Regardless of whether you’ve been single for most of your life or you’re newly single following a divorce or the death of your spouse, there’s no need to give up on your dreams of traveling after you retire.
The hardest step will probably be to convince yourself to go. Once you do, you will discover that traveling solo is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in your lifetime.
There are many advantages to traveling solo.
When you're on your own, can travel at your own pace, do the things that interest you, eat where and when you like and splurge where you want to splurge. You don't have to compromise with a partner when one of you wants to do something the other doesn’t or when one of you is ready to leave a museum and the other wants to stay.
You can relax for a day if you’re tired or keep going when you feel energetic and engaged.
You will absorb more of your surroundings when you travel alone. When you travel with others, it’s natural to direct a lot of your focus toward your partner or group. While it’s wonderful to form bonds with others based on shared experiences, you’ll miss the full range of sights, sounds and smells that are available all around you. You’re also less likely to interact with local people or fellow travelers, so you’ll miss out on the interesting information they may have to share.
Of course, there are disadvantages to traveling solo, too.
When you're on your own, you don't have a built-in dining companion. But that doesn’t have to be awkward. You can sit at a sidewalk café and enjoy people-watching.
Traveling by yourself is usually more expensive, because you don’t have a partner to share the cost of accommodations or taxis. On most cruises, there is a hefty single supplement. However, there are plenty of alternatives for inexpensive travel, so traveling solo can still be affordable.
Safety can be a concern for a single traveler.
You should follow all common sense tips such as staying in busy, well-lit areas after dark. Avoid poring over maps or guidebooks in public. Exude confidence and walk purposefully. Dress in a manner that will fit in with the locals.
On the other hand, as a single traveler you will blend in with a crowd more easily than a group of tourists would. It’s a good idea to program the number of the local police into your phone.
You may be concerned about whether you will be lonely when you travel solo.
In many destinations, it’s easy to strike up a conversation with locals or fellow travelers if you keep yourself open to that possibility. Most waiters, hotel staff, and fellow travelers will be happy to provide recommendations and give advice if asked. If you stay at a bed and breakfast or an Airbnb rental, your host will be accustomed to helping guests find their way around.
Asking someone else to take your picture is a great way to break the ice. When you see a group of people positioning themselves for a photo, you can offer to take their picture for them so that everyone in their party can be in the picture.
You can also use social media to find other solo travelers. Try looking for Meetup groups to find events such as photography walks and happy hours.
Most cities have restaurants or bars that are popular with expats. You should be able to find them online or by asking locals. There, you can meet other English-speaking people who can give you tips or include you in their activities.
Don’t assume that younger people won’t want to be bothered with older folks. You will find that most people aren’t too concerned about age differences. Other cultures respect age in ways that North America doesn’t. You are, by the mere fact that you’re traveling solo, adventurous and interesting to many.
If you’re not sure you are ready to travel to another part of the world alone, start out closer to home by traveling to someplace in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom, where language won’t be a barrier. You don’t have to pick a particular spot – sometimes a road trip makes a great adventure.
Most of all, traveling solo builds confidence.
Some people claim that they discover themselves as much as they discover the places they travel to. When you travel with others you will find friendship, diversion and fun; but when you travel alone you just might find yourself.
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