Thursday, 20 September 2012

SOLO TRAVEL - Oh how it has changed!

Solo Traveller
Shared via creative commons from Flickr
taken by Emmanuel Frezzott.
Twelve years ago the internet was in its infancy. There were internet cafes but you couldn't simply sit in a cafe and make connections like you can now. Back in my early travel days solo travel was scary and adventurous but also had a smidgen of the lonely thrown in. But as a traveller you just accepted these moments on your journey.

Nowadays things have changed greatly. Solo travellers no longer need to feel alone when travelling. We can choose to be alone or we can choose to mingle and reconnect with people around the world fairly easily because of the easy access to the internet - more importantly mobile access.

Now while I am not a big fan of smartphones or iPADs, when travelling they can come in handy. But it is important not to rely totally on them and to find yourself spending more time tweeting about what you are doing than actually doing what you are doing.

Texting woman
Shared via creative
commons from Flickr
 taken by E-Plus Gruppe

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ are really big distractions from the present moment. Almost every cafe has free WiFi and so instead of sitting reading a book or watching the world go by, engaging in our environment fully we find ourselves plugged in to the WordlWideWeb.

What matters when travelling is immersing ourselves in the culture, the sounds and the flavours of the world around us - not tweeting or sharing about it at every moment. And, dare I say, tweeting as we travel is really boasting about where we are. This is not going to give us warm fuzzies from those back home more likely irritation and envy. Far better the occasional update than sharing every single waking hour.

So what are the benefits of the internet now as a solo traveller?

Well, the mobile internet can be very useful as, if used wisely, it can get us closer to the local area even more. It is also wonderful for female solo travellers as we can link up with other travellers, local guides and not feel so alien to the landscape around us.

Backwater Guide - Kerala
Shared via creative commons from Flickr taken by Christian Haugen

When I travelled 12 years ago, I would have loved to be able to connect with a local guide easily, or to book a dinner with a group of on-line locals and travellers just to spend the night in a quality restaurant socialising and connecting.

While hostels are great for socialising they can sometimes be inclusive, in that you meet other travellers and spend more time with travellers than the locals.

Working in Melbourne gave me a whole different view of the Australian culture and I got to do a lot more different activities than my fellow travellers who were not working. I was invited to dinner by a local family in Perth, stayed with a lovely woman in Victoria who took me down the great ocean road in her car and  I had a friend who let me stay on her couch instead of a hostel which gave me more financial freedom.

Resources, groups, sites, link-ups now available amaze me and I am excited to use them when travelling next. I loved solo travelling but over the years I have become a little nervous of travelling alone again but know I want to so much in my heart. Now looking at the opportunities for ingratiating myself into a new country with the internet's help, I look forward to the connections I can make and continue to have.

So for any solo travellers out there, here is a list of amazing resources and connections for connecting when travelling. No need to be alone if you fancy socialising and no need to feel like an alien in a new land.

Travel Companies For Single Travellers 
(A great way to avoid single room supplements)

Just You - Singles Holidays For Single Travellers

Travel One - Holidays For Single Travellers

Deeper Cultural Connections When Travelling - A Bed For The Night (or longer)

Air BNB - A global travel rental site, where you can share the home of a host or rent a property, ranges from houses, to rooms, to loft apartments in New York city.

Servas   - Servas operates through a network of Servas hosts around the world who are interested in opening their doors to travellers,and of Servas travellers who want to get to know the heart of the countries they visit.

Couch Surfing - An excellent site where you can host or stay with a host member. Sleep arrangements range from a couch to a bed in a private room. A way to fully engage with the local area and make lifelong friends.

In addition to the above sites if you type in homestay into google search a number of sites in different countries offer the option of homestay experiences. Some of these can be brilliant for learning the local language too.

Local Guide
Shared via creative commons from Flickr taken by Simon Monk

Social Connections & Local Tours
(For when you want to socialise and meet fellow travellers or locals - great social connections and guides).

Tours By Locals - Take a private tour with a knowledgeable local person as your tour guide! Reliable guides carefully selected and approved by ToursByLocals. Solo Travellers is a group with a difference. Offering members organised trips and social events with the benefit of sharing of accommodation on trips to keep down the costs and make holidays away more affordable. They bring together solo travellers from different cultures and backgrounds to create new buddies and travel companions. 

Tripbod - At Tripbod, passionate locals show you an area in a way that caters to your needs as a traveller. Seeing a new place through the eyes of a local. It also offers a more independent opportunity where locals can design a tour or experience of an area where you can take the trip alone yet with insider knowledge of the area.

Urban Adventures - Day tours by local people.

Trip Trotting - Meet up with locals and join unique activities wherever you travel.

Global Greeter Network (at time of posting this site is down so hopefully it will be back up again soon) - A network of people around the world that greet visitors to the area.

Invite For A Bite - A safe friendly place for women to meet and eat, home and away.

Social Fork Social Fork aims to reach people interested in making friends the old fashioned way - in person over the dinner table (currently London based but hopefully will expand over time)

Eat With A Local  for people who love food and like to make new friends when they travel, or even while staying at home. You just offer to make a meal for people visiting your area and when you go on holiday, you look for EatWithaLOCAL members where you are and ask if you can come round for a meal. WAYN is the fastest growing travel and lifestyle social networking community website in the world. WAYN helps you to realize your dreams by connecting you with like–minded people based on your past experiences, where you would love to go and what you would love to do!

If you have any tips or links on-line you would like to share for solo travellers please post in the comment section. Any other social networking sites for travellers are more than welcome to be added to this list.

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  1. the only tip I have - tell someone where you are going, and when you will be arriving!
    I travelled to Melbourne last year and had the most crazy thing happen ever! A guy latched himself onto me and wanted to spend the whole weekend with me, showing me around.
    I was lucky to make up a story of having to be somewhere to met someone and that saved my backside!!
    Being able to connect online as well as offline makes travelling so much more fun.

    1. Thanks Lisa, sorry for the delay in responding. Good tip to have a story planned, especially as a woman. I find the whole net exciting for solo travellers and travelling in general now. So long as I keep the balance. I love that I can tweet and see who is around in an area before arriving and the net just makes it easy to connect.


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