I’m so excited to share this post (and one next week) by Susan Portnoy. Susan has been a long-time reader of solo traveler and a real supporter. She is also an incredible solo traveler who includes photography as a focus (please pardon the pun) of her travels.
You can reader her blog, The Insatiable Traveler, fan her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. She also has many fabulous photos on Pinterest and Instagram. Oh, and if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she is also a Huffington Post blogger.
And now, over to Susan…
I began traveling solo six years ago – by accident. It was not part of my travel plans.
You see, friends pulled out of a trip to Machu Picchu and I either had to go by myself, or not at all. It was a hard decision. Even though I am fairly independent – I eat alone in restaurants, I enjoy going to movies by myself and I’m comfortable in my own company – the thought of going to Peru alone stumped me. I didn’t know the language and I wanted to share the experience with friends.
One morning I made my decision. I would put off the trip until I could find someone to go with me. But by the afternoon I was really annoyed with myself. I wanted to go. I realized that if I let the situation stop me, I was the only one losing out.
So I went. Did I have a great time? Yes. Did I feel a little lonely now and then? Yes. Was it a bit intimidating to walk around and eat alone in a strange country? Yes – at first. But, after a couple of days, I found my rhythm and I was off and running.
Solo travel is mastered by doing
If you think about it, traveling with loved ones or friends can be risky too. What if you fight? What if you really want to do something they don’t want to do? What if you’re a morning person and they’re best at night? Nothing is worse than spending your hard earned money and valuable time, frustrated by your traveling companion. The reality: no scenario is perfect.
Since my trip to Peru, I’ve gone solo to the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Morocco, Turkey, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Guatemala, Belize, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Bhutan, Myanmar, Botswana and Kenya, in that order. Some places I explored on my own, for others I joined a group. Solo travel is my guilty pleasure. I go where I want, when it works best for me, and I don’t really compromise along the way. But it’s a process, one that you master by doing.
Developing a focus for solo travel – photography
In recent years, photography has become an integral part of my travels. It’s a wonderful creative outlet, it’s challenging (with a capital C), and I can share my journeys in a way that people seem to enjoy.
With photography in the mix, I’ve modified how I decide on my next trip. My recipe for solo travel happiness:
- Destinations that are on my bucket list
- Photography enthusiasts to share the trip with
- Instruction to improve my skills.
In September, Wild Eye, a photographic safari company, invited me to see the great wildebeest migration with two of their professional photographers, and 7 other travelers. It would be a combination of Africa (of which I am slightly obsessed), wildlife (which I adore), and people who knew a lot more about wildlife photography than I. It was a no-brainer – I said yes!
On safari solo
I was excited but also nervous – a combo I’ve become very familiar with over the years. It’s natural. All the obvious fears went through my head. Would it be fun? Would I like the people? Would they like me? Would I take decent photos? The good news; it’s really hard to have a bad time when everyone is on the same page.
As it turns out, I was especially lucky. The other guests were witty, charming and fun. the Wild Eye vibe encouraged a sense of genuine camaraderie and friendship. Plus, I learned a lot about photography. Not just from the professionals, but from the other guests as well. I won’t lie; it’s not always a unanimous win. But, on every trip I’ve taken, I’ve always walked away with a new friend – and we often keep in touch.
What’s the takeaway here? Whether you choose to travel alone or it’s forced upon you, don’t fret, you’ve got a lot of options and it’s worth trying at least once. If you’re a novice soloist, I recommend planning a getaway through the filter of one of your passions. That way you’ll gravitate towards people and places that will organically be of interest and keep you engaged.
No matter how it turns out, you’ll be happy you gave it a shot.