Why Everyone Should Travel ALONE

That sounds miserable! Who would I hangout with? What if something happens to me abroad? These are all common concerns and misconceptions that people have when presented with the question, why don’t you just travel alone? The truth is traveling alone to a foreign country is absolutely amazing and safe! In fact, when traveling alone, you’re rarely alone. In this post, I will explain why everyone should travel alone at least once in their life and also provide a few helpful tips to maximize your fun abroad.

Imagine a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Now imagine going into work, requesting time off, coming home and purchasing your flight. It’s literally that easy when it’s just you. There’s a famous saying that goes, “It’s simple, until you make it complicated,” which can be applied to anything in life, even traveling. Once you begin to invite others on your trip, everyone will have their own opinion on how long to go for, what countries to visit, and what sights to see. Well congratulations, you’ve just made travelling complicated, and you haven’t even left!

Once abroad, the real benefits of riding solo come into play. Think about it, you have no one to negotiate with but yourself on where to go, when to go, and what to see. The ball is in your court the entire trip! Now some people might say, “Well yeah the ball is in your court, but if you don’t have anyone to share those experiences with, isn’t that lonely?” The answer is no. You’ll meet tons of people; especially people traveling alone just like you. The key is to stay at hostels and not hotels or places on Airbnb. The reason is that hotels and Airbnb provide private accommodation, making it difficult to meet people. The goal is to go where other travelers like you are staying. At hostels, you’ll meet great people from all over the world who are just as willing to share experiences with new people.

Not only will you meet awesome people at hostels, but you’ll also be more open in trying new things. For example, if you’re by yourself sitting in the common area someone sits next to you, they may ask if you would like to join them shark cage diving in an hour. Since you’re by yourself, you have no agenda, you’ll most likely say yes. And that’s the beauty of it! Since you don’t have an agenda, you’re open to new experiences, meeting new people, and you will value the friendships you create more because you’re traveling alone. In addition, you’ll develop more confidence, build your independence, and learn how to interact in new environments. From there, the adventures and friendships begin to proliferate. Before you know it, you’ll have a new international posse, sharing travel stories, and cruising the town together.

Before you head out on your epic journey, keep in mind these 9 travel tips to maximize your fun:

1. Google Flights

Check out Google Flights (https://www.google.com/flights/) before you settle on your destination, select your travel dates, or purchase your tickets. It’s one of the most epic sites for traveling. You literally see a map of the world with dollar signs next to each airport, so you can visually see how much it would cost to fly to each location. You may even find a flight to a neighboring country that’s half the price because there are fewer tourists. There’s also a feature that displays prices for different days/months on a bar graph, so you can find the least expensive time to fly.

2. Passports and Visas

Make sure you have a valid passport with at least 6 months left on it before it expires. Check online to see if your destinations require you to obtain a visa before entry. If they do, you’ll most likely need to complete paperwork, pay some fees, and head to the local embassy well before your departure date. However, many countries allow you to obtain visas upon arrival.

3. Vaccinations and Travel Medical Insurance

Call the travel clinic at your hospital and inform them on where you’re planning to travel. They will prescribe you with any required or recommended medication and vaccinations. You’ll also want to purchase travel medical insurance to cover you while abroad. It’s very inexpensive and chances are you’ll never need to use it. I recommend going through Atlast Travel Insurance (http://www.hccmis.com/atlas-travel-insurance/). They are affordable and easy to sign up.

4. Only Book Hostels

Remember, this is the best way to meet people. You’ll want to book your hostels on HostelWorld (http://www.hostelworld.com/) either from their website or mobile app. Review the ratings and make your best judgment. Typically the overall approval percentage is important, but definitely put a lot of weight on the atmosphere percentage as well as price. You’ll want to stay somewhere that has a great vibe but is also not going to be too expensive. Sleeping in the dorm is also a great way to meet people as well as save some cash. Another good alternative for finding gems: http://www.hovelstay.com/

5. Don’t Book in Advance

Never book your hostel more than 3 days in advance. I know, it goes against everything you’ve ever learned, but the goal is to stay flexible. It’s best to book your hostel the day before you want to leave your current one, to minimize your fear of missing out (FOMO). You never know when rad groups of people check in and all of a sudden you find yourself having the time of your life and not wanting to leave.  

6. Never Book More than 3 Nights

Never book more than 3 nights until you’ve already stayed there. If when you arrive, the place totally rocks, well then you can always extend your stay, but otherwise it’s best to just cruise on to the next spot.

7. Say Yes

The best things in life are memorable experiences. What is the easiest way to create them? By always saying yes when presented the opportunity. Whether it’s jumping out of a plane, swimming with sharks, or eating a scorpion, these are memories you’ll remember for the rest of your life and will make your trip worthwhile. Always be prepared to step out of your comfort zone when given the opportunity.

8. Get a local SIM Card

If you take your phone with you (which you should), make sure you buy a local SIM card. It’s far less expensive than roaming charges. If you can, take one of your older phones, one you wouldn’t mind if you happened to never come back home with, since theft is a possibility. Now some may say, “Why are you going to take your phone with you? The whole point of traveling is to disconnect from back home.” I would say to them that that’s partially true, but the phone also allows you to stay connected with people you meet on your trip; it serves as a camera and GPS unit when trying to find your way around.

9. Always tell immigration you have a return flight home (even if you don’t)

If ever presented with this question at the immigration booth, just say yes.  Some countries require you to have a return ticket in order to be allowed on their soil.

As we get older it seems that it's very easy to get stuck in routine, because routine is comfortable. I think routine can be dangerous. If it wasn't for pulling the trigger, I would never have seen the places I had, or have met the people I did. Thank you to my friends, family, and mentors who encouraged and motivated me to do this.

Thanks for reading!

- Sahand Shafer