STUDENT TRAVELLERS: MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR HOLIDAY. GO IT ALONE
“You look just like my granddaughter!” I heard a lot of that sort of thing. After impulsively booking a solo cruise to the fjords of Norway for my spring break, I soon discovered that, at 25, I was by far the youngest person on board – and almost everyone was surprised I was travelling alone.
I’m an American doing a postgraduate course at the University of East Anglia (UEA) – travelling long distances on my own wasn’t new to me. But this was my first vacation alone.
A “solocation” is the perfect way to explore; it allows you to tailor your itinerary to your own interests. Surrounded by senior citizens and the North Sea, I started out with slight trepidations about my travel plans – but I found a sense of freedom in the fjords.
Here’s why sightseeing in solitude might be the most relaxing holiday you’ve ever booked.
You don’t miss opportunities
Synchronising travel plans with your fellow students doesn’t always work out, as a fellow American student at UEA, Alexis Kuzma, 24, learned.
After finding a deal online for a flight and hotel trip to Rome that she couldn’t pass up, Kuzma discovered the friends she’d planned to go with didn’t have the time or enthusiasm. “I decided if I really wanted to go, it would have to be alone,” she says.
Sean Wai Keung, 24, planned a trip to Norway after a bout of illness. He says: “I really wanted an adventure, and to prove I no longer needed constant support. “I wanted to see things on my own and basically meet the local people.”
You’re alone, but not lonely
As a shy person, I enjoyed the little nooks abroad the ship where I could sip my lattes in peace; but I also learned how starting small talk with strangers can become meaningful.
Technology ensures you never have to lose touch with friends and family if you don’t want to. “Even though you’re alone, you can still tell your friends and family about your experiences,” says Kuzma, who used Skype to stay in touch.
Kelsey Rasmuson, 25, from the US, says studying abroad at the Université de Pau et Pays de l’Adour in France gave her the confidence to take solocations to Tasmania and North Queensland. “I took the leap and made a bunch of new friends,” she says. “Sure it was scary, but I met people whom fate destined me to meet.”
Being on your own in a new country isn’t without risks. Kuzma felt slightly intimidated by the language barrier in Rome, and took care to be back at her B&B before dark. Make sure someone has an idea of your schedule beforehand, and do some pre-departure research about which areas tourists should avoid.
Wai Keung recommends pre-booking as much of your transport as possible. “There is nothing more confusing than the different ticket machines and methods of transport in a foreign country,” he says.
Erik Kolb, an American who travelled alone in Rome when he studied at John Cabot University, says solo travel makes you more flexible when flights are delayed and rerouted – “I was able to grab the last seat on a different flight” – and advises bringing a smartphone and downloading hostel and airline apps. “I used wifi a lot on my phone while abroad, so having a smartphone was a huge benefit, and airline apps are handy and save you digging out your computer,” he says.
Set your own agenda
Rasmuson relished being able to do every activity she wanted and take it easy whenever she pleased: “I didn’t need to consult another person, I just went.” She’s currently planning a solo trip to the west coast of Australia.
Kuzma also enjoyed the freedom to choose between setting a strict schedule for the day or wandering about with no definite plan. She advises solocationers: “Tell yourself before you leave that you’ll step outside your comfort zone.”
Wai Keung says: “There was no greater joy than to wake up in a completely new place and know that, apart from me, nobody was experiencing it in that way.” He’s hoping to make future trips to America and Europe.
For many students, the idea of vacationing alone in a foreign country may feel intimidating. But the opportunity to satisfy a craving for adventure, along with your need for independent downtime, is too good to overlook. So pack your bags – and your bags only.
Source: The Guardian