Roadblocks have been set on the path to becoming a lone traveller. For a number of people, for this reason avoid or shy off from solo travel, few people will embrace it. However, statistics has it that solo travel is a rising trend. Ardent travellers, especially females, are gaining more courage to take up solo trips .
I would describe solo traveling as going on a trip alone, without necessarily latching onto a group of other individuals. Travelling with family, friends or those who are dear to you is a priceless experience. You get to create memories that are bound to be treasured for a lifetime. In spite of this, solo travel has provided me with life changing experiences, as with many other solo travellers I know of.
It’s precisely one year since I took the major leap of faith and delved into solo travelling. I’ve previously highlighted what pushed me to commence this journey was my ineptitude to explain fundamental attractions in my country, save for Maasai Mara and Mt Kenya, when I toured different regions outside Kenya. (Click here to read my introductory post.)
While I celebrate it’s been a year, I know a lot of you are asking questions like, ‘Why travel solo? Aren’t you afraid? What of safety? What happens when I am lost? Are people unfriendly? Do I get bored? What’s the outcome of travelling solo, and so much more, which I will help answer as we proceed. Ready? Set?Let’s go!
To begin with, here is your chance to be completely selfish. Being a lone traveller gives you the freedom of organizing your itinerary. You get the chance to work around and with your schedule without having to factor in the attitudes, preferences or tastes of other people. You get to make strong independent decisions. For the brief time that you are on adventure alone, you get to just do you, which if you ask me, is quite rewarding at the end of it all.
Being a lone traveller is quite attractive. Quite frankly, in travel people will tend to avoid lovey doveys on a holiday trip or a clique of friends hanging out. Alone, the non-verbal gesture is that you are up for socializing. From my varied solitary travels, what I want to believe are lifelong relatonships have sprued up from a simple “hello.” Being lonely is completely unfounded. With solo travel on the rise, there will always be at least a handful of solo travellers on your chosen destination. You might just meet by sheer chance.
Is it safe to be in a ”foreign” land all by yourself? It is safe, although I would not completely rule out some of the safety concerns. As humans, we have been blessed with natural instincts, what we refer to as guts. Situations we find ourselves in often trigger our guts. Sometimes, while on your trip you might get the sense that something is not right or not going to be right. It might be when you are trying to buy something on the streets, asking for directions or getting recommendations on places to visit. Trust that feeling and be quick to seek alternatives. It is unfortunate that the modern human is not very well connected to their guts because life has been made so easy. Solo travel will help you sharpen this and will connect you to your guts. The more you often travel solo, you will feel more confident, aware of your environment and safer.
So far, I hope I have made some headway in convincing you to plan your next solo trip. How do I manage to handle some of the basic necessities of my solo trips?
Travelling to far off destinations, I have gotten scared of taking public means. Yes, getting scared is a thing. Challenges such as being bored on the way and tired are things I usually consider big time. There are days I don’t have the energy to do those long hour road trips. Thus why I prefer catching flights. Flights are an option if you want to feel safe, avoid long hours of being on the road by yourself, arrive faster if you want that trip to start ASAP! Do I recommend other means of transport? Yes, definitely!!
Flying Blue Rotalty Card has been my plug. The card rewards loyal customers travelling with Kenya Airways, who is a partner. Flying Blue makes it easy to earn miles wherever you go. Miles you earn are credited to your online accounts, you can spend them on award tickets to a destination of your choice. Kenya Airways only allows you to redeem these points and have a maximum limit of two years before they expire.
*The flights are free but you are required to pay taxes only.
*The miles can also be used to get a seat of your choice, have priority lounge access at the airport, redeem hotel accommodation or gift someone as award tickets, but this depends with your card type; Ivory, Silver, Gold and Platinum. For instance, Ivory cardholders have to pay to access airport lounges, Silver have priority access at the airport lounges while Gold and Platinum have free lounge access.
You may wonder where I get these points, I use my Dad’s card as he is a weekly traveller! How fortuate! You may have that friend or relative who travels a lot, they can reward your tickets using their miles. Tell them to sign up with KQ and get their card. While at it, subscribe to KQ’s newsletter. You will be lucky to bug some amazing deals to infamous destinations that are published weekly and monthly.
Most solo travellers definitely worry about paying a lot of money for a single room for the number of nights they wish to spend on their trip. However, doing your research before you travel is essential. Personally, where I sleep is the least important thing to me. I have joked around and told my friends my bags enjoy the space more than I do. I am always out exploring and the space is for refreshing and taking some few hours sleep. I have used the Couchsurfing App to cater for my accommodation.
Couchsurfing is a community of travel enthusiasts who offer free accommodation to fellow surfers. The application works pretty much like; where you browse through someone’s profile, pictures, recommendations left by other people, events happening and guys who are available for hanging out. Posting your trip and its details will attract surfers who may offer to take you around on a tour, others offer to host you and others just to meet you. I prefer hosting and being hosted by ladies for security purposes, therefore I browse through different profiles and subsequently reach out. You also accept and send friend requests at your own free will. I know what you thinking😅 my safety right?
That’s the app, my account and guys I have hosted and have hosted me. Two hosted me in Thailand, when I extended my stay after a conference to explore, another in Nyali, another in Kisumu, some I have simply hang out with and hosted the rest.
Take this risk. I can’t tell you how much scared I was, but my lovely host Mildred Miller was the most incredible human I met in Nyali last year. As you are seated there thinking of all the bad things that might happen, how about giving it a try?, famous quote says, ‘ You never know what’s on the other side of fear until you try.’
Embracing local transportation and trying out food at local joints is a great way of immersing yourself in the culture of the people. Travelling alone will force you to learn a new language for communication and how to interact with the people around you. Admittedly, in a group you are under the safety net of your friends or family so it is really easy for you to miss out on the finer things your environment and culture has to offer.
Solo traveling can be quite revealing and an accomplishment. However, it comes with its own baggages. Some of which we inflict upon ourselves and end up causing major inconveniences or ruining the experience for ourselves. Here is a list of some mistakes that we, solo travellers ,make and feel the effects in the long run:
Failing to trust the locals: In as much as trust is something dearly earned, it is important to know that not every local will want to scam or rob you of your belonging. Being warm and receptive are traits you will want to embrace in order to interact with the locals when an opportunity presents itself.
Failing to be assertive: Freely, you will be cat-called, for females, and aggressively beckoned by, say, vendors when you decide to visit a market. While at it, you do not want to be overly rude to the locals. Yet, in the event that you are not comfortable with the attention you do not need, it is important to firmly, but in a friendly manner, to state that you do not appreciate that kind of attention. Solo travel will make you brave! Yaay!
Failing to research about local culture: During my trip to Egypt in 2017, I had a lot of problems with locals due to my dressing. First, it’s a really hot country, especially in summer. As a tourist, I had braced myself with sleeveless dresses and clothes. Locals would approach me and give me scarfs to cover my arms as well as hijabs for my hair. Mosques are tourist attraction sites, hence I should have done that prior research as I knew I wanted to visit several mosques. Same applies to the Coast of Kenya, I have been given hijab when I entered a Muslim restaurant. Haha! I always look back and laugh heartily. Such are memories which turns me into a storyteller!
Failing to share travel plans: As a frequent Couchsurfer, my Mom always asks for the details of my host. She will go further and ask for their contacts and exact location. This gives both of us a sense of relief and it goes a long way to make me feel safe. Likewise, I let some of my friends know my stay location and extra information about my flights or trip and activities I will undertake. I have been left by my Egypt return flight and from then my circle and family always keep tabs. Please, find an accountability person.
Showing off expensive items: Dangling expensive items on your body such as jewellery are pretty attractive aspects to thieves. You may want to keep your accessories lowkey. Further, vendors have a tendency of altering prices based on who they are selling to after they see what you have adorned. I am sure most of you have experienced this.
Tips: Wear a cross-body travel purse at all the time. A fanny pack is awesome too!
*Carry a small purse that is so slim and comfortable that you won’t need to remove on and off.
*Don’t splash your money in one place.
Lacking travel insurance: A travel insurance will cover luggage delay or loss, medical attention, journey cancellation, loss of passport or Identification Card and a number of liabilities while in your destination. Anything can transpire while on your trip, be ready with your insurance. I use Resolution Insurance, there are a variety from Jubilee, ICEA Lion to Stanchart among others. Find out what suits you best.
Failing to do your research: Apart from online research, check what books such as Lonely Planet and National Geographic recommend. I remember reading the Kisumu part in Kenya’s lonely planet and it somehow convinced me to go to Kakamega Forest, a place normal online travellers haven’t been to, at least, for some of them. It was worthwhile!
Missing out on local cuisine: Be an all-rounder traveller and travel in all its essence, through food and stories. Once in a while try local street food as you bond with locals. This is always an amazing opportunity to learn their deep culture. Don’t miss out on this experience because of all the horrible food poisoning tales you have heard. An easy fix is you taking activated charcoal which is a gentle detox before and after bad tummy bacteria. You can avoid food poisoning by going to stalls with high turnout.
Failing to walk with your head high! : Wearing a beautiful smile and walking confidently will go a long way in your solo trip. Apart from appearing friendly, it alludes a sense of awareness and comfortability.
Solo trips will train you in being comfortable with being fully dependent on yourself and love your own company. Something that will come naturally and in handy when you take your first trip. Schedule at least once, a solo date with yourself and let me know how it goes. This is small baby steps towards the right direction.
HELPFUL TRAVEL APPS FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS:
For accommodation: Couchsurfing, Airbnb, Hostel World, Booking.com
For travel expenses: Travel spend, Nomad wallet and Stanchart Mobile App, CBA loop
For travel planning: Trip advisor, Tripbase.com
For moving around: Uber, Bolt, Google Maps
For finding friends: Travel Buddy and Couchsurfing
As you travel solo, being totally responsible for yourself it’s inevitable that you will discover how capable you are! Traveling alone will be the most scariest, most liberating, life changing experience of your life. Of course, there will be uknown fears, family or friends to hold you back. But you have to succumb to the adventurer that is within you, be brave and let the heart guide you to wanderlust! Try it out at least once! I will be here to cheer you on!
Article written by: Mutave E. Nelly