Many women resist travelling solo because they’re afraid of being totally on their own and feeling lonely. It’s natural to think that way, but what do you do when you don’t have a partner to travel with? As a veteran of 30 years of solo travel, I offer my best ways to fight loneliness, make new friends along the way and have a fabulous time exploring the world.
Connect before you go
Seek out connections even before you leave home. Chat with women who've travelled before you. Make a note of their tips, advice and contacts. Talk to neighbours who come from the country you are about to visit. They may be able to connect you with an aunt or a grandmother back home. Some of your best adventures can begin that way.
Join and stay in a local's home
Become a member of an organization that fosters the exchange of homestays. Women Welcome Women, promoting visits between females in more than 80 countries, is a perfect example and a practical way of getting to meet the locals.
Book walking tours
A walking tour of a new city offers three wonderful opportunities. The first is that it helps you to orient yourself to your destination. Second, it gives you the chance to question your guide about the places you'll want to explore on your own. And third, the other people who have chosen this walk are just like you. They’re new to the city and looking for company as well. Odds are you’ll make some interesting pals before the walk is over.
Mix sightseeing with learning
Travelling solo is a golden opportunity to pursue interests that you love. Are you a bridge player? There are many cruises designed around bridge tournaments, as well as clubs worldwide that welcome outsiders. Love cooking? An Internet search will lead you to an array of classes abroad. Not only will you learn to prepare new dishes but at the close of the session you and your new classmates can sit down to enjoy interesting conversation, a glass of fine wine and that excellent ethnic meal you all cooked together.
Introduce yourself without speaking
Eating in a café? Keep an English book or newspaper on your table. Inevitably someone will recognize either the book title or the newspaper and will strike up a conversation. Likewise, you can be the first to comment if you notice someone reading a book that you've already enjoyed.
Seek out professional organizations
Are you a teacher, lawyer or doctor who belongs to a professional organization at home? Through that you can connect with professional women's groups around the world. If you're in town on the right date, try attending one of their monthly meetings or excursions.
Look for communal restaurant seating
Look for restaurants that offer communal seating at large dining-room tables. You can try this at the warm and welcoming Pain Quotidien, a bar and café all rolled into one, as well as Wagamama, a chain that serves tasty noodle dishes worldwide. The fun part of these restaurants is you never know who will sit down beside you and what the conversation will yield.
Put some of these ideas to use and it’s guaranteed that when you look back on your holiday, it won't be the loneliness that you remember most. Probably it will be the bridge tournament you won in Brussels or the teacher who shared your table at a café in Paris or the look-alike sisters you met walking in Morocco who invited you home for tea. That is the wonderful pleasure of solo travel.
And when you're booking your solo adventure, remember to protect yourself from the cost of an unexpected illness or accident, with travel insurance.
Evelyn Hannon is editor of Journeywoman.com, the largest online travel resource for women.