Lillian Gaitho, in her midweek contribution, looks at the merits of solo travel

SOLO TRAVEL – AS PERCEIVED BY LILLIAN GAITHO

(Posted 14th July 2016)

Solo Traveling: Top Six Tips to Enjoy your Adventures

Traveling solo or unaccompanied has it’s kicks just as it has it’s own unique perils; top on the cons is the engulfing loneliness that may enshroud such travels, depending on your personality. However, the sunny side ups of single adventures is the untamed ability to be where you want when you want. For instance, no one will blame you for trekking miles only to find the ancient mausoleum is no longer open to the public! Again, unlike in group or plural explores, you weave and craft your itinerary to fit your spirit. If you are planning to kick off your loner wanderlust, here are some key tips from Lillian that will be of good use to you.

#1 Beware of the single supplement

Tour operators, hotels and providers alike seem to punish travelers for choosing to do it alone! Why, because it is more profitable for them when you book or buy in pairs or groups. For instance, you may find single rooms costing you almost the same as double suites, while the difference in park fees for singles and pairs make no money sense. If this is an issue for you (for some, their own company beats the money-sense!), try to book with sites that allow roommates, check out taxi ride share apps and pair up with friendly travelers while paying amenity fees while touring attractions.

#2 Do not disregard your sixth sense

The wisdom in the idiom, forewarned is forearmed holds (tanks of) water. Learn to stop and listen to that primal telling feeling deep inside your gut as it could be the red flag to impending danger. Switch on your guard, without losing the ability to let down your hair for one more thrill. Remember you have your own back and the decisions to gain or give lay squarely on your shoulder. One tip, that never fails is to not look like a tourist; walk with purpose and confidence, tackle hostility with good humor and show interest in the locals and their culture. Do not shy away from telling a few (forgivable) lies like “what direction is the cathedral from here, I have a couple of (imaginary) friends waiting for me”. Remember solo riders are at higher risk for cons, scams and the stinky lot more than group travelers.

#3 Lodge where interaction is encouraged

Believe you me, there is no way you are going to meet, interact and make new friends while locking yourself away in the city’s most luxurious pent house. Not that this would be a bad idea, but it would beat the purpose of your travels. If you traveled all the way to enjoy your books or movies in recluse, then the former makes sense, but for those in search of new ideas, new adventures and one more trail to discover, book your nights in accommodation that allows maximum interaction without invading your privacy. Good ideas would be hostels,apartments and boutique-style hotels.

#4 Know your strengths and your purpose

Some days, you’ll want to discover till you drop, other days, you may just want to relax in the pool, feel the sands underneath your feet and enjoy the scenery without moving an inch. Whatever you want, indulge your soul without a tinge of guilt; remember this is one of the greatest rewards of lone travel. Some travelers may want to spare an afternoon for ‘people watching’ others prefer full immersion throughout their stay, whatever makes your boat float, make sure it’s something worth a space in your travel journal.

#5 Make time for dinner!

Most unaccompanied travelers find it hard to have a proper sit-down meal due to the unwanted stares the solo-diner status attract. If this is a concern for you, try busy restaurants where everyone seemingly minds their business. You may also consider getting there a little earlier than the peak hour and chat up the staff to break any feelings of loneliness or unfamiliarity. Another trick is to try the tried and tested trick by getting friendly with other patrons; smile to the face that looks warm and welcoming and ask if you can join them for dinner. You might just score yourself a lifetime friend, even a free tour guide! Above all, approach the culinary culture in any destination as an element to explore.

#6 Check out the expat joint

Every city has it. That one place that can help you feel like you are back in your home-town local anytime you crave the familiar. This is however reserved for travelers looking for the homely feel in a strange land. It is also nice to learn about the area through the eyes of a fellow countryman. If you want to keep up with the local, just stick to the local hang outs and keep the smile on. Personally, I prefer mixing, mingling and blending with the citizens as opposed to spending nights perched on high stools discussing ‘the situation back home’

That all said, I fully endorse the concept of solo travel though, admittedly, I have been to places where no doubt a travel companion would come in handy to more fully appreciate all the facilities and take in the sights and sounds.

However, those are not compelling reasons to change my own travel pattern. Working at night to send out my news broadcasts is easier when no one else is in the room, as even in a suite with a sitting / work space room and a separate bedroom a companion might inevitably be disturbed my someone like me pottering about until the wee hours.

Solo travelers are also not bound to wait for a companion to be ready for the meals, nor rush after an early bird, but can enjoy breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea and supper entirely at a time of their own choosing, as long as those timings fit into the opening hours of the respective restaurants. Alternatively there is room service to be enjoyed, allowing also for the proverbial licking clean of a plate without the disapproving looks from fellow diners (who might want to do the same but fear the shame).

Additionally can a solo traveler chose the time of departure, the time of rest stops and their frequency, the opportunity to stop to take photographs of things small and big, which might prompt fellow travelers to constant moans like ‘not again‘.

And if ever a solo traveler misses a flight, there is no one else to blame, preventing prolonged arguments over whose fault that was.

I find it also easier to make new friends, banter in the lounge or bar into the wee hours – drinking tea is no doubt an advantage when it comes to waking up the next morning without a hangover – join interesting people for a meal or two and then, phew, go one’s own way afterwards.

On the downside, as experienced during recent trips to the Zimbabwean Eastern Highlands, does a companion come in handy when the night temperatures descend towards zero, but that of course is another story altogether. Hot water bottles and a roaring wood fire in the fire place can very well make up for that however, if you get my meaning.

So now, go on, try out solo travel and depending on seasons, you might even get away without having to pay the dreaded and often punitive single supplement for your room.

By Lillian Gaitho / Jumia Travel

and supplemented by yours truly

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