A Social Experiment: Travelling Solo (Part 3)

​The conclusion of my social experiment. Three things I learnt.

I recently posted this picture on our facebook page, it’s just one of those harmless fun games.

Many people were tagging friends and family in jest, thanking them for their impending trip around the world.

However, one lady commented that NO way would she go anywhere with the last person who had sent her a text. She stated,

‘Travel is so much better with curious, congenial friends with a great sense of humour.’

She nailed it.

Clearly her last text was from someone who didn’t fall into that category.

But what if you don’t have congenial friends available to go travelling with?

Without a doubt, there is an increase in the number of people who have this problem. They may have a partner and/or plenty of friends but not necessarily someone to go travelling with.

This prompted me to take part in a social experiment; I wanted to see what it is like to travel on my own and join a group of strangers on a tour.

My tour was a seven-day active adventure through the north island of New Zealand with 15 other people. You can read the background story here. And read about my experiences here.

Use a tour company you know and trust or, use a travel agent who listens to you.

I was chatting to a couple of girls at the airport the other day, they were fun, fit, independent girls around 30 years of age. Last year they wanted to go to NZ and their travel agent sent them on a coach tour. Oh Em Gee, my jaw nearly hit the ground; it was not rocket science to know this was not the ideal holiday for them. They came home frustrated - surprise surprise!

For this social experiment, I booked a tour in haste; I was running short on time and had to book ‘something’, which I did, without looking too closely at the itinerary. But what I did do right was choose a tour company I trusted, I knew these guys ran great tours which would suit me.

Yes, I was pushed out of my comfort zone. Yes, I did things I didn’t think I could or, didn’t think I’d like doing. But, even though I was pushed to do new things, I had a lot of fun. Imagine that!

A good travel agent should listen to what you are looking for, keep within your budget and find something that will suit your needs/interests.

As a travel agent myself, I get so much pleasure putting a holiday together for my clients; in fact by the time I send them on their way, I’m so invested in their trip I often want to go with them!

Be yourself

If you’re travelling alone, nobody knows you, they have no pre-conceived ideas of who or what you are, they have absolutely nothing to judge you on. This is your chance to really be yourself or the self you want to be.

Our tour guide gave a perfect example of this, he had to be confident, firm and fair, this is not easy, when you are the youngest person in the group.

He told me his schoolteachers would never believe it, if they saw him now. As a child he was painfully quiet and shy, and this continued on into young adulthood.

In his early 20s he joined on a six-week tour of SE Asia, taking him completely out of his comfort zone. He was tired of being the shy one; he believed he missed out due to his lack of confidence.

However, on this tour, no-one knew him, no-one was going to judge him or question him if he wasn’t being the same shy person he’d always been. In those six weeks he taught himself, or forced himself, to be confident and out-going. He formed new habits; he shed his shackles of shyness and flourished into the confident young man who now, took control of our group.

So, be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

. . . nobody knows you, they have no pre-conceived ideas of who or what you are, they have absolutely nothing to judge you on.

Choose to fit in

I use the word ‘choose’ mindfully.

Probably of most concern to a solo traveller is ‘will I fit in?’

There is always the concern others on the tour will form their own groups and you are left a bit stranded.

If you are travelling as a couple you always have each other as a back up, but if you are on your own, you have no one to turn to if the group doesn’t gel.

Before departure, doubts may run through your mind, am I the appropriate age? Will I be the only male/female? Will the others all be couples or groups of friends? Am I fit enough etc.

The easiest way to alleviate this fear is to ask the tour operator or travel agent about the basic demographics of the group. They can do this for you. They won’t tell you how fit everyone is, but they can give you an idea on gender split, rough ages of the group and how many other solo travellers there are - don’t ever assume you’ll be the only one.

Your holiday destination might be fantastic but fitting in with the group is going to help you enjoy your time even more. No one can guarantee you a good time - a lot of it depends on your attitude, hence I use the word, ‘choose’ to fit in.

If it’s a holiday doing something you enjoy, you’ll find it is full of other people who enjoy doing the same thing, there’s your starting point to make connections – give yourself permission to let down your guard, be yourself and open to making new friends. You can do it!

And remember there is often (if not always) that one person in each group who needs to grumble, they are determined to find the negative and therefore unable to fully enjoy themselves.

If you remember nothing else, remember just this . . .

DON’T BE THAT PERSON!

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