“Oh Sarah”, said my mother, in that special tone of exasperation she seems to have only for me. “Why are you travelling alone? Don’t you have anyone you can go with? What if something happens”. Let’s answer these questions one by one.
Don’t you have anyone you can go with?
You can’t spend your whole life waiting for other people to do the cool shit you want to do. I became sick of missing out on life experiences merely because I didn’t already know someone who was going to do that thing. In short, travelling is a great way to make new friends.
What if something happens?
Here are my safety points.
1. never run out of cash
You never know when your bank card might mysteriously stop working, and as a person travelling alone, you have no friend that you could borrow money off in such a situation. Make sure you always have enough cash for a night in a hotel, a dinner, and a taxi ride to safety.
2. Keep your passport in your knickers.
When you’re wearing your backpack, it’s obvious that you have all your worldly possessions on you, so make sure you have your most important items (passports and emergency credit card) in a concealed money belt. If someone steals your phone or mp3 player, you’re gutted for a few days but life goes on. If someone takes your passport, you’ll have to go to the embassy to get a temporary document that is usually only good for one flight.
3. Don’t walk around alone at night.
Make friends with people in the hostel and explore with them.
Here are some photos of people I’ve made friends with on this trip:
Having said all that, travelling solo does have it’s downsides. Firstly, accommodation can be trickier as you either end up paying 100% for a room (as opposed to splitting the cost with a friend) or staying in dorm rooms (which are cheap but rarely make for a good night’s sleep). Also, solo travel means doing 100% of the work, like reading up on stuff online, booking tickets, and all that other dull stuff that gets in the way of getting out there and enjoying whatever place you’re in.
But these are all small annoyances, and the benefits far outweigh them. My favourite “life skills” that I’ve learnt and continually refresh by travelling on my own is listening to myself and staying in the moment. What do I really want to do now? Am I hungry? Am I tired? With only myself for company and only myself to please the world is my oyster. Also, travelling means you can’t plan too much ahead. You can buy a flight, or reserve the odd bus, but in Central America the internet is much less used by businesses, so often it’s better to just rock up somewhere and take a look around to see what’s on offer.
All in all, travelling on my own isn’t my first choice, but I do feel a sense of achievement at all the stuff that I have done independently. But I’m also glad that my boyfriend and I have made a pact that the next time we do a big trip, we’re going to do it together, mainly because we are sick of spending 4 hours a week on Skype.