Going on holiday by myself is one of the best decisions I’ve made so far.
It was daunting at first because I had never ventured out by myself, and I had the perception that traveling was only a social thing and couldn’t be enjoyed outside of being a pair or a group.
So in 2014, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and out of the restrictions that I had internalized, and headed out to Bluewater Bay in Port Elizabeth for the weekend. This was my first solo trip, and it was on a weekend from Friday to Sunday.
I love the beach – it’s one of my go-to places for letting go of all stress and bringing out my inner child, so I decided to spend unhurried time enjoying the sun and the sound of the waves heading to the shore instead of booking a tour. I needed that time to silence my ruminating mind and just be.
I enjoyed being in solitude, and this is the main benefit of solo travel, especially if you’re the type of person who needs alone time to recuperate versus getting energy from being in a crowd.
I got a break from emails, phone calls and texts, to-do lists and making sure that everyone is fine. Off-course I love my friends, family and my work, but I also need to hit the pause button on life admin and be refreshed.
Traveling in a group requires planning around people’s time and interests, and one also has to deal with different personalities. Solo travel gives me the freedom to explore a new place based on my interests, and I do this in my own time and pace. I also get meet like-minded solo travelers, so it’s a great space to meet new people and learn from them while chilling out.
That trip to Bluewater Bay changed my perception of solo travel for the better. I was no longer afraid of venturing out by myself. I learned that I have niche interests, and it’s okay to take a weekend break to chill at the beach and do nothing else, or take a trip to the Kalahari to learn about the local Khoisan culture.
Solo travel broke all self-consciousness as I realized that no one cared that I eating at a restaurant by myself. Everyone was too busy living their best their lives to judge what I was doing.
If you haven’t yet traveled solo, I’d encourage you to do so. It’s the best thing you’ll do for yourself, and it’s tons of fun.
Safety and travel tips, especially for woman solo travelers:
1. Do your research on the location you’d like to visit. Consider hotels, flights, transportation within the city, restaurants and places of interest. The last thing you want is to visit a dodgy place where safety will be a concern, even if it’s a location within your home country.
2. It’s great to leverage on friends, family and colleagues who’ve visited the location you want to travel to. They can provide some great insights on things to do, where to stay, how much you’ll spend on the trip and safety.
3. It’s even better to have friends or colleagues that live in the city or country that you want to visit. You can get in touch with them while you’re planning your trip, and you know that you have someone to turn to while you’re in town on your visit.
4. Travel agencies are very helpful as well, so get in touch with them while planning your trip.
5. Visit your doctor before you leave to find out about medicines to pack. I usually pack in aspirin for headaches, pills that help with diarrhea and pills for menstrual cramps.
6. Save emergency numbers on your phone – the police and the nearest hospital. It helps to save your hotel’s reception numbers in case you need anything.
7. If you’re traveling abroad, have the embassy’s numbers saved on your phone, and also know where the embassy is located in case of emergency.
8. Be sure to share your travel itinerary with close family and friends so that they know where you are for safety purposes.
9. I find it better to use Uber in cities where it’s available. If not, find out from travel agencies, friends, family and the hotel where you’ll be staying about transportation to use while you’re in town.
10. Learn the local language – even if it’s the basics. I love being immersed in local culture, and I’ve found that the best way to form a bond with the locals is through language. You won’t feel so “othered” and locals will appreciate your effort to know their culture.
11. It’s advisable to get the country specific sim card so that you can connect to the internet and to your apps. This way, you can use WhatsApp to keep in touch with friends and family, use your Uber app and use Google should you need your GPS.
12. Find out which plug types are used in the location you’re planning to visit, and buy the specific adaptor. It makes life easier if you have your own adaptor.
13. Make sure to carry a portable charger – it comes in handy when your phone’s battery runs low and you’re still out exploring.
14. Dress comfortably, and leave your flashy stuff at home.
15. I find it useful to wear jeans, shorts or skirts with pockets on them so that I can keep my bank card, ID card and medical aid card on me at all times. Make sure the pockets are deep enough so that your card won’t fall out.
16. Find out whether the location you’re visiting is a card or cash heavy market, and tailor accordingly. The last thing you want is to get somewhere and they only take cash and you’ve got nothing on you.
17. If your room has a safe with a combination number that you create, use the safe to store all your valuable stuff, including your passport.
* image from Pexels.