While sat eating breakfast in the hotel dining room I felt homesick for the first time – people were looking at me, or, at least it felt like they were. At the time I wondered what had possessed me to travel alone. Despite being 18 years old and wet behind the ears, I look back at my first solo trip with pride because it had a huge impact on my life – changing me from a shy teenager into a confident young man who could strike up conversations.
Remember that you’re never too young or old to travel alone, and the thought of it can be daunting, whatever age you are. Whether single, divorced, or simply wanting to do something that your partner isn’t so keen on, more people are travelling on their own.
Book a weekend break
My advice if you’re interested in travelling alone for the first time, is to go on a weekend break, either home or abroad. Three or four days is the perfect amount of time to explore the destination, and experience what it is like to eat alone in restaurants. It is a case of, the more you experience eating alone, the more comfortable and confident you will become. Before you know it, you’ll be striking up conversations with people around you. If anyone does stare, just smile and say hello; most people are just nosey and are intrigued.
Choose your destination carefully
With hindsight Benidorm would not have been my first choice destination for a solo holiday, it was an eye opener. Certain resorts attract couples and other destinations attract solo travellers, so it is worth doing some research before booking. For your first time travelling alone I would visit a high-street travel agency and tell them what activities you enjoy and what type of holiday you’re looking for, and they should be able to search for destinations that fit your criteria.
Research your chosen destination
Some of my friends have in the past commented that I go a little over the top when it comes to researching my chosen destination, but, when you’re travelling alone you only have yourself to rely on in an emergency. So, I always find out the location of the nearest chemist, medical centre or hospital, just in case. I also find out the local emergency telephone numbers for police, fire, and ambulance. It’s a good idea to know the whereabouts of the nearest British consulate because you’ll need to contact them if you lose your passport.
My opinion is that it is best to be armed with this information beforehand, but for many it will seem over the top.
Do what is comfortable for you
I’m not one for partying until the early hours, and personally, I prefer relaxing in my hotel room after a hectic day exploring. If you’re more outgoing than me, then you might want to venture alone to a local bar or club, just keep safe. I do miss out on what could be the most memorable and enjoyable evenings of my life, but you have to do what is comfortable to you in your new surroundings.
Trust your intuition
Travelling alone is not necessarily more dangerous than travelling with a friend, it just requires extra awareness, you will discover how fine-tuned your survival instincts are. Most countries in the world are not as violent or dangerous as your own. Listen to your instincts and they will help keep you safe in the midst of your adventures. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Last Light. Photo: Stian Klo