Since travelling here and there for the past 4 years i’ve had unforgettable experiences, made lifetime friends, met a few crazies and received some reeaaaal good VIP treatment all because I decided to go solo!
Hands down i’ll pick solo travelling before group trips.. & I do love traveling with my family/friends (especially with the mama – food expenses paid for, heeeyy ???? lol) but there really is something about doing it solo.
My folks originate from West Africa and oh boy are majority of their stereotypes of solo travelling negative and damn scary (especially for females)! – Undeniably, most have derived from thriller movies so i’ve now decided to watch Taken or any hostage/abduction related movie in my mother’s absence. That’s how i’m allowed to travel solo for those that ask! Lol.
Don’t watch Taken with your parent’s if you want to travel solo! lol
I’ll lay down some perks i’ve received from travelling solo and of course we can’t ignore the worries… But I do hope you’re sold and able to see that the benefits greatly outweigh the thought of being kidnapped lol ????
Before heading out to China in 2014 friends who had previously visited gave me a heads up on their experience: “they are super racist”, “I was spat on” (ewww) and the likes but that didn’t stop me from heading there. I headed out with an open mind (ready to spit on someone lol I kid) and experience China for myself… and hey I was not spat on but my medium dark brown braids were caressed multiple times each day lol.
So glad he didn’t ask to touch my hair???? The Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai.
Travelling with friends is hella’ fun but we all know that sometimes we miss the detail, we get carried away in someone else’s itinerary and at times we spend less time absorbing the culture right in front of us. Besides getting all ‘artsy’ by heading to the museums i’ve managed to learn more about a culture simply by people watching, sitting in a local bar and speaking to the locals. This so beats CNN’s perspective on a “foreign” country – & most times, to truly understanding what is going on next door it’s best to go and see it for yourself!
Why Not Try it First?
Similar to making a solo trip to the cinema (movies), having your first In-N-Out Burger or that awkward first solo visit to a restaurant where you whisper “table for one” to the waiter – you need to try it first because who knows? You might actually like it.
P.s. Kudos to you solo going cinema folks… that was my first and last time! Lol.
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Why not try a local solo trip first. East Sussex, England.
It’s Super Cost Effective!
We all have a friend who we deeply love that always wants us to settle his/her bill, the one who’ll pay you back for chipping into their taxi bill.. We love you & of course generosity is one of our greatest gifts we have to offer each other… but (lol), doing this on every trip will of course add up!
If you are seeking to travel more for less this year, solo travelling could be your answer. Going solo means you’ll make the decision on where your pennies go, you can set realistic daily spending budgets and you set your own itineraries. In order to cut costs while in Reykjavik, I packed a £1 bag of microwave brown rice from home to tuck into for dinner one night (thanks for the tip Ronkz!).
I’m semi last minute but if you’re the super last minute type i’ve seen soo many solo travellers get a last minute bed to crash in for the night. But in all honesty, accommodation can be pricey for the lone traveller – i’ll touch on that below. ????
We All Want That Free Flight Upgrade (so travel solo.. & dress decent to the airport)
While heading out to Shanghai in 2014 I was upgraded to business class, for FREE! I didn’t ask but there was one last business class seat available (& I think economy was full to the brim lol) so they bumped me up!
This was of course luck (favour) but heading out solo meant I was fortunate enough to hold a disposable cup full of champagne (i’m not a fan of sipping champagne – don’t judge lol) and I got to devour a plate of really tasty aeroplane steak.
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Squaw (Piestiwa) Peak, Arizona.
You Force Yourself to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
I did not come back from Milan speaking business fluent Italian but I picked up words I would have probably relied on my sister’s translation book to source. I guarantee you’ll pick up a few more words while travelling solo… because you’ll probably have to.
You’ll be surprised but my sense of direction (even with Google Maps) is pretty non existent but i’ve had to work on improving this, especially on my solo travels. Inevitably, i’m forced to interact with locals to ask for directions… and even when travelling with friends i’ve learnt to not always rely on their itinerary.
Most times you don’t even need to ask for directions before you interact with others… just smile and they’ll want to know more about you.
You Build a Global Network!
You have enough friends? Ok skip this one and head to the next lol.
Seriously, i’ve met some lifetime friends based in South Korea to San Diego through travelling solo! I even met my boyfriend abroad! – lol Jesus is currently by BF but honestly travelling solo attracts others to you. I met a man who knew my country of origin, Nigeria, inside out! He travelled through war torn countries, drove from Nigeria to Cameroon despite being turned back at the border, twice! – hearing stories like this always humbles me!
