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Senior Correspondent

Many single people say that they are not comfortable traveling for pleasure alone. If you are among them, you can overcome your discomfort and enjoy solo travel. The reasons for the discomfort usually relate to concerns of loneliness or boredom, safety or some vague, unspecific fear.

Some people are uncomfortable being alone at all, even at home, or simply feel that a new experience must be shared to be enjoyed.  f you have avoided pleasure travel alone because you generally don’t enjoy solitude, I urge you to reconsider and try it. Being alone in familiar surroundings is different from traveling alone to new places.

For social beings who generally want to have company, the excitement of being in a new place alone often compensates for the feelings of loneliness or boredom that prevail when they are in their home town. The new place is exciting and holds more interest than the familiar.

Here are some techniques to avoid that lonely feeling:

  • Go out to dinner and sit at the bar, even if you don’t drink alcohol. Have a leisurely drink of something before you order food, and if the bartender is not too busy, strike up a conversation. You can learn a lot about the place you are visiting from bartenders. If the bartender is too busy, sit next to another single and strike up a conversation. If you’re a woman who doesn’t want to get involved with a man, don’t worry, most men can tell the difference between friendly conversation and flirting. If it becomes uncomfortable, you can move. Sometimes the person you are chatting with is also from out of town, and you can learn something about their home. People often have fascinating stories to tell, especially when a little alcohol has loosened their tongues.
  • Try going outside of the tourist area of your travel destination and talk to locals. They usually are interested in talking about their hometown and learning about yours. Sometimes they will even offer to take you somewhere. Simply making an effort to talk to people goes a long way towards warding off loneliness and boredom.
  • Don’t hang around your hotel room; get out somewhere, even if it is just a café. Just being around people helps. Engage in a variety of activities, including finding something that most tourists don’t do.

Enjoy the benefits of traveling solo compared to traveling with a companion:

  • You can go only where you want to go and do what you want to do.
  • You can choose when and in what order to do things.
  • You can tour at your pace. You can rest when you are tired without feeling that you are ruining the party or feel bogged down with someone who has less energy than you have.
  • You don’t have to accommodate for the likes and dislikes of someone else.
  • Other people are more likely to talk to you if you are alone than if you are part of a couple.
  • You will see more when you are alone and appreciate more the joys of your travel destination because your focus will be on what is around you, not on the person you are with.

If safety is your concern, all it takes is heightened awareness. The only difference affecting safety is that there are only two eyes and ears instead of four. There is nothing you need to do differently to travel safely alone. It is simply more important that you pay attention to your safety because nobody else is going to do it for you. What you have to do is the same thing you would do if there were two or four of you.

  • Before you leave, research as much as you can about where it is not safe during the day or night.
  • At your travel destination, when you decide to go somewhere, ask the hotel desk clerk or concierge if it is safe for you and at what hours. Get a second opinion, if possible. Ask questions about what you should look out for if there is any potential danger.
  • Don’t wander aimlessly around in a big city unless you know that the area in which you are wandering is safe.
  • Always stay aware of the people around you and what they are doing.
  • Don’t let anyone distract you from paying attention. Back when I was a naive traveler, my back pocket was picked on a subway by one man, while I was distracted by another who was fumbling between my feet, pretending to have dropped money.
  • Don’t carry your passport with you.
  • Don’t carry a large sum of money or all of your credit cards with you. Carry one credit card, and leave the rest, most of your cash and your passport, in the hotel safe.
  • When you are in a crowded place, such as a subway, train station, airport or plaza, carry your purse or backpack in front of you where you can hold onto it.
  • If you are going to a big city, consider putting your valuables in a money belt under your clothing, and maybe just carrying a few dollars in currency and change in your pocket.

You should do all of these things whether or not you are traveling alone. It is more important when you are traveling alone because you don’t have the protection of someone else watching. You are not completely safe anywhere, including at home, but if you take all of these precautions and keep aware, you will be as safe as it is possible to be in today's world.

Get out there and see the world! You don’t have to have a travel companion.

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