Setting out on your own adventure is a great chance to expand your horizons and to see the world, but there are many aspects of international travel that become different when you are away. While traveling with friends or family can be positive in terms of providing you with support, they can also be a burden as the schedule will be chosen to suit everybody, and you won’t get to meet as many new people. There are however a few things that the solo traveler will have to face that can often make or break the trip, so here is a look at a few of the challenges and how to face them.
Discussing The Trip With Worried Parents
This will be one of the first challenges, as many people who set out on their first solo trip, whether they are young and just out of school or college, or more mature adults, will often have to discuss the trip and why they are doing it with their parents. Parents will have a natural concern, so try to be reassuring and assure them that you will be cautious and do your best to stay safe, and try to think about any of the questions they may ask you so that you have an answer ready.
Missed Flights Or Connections
Getting used to travel will often mean that you will have to deal with a late airplane or a missed travel connection from time to time. This isn’t anything to panic about, and while it is recommended that you give yourself plenty of time, it can still happen. Try to take the rough with the smooth, and be ready to adapt and to re-plan when things do go wrong.
One of the biggest issues that many solo travelers will have when they are not busy is homesickness, as it is in the quiet times that this really becomes something that people can think about. You won’t always be busy as you travel, so make sure that you are keeping in touch with family and friends regularly, and that you remind yourself of the positives of travel.
Noisy Dorm Rooms
There are some things that you can’t account for, and the number of people in your dorm or how noisy they are is one of those factors. Try to pick beds that are in the corners or in quieter areas of the dorm, while carrying ear plugs may also help you to get some sleep.
Explaining Something To Locals Using Sign Language
Unless you are proficient in many languages, there will inevitably be a point where you struggle to communicate with local people. The international sign language of pointing and gestures is what to use here, so try your best if you get in such a conversation, and enjoy the interaction.
This is something that can be a serious problem in some countries, and as most solo travelers will often eat from street stalls and fast food places. If you start to feel the symptoms coming on, make sure you have Imodium or something similar and dioralyte in your first aid kit, and consider getting a single room to ride out the storm. If things get worse or you don’t recover in a few days, seek medical help.
The Fear Of A Foreign Bus Journey
Taking the bus in a foreign country can be challenging, and having to converse with the locals to get your ticket, and having to ask which bus is yours can also be difficult. Try to get there well in advance, and see if the tickets can be booked online, and once you are on the bus try to get a seat in the middle of the bus, so that you aren’t too far back but don’t have to watch every turn the driver takes.
The Single Traveler Supplement
This is one of the biggest frustrations for anyone who is dealing with international travel on a regular basis, and particularly with cruises or packages, the additional supplement can be a serious bone of contention. Try to book the individual segments yourself, and haggle if there is only one company offering what you want – they will rather have you along than traveling with an empty space.
Leaving Luggage With Someone You Don’t Know
One of the biggest issues that solo travelers face when they are moving from place to place is that the rucksack is not always convenient if you have to cram into a toilet cubicle or need to get into a small phone booth. Sometimes the only option is to leave your bag with the staff, and hope for the best. Make sure you take any valuables out and stuff them in your pockets where possible!
Asking For A Table For One
Eating out is one of the great pleasures of travel, but asking for a table for one, where restaurant style seating is in place can be a little uncomfortable. Remember that everyone has to eat, and most waiters will be used to such requests, but in some places women may get some unwanted attention, so if this happens just be clear that you are only there for food.
Unwanted Male Attention
Along with those sitting alone in restaurants, women may get attention if they dress differently to the local women or if they are just out and about. Make it clear that you have no interest in any men that approach you, be ready to raise your voice, and do not be ashamed to shout for help if you feel that the attention is escalating too much. If you are just being hounded a little, walk into a shop or restaurant where you can ask for help.
Adapting To Make The Next Leg Of A Journey
Whether you naturally like to micro manage your trip planning, or you proceed with just a rough idea in your head, at some point you will get to a location where you have to figure out the next step in the journey. Be prepared to look at all the transport options, and consider multiple leg journeys to get you to where you want to be.
No Cell Phone Signal In Rural Areas
The coverage that local mobile networks will have can vary, particularly in countries that are quite poor, so don’t pin all your hopes on being able to call for help or navigate using the sat-nav app on your phone. Have a backup plan, and be ready to use it if you have no cell phone signal.
Surviving On A Small Daily Budget
A great thing about solo travel is that it really helps you to develop resilience and self sufficiency, and even if you’ve never had to manage your budget, solo travel will make you think about this. You don’t want to blow all your money in the first two weeks if you are traveling for three months, so be ready to calculate how much you can spend a day, and find ways to live within that budget.
Should You Accept The Offer To Join Others On An Activity?
One of the things about traveling solo is that you will make friends easily, and you will sometimes be offered the chance to join them for an activity or side trip. Make sure you are keeping to your budget, but if you feel comfortable then some of the best memories will come from the spontaneous choices.
Having To Wash In Unpleasant Surroundings
Not all bathrooms in every country will have the hygiene standards to be found at home, so be prepared to lower your standards, and accept that sometimes you will have to wash in unclean bathrooms. Soap will always trump any dirt in the bathroom or taps where you will be washing!
Hostels Without Plugs To Charge Your Gadgets
This will often force you to become more reliant on traditional methods of dealing with travel challenges, as some of the older hostels may not offer enough sockets to allow everyone to charge their devices. Be ready to survive without your cell phone for a day or two if this happens.
Getting Up For Early Morning Bus Journeys
Backpackers especially will come to know this particular dilemma, and getting out to catch that 8am bus will often require you to get up early order to make it. Hostel rooms will usually have a few people getting up early, so you will not be alone stumbling out of the door bleary eyed to get to the bus.
Communicating With Family In Different Time Zones
Waking up your parents at 5am will usually be a mistake that only happens once, and having to calculate what time it is at home is often a problem for communication. Some people will agree that email or social media messages may be a better way of communication, or will pre-schedule calls.
Not Knowing The Foods On The Menu
If you intend to travel in many different countries, then there is a strong likelihood that you will come across a restaurant that has a menu that doesn’t have an English translation. If you know a few words then you can take an educated guess at different items, but sometimes just picking out a few words that look interesting and asking the waiter for those is a learning experience in itself!