As a long term solo traveller, I would be lying if I said solo travel is always easy – or even that it is easy more than half of the time. The reality is that it is hard work, but it also comes with great rewards of self fulfillment and feeling accomplished, not to mention realising you don’t need to rely on anyone else.
But what do you do when things go wrong (and they do)? Here’s a look at the most common awkward solo travel scenarios you will encounter, and what to do when they do occur.
1. You jump in a cab without an address
Back at home you’re accustomed to your city enough to say a neighbourhood, landmark, or ‘its’ near….’. But when you’re in a completely new city and probably don’t speak the language, it’s difficult to get anywhere without giving your cab driver some instructions!
How to cope: Do your research before you go. Keep note of all your addresses and do your best to learn a few key phrases in the local language.
2. You’re sitting at a table set for two… alone
As a solo traveller, nothing hits quite as close to home as when you sit down for a meal solo, at a table set for two. To make matters worse there’s unavoidable dates like Valentine’s day or your own birthday to attend!
How to cope: If you’re not up for the challenge, treat yourself to a nice lunch and opt for a light meal at home in your apartment or hotel.
3. In Asia they ask “why no boyfriend?” because there MUST be something wrong with you
If I had a dollar……..
How to cope: Laugh it off!
4. You end up being followed by a foreigner thanks to your manners
When someone strikes up a conversation with you in public, it’s only natural to politely engage in conversation and answer questions. But sometimes this leads to bad results as a traveller…
How to cope: Never give too much away. Have a ‘cover story’ to tell if you’re worried you might run into trouble. Don’t divulge information like the fact that you’re travelling solo on the other side of the world or your hotel address.
5. You’re the only single solo person on a tour
A great way to break up long term solo travel is to book a group tour. However this soon becomes awkward when you find yourself as a 3rd, 5th and 7th wheel on what seems to be a couples tour (and you missed the memo).
How to cope:Leave it up to them to make you feel welcome — they will!
6. You ask “do you speak in English?” in English
It’s a common mistake… but a paradox at that.
How to cope: Learn to ask this phrase in the local language, at the very least.
7. You get on the right train… in the wrong direction
There have been many occasions where I have been uncertain as to whether I have boarded the correct train…. but more often than not I am worried about nothing. On the odd occassion you do board the wrong train, don’t freak out.
How to cope: Stay calm – there is always a solution. Take it as a chance for a new adventure – whether you get to your right destination later that day or the following day, it will happen eventually.
8. You ask for vegetarian but that definitely resembles meat
As an 8-year vegetarian, I’ve had my fair share of awkward scenarios surrounding food whilst on the road.
How to cope:Trust your instincts – if something doesn’t look as it should be according to your order, attempt to send it back. If language barriers persist, politely pay for your meal and venture elsewhere.
9. The hotel staff ask when your partner is arriving
A classic….. but it somehow never gets old. I’m unsure if this occurs out of curiosity or genuine confusion as to why a solo female 20-something year old would be thousands of miles by home.
How to cope:Stand proud! You’ve come all this way solo so good on you – tell them about your journey with pride.
10. When you have a charades conversation with the pharmacist (and everyone else in store)
This can get particularly awkward depending on the body part involved…
How to cope: Use google translator to ask for what you require before you get there.
11. You Optimistically ask “Have you been to….?”
In social scenarios you find yourself almost always wanting to talk about travel and asking your new friends if they’re been here, there and everywhere…
How to cope: Go easy. Wait til someone asks you – it will be far more impressive when you’re not boasting!