Most of my life I have traveled without a companion. It’s been difficult to coordinate trips with others since most of my potential travel partners didn’t have the funds, time or interest to travel when I did. But I had a thirst to see new places and have adventures so my only choice was to travel solo.
Many times I was warned by well-meaning folks that it would be too dangerous for a small, single female to travel alone. I didn’t let that stop me but since I am cautious by nature, I decided to add studying martial arts to my preparations before traveling across North America. I trained hard for over a year and when I became competent against multiple attackers, I decided it was time to fulfill my yearning to see the Atlantic. I left California with that singular destination in mind. That trip stretched into nine months staying at youth hostels, sleeping on a train or in a car – or anywhere safe. It was an amazing adventure and I have zero regrets. It did take a lot of confidence and decision-making ability to travel solo, but I found it easier than I thought it would be.
I’ve traveled many places in the decades since my North America trek, nearly always solo. I had no idea how different it would be to have a travel companion until it happened. For the last 9 years, I have adventured with a terrific companion and it’s really opened up my world. Having someone who intercedes on my behalf has altered the way I travel and the distance I’m confident voyaging. My companion knows me pretty well and guides us through over-stimulating scenarios as quickly as possible. Obviously, traveling with a reliable, kind and understanding companion is extremely beneficial to sensory sensitives – and most everyone else – but not having one would not stop me. I am a trekker.
Today, I’m better at managing my sensory sensitivities by choosing quieter places to stay – even with my tight travel budget. I prefer motels that are off-the-main-highway or camping when the weather cooperates. Sometimes I use AirBnB – an online booking service for private owners offering lodging. With AirBnB I can stay in a quiet residential neighborhood in a home with a kitchen which is really helpful. But since reservations are prepaid, using this service is not without risk. I always read reviews and contact the owner with any questions before I pay because if a place is noisy or isn’t very clean, it is nonrefundable under current AirBnB policy.
It might work best if you start small – spend days traveling on your own in your community. Build confidence by successfully navigating your local public transit, dining out by yourself and visiting attractions near you. Then try a weekend or two on your own in an unfamiliar place.
When traveling alone, or even with a companion, it’s always a good idea to show confidence. Act like you belong, dress appropriately and know where you are going. Whenever arriving in a new place, always take a moment to orient yourself. Figure out what you want to do and where you want to go (as best you can) before you arrive. Plan, plan, plan where to go, who you can call for help locally and back home, have back up copies of your important paperwork, credit cards and passport in a different location than the originals, carry the embassy address of foreign destinations and familiarize yourself with the local customs before you arrive. It’s helpful to download a translation app to help you communicate in foreign languages and ask officials at airports, bus terminals or train stations for assistance.
Whether you enjoy the freedom of being on your own or traveling with a budget pal (someone who shares accommodation costs but goes their own way) or with a close companion or family, you can make it both comfortable and affordable to explore the world, or just your community.
Some advantages of traveling solo:
+ Total control and freedom to make your own decisions of where, when, how you travel and for how long you stay. You could strictly follow a scheduled plan… or not. (I also enjoy the freedom from the need to apologize for leaving a place whenever I wanted or needed to.)
+ When people notice you are traveling alone they are more likely to approach, attempt to engage you in conversation and ask you to join their party. This makes it easier to meet people and socialize especially since they’re the ones who initiate. Of course, whenever you are traveling, be cautious – being on your own could also attract predators.
+ When traveling solo, you are liberated from the stress of a travel companion’s drama or from sharing your own stress and drama when you’d rather not.
+ There are inexpensive lodging options for solo travelers. Staying in hostels or using Couchsurfing, WWOOFING and HelpX sites will help you find unconventional, affordable choices. They will require some degree of socializing, shared accommodation and/or a work commitment but that’s all part of the adventure.
Traveling with a companion has been a dream come true for me. It has allowed me to travel much further and much more comfortably than when I traveled by myself. Just be sure to have clear communication with your companion(s) before committing to traveling together. Explain your needs, wants, expectations and make certain to understand theirs too before you start buying tickets. The fewer miscommunications and misunderstandings, the better the adventure will be for everyone.
Some of the advantages of traveling with a companion include:
+ Having help in situations where you are overstimulated. This is so amazingly helpful since transportation is inherently loud, bright, rough and can be confusing.
+ Help with communication. (This is also very important to me since I have trouble expressing myself verbally, especially when I’m stressed out.)
+ 50% savings on conventional lodging such as motels, hotels and ship cabins for two. It’s also nice to be able to split the cost of taxi cabs or rental cars.
+ Sharing ideas and thoughts about where to go and what to do. Coming up with alternatives is easier with two brainstorming.
+ It’s beyond convenient to have a friend with you when taking long hikes, going snorkeling, boating, riding a roller-coaster or any other activity where “the buddy system” is either recommended or required.
+ Complaints are more likely heeded, and resolved, when coming from two than one. It’s never made a lot of sense to me, but I’ve repeatedly observed that it’s true.
+ Having someone to reminisce with when the adventure is over. Perhaps one of the more enjoyable aspects of traveling with a companion is sharing different perspectives on the same experience. (I was surprised how much more I enjoyed the memories of my adventures when I was able to share them with my companion. We remind each other of forgotten nuances and the different perspectives makes sharing all the more interesting and fun.)
Bottom Line: Whether you travel solo or with a companion, the adventure will be unique and exciting. Have fun!