What NOT to say to a solo traveller

More and more people are opting for a life of travel and adventure, yet every time I explain my travel plans and goals, I am met with the same questions. It’s fair to say that many of these individuals are genuinely curious as to how and why I’d prefer to live spontaneously, than to follow a stable career path and stick to the life I know. But it doesn’t make answering the same queries any less tedious. 

If you’re looking for advice on how to speak to the traveller in your life, heed my instructions on what not to ask. If someone is discussing their plans, they probably aren’t trying to brag. The chances are, they are looking for support and encouragement. Taking off can be scary, but having people who support your spontaneous decisions makes the whole process a lot less intimidating. 

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1/ How do you afford it?

The answer to this question is simple: Save and Sacrifice. I live by the two S’s when I’m in trip-planning mode, yet it seems to be the number one question I’m asked (or judged by). It’s not easy, giving up social activities and staying home on weekends, but missing out on a trip to the movies is a small thing to forgo in the long term. When you’re sipping on Mojitos in Cuba, I promise you’ll be thanking me. And that dress you love but have a wardrobe full of similar ones? You can buy one just like it abroad, without the side of guilt as you swipe your credit card! As a shopaholic, this is difficult advice for me to take. But definitely possible. Put as much money aside from each pay as you can, plan your meals in advance and pick up additional shifts. Every dollar counts ladies and gentlemen!
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2/ Isn’t it dangerous to travel solo?

Yes and no, but this shouldn’t deter you from travelling, nor does it deter me! It’s all about being smart, not only with your choice of accomodation, but with your money, belongings and time. If you’re planning to visit anywhere with potential safety risks, ensure you have a back up plan and some extra cash. It’s a good idea to keep your family or friends updated on your whereabouts too, so they know to check in with you from time to time. Then, there are the obvious measures: don’t go out at night on your own, don’t go out abroad without identification and don’t wave your money around in public.
It’s much simpler than the media makes it out to be. Terrible things can occur wherever you are in the world; you have to plan for the best and prepare for the worst.
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3/ How do you know you’ll have a place to stay?

I don’t always. That’s the honest answer. I can book in advance and have the safety of certainty, but when booking on the road, there are no guarantees, just big hopes and crossed fingers. I find the easiest way to give myself (and my family) piece of mind is to make a ‘flexible’ booking at a hostel. It’s important to read the terms and conditions of each individual accomodation (some have stricter conditions than others), however most booking sites have the option of paying an additional few dollars on top of your deposit, in case you need to change the date of your arrival, or cancel completely. Planning hours before your arrival isn’t for everyone, but it works for me. Sometimes you end up with dodgy locations or a less than ideal hygiene situation, but a bed is a bed!
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4/ You’re so much more [insert verb] than me!

You may be surprised to learn I’m not a generally outgoing person. I don’t ooze extraversion and spontaneity unless I’m on the road. So no, I’m probably not more easygoing, risk-taking, wealthy, brave or confident than you. I’m not more anything than you. I’m just a woman who likes to challenge myself, push myself to the limits of my perceived capabilities and occasionally over the edge. Sometimes there are tears, breakdowns and panic attacks. It’s not all arty Instagram posts and good times. But is it worth it? Hell yeah, it is.
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5/ Aren’t you scared without a boyfriend or partner?

I’m always intrigued by this somewhat misogynistic question. Those who enquire are mostly doing so out of genuine care and concern for my wellbeing, which I appreciate. But as someone who has never relied on another human being to provide or protect me (excluding my parents, of course), it’s puzzling that anyone would wonder why I may not be capable of travelling solo. Am I afraid sometimes? Of course. Do I seek groups of people to hang out with? Sure I do. But the best part of going solo is the freedom to make unadulterated choices without worrying about what someone else would prefer to do or see. So while I sometimes wonder what it would be like to travel with a partner (and would love to do one day), it’s not something I would consider to provide a safer experience for me. In fact, I’d counter that being forced to consider personal safety and make every decision heightens your ability to stay out of danger, because you’re not relying on anyone else to reassure or alter your choices.
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6/ Won’t you miss your family/friends/pet dog?

Duh! I can’t believe how often I get asked this! Am I a living, breathing human with feelings and attachments to others? As far as I know, yes. Therefore I’m going to miss those closest to me. But that is no reason to stop myself from living. It can be incredibly painful to let go, knowing that your loved ones will go on without you. Sadly, you can’t just put them on pause to appease your anxieties and nor should you want to. It’s healthy to let go and be independent. Giving yourself space and time to adjust is the hardest part, but it’s a valuable skill to have.
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7/ What if you lose your passport? 

This is a scary one, but a fear we all have to manage while overseas. I find the best way to keep my passport safe is with multiple storage options. I like to bring both a passport holder that hangs around my neck and can be tucked into my shirt, as well as a money belt that can tuck into pants or under a skirt. I even bring a large travel wallet too, complete with several copies of the passport. The more inconspicuous the better. If you don’t flash it around, leave it in different spots or take it somewhere it could get lost, you’ll be fine. Even the dodgiest hostels have a safe to lock passports and other special goods in. 

If you’re venturing somewhere more exotic and require a yellow fever vaccination card, please store this with your passport and treat it with as much care. I’d wager that these little yellow books are just as valuable, if not more so (in certain countries), than a passport and a whole lot harder to replace.
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8/ I wish I could travel more

The simple, non-preachy answer is you can. Refer to every single other blog post on my site for the how and why. It is possible. So go out there and do it!

And when I bump into you on the streets of Paris or London, I’ll even shout you a drink.

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🌍 EMMA

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