By Juan Sempere
Wake up and smell the single serving of coffee: going on vacation by yourself is the #1 travel trend for 2018, according to Intrepid Travel. If you haven’t discovered the joys of this singular (pun intended) way of touring the world, here are a few quick tips to wake up the one man –or woman– wolf pack that lies within all of us.
Schedule Your Day, But Keep it Quiet
DO… PREPARE A SCHEDULE
Yes, spontaneity may be the main appeal of traveling solo. Who needs to adhere to the strict itineraries that govern group plans, right? Well, it turns out you do need a certain strategy in order to fully enjoy the trip.
“Even your plans for chaos require a certain structure,” says photographer and world traveler J.C. Hernandez, whose work as a diplomatic liaison has forced him to renew passports that actually ran out of pages to get stamped. “Feeling absolute freedom is all well and good, but not having a travel partner next to you means full responsibility for making things work lies within yourself,” he adds.
DON’T… ALERT EVERYONE WITHIN EARSHOT YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN
“This is crucial for women: Don’t boast about traveling by yourself to every person you meet, it shows your vulnerability and dramatically increases your chances of being exposed to a bad experience,” suggests Rocío Vázquez, a renowned travel blogger and influencer who also runs her own gastro-cultural tours of Mexico City.
Some experienced solo travelers even encourage flat-out lying about your status when engaging in casual conversations with the locals: Tell them about the group you’re meeting later, or state that you’re enjoying a few minutes of “me time” before rejoining your party.
Know When To Take Chances
DO… LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Europe is the obvious #1 destination for solo travelers the world over, but did you know that Mexico and the Caribbean rank #2 on that list? Even when visiting popular tourist destinations like Cancun or Ocho Rios, there’s ample chance to take day trips to nearby locales with as much, if not more to see. Consider this a great opportunity to stray off the beaten path and go somewhere a little more adventurous and exotic in your next solo outing.
Would you rather explore the seaside Mayan ruins of Tulum or stand in line behind hundreds of tourists to enter the Louvre? No-brainer, right? A quick jaunt south of the border will present you with countless opportunities to hone your skills as a solo traveler, you’ll be surprised how rewarding it is to fend for yourself in a foreign land.
DON’T… FORGET YOUR HOMEWORK
Is the country you’re visiting safe? Do you know anyone there who can assist you in case of emergency? Is your prescription medication readily available should you lose it along the way? Does that enticing tour you’re desperate to book cater to single travelers?
“I pack an entire first-aid kit whenever I travel. I also keep hard copies of my documentation and itineraries hidden in my luggage. And, being a woman, I always check about the proper way to dress in the country I’m visiting,” recommends Vazquez. Preparedness will never get in the way of enjoying things.
Remember Why You Are There
DO… TRAVEL LIGHT
“You’ll have a better time traveling with a single piece of luggage, don’t burden yourself with more,” suggests Alberto Rojas, journalist and editor for in-flight magazine V de Volaris. “If I anticipate making a lot of purchases I might add a light backpack to my carry-on, or try to take expandable luggage whenever possible, preferably sturdy enough to carry my laptop in it, as well,” he concludes.
DON’T… REFRAIN FROM DOCUMENTING THE EXPERIENCE
Taking good pictures of yourself might have been complicated in the past, but selfie sticks have really saved the day for solo travelers on the hunt for the perfect vacation pic. If you still find that solution cumbersome, don’t ask the first person to walk by to take your picture, at the risk of having him/her take off running with your precious camera or smartphone. Look for that person already carrying a couple of professional cameras with him: odds are they’re experimented photographers on some sort of assignment, so it’s highly unlikely they’ll try to rob you… and your pictures will end up looking awesome, by the way.
DO… MAKE IT ALL ABOUT YOU
You might be tempted to do live broadcasts to all your social media accounts as soon as you go on your solo trip, but try to exercise some sort of restraint. “The discoveries you make on these kind of excursions should be yours to enjoy, and no one else’s,” reflects Hernández. So try to reflect upon the whole deal instead of frantically trying to capture every moment on camera. Put pen to paper, it forces you to process your thoughts before jotting them down.
Solo travel is popular because you answer to no one but yourself. Savor the moments. Learn from every conversation with a stranger. Remember every spot that makes you realize how far away you are from home. We’ll be fine without you for a few days, you know?