Tip one: ditch the well-made plans
Wasn’t it Woody Allen who first said if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans? Travelling solo is one of the few times in life when you can throw all your plans out the window if you want, or just not make any at all. Unlike going on holiday with friends or – worse still – the family, you don’t need to compromise. Forget lengthy discussions over financial planning, the challenges of badly rehashed route maps and squabbles over who gets the bottom bunk; travelling solo is all about you.
If you’re a people-pleaser to a fault or have a tendency towards OCD then this is the way to go, free from all the obligations and stresses an infuriatingly disorganised friend or selfie-stick addict brings.
Tip two: don’t ditch the friends
Travelling solo doesn’t mean going it wholly alone, though. While the appeal of disconnecting with everything and everyone back at home might be strong, try to keep in touch with family and friends as you go. Sharing over Skype and investing in international call-time credit can really help gain perspective on your adventures and also keeps a much-needed link to life back home. Pre-download the essential apps like Skype, FaceTime, Viber and WhatsApp and you won’t have a hefty phone bill at the end, either.
Another tip is to follow the growing crowd of travellers hiring mobile Wi-Fi devices to keep them connected every second of their trip. Companies like TEP (www.tepwireless.com) and Xcom (www.xcomglobal.com) are changing the face of travel in a digital age.
Top three: make new friends
Far easier said than done, especially in an age where the soft glow of a smartphone screen uplights every sorry drinker, sat lonely at their bar stool with thoughts of their next whiskey on the rocks. This is where an old school charm offensive comes in good use. Hostels, hotel bars, and clubs are still the best place to start – places where like-minded solo travellers can stop, unwind and quench a thirst.
If you don’t fancy your chances mixing ice-breakers with weary old-time travellers why not up your odds? Almost every major city around the world hosts a sightseeing tour of some kind, and you might not be surprised to find out that we recommend a late night guided bar crawl. Another sure-fire way to feel at home in any city is to experience its karaoke culture, even if you find yourself joining in with a particularly bad rendition of ‘All By Myself’.
Tip four: make friends ‘appen
Ignore the traditional stranger-tapping methods and just make sure you have some juice in your phone. Travelling in the 21st century is all about digital connections. Backpackr (www.backpacker.org) and Travel Buddies (www.travel-buddies.com) are the leading apps for making travel companions in this brave new world, while Tinder (www.gotinder.com) is branching out too, giving users a chance to swipe right on their next travel adventure and find a new pal with more than just a night in with Netflix on their mind.
Tip five: you don’t have to talk to strangers
Travelling solo doesn’t necessarily mean coming home with a phone full of names and numbers you’ll never hear from again, either. For many, solo travel is all about escaping the idle chitchat and inanity of the everyday and substituting it with the clarity of me, myself and I. The trend for self-reflective tourism – whether in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment or not – is booming, with monasteries reporting a surge in enquiries for retreats completed in near silence (with exception of the daily chanting, of course).
A stay at the Insight Meditation Society (www.dharma.org) in Massachusetts, for example, starts with 5.30am wake up call, is inclusive of daily chores and meals, and allows guests the use of 240 wooded acres of land, perfect for a meditative stroll on your super-silent Sunday afternoon. No whistling allowed.
Top six: write a blog
It was Socrates who once said the unexamined life was not worth living, now it seems the undocumented life is just as worthless. Clichéd though it may be, writing a travel diary really can help put everything in perspective and gives you a way to share your holiday experiences – even if no one is reading them.