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SALT LAKE CITY — Solo traveling has become a revelatory idea for many — becoming a free spirit breaking free of society to pursue a gossamer existence of new places and bold decisions every single day is an appealing thought for those who feel tied down by life.
Traveling alone can be both a fun adventure or a harrowing journey. Joel Pieper, a travel agent with VIP Travel Partners in Park City, told KSL.com why an individual should or shouldn’t go solo traveling and offered some advice for effective travel.
Solo traveling, as Travel and Leisure explains, can be deliciously self-indulgent at its best.
“The benefit of traveling solo is that you don’t have to do what someone else wants to do,” Pieper said. “You get to do what you want and make decisions on the fly. You’re not restricted to having someone else buy into what you want to do. It’s all about you when you travel solo.”
He added that, sometimes when traveling, an individual might find a place particularly captivating or underwhelming, and traveling alone allows them to spend as much time there as they would like.
Solo travel is growing in popularity for both the convenience and self-indulgence, as well as the reflection and mindfulness time often associated with taking trips alone, according to Pieper.
“Traveling solo gives you a lot of time to reflect because you’re by yourself,” he added. “[Travelers] can meditate or literally become one with nature. There’s a lot to be said for that.”
Condé Nast Traveller cautioned solo trippers not to rely on a long expedition alone to fix all problems. Sometimes being alone with one's thoughts for periods of time isn’t the best way to deal with issues and trauma, and often the mundanity or social groups that motivated the trip will still be there upon return.
Nonetheless, mindful solo travel might be just what the doctor ordered.
Pieper also pointed out some downsides to forging off into the world alone. “You are alone, it is you and only you,” he said.
When you travel with other people, they might have more knowledge about the destination where you’re traveling, Pieper said.
“It’s reliable knowledge because you know and trust them.”
When solo traveling, you’re not only going to do all the research on your own, you’re going to have to do everything on your own. This means booking every hotel, plane ride and event. It means coordinating schedules and avoiding getting lost. It also includes maintaining safety.
“If there’s a medical issue or emergency that comes up while you’re traveling solo, you have to figure that out on your own,” Pieper explained.
He offered some tips to help make traveling alone both safer and more pleasant:
- “Take out some type of travel protection so if something does happen to you, you have coverage,” Pieper said. Travel insurance is a good idea, especially for longer trips.
- “If you’re traveling solo, you should always make sure someone has your itinerary and knows where you’re going to go,” Pieper explained. “Check in periodically with people so they know where you are. Having people know where you are and having travel protection in case something does happen covers you.”
- “Join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so if there is an emergency and you’re enrolled in it, they can help you,” Pieper said. The program both conveys security updates to participants and provides emergency assistance overseas for both the traveler and their family.
- “Don’t draw attention to yourself,” Pieper explained. “Don’t wear flashy clothes and don’t wear a lot of jewelry. Wherever you’re traveling, you want to look as much like a local as possible. That in mind, you’re traveling solo, so if you need to take a map take a map, but don’t keep it out in the open.”
- “Only carry what you need,” Pieper added. “You don’t need much more nowadays than your passport, credit card and wallet. Keep copies of your passport in your luggage or someplace other than your passport so if you do lose it, it will be much easier to get a new one. Likewise, keep the numbers of your credit card companies so you can call if you [have problems].”
- “Use good common sense,” Pieper concluded. “Stay in open places, be confident, be friendly but not too friendly, and trust people but don’t trust them too much or too quickly.”
Traveling alone may bring vast benefits or vast consequences, but Pieper believes the key to success is to be as prepared and diligent as possible.