Most of you who know me, know that I travel with my good buddy, Mr. Mike, or I travel solo. Mike is the BEST travel buddy ever. We are not joined at the hip when we travel, though we have similar interests. And we never, I repeat, never, talk about money!!
But perhaps you would like a different perspective on solo travel, other than mine. I had the benefit of traveling solo on business throughout the late Seventies, and most of the Eighties. And I was able to start traveling for pleasure at a fairly young age (to Europe), essentially, on my own.
The Point Guy has a great website, and email. I strongly suggest that you subscribe, not only for travel, but their advice on best use of award points and airline miles to maximize your trips. Here are some of his thoughts.
PG: For all sorts of reasons, you might be faced with the choice of traveling alone, or not traveling at all. Your partner, friends or family may not be able to take the same time off work or they may just not be as keen on the destination as you are. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck at home. I love traveling by myself and have had some fantastic experiences abroad all on my own. In fact, sometimes I prefer traveling alone over traveling with others.
Now given a choice, I would choose Mr. Mike over solo travel. But when we are traveling, we always have the option to go in different directions. He loves to walk the cities, I love the trains and public transportation. I enjoy a museum or two, he prefers the street culture. But both of us are foodies, enjoy good wine and beer, and love to engage locals in conversation.
The best reason for solo travel is freedom. Sleep in or get up early. Coffee in the room or find a nearby coffee joint. Hit a bus or walking tour or explore on my own. Skip lunch or have beer and French fries. Take a nap or rent a bicycle. You get the idea.
PG: Long story short: You don’t have to do anything you don’t want just because someone you would travel with wants to do it.
Meeting new people is easier when traveling alone. While I was in Greece, both in Athens and Santorini, I made lifelong friends. Most of you know I have friends all over the world, from places like Cambodia, Malaysia, Peru, Japan, South Africa, Thailand, Mexico, Switzerland, and now Greece.
Plus, I’ve found that being the lone foreigner at a bar or café quickly leads to interesting conversations. In fact, just last week in Chicago, my new friends sitting at the bar at Joe’s Stone Crabs engaged in one of the best conversations I have experienced during the pandemic.
Solo trips also cost less. But for me, the flexibility to change plans midstream is even better. On my trip to Greece last May, after five days in Santorini, I decided to return to Athens for another six days, rather than head to more Greek islands.
PG: Traveling solo is not always perfect. My solo trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway is a good example. I missed my train, and had great difficulty rebooking on a later train, in second class, no less. Nobody spoke English, save for an unexpected young stranger who came to my rescue while I was being severely admonished by the ticket agent.
For some people, mealtime is difficult. My mornings always start with coffee in my room (I bring Peet’s, as you know). Then I head out for a real breakfast. This creates the option to have a light lunch or to skip it altogether. A solo breakfast is no big deal. Dinner is where some people feel alone. Generally, I solve this by sitting at the bar and ordering my food there. And from my business days, eating alone generally does not bother me.
So, where are the best places for solo travelers? I lean toward bigger cities, like Bangkok, London, Buenos Aires, Washington, DC, Tokyo, Budapest, Athens, Paris, Chicago, Sydney, and Berlin. Why? There is always plenty to see, do, and eat.
I will admit to you that certain places should be avoided as a solo traveler. Which ones? Honeymoon and couples locations, of course!
I am not big on group tours. I will do a half day “hop on hop off” bus tour, just to get my bearings in a big city. But a big multi day tour is NOT my idea of fun! The very last one we took to Peru to visit Cuzco, and Machu Picchu were a disaster. Other people in the group were always late when the bus was leaving. Foreigners pass gas whenever they want! Skip the groups!!!
Many solo travelers prefer hostels since it is a great way to meet people. Though my hostel days are over, I stayed in one recently in Dublin. It was great fun, but noisy, and not that comfortable. My desk chair was a tree stump. And even though I had a room to myself, the noise level was quite high, and the room lacked basic amenities, like AC and extra towels.
Bottom line, just be open and approachable. I know this is easy to say as a single male traveler. But I have met many people, of both sexes, of all ages while traveling, and it can be done, safely. Whatever you do, please do not hibernate in your room.