to get a local prepaid SIM card at the airport, which are often inexpensive and can provide large amounts of Internet data. This website, which details the various telecomms plan of each country, was one that I had found while researching, but of course do your due diligence and cross reference with other travel sites and blogs. Else, Changi Airport has a Changi Wifi service that allows you to rent a portable router that is specifically tailored to your destination, should you not wish to change your SIM card.
Unless you’re an adept map reader and can use the compass, Google Maps is a powerful app that will come in handy. It allows you to pin places of interest and save offline maps for navigation even when you’re disconnected from the Internet. But for countries such as China where Google is not as advanced, consider other apps such as Maps.Me. If not, look through travel blogs and forums and see what past travellers recommend for the specific country you’re going.
Capitalise on phone apps to make your travels smoother. Travel apps such as Klook can help you take the stress off planning for your holiday as you can book transportation, entrance tickets and activities via the app. Transport booking apps such as Grab and Uber are also available in certain countries and can be depended upon to get you from place to place. Else, there are multiple locally-produced apps that will definitely help address your needs such as transportation and food.
No amount of research will get you to a level of understanding that a local has. So if you find yourself in a pinch, don’t be afraid to ask someone on the streets or the hotel front desk. No matter how silly the question might seem, you don’t have to feel embarrassed because you’re probably never going to see them again.
Happy and safe travels!
By Ho Guo Xiong, March 2019 / Updated by Muneerah Bee, April 2019
More on The Finder: