Whenever I talk about solo travelling often people respond with a mixture of shock, fear and sometimes admiration. For a lot of people, the prospect of solo travelling seems to fall somewhere between a frightening and an unsatisfying experience. Typically, whenever I talk about solo travelling, I tend to hear the following statements:
“I don’t think a holiday will be fun if I don’t have anyone to share the experience with”
“I’m frightened of eating alone, what if people are judging me?”
“I don’t feel safe travelling alone as a black woman in a foreign city/country”
“I’d find it really hard to navigate through a city on my own”
“I’d feel really self-conscious if I got lost and had to turn around – what if passers-by start laughing at me?”
I take all these statements on board. Before I became a solo travelling advocate, I thought about many of these things. I constantly refused to travel alone because I was too self-conscious and too worried about what strangers might think. I was too scared about what might happen if something went wrong and I had nobody to rely on. I focused on all the negatives rather than any of the positives associated with solo travelling.
I decided to bite the bullet and give solo travelling a try in 2016 when I travelled to New York. New York was a city that I had wanted to visit since I was a child; however, it was far too expensive to travel there with my whole family. When I started working full time I decided to make a plan to visit, however, I was not in a relationship and had a hard time finding friends to go with who could afford to go, who could take time off work to go when I wanted to go and who actually wanted to travel to New York (I knew a lot of people who had visited a few years prior either with friends or family and so for them planning another trip wasn’t a priority). I had two options:
- I could have continued to wait until I managed to find someone who was able and willing to travel with me to New York. This could have taken several months or even years; or,
- Travel on my own whilst I had the means and the time to do so
I chose option two and haven’t looked back since.
There are many reasons why I am glad that I took the plunge to travel by myself. Firstly, solo travelling has made me much more independent. Rather than blindly relying on and following friends or family I was forced to do my own research on where to stay, what to do and how to get around New York. Secondly, I was able to get up as early as I wanted to or as late as I wanted to. Thirdly, I had the opportunity to see everything on my itinerary without needing to make concessions to avoid getting into a fight about what sites and attractions to prioritise. I was also free to spend as much or as little money as I wanted which was great. Crucially, I was able to visit during the US Open Tennis Championships and had the opportunity to watch my favourite tennis player, Novak Djokovic, play live on Arthur Ashe court. This moment felt like a dream come true!
Once I was in New York I wasn’t concerned about not having anyone around me to share this experience; I was in awe of where I was and was appreciative of the fact that I had made it to a place that I had been trying to visit for several years. I also generally enjoy my own company as it provides me with time for self-reflection time to be alone with my thoughts. Whilst in New York I often took a moment in front of monuments, landmarks and in parks just to appreciate being there and having the opportunity to live my dream. I also found that New York was a great place for dining alone as lots of restaurants have bars with plentiful seating. You will often be seated much more quickly when you are alone than you will be if you are a party of two or more as there is always higher demand for group seating. I also saw lots of people dining alone in New York and have since seen lots of solo diners in other cities that I have visited which has made me much less self-conscious about doing this myself.
Any woman of colour afraid of travelling alone should take inspiration from Jessica Nabongo, a Ugandan-American travel blogger who is vying to be the first black woman to travel to every country in the world. She often travels solo and has lots of tips on how she does this in different countries. She also frequently addresses concerns and preconceptions about safety and racism in countries she has travelled to in her posts. Follow her travels on @thecatchmeifyoucan
My love for solo travelling doesn’t mean that I am now against travelling with friends. Quite the contrary. I love having the opportunity to travel with friends who I can have a laugh with and who share my love for food, however, these days I also like having the opportunity to travel whenever and wherever I want by myself. Since I started solo travelling, I have also noticed that I have become a pro at carrying out research for holidays and so I can contribute towards planning holidays with friends much more than I was previously able to.
Solo travelling has freed me from relying on other people to travel abroad. It has made me stronger, wiser and much more independent and I highly recommend anyone with the means to do so to give solo travelling a try!
Follow me on Instagram @thetottenhamitetraveller