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Blog - I’m a Romantic Lone Traveler. Or Not?
8 Problems You Might Encounter and 5 Advices for your Travel Decisions.
Traveling alone is being promoted by several magazines, articles and blogs as the only way to fully enjoy a trip. The ideal way to immerge into adventure, discover beautiful landscapes, exotic countries and millenniums-old cultures. But, is it all that simple? How many of you had adventures that did not result to be so exciting as expected? Or lost precious days of your holidays in wrong places?
Furthermore, are all travel specialists really obsolete? Is there no more such figure as the “travel expert”? Are those contacting an agency, tour operator or travel consultant “spoiled” and ancient people?
Be careful, because the stereotype of the romantic lonely traveller, uncritically and unrationaly proposed, could give you some problems. Let’s make one point clear: we work in tourism but we don’t want to convince you to do anything. Traveling alone is possible and can be nice, but it depends a lot on what kind of person you are, what kind of holiday you are searching for, where you are going, for how long and many other variables.
8 PROBLEMS YOU COULD ENCOUNTER TRAVELING ALONE:
1. Loneliness: the image of the solitary traveller is fascinating, of course. But, day after day, it could become boring or even alienating. It happened to me, more than once, to be followed for several days by a bored lonely traveller that couldn’t wait to join someone (with low selection criteria). But, others would love to stay alone for a long or limited time. Travel alone only if you really like to stay alone.
2. Wrong tips: the stereotype of the romantic traveller idealizes the quality of advices and tips, online or not. Suddenly the world would become an Eden of trust and universal tastes. Unfortunately, blogs and forums are not the most reliable sources, because they can be not updated, subjective or quite superficial. What is “cheap” for someone could not be cheap at all for you, plus, the words “cool” and “awesome” are very subjective and often underestimated. The ferry they advise you to take could already have changed schedule or route. Also asking people you meet along the way could give some problems, especially if your language skills are not that good or if you find yourself in a place with a culture that is very far from yours.
3. Language: traveling alone also means that you are supposed to know the language of the country you are going to visit (or be equipped with innovative communication strategies). Sometimes the universal English might not be enough. Even less enough if your English is basic or so-so.
4. You’re not a local: “I went to Italy but pizza was not that good”, some foreign tourists say after eating frozen pizza in some random bar or in fast foods. It is possible that an Italian wouldn’t have eaten there. And, it is possible you will not get the best food travelling alone in another country.
5. Free things offer little service: don’t think you will find a professional approach if you go to a place with the idea of “I will approach someone there to take me around”. There is a reason why there are professional guides and people utilize them. This is even more important in places where a professional guide is recommended to avoid risks and unnecessary hassles.
6. Proficient Assistance: if you’d ever encounter problems about safety, cancellations, delays etc. there will be no one ready to assist you.
7. Money matters: are you sure that an agent will not be able to offer better prices? Sometimes, lone travelers get lost or encounter mistakes and end up spending more. Or that you will spend the right amount for your shopping without your guide? And how much could you save if you are put together with other people for your trip?
8. You could not understand what you see (even if you believe you did): this is maybe the most important point. What’s the point of being a romantic solitary traveller and see all the things from your point of view only? You travelled in a far country and what did you really understand? It is not enough to have some random chats to understand a place and its culture. What you will receive will be filtered, confused and not structured. Unless you are a very experienced traveller, I’d say…a professional one. A local travel expert with an in-depth knowledge of the place and culture can share not only useful and relevant information but also important insights that could raise awareness, understanding and appreciation to the traveler. This way, your trip will be a wholistic complete experience. Of course, this can happen also with an organized trip, so choose your operator well. Local operators are most likely to have better features and, in any case, pay attention to quality of service and professionalism when choosing a travel service provider.
So…travel alone or not? This depends on you. I absolutely don’t want to deny the pleasure of travelling alone and advantages you can have. I did it too sometimes. But, it is not something that is ok for everyone and not for all trips. So here you’ll find a useful list.
LIST OF WHAT I THINK YOU MAY ASK YOURSELF IN ORDER TO DECIDE IF YOU SHOULD TRAVEL ALONE OR NOT:
1. How much time do I have for the trip?
Things change if you want to have a tour of China alone in 1 week or if you have one month to explore Cambodia (in the first case especially, I personally would suggest to consider an organized tour. I would not exclude it for the second too, anyway)
2. How much time do I have to prepare the trip?
This is another detail not to underestimate: with your busy schedule and daily grinds, it is better to evaluate if you have the time to organize a well-prepared tour or not.
3. How much do I know about the country and its language?
Obviously, it is easier to travel in a country with a culture and a language close to yours.
4. Am I the kind of person that likes to stay alone for a long time?
Everyone needs some space and we are all different one to another. Evaluate if your trip fits your personality. Don’t force yourself to do things you don’t like just to follow a trend and look cool.
5. How many problems and hitches could you encounter during your trip?
A walking tour in another country could potentially give you bigger troubles and necessities than a week-end in the capital of your own country.
You can actually travel alone but if you have never been in those places and/or you are not expert about it, why should you exclude the consultation of a professional? I’m not saying that you are forced to do it, but it is better to go beyond stereotypes and rationally assess if you can do it by yourself or not.
(written on May 2014)