Don’t forget, having friends abroad cuts major costs on accommodation. Remember to ask family and friends if they know someone in your visiting location who can lodge you before booking that extortionate hotel!
Besides having to constantly inform my work mates that I did not personally know Beyonce during lunch breaks in China, we spoke on topics that may have been considered “politically incorrect’. From filtered internet to North Korea to Black culture… I realised how powerful the tool of conversation was to understand their perspective and even break stereotypes. With exposure to the western world pretty limited out there (& vice versa) me and my old colleagues still manage to keep in contact to serve as cross border information tools to each other.
The interns clearly didn’t get the ‘casual Friday’ memo. Shanghai, China.
It Really is a Confidence Boost!
“You really discover who you are when no one is looking” – this is damn right true because most solo travellers i’ve come across appear super confident!! They speak to anyone, do some relatively crazy things and usually aren’t afraid to say what’s on their mind.
The old me would have been scared to death while walking alone through San Juan, Puerto Rico at 10pm (don’t freak out – the streets were brightly lit as i’m still working on my fear of the dark lol). But hey I credit this small act of craziness to quickly learning how to assimilate as a local (what I call being “street smart”). This comes with experience and the more you do it the more confident you’ll appear.
You Won’t Get Kidnapped but You Might Get a Job From it..
We certainly downplay and categorise the benefits of solo travelling to social settings but damn I credit my solo travelling experiences to helping me land my first few jobs right out of university.
If you think the skills obtained from travelling are not transferrable to your professional or personal life you’ll be surprised (basically you are wrong! lol). The time you were lost in Copenhagen and navigated your way back to your AirBnB, what about the time you lost your purse in Budapest but managed to swoop your way into the finest hotel in the city for free? – That is problem solving! Don’t be embarrassed, bring it up during the interview.
But Let Me Be Honest…
I’m still pretty sure you won’t get kidnapped (if you stay safe) but solo travelling isn’t always all fun, hippy and games.
It Can Also Be Costly.
Especially accommodation. I’m an AirBnB girl and most private rooms can hold a minimum of 2 guests so travelling solo of course means i’m paying a marginally higher price that could have been split with a friend. On the plus side, I get the whole bedroom and occasionally the entire house to myself!
I try to avoid 2-for-1 deals as it tends to be a tad expensive than the 1-for-1 deals …i’m yet to be rejected by a restaurant for riding solo so i’ll keep you updated on that one.
No One to Share a Joke With? ????
Just turn to the person next to ya, smile & i’m sure you’ll be fine! ????
East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall.
“But Isn’t it Awkward Doyin?”
Rather than loneliness while travelling solo i’ll say my “I want my mama” moment hits me during the awkward scan for a restaurant table before the waitress approaches and yels out “you want a table for one my dear!?”
Most of these awkward moments arise from what we deem to be ‘abnormal’ but sometimes you just have to take the “Who cares!?” approach and get over it! ????
Travelling solo as a Black British woman isn’t always “oh hey Beyonce’s sister, you get half price discount coz’ you beautiful!”. Unfortunately i’m yet to come across many black folks when travelling outside the west.. And with this brings curiosity, ignorance and racism (what I like to call sheer stupidity!). I love to converse with the lady who has never seen a black woman before… we exchange pictures (more like she takes pictures), we share some laughs and I pretty much just be myself in those situations! This is how I try to educate the curious or ignorant in fact but sometimes there truly is nothing you can do… so smile, and walk away if you have to.
Walk away & get yourself an ice-cream???? Milan.
Safety, safety, safety!
Fortunately i’ve not experienced anything unsafe or frightening while on my solo travels. I’m a Christian and with that comes a boost of confidence that i’ll be OK but bad things happen to very very good people, Christians, Muslims, anyone…
My answer to this one through experience will be to do your research on a given city by asking friends that are from that city, speaking to those that have previously visited and don’t get hung up on the personal reviews online. They are personal for a reason. ????
When on your travels always ask the locals whether it’s safe to walk through the alleyway that looks so “Insta worthy” at night, be SAFE and it’s likely you won’t be kidnapped!
You really don’t travel alone when on your solo travels. Loiza, Puerto Rico.
Thanks for reading! Please share and let me know if you’ll be travelling solo sometime soon. It’s been 6 weeks or so since I started this blog… i’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ll like to see more of! If this post sucks head to the ‘Let’s connect” section and drop me a message discretely lol – all feedback is welcome folks! ????
This post was originally published on Move With Doyin.