Travelling solo is one of the greatest feelings you can have when adventuring in a new city. You get to adventure on your own individual terms and conditions, do what you want when you want and not be restricted by someone else. It’s a great way to explore your independence and work on your confidence. More than that, you learn so much more about yourself in the process. I love travelling by myself to a new country, getting off the plane and smelling the fresh air. I find having the freedom to explore by myself invigorating and some what refreshing and inspiring to my soul.
But… sometimes… you encounter some really awkward solo travel situations that, when caught in the moment leaving you questioning why you did this trip SOLO in the first place. It doesn’t have to be that way if you plan ahead know how to handle them. Here are five totally awkward solo travel situations and how to handle them.
You need medication in a country where no one around you speaks English
Well, this is an interesting one to start with?! But its also happened to me. While I was living in Dongguan, China I got sick and needed a doctor. Dongguan is one of those remote south china towns that is purely industrial (another story for another time) but everyone around spoke Chinese and apart from the teachers at the school I was teaching in, I knew it was going to be impossible to describe my symptoms of a “sore, scratchy throat” and “breaking out into sweats in the middle of the night” using charades… *laughs now about it*
What I ended up doing was speaking to headmaster of the school who recommended a doctor to me and he was nice enough to come with me and translate all of my symptoms to the doctor. But what happens if you don’t have friend around you?
What to do:
Find someone who speaks English and ask them to translate your symptoms for you. Use your phone and do a voice recoding or just have them write it down on a piece of paper for you. Take a picture of that paper so you have multiple copies in case you lose the piece of paper. Usually someone at the reception desk of your hotel can do this for you. Alternatively, your hotel might even have an English speak doctor on site – check if this is a possibility.
Use a travel phrase book. If you’re anything like me you probably have a hard copy travel guide in your backpack or an e-version at least. Usually, these guides have a section for commonly used phrases at the back.
Pre-empt what you would do if you got sick and bring along some basic medical supplies with you. This way you don’t need to go to a doctor for something minor and the stress of translating symptoms is eliminated 😊
Your taxi driver really doesn’t understand you
How many times have you got into a taxi in a foreign country, with a driver that doesn’t speak English? You show him the address of where you’re going and… he looks at you for directions? Um… awkward. Out of the kindness of his heart he tries to get to your destination. Then, you’re both just lost. What do you do?
What to do:
Be prepared. Pull up directions on google maps and use that to guide the driver. Usually if you just show him the directions on your phone, he’ll be able to follow that and get you to where you need to be. But what happens if you don’t have access to google maps or worse, your google maps now pulls up in a different language?
Again, your guide book is going to help you. Usually at the back of you 7 guidebook is a map. Before leaving your hotel ask them to mark the location of your hotel on the map so you can always find your way back. Alternatively ask the information desk at your hotel for a map with the hotel marked on. Take a hotel business card – this will have the address in both English and the local language and it may also have directions or additional street names to guide the driver.
If you don’t have any of the above, find a local on the street, a police man or a store owner and show them your hotel address.
You order a meal that has something you can’t (or wont) eat
If you’re allergic to certain foods then some preplanning is necessary before you start your trip. Have some essential phrases written down and translated for you into the local language. You can even have a list written down to make it easier but be sure to include a phrase that says you’re are allergic and CANNOT eat these foods. Otherwise, the restaurant may just think you’re being a fussy traveler. Show this to the waiter when you order.
If you’re not allergic and just don’t want to try something that looks strange then just pick it out or reorder something, you’re familiar with. Or…. Try it! You’re travelling! Be adventurous on your trip!
You’re seated at a table in a restaurant by yourself and people start looking at you
Um since when do you care? Nobody in this country even knows you! You could dance on the travel and still no one would know you (but seriously like, don’t do that!) if you’re travelling solo and find yourself at a table in a busy restaurant alone, it can make you feel uneasy and awkward but divert this energy elsewhere.
What to do:
Order your food, a glass of wine and just enjoy the alone time. I often spend time scrolling through my phone, reading a book, working on my laptop, writing in a journal or finally using the time to read the travel guide I’ve been lugging around. These mindful activities by yourself can be so relaxing and empowering.
You’re the only solo traveller on a tour
So, you’ve signed up for a tour and everyone is with their significant other, families or friends and there you are… by your lonesome self. Um yeah… that can be awkward. But it doesn’t have to be! Firstly, remind yourself why you’re doing this trip – to meet new people? Okay great, now’s the perfect time. To learn more about the country? Well you’re about to without be interrupted on your learning journey.
What to do:
Usually travel guides take along groups of people, regardless if you know each other so you’ll be walking through attractions together anyway and this shouldn’t be a problem.
Make friends with the groups around you and get a good sense of the energy. Some families are really friendly and wont mind if you tag along and may even ask you to join them. If you’re okay with this, stick with them.
Remember why you’re traveling solo in the first place! You’re a fierce independent human being who came all this way by yourself? Embrace the solitude and explore this tour alone! It’s a great way to really learn something new.