Solo travel tips

Travelling alone might be intimidating, but depending on how and where you do it, it can also be the most liberating, rewarding way to see the world, and the best way to have true adventures. Here are a few tips

By Kate Maxwell, Condé Nast Traveler

Concoct an alter ego

Consider this your chance to try on an alternative identity, particularly if you're somewhere travellers don't tend to go alone. I once told a curious couple in the Turks & Caicos islands, where bougainvillea-draped wedding arches are as common as sun-loungers and every other bikini bottom is emblazoned with 'Just Married', that I was honeymooning solo after being left at the altar, and trying, between piña coladas and laps of my private infinity pool, to make sense of a future as tattered and chipped as my wedding manicure. In fact, I was researching a Caribbean travel story and thoroughly enjoying my own company. It amused me and gave them something to talk about during their sixth candlelit dinner. I bet they're still telling the folks back home about the jilted bride at the bar. 

Talk to strangers

The best parties are the ones you where meet new people and the same is true of travel. Ask a local what they'd do with a spare afternoon and see where it takes you - guaranteed it'll be somewhere more interesting than your guidebook or the tourist office will send you. An encounter in a bar in Havana once led me to an all-night salsa-dancing session with an Olympic boxer and his daughter; an Uber ride to a riotous electro-pop gig in north-east Paris. You haven't experienced a place if you haven't had a proper chat with someone who lives there, and who knows? It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Get lost

Have rubbish sense of direction, will travel alone - that's my mantra. When I have absolutely no idea where I am or how I'm going to find my way back (which is often - I get lost on aeroplanes), and there isn't a friend there to help, something good usually happens. I recently got lost among the limestone layers of Matera, a troglodyte city in southern Italy, and stumbled on a rock church that hadn't made it into any guidebook. It might have taken me an hour to get back on track (the patchy 4G helped - my blinking, blue Google Map friend went very quiet), but I'll never forget peering through the guard's cigarette smoke at the church's rust-coloured, 14th-century frescos.

Don't go to Miami

Choose your destination carefully. Some cities are made for going alone; Miami isn't. In South Beach I had to say 'table for one' five different ways before a maître d' got his head around the fact that yes, it was JUST ME for dinner and no, no-one else would be joining me. He then marched me to the centre of the restaurant, cleared away the superfluous cutlery so noisily it rivalled that solo in Whiplash and tsked when I only wanted a main course. Sort it out, Miami: there ain't no shame in eating alone.

Do go to New York

Just about everyone is single in New York, which makes it the perfect solo destination. You can eat at the bar in most restaurants, so 'table for one' need never pass your lips; you can go to the movies or drink cocktails on your own and no-one will judge you. If you do want company, you're in luck, too: New Yorkers make a habit of talking to complete strangers wherever they go. Just tell the nearest hipster you like his trousers (rather than pants), or say 'bits and bobs' (a phrase Americans find hilarious) in your cute British accent and you'll be set for the rest of your trip.
"Give somewhere your undivided attention and it will reveal its secrets"


Look up

If there's no travel companion to engage and make eye-contact with, you can allow your gaze to dart where it likes. I notice more details when I'm on my own: the perfect pendant lamps strung above every street in Copenhagen, for example - yet more evidence that design is buried deep in its DNA. When your time isn't shared and there are no compromises to be made or schedules to be kept, you develop a deeper relationship with a place. Give somewhere your undivided attention and it will reveal its secrets.


Enjoy it while it lasts

I wish I'd known during my many single, solo, shove-a-few-clothes-in-a-carry-on years what I know now - namely, that travelling with three kids requires more planning and luggage than a military campaign, and precludes any spontaneous moves or time for reflection. Savour the occasions you shut the door of your Airbnb and stride forth with no particular place to go and the sense that anything could happen - they might not last forever.
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U.S. Daily News: Solo travel tips
Solo travel tips
U.S. Daily News
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