Tips for the lone traveller
Having spent much of the last year going it alone, I thought I'd impart some words of wisdom. Here are a few hints and tips on solo travel that I've picked up along the way, so indulge me as I patronise you with them. Some of my advice has already been published on the Rough Guides website, which also has lots of other great tips.
A smartphone or tablet is a must now that free wifi is everywhere. Among many other things it means you can book accommodation ahead and ensure a safe pