The Unspoken Pains of a #SoloTrip
In the past, solo travel used to be a departure from the norm. Not anymore. These days, it’s almost like a rite of passage. Something to do at least once in a lifetime. An experience that will change your life.
But like most things on social media, what you see is only half the story. There’s hardly talk about the unglamorous side of a solo trip (which are plenty). So if you’re planning one ahead, here’s a heads up:
1. Going to the washroom
This is super cumbersome especially if you have an oversized luggage. Being on your own means there is no trusty companion to watch your bag while you do your business. Suddenly, you will realize how small toilet cubicles are, having had to awkwardly tilt your luggage in a certain angle before the door can be closed.
It’s one of the reasons why I try to pack light and carry a backpack. Or else, I look for the more spacious handicapped toilet for a less clumsy experience.
2. Having meals
‘Table for 1’ takes some time getting used to. But usually, it’s not at restaurants where a lunch buddy is missed most. The trouble arises in a foodcourt setting and you need someone to reserve your seat while queuing for food.
This is probably the best time to approach a stranger at a table. There’s no better pick-up line than “is this seat taken?” You never know when you’d make a new friend.
3. Taking long-distance train rides
It can be lonely taking a long train or bus ride by yourself. Having an interesting book, a well-curated music playlist or travel journal + pen helps. What can’t be helped, however, is when you have to leave your seat, say for the toilet. This time round, you’d probably not want to – and can’t – bring your entire luggage into the shaky, moving toilet.
Bring just your valuables in with you and ask for a favour from your neighbour across the aisle. Hopefully you would have accumulated some goodwill so far to help “reserve” your vacant seat for the time being. Also, it may not be a good idea to visit the washroom when the train is stopping at the station – this is when your seat (and more importantly, your luggage) can be easily taken away.
Similarly for overnight trains, keep your valuables close. I have a money pouch that keeps my cash and passport strapped underneath my clothes. A filled backpack makes a great pillow. If it’s small enough, zip your hand carry inside your sleeping bag.
4. Taking a photo
Less perilous than taking the train alone, but still a pain. I suspect the rise of the selfie is in part due to the increasing popularity of solo travel. But even with the powerful selfie stick, it’s hard to take a nice picture without blocking most of the background.
5. Sharing of costs
The costs of travelling add up and sometimes it helps when you have one or two companions to split with.
However, there are many ways to explore whereby the number of people sharing is irrelevant to its price tag. Instead of booking a cab, why not experience the local public transportation system up close? Rather than checking in to a hotel, perhaps a hostel – paying per bunk bed – will open up more possibilities of meeting new friends?
6. When you get into trouble
Nobody likes to prep for the worse but mishaps do happen. When you are travelling solo, sometimes all that’s left to fall back on are your backup plans. Make sure the right offline maps are saved on your phone in case you get lost. Know the emergency number to dial in your destination. Keep your family and friends informed of your whereabouts (your next hotel etc.) If you couchsurf, share your host’s profile. Have copies of your passport, ID, tickets, visa, insurance ready. Save it on a secured cloud network where you can log in and retrieve if need be.
Having said all that, solo travel is still one of best experiences in life. It forces you to be comfortable with yourself, by yourself. I’m not gonna refute those claims, but rather than deter, I hope this list prepares you for your own adventure.
Are there anymore solo travel pains I missed out on? Let me know by commenting below!