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.
Facebook, Twitter, and 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 into the World Wide Web.
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, and local guides and not feel so alien to the landscape around us. 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 online 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, and 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 about travelling alone again but now 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.