As a new study reveals that a quarter of millennials like to travel solo, freelance writer Precious Mayowa Agbabiaka explains why travelling to a destination alone can make the perfect holiday for an introvert
Back in December I made the decision that in 2018, I was going to travel on my own: I was going to do something for myself, by myself and do it often. I was inspired by my favourite travel blogger, Move with Doyin, and thought that if she could quit her corporate job to make a career of travelling on her own, then at the very least I could book one solo trip to another country.
I’ve always loved the idea of travelling, and hearing the adventures my flatmate used to get up to made me want to experience that world for myself. So, I downloaded the Skyscanner app, used the “Everywhere” feature as my destination and finally settled on Budapest.
With Brexit officially under a year away and nobody really certain of what travelling around Europe will look like afterwards, short trips are a great way to get as many EU countries in as cheaply as possible before then. If you’re an introvert like I am, the hassle of a group trip just for a weekend away isn’t always worth it.
Group trips as an introvert mean you have no choice but to spend almost every moment of your time away in the company of others, with hardly a moment alone to gather your thoughts. Having travelled on a group getaway to Greece recently, I found that constantly having to wait for the group consensus on what to do and when to do it became seriously frustrating, especially as I am someone who takes punctuality, time management and structure seriously.
I also struggle to be in group settings for a long period of time, whether at work, with friends or even with my family. I often have to have moments alone to recharge my social battery before I can fully be present with the group I’m spending time with, and to avoid being easily agitated by the small things they may say or do.
So, back to my solo expedition. I made a few mistakes in preparing for Budapest and some more mistakes when I was out there, but I truly loved my time alone. It gave me the opportunity to think about my successes and where I felt I had fallen short. I had time to be thankful for my life and figure out what I wanted my next steps to be. It gave me moments to relax, exercise and focus on myself and, best of all, I was able to do what I wanted without having to wait on others.
My best friend hit the nail on the head when she said: “Let’s be honest, going away on your own for a long time isn’t all that fun if you aren’t meeting up with people… short solo trips feed me with the bursts of excitement I need and I come back just before I need company.’
Although I didn’t feel particularly lonely going to Budapest on my own, especially because I FaceTimed with friends on two occasions, there were moments when I knew activities like a segway tour would probably be more fun with somebody I knew. But at the same time, whether you’re an introvert or not, with lots or hardly any responsibilities, you need time to recuperate from things like a hectic family life, work stresses and even relationships. Solo mini breaks can be relaxing, fun, and if you plan your time wisely, you can get plenty done in a few days.
How to plan your solo trip
I made a few blunders so I’m here to help you learn from both my successes and my failures:
First thing’s first… When you’re booking a flight, make sure you get an early one there and a later one back. My flight from Luton Airport was at 6.30am and whilst I’ll probably never stay overnight in an airport again, my plane landed in Budapest at 9.30am local time which meant I had a full day to begin my adventure and plan my remaining days out there. The last thing you want to do is book a flight that lands at 6pm, giving you very little time to do anything.
Download apps. I thoroughly enjoyed the Triposo travel guide app. It gave me suggestions of places to visit, I could read reviews and it even had some useful language phrases, all in one place. Best of all, I could tick off the sites I had seen, which gave me a great sense of personal achievement.
Find your spot. Even in the UK I have a special place in the cities I frequent, where I go on my own to think, journal, take in the scenery and sometimes people watch. My spot in Budapest was a little bench on the bank of the river near Chain Bridge. Find a place that will inspire you and allows you to take in the beauty of your destination.
Research your destination. You’d think this would be a no-brainer but I had no time between booking and actually arriving in Budapest to do this. Make sure you know what the city you’re visiting is known for: after all, the last thing you want to do as an introvert is visit another country that is best for group holidays. This will either make you feel lonely because the people around you are with their friends, or make you feel annoyed because you wanted peace and quiet but have ended up on a party island. You should also research your destination because you don’t want to fail to do exactly what you should do when you get there. Budapest is known for its thermal baths, so I made it my personal mission that if I only did ONE thing whilst out there it would be to visit one, no matter the cost.
Book tours. Not just bus and boat tours, but walking ones, too. On hop-on hop-off bus tours you get driven to the main tourist hotspots from museums to monuments and, if you’re lucky like I was, you’re given a booklet with offers inside. I managed to get a 48 hour tour pass which included a free boat tour, walking tour, free Hungarian Goulash soup (dinner for the night sorted!) and discounts on thermal baths, to name just some of the benefits. Going on a walking tour also meant I had to socialise with the people in my group, which was something I didn’t know I needed to do, even as an introvert. Even though we crave alone time, interaction at some point on your trip is still important, and you’d be surprised how interesting it can be getting to know people whose paths you wouldn’t cross on a normal day.
Book your accommodation wisely. Although I didn’t plan it, it worked out perfectly well as my Airbnb happened to be near Heroes Square, which meant my transport home after a long day was actually my tour bus. Plus, when you’re in another country on your own, especially if it’s for the first time, you don’t want to stay somewhere that’s far from everything and or from other people, for safety reasons.
As Doyin says, “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime to travel solo, so why not! It’s a confident booster, it opens the mind and it’s fun. Everyone should solo travel at least once in their lifetime.”
Whether you’re considering embarking on your first solo trip or you’re thinking of how to better travel solo on your next adventure, remember to have fun, try new activities and, above all, enjoy the time you have to yourself.
Images: Unsplash, Atikh Bana, 贝莉儿 NG, Alejandro Tocornal, Jonathan Denney