Traveling with a companion is indeed great. It allows you to share experiences, offers a sense of security in case of emergencies in foreign lands while making memories that are cherished lifelong, as I found. However, as an avid traveler and globetrotter, I also discovered the benefits of going solo to foreign countries. Undeniably, my first solo trip was fraught with pre-departure anxieties, which were largely unfounded, as I discovered.
Benefits of Solo Travel
Solo travel is packed with inherent benefits. The first and most important one, in my humble opinion, is, solo travel shakes one out of the proverbial comfort zone of companionship and its accompanying complacency. It boosts self-confidence immeasurably and puts you in unique situations where your troubleshooting and life skills are tested. Regardless whether you are female or male, traveling solo indeed helps enrich life: The time you spend alone in alien surroundings helps gain a better understanding of yourself, as I delightfully discovered. Solo travel helped me get rid of self-created phobias and false notions.
However, most solo travelers tend to be copycats. They stick to routines and practices considered accepted while traveling alone. These mistakes solo travelers make can indeed deprive you of great benefits you would otherwise have gained.
Here we look at six mistakes that solo travelers make.
Six Mistakes Solo Travelers Make
Mistake-1: Xenophobic Behavior
Mingle with indigenous people of a foreign country without prejudice or reservations of any kind and avoid the mistake of being xenophobic. Understandably, mixing with people of a foreign, unknown culture can be a daunting experience. A small gesture or word can be taken as offense or render you a laughing stock. Worse, it can cost you money for some inadvertent mistake.
However, mingling with indigenous people of a distant land is indeed a pleasurable experience. Firstly, it provides you with the opportunity to learn a few vital words (including cuss words) in the foreign language. Secondly, you get an excellent opportunity to learn about local culture and its exotic traditions. With some interpersonal skills, you can make great friends in a foreign country.
Unfortunately, most solo travelers falsely believe that locals of a country bear some hatred or are interested in their money. This is completely false. Indeed, a majority of ordinary people in foreign lands are least concerned with your purse and do not want you to bear expenses. They view you as an honored guest and can go out of their way to make you feel home.
Mistake-2: Shunning Local Food
The second major mistake of solo travelers is shunning local restaurants and street-food. They prefer patronizing international fast food brands or stick to outlets that serve their home cuisines. Others shun local restaurants since they do not serve cuisine that conforms to their religious beliefs such as Kosher or Halal. Yet a few more prefer vegetarian food. However, the most common concern is health. Solo travelers believe, consuming food from a foreign cuisine can make them sick due to use of spices or other unfamiliar ingredients that can cause digestive disorders. Worse, a lot of solo travelers live under the myth they can contract foodborne infections by dining at a local restaurant.
Avoiding local restaurants and street-side food stalls deprive you of the opportunity to get a true life experience of a country. I do not imply that you consume exotic fauna like reptiles or insects while on a foreign visit. Simply put, local restaurants serve freshly cooked food which is bereft of disease-causing pathogens. Dining at local joints provides excellent opportunities to acquaint with culinary habits of a country and its culture. These are once-in-lifetime opportunities and should never be missed or overlooked.
Menus at local restaurants will most likely be in the native language of that country. Hence, you can ask the manager or crew about what a specific dish contains before placing your order. Further, most restaurants will adjust the number of spices and condiments to appeal to foreign palates, as I found.
Mistake-3: Budget Accommodation
Traveling solo does not imply you live on thrift. Most solo travelers tend to live in dorms and backpacker lodges, where amenities are shared and provide little privacy. This is another major mistake.
Thanks to the Internet, you can check out hotels and accommodations at destinations and their prices. Also, you can book very cheap but high-quality hotels from any top travel company. Almost invariably, you will come to high-class hotels and other accommodation facilities like serviced apartments that cost slightly higher than backpacker lodges and hostels.
There are three distinct advantages of taking a hotel room over backpacker lodges and hostels. Firstly, staying at a good hotel ensures your baggage is safe. Most hotels also offer the facility of handing them your passport, important documents, and valuables for safekeeping. They provide a receipt acknowledging such stuff is under their care. Hence, you can indulge in sightseeing without the bother of having to guard passport, cash and other valuables.
Secondly, staying at the good hotel means you enjoy complete privacy. This allows for some self-discovery and introspection into your own life. Your hotel room also affords the privacy to rest and relax at will, without being bothered with sounds and clutter typical of backpacker lodges and dorms.
Thirdly, the luxury of staying at a good hotel imparts a sense of independence. You learn the vital art of staying alone and enjoying your own company. You also learn to manage personal affairs.
Mistake-4: Traveling Heavily Laden
Traveling to foreign countries means carrying loads of cash either in currency notes, debit or credit card. Generally, solo travelers prefer to tag their cash and credit/debit cards along because they cannot be left behind. However, this renders them highly prone to robberies, especially at popular tourist destinations. Crimes against tourists include theft of baggage and purses. You can fall victim to pick-pockets and lose cash, credit and debit cards. With no companion, you are left to fend for yourself and at mercy of your diplomatic mission or local authorities and cops.
However, this hassle can be easily avoided. Several banks across the world allow foreign nationals to open a temporary savings account. This means you open a bank account using your passport and other acceptable ID proofs. Deposit your money in local or foreign currency in this bank account. The bank will issue you an ATM/ debit card that is either valid within that country or for international use.
In the unfortunate event of losing your cash and credit cards, you can always rush to the bank where you hold a local account and get money to continue the tour or return home.
Another advantage is, your bank will charge you hefty charges for making withdrawals in foreign countries. Some credit cards also add a minor service free for purchases made outside the country of issue. These fees are fairly high. You can save enough money by opening a domestic account at the destination to stash away your cash.
Mistake-5: Flock & Copy Cat Mentality
A common pattern I have observed among solo travelers is flocking together or copycat mentality. Once they arrive solo at the destination, they befriend travelers from their native country and travel to most popular attractions and places. Most solo travelers are unwilling to risk traveling to off-the-beaten-track areas since they do not know what is in store.
As a solo traveler, you get the liberty to travel to place hitherto unvisited or rarely explored by other tourists. You get to see places that others have never been to. Additionally, you learn a lot about the country and destination by exploring these off-the-beaten-track regions. Arriving at such unknown destinations can be a pleasant experience. You will find people more hospitable and friendly to you than at common tourist destinations. Crime rates against foreigners are low or non-existent at such unique locations since any miscreant will be immediately arrested.
Mistake-6: The Bookworm
Nobody denies the importance of reading good books from any genre. Indeed, holidays provide extra free time to finish reading all those favorite books and bestsellers you bought from home. Yet, the bookworm in you also needs rest. You can always read your preferred titles back home during commutes or in spare time.
Becoming a bookworm on holidays abroad is a great mistake. Firstly, you will tag along with a bagful of books from your home to destinations or spend money buying them at airports and Duty-Free Shops. Most reading will be done during travel, leaving little time for personal interaction with people of the foreign country. Reading during travel also deprives you of taking in sights and sounds during a bus or rail journey in the foreign land. Indeed, reading becomes a block towards learning about the country.
Most importantly, becoming a bookworm as solo traveler means you have little time for self-discovery. Instead of spending time on learning new things in real life, you will inadvertently end up reading some fiction.
What to do?
As we have seen, solo travel can be rewarding provided you avoid these six mistakes. Indeed, traveling to a foreign country solo is useless if you cannot derive its full benefits. I would consider it a waste of time and resources for anyone who commits these six mistakes while holidaying abroad, regardless of which country under the Sun they visit.
Start by planning your trip in a manner that allows you to overcome these six blunders of solo travel. Pack your holiday with fun-filled activities that you cannot experience back home or elsewhere in the world. Fair knowledge of the destination, its people, and culture, food, and accommodation, as well as places shunned by other tourists, can make your solo travel immensely rewarding.
Traveling with a companion is indeed great. However, traveling solo is much more thrilling, as I found. It helped me discover and develop various behavioral traits, personality aspects and other dormant qualities of whose existence I was grossly unaware. Utilizing these benefits from solo travel has helped me further my personal and professional life. You can do so too, by traveling solo with the intention of benefitting fully.
Solo travel also helps you to buy air tickets on indirect and offline air carriers. Under international aviation laws, all airlines have to offer Stopover Paid by Carrier (STPC) benefits such as complimentary accommodation and meals during transits at any intermediate airport exceeding eight hours. This way, you get the opportunity of visiting one more country for free, during the transit.
Hope you found this article helpful and interesting.
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