Solo travelling - the merits and pitfalls and how to stay safe

Image Credit: Chait Goli via Pexels

Embarking on a solo travel adventure is exciting and scary all at the same time.

Especially if it's your first time travelling alone, your head may spin. Will I make new friends? What if I miss the bus to the hostel? How does the public transport system work in Bangkok? Will I get mugged on the way to the hostel, as it's already dark when I arrive in Mexico City? How will I cope with the feeling of loneliness? Questions like these will most likely accompany you on your flight to your destination.

While all the questions are legitimate, most of them won’t matter to you after a few days of travelling. However, it’s always good to pay attention to your safety. Especially if you are in a country known to be risky for travellers. While in Thailand usually no one minds if you walk around alone in the dark, in some places in Mexico several people will tell you to turn around and head straight back to your hostel. The best way to stay safe is to stick to the basic travel safety rules. Always leave your valuables in the hostel locker, don’t carry too much cash with you, never walk around with your mobile phone in your hand – look up the way before you start going there, never tell complete strangers you are travelling alone, don’t walk around alone in the dark – order an Uber to get home, be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut. 

However, as soon as you arrive in your hostel the other doubts usually disappear. Sometimes you even make friends at the airport, and your first tuk tuk ride in Bangkok with your new airport besties already gives you a taste of what to expect. Solo travellers tend to be more open towards meeting new people. I don’t even know anymore how many times I was approached by a stranger on the street and a few hours later we were hanging out together at the beach with a drink in our hands. After a while, I was the one who approached strangers and some of those are still good friends of mine. Especially in hostels, it's super easy to get in touch with likeminded people. Usually everyone hangs out in the common area and the next day you find yourself on a scooter tour around the island with your new travel group.  

Another advantage is that if you don’t want to hang out with them you don’t have to. Everyone understands if you need some time for yourself. Also, the locals seem to be more open to conversations with solo travellers. Maybe you even end up staying with some of them for a few days and have to chance to get to know their culture better.

While some days are great, others can be terrible. Sometimes things just don’t work out and you might end up being stuck all alone in the middle of nowhere. Maybe your hostel made a mistake and now you can’t stay there for the night. Then there are days when your credit card stops working, and on top of that, your mobile phone falls into the pool. Another downside of solo travelling is the loneliness some people experience. Especially in the first few days it can be overwhelming. Everything is new, a bit scary and you realise, you must make every decision yourself. Another not-so-great experience is getting food poisoning when you are solo traveling. All your friends are going to leave in a few hours to their next destination, you have to stay back. While you are stuck in the bathroom, you have to figure out where to stay because your current accommodation is booked up for the night. This was one of the worst experiences I had while travelling alone in Mexico.

The crazy thing is that even though these low points are super low and you have the feeling that you will never get out of this situation, you will. In my experiences one always makes it through and learns a lot during the process. While I was puking at a stranger in the street on my way to the next hostel or while I was sitting lost and alone somewhere close to the Cambodian-Thai border I wouldn’t have believed that. But now, that I have made those experiences, I know that I learned a lot about myself and life in general. Plus, these moments turn into funny stories that will entertain your friends back home.