It is absolutely normal to feel anxious at the thought of travelling alone for the first time. I recently shared tips on how to plan your first solo trip, but if it drives you too far out of your comfort zone, you may be better off considering one of the following alternatives to solo travel, and gradually easing yourself into travelling alone.
1. Travel in a group
While a group trip can constrain you to a fixed itinerary and dates, travelling with unknown people is a big leap in preparation for your solo adventures. Opt for a single room on the trip, to get used to sleeping alone and having your own space. If possible, take a free day on the trip to ease into solo sightseeing. Step out of the group to talk to the locals wherever you go, till you attain the confidence to do it alone.
The best way to choose a travel company is to speak to the organizers and join a group that would largely consist of amateur solo travellers, not families. Group trips at India Untravelled are my own little way to encourage solo travel, with a focus on the valleys of Spiti and Kinnaur in the high Himalayas of India.
2. Travel as a volunteer
Travelling as a volunteer is an excellent way to discover a place, while also using your skills or expertise to contribute to its development. Depending on your volunteer project, you could be traveling in areas and interacting with people that you never would otherwise. And being affiliated with an organization makes it easier to navigate the region, as well as get over the initial blues of solo travel.
My first solo trip within India was indeed as a volunteer in the cold mountain desert of Spiti. The initial plan was to be based out of Kaza and help with online marketing, but thanks to poor Internet connectivity, I got involved with a project that took me to remote villages and had me interacting closely with the monks and nuns of the region, something I may never have ordinarily done. India Untravelled, together with The Alternative, has compiled a comprehensive list of volunteer travel options within India.
3. Opt for a semester / work assignment abroad
Though obvious, most people refrain from seeking a semester or a work project abroad – I know my biggest regret after college was not opting for a study exchange in another country. Both, being on a student budget or on a more lavish paid assignment, are good ways to acquaint yourself with a different city or country. Living in an unknown place by yourself is sure to take away the anxiety of traveling alone.
4. Visit a friend
If you have friends living in countries, cities or towns far far away, visit them! You don’t need them to take leave from work to show you around; just having them there, having someone familiar in an unknown place to call or meet for dinner, will help ease you into traveling alone. Couchsurfing or meeting someone via Twitter are close alternatives, but you might still want to expand your comfort zone before venturing there.
5. Learn a skill
If you’re itching to take a break from working or studying, enroll yourself in a skill class somewhere that you also yearn to travel in. Think of it as a way to indulge your creative side, while also getting the chance to interact closely with the locals. Enrolling in a cooking class in Italy, learning Arabic somewhere in the Middle East, and practicing a fast-disappearing craft in one of India’s many villages are some skills on my own list. Start penning yours.
6. Take a working holiday
This is probably the most fantastic option when you start travelling by yourself; it offers close interaction with the locals and is financially far more sustainable than all other options. Unfortunately the Indian passport doesn’t afford us this option, but if you find a way around it (permanent residency in another country, special visas, any other jugaad), please let me know!