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Traveling Alone Doesn't Mean You'll Be Lonely

you'll meet people if you want to

sunny

One of the reasons a lot of people are afraid to travel by themselves is the fear of being far from home, with no one to talk to or share both good and bad experiences with ... having no one to turn to for advice or guidance -- being lonely, in other words. But I'm here to tell you that doesn't have to be the way your trip turns out.

But before we get to that, let's think about all the positives associated with solo travel:

To begin with, you're actually seeing the world instead of constantly sitting on the sidelines, waiting for someone to go with you ... waiting to find someone who wants to go where you want to go, when you want to go and how you want to go. You could find yourself waiting forever.

Which brings me to my next point. You get to go and do and see exactly what you want. You get to change your mind. You get to change your itinerary if you feel like it. Having fun and want to stay longer in a particular place? Do it. Feel like skipping somewhere you had originally planned to visit? Do it. Want to change hotels? Do it. Feeling a bit tired and want to stay in bed all morning? Do it. Want to fly somewhere instead of taking the train? Do it. Feel like renting a car and driving instead? Do it. Want to splurge on an expensive dinner in a fabulous restaurant? Do it. Want to buy a baguette, some cheese and a bottle of wine at a local market and eat in your hotel room? Do it.

You are on your own. You are not ruining someone else's plans. You're not disappointing anyone. You don't need to ask permission or negotiate or compromise. You are as a free as a bird. You can be as spontaneous as you like. You can spend as much or as little money as you want. You can take as long as you want. You can skip whatever you want.

So are you packing yet? Ahh, first you want to know why I'm so sure you won't be lonely. Well here's what happened to me yesterday:

I wanted a coffee before I began my usual Saturday chores. There happens to be a Starbucks right near my apartment (surprise, surprise). This particular Starbucks is tiny -- only 4 tables. They were all occupied, but there was a woman sitting by herself at one of them -- so I asked if she minded if I took the other chair.

At first we sat quietly -- she reading her book and me engrossed in the Travel Section of the newspaper (my favourite past time). When she got up to get a refill I noticed the scarf she was wearing. It looked very much like the scarves I bought at the Living Fort in Jaisalmer (in Rajasthan) when I was in India.

So I asked her if she'd been to India, and if that was where she'd bought her scarf. "No", she said; and then asked why I was asking. I told her about the scarves I'd bought when I was there earlier this year. We talked to each other for at least a half hour -- probably would have stayed longer if I hadn't had to leave. We had a really interesting conversation. As it turns out she's always wanted to go to India -- but she'd lived in Africa for two years -- somewhere I've always wanted to go. As we talked I realized she had a French accent. Although she lives in Ontario now she's originally from Quebec -- and so am I.

What's interesting is, if I'd been there with a friend I probably never would have talked to that woman. I'd have never struck up that conversation in the first place. And I would have missed out on hearing about her very interesting life.

It could have ended -- as it did in this instance -- right there, in the cafe. Or we could have made plans to get together another time. And what happened to me around the corner from where I live can happen to me or to you anywhere in the world. It can happen in a cafe or at a bus or train station ... or in an airport ... on a beach ... in a hotel lobby ... a museum ... a temple ... a gas station ... a restaurant ... a street corner ... a shop or anywhere else you find yourself in the company of other people.

In an instant, with a nod of the head, a smile, a question or even a simple statement you can turn a stranger into an acquaintance, a traveling companion or even a life-long friend. That's part of the fun and adventure that comes with traveling solo!

Who knows, maybe we'll even meet up somewhere?

Posted by a_broad 05:57 Archived in Canada Tagged women Comments (1)

Don't always believe everything you read

in other words, make up your own mind

When I first decided to go to India I wanted to go alone. Don't ask me why because I don't know. Anyway, my friends thought I was mad. And to be honest, everything I read -- online and in travel guidebooks -- sort of discouraged it. While no one came out and said it was a stupid or dangerous thing to do, there were articles and sections that could have made a solo female traveler wary.

In the end I went on a tour -- not because I was afraid to go alone, but because I was referred to a travel agent who was leading a trip I wanted to go on. She was going to all the places I wanted to see and she was going at exactly the time of year I wanted to go. And they were staying in spectacular hotels and her itinerary was very appealing to me.

I'm not sorry I did it. I had a fabulous time.

BUT ... now that I've been to India I know that I could have gone myself. I never felt that I wasn't safe. I never felt that if I'd been a woman alone I would have been scorned by many Indian people (which is what a lot of the guidebooks warn you about). I know I wouldn't have been lonely. And I know I would still have enjoyed myself.

It was great to have people to share my experiences with -- but I also know that I would have met people during my travels. I did even on my tour. You meet people and strike up conversations everywhere -- in lines, in bars, in cafes, at museums, at airports, in restaurants, in hotel lobbies, at tourist attractions. Somebody inevitably starts talking -- it stands to reason -- you obviously have something in common because you've found yourselves in the same place at the same time.

If you're a woman traveling alone are there things you need to watch out for? Absolutely. But if you're a woman traveling on the subway at night in your own home town there are things you need to watch out for.

How do you know what to see if you're not on a tour? Well to begin with that's what travel magazines, the travel section of newspapers, the Internet and guidebooks are for. Hotels can also organize tours for you and you can also make arrangements with your travel agent to hire your own, private driver and guide.

All you really need to have a terrific vacation on your own is the confidence to do it. So don't wait for your spouse or your sibling or your kids or your friends to go on holiday with you because you might end up waiting forever -- and while everyone else gets to see the world, you'll be wishing you were.

If you want to go somewhere and you've got no one to go with, go anyway. And if you're not quite ready to fly solo go on a tour -- there are plenty of them that cater to small groups of from 10 - 14 people so if the idea of traveling with 20 or 30 others is putting you off, there are alternatives.

Do it once and I'll bet wish you'd done it sooner. Send me a postcard.

Posted by a_broad 18:34 Archived in Canada Tagged women Comments (10)

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