Check out this fantastic guest post about ways to conquer those common excuses that people have for traveling alone, from Kristina Wegscheider, co-founder of Do It While You're Young.
I have traveled extensively over the last 9 years. Extensively is defined as in over 50 countries. While I have traveled with my fiancé and my family, I actually did a bulk of these trips by myself. While the initial idea of traveling alone can be scary, it can also be absolutely exhilarating! A good introduction to traveling solo is to try a group tour with a company like Contiki (I’ve logged three trips to date). Scared of going solo? Here are some common excuses and why you should overcome them.
I Won't Know Anyone
Yes, that is true. But I guarantee you that half your tour will be in the same boat! As soon as you have booked your tour, log onto the Contiki message boards to find other travelers. On some of the tours I have done, I have been able to coordinate with other people on the tour to meet before the official trip starts to get in some additional sightseeing. Even if you do not go online first, there will usually be a tour meeting to review the itinerary, greet your Tour Manager and meet your fellow travelers. Just be open-minded, introduce yourself to everyone and smile. Before you know it, you will find a group to hang out with.
I don’t have a roommate.
No worries! I have done well over a dozen organized group tours and have had extremely positive roommate stories in most places. On most Contiki tours, if you don’t come with a roommate, you’ll be matched up with someone. On other tours, we have been able to “sign-up” before arrival in each city. I always pack some essential supplies to in the event of a “worst case scenario”. An eye mask and ear plugs can solve most problems. If you happen to have a situation which ear plugs cannot resolve, your helpful Contiki Tour Manager is always on hand to provide some relief.
Who will I hang out with?
Contiki provides basic structure for your holiday like transportation, accommodations and some meals. But, you will also have a decent amount of free time to explore your destination. The group will inevitably have a mixture of personalities – some people will want to see every museum in town and others will want to find every pub in town. Find those with similar interests and get out there. Can’t find anyone who wants to do what you want to do? Explore on your own. Many times, I have spent my free days exploring by myself only to meet-up with others from the tour for lunch or dinner. To me, it provides a nice mix of pursuing my own interests while also making new friends.
To allow for maximum flexibility, a mobile phone is extremely helpful. Even if you just have a wi-fi enabled device (like an iPod Touch), it can allow you to get online to message others. Another idea is buying a local SIM card or renting a phone for the duration of your travels.
I don’t want to eat by myself.
Contiki usually provides several meals with your tour (check your trip details for the designated list). The rest of the time, you’ll be free to try the local cuisine! Your Tour Manager will be able to provide recommendations, but do your own homework to find the local gems. If there is a place I want to try, I usually mention it to people a few days before I’m planning to go so I can gauge interest. Many times, I end up with 6-8 others who want to join me. Taking charge allows you to get the meal you have been craving along with great company. If you’re not having any luck, go on your own! In places like Europe, it is very common for one to eat in a fancy restaurant alone. Yes, it may feel weird at first but you’ll get over that quickly. To help ease the awkwardness, try snagging a table in the bar area and bring a book to read while you wait.
I will get bored on my own.
Boredom and Contiki can’t be used in the same sentence. Between the included tours and the optional excursions, you’ll be able to fill your day without any problem. Factor in meals and nightlife and you really won’t have much downtime. Even bus time is fun. While it is not uncommon for the entire bus to fall asleep at once (hint: pack a small pillow), there is also lots of fun time where singing and games make the hours fly by.
It’s my first time away from home.
Following the motto of my travel blog, Do It While You’re Young! If you really want to get out there and live your life, you’ll need to do the hardest thing: taking the first step. By booking with Contiki, you’ll be able to have the logistics handled for you while being able to step out of your comfort zone. Trust me, once you get that first taste of independence and adventure, you’ll be accumulating passport stamps before you know it. Travel has allowed me to explore the world (50+ countries, 7 continents, a gigantic passport), do things I never thought I would do (I can now add bungee jumping, skydiving, scuba diving with sharks and rafting in crocodile infested waters to my travel resume) and even introduced me to my fiancé (you never know where you will find Mr. or Mrs. Right!).
Kristina Wegscheider is the co-founder of Do It While You’re Young, a travel blog for young interested in traveling, studying, working and volunteering abroad. She has done Contiki tours to New Zealand, Russia & Scandinavia and Croatia.