Social distancing is all about creating space around ourselves. In this current Covid-19 pandemic it's about reducing transmission of the virus.
For solo travellers it's about giving ourselves space to heal, think, and re-energise.
Social distancing will not be unfamiliar territory for solo travellers. This is very much what we do. Give us space - and plenty of it! It's what we're all about.
Solo travellers love their space!
Why do solo travellers love their space?
I was going to say that I can only speak from personal experience - but in my travel network - I know I'm not alone in this thinking. Solo travel is a lot about spending time with yourself. Now if you're not happy with your own company this may be a tad challenging.
Solo travel is about time-out. Time-out from our busy lives, filled with stuff, meetings, chores, jobs, after-school activities, sports...
I've spent the last 30 years nursing and working unsociable hours at all times of day and night, weekends, public holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. You name it and I've missed it at some stage in my career!!
So for me, spending time by myself was never an issue. My flatmates and later family would be at work or school while I was about to start an afternoon shift. Or I'd be sleeping the daytime away to prepare for nightshift. I went shopping while everyone was at work, and in the days when you went to the bank - that too was done in quieter times.
Being home alone was a treat - and solo travel, for me is the same.
Travelling solo is about having physical space. You're not consulting or adjusting to someone else's needs. You can pick and choose whether to have people in your space.
Travelling solo is about having mental space. Thinking time or time not to think at all. Lost in your thoughts or lost in the present.
Travelling solo is about having growing space. Space to learn about yourself, challenge and extend yourself. It's an opportunity to step out of your comfort or safe zone and grow.
Travelling solo is about being comfortable in your own skin, in your own thoughts, in your own space.
Absorbing the view, the light, and the history in Atrani, Amalfi Coast.
Solo travel and eating alone!
This is one of the great fears for newbie solo travellers - the dreaded eating alone!!
In my 20's I went to Greece for a week by myself. With no plans, no itinerary, no bookings, and definitely no smartphone I embarked on my first social distancing adventure.
I arrived on the quiet island of Paxos. Full of youthful bravadery I found some accommodation and then went for a walk. I was loving it. But then I got hungry.
I found a café and the girl seated me at a table in the back of the room - which suited me so I could hide in shame that I was a Nigel-no-friends. I felt extremely uncomfortable. I ordered quickly, ate quickly, paid quickly and left quickly. I was not hanging around this uncomfortable situation.
But I didn't do any of that quickly enough..."Are you Katherine, that used to be at St Peters in Palmerston North?"
Are you serious? Instead of being amazed at how small the world really is, or how wonderful to see someone from home - all I could think was - "OMG, what will she think of me?"
Guess what? She was just delighted to see me. She wasn't judging me. She thought it was cool that I was island-hopping.
Sometimes we need to stop our thoughts, take ownership of them, and not put them onto others. End of lecture!!
Funny how we change - a quiet solo cup of coffee is bliss! (Jima village, China)
Eating alone isn't scary.
I've moved along since those early dining alone days.
I have some strategies you can try:
- You can eat earlier so you don't stand out so much - plus eating earlier is often cheaper.
- Eat takeaways - nothing beats pizza overlooking the island of Capri and the ocean far below.
- Take a book to read, or a diary to write in. People find this easier to interrupt than if you are on your phone.
- I've had a waiter ask if another solo traveller comes in would I be happy to have them join me!
On my first night in Dubrovnik I went to a pizza bar with lots of long bar-leaners and a good crowd of people. You simply ordered your pizza and pulled up a bar stool.
However, I came across the more commonly known social distancing concept of 'burying one's head in one's devise!' I thought the café was quiet because everyone was enjoying their food. Not the case - busy on their phones. Completely disengaged with their surroundings. This social distancing is nothing new!!!
I attempted to engage with other travellers but to no avail. Instead I pulled my barstool over to the chef area and chatted away to the staff. It was the only conversation occurring in this bustling café. Sad, eh!
There's a great blog by my friend Kaylea on her website Woman Wanderings - "Table for one" - a truly brilliant take on the dilemmas and solutions for dining alone. For Kaylea (and I'm a true convert now) - eating alone is part of the self-care that comes with solo travel. My favourite tip she gives, is that a moderate-high priced meal is a lot easier to pay for when it's just one and not four!!!
Coffee and a view for one!
Enjoying the great outdoors.
There is nothing better to socially distance yourself than hiking. Completely getting away from it all - taking in the scenery, the architecture, the gardens, the animals.
Lots of fresh air, no crowds, and great for your health. You can't go past the health and soul benefits of hiking when travelling -or even when at home for that matter!
The simple act of walking removes the crowds! (XingPing, China)
Social distancing - AKA avoiding the queues!
No one enjoys queues and crowds!
My social distancing strategy is to get up early! This is where solo travel shines.
I wake up, shower, dress, walk out the door. Now try doing that with kids and travel companions!!
You're jealous, right? Imagine walking out the door not organising anyone else. Not checking their bags, making sure they've got sunscreen on, drink bottles packed, eaten all their breakfast because the moment you walk out the door they're bloody hungry again!!!
Sorry, I digress. But I think you might sense some of my frustration.
So back to avoiding queues - non-solo travellers can't get out the door that quickly, so you have a major advantage - if only to be at the front of that queue.
New quote - early birds beat the crowds! BTW - how cool is the bean in Chicago!!
The travelling light advantage.
So overseas travelling is currently off the agenda with Covid-19 in full flight.
But for your future trips - travelling light is great for avoiding crowds - especially when you are in the transit mode - I mean, just avoiding the luggage carousel is a huge benefit. Then there's the fact you get to customs so quickly, so you're out the door in a flash.
And if you do have the unfortunate event of having your luggage searched - well, there's not much there to search, is there? You're only detained then by the conversation you strike up with the customs officer who asks how on earth you do it - well, I can't miss an opportunity to convert someone, can I!
Once through customs you can then avoid public transport because you are carrying your daybag and walking is easy.
So many things solved with travelling light!
Just me and my bag!
Don't let social distancing stop you from wonderful experiences.
Even with social distancing there is opportunity to try new things, meet new people, engage with others.
If nothing else, bloody Covid-19 should wake us all up to realise how much we need each other. How we need to work together, talk, and celebrate life.
At this time when home seems to be the best place to be - you'll find me exploring my local areas. Beaches, forests and gardens. And there are loads of others doing the same.
We're all in this together!
Solo travel is the ultimate self-care treat.
So, once we're all well again, and back on track exploring the world we live in, think about giving yourself some time-out.
Schedule a trip that's just for you.
In the meantime, start local. Go and explore what others pay thousands (and travel thousands of miles) to come and see.
You deserve it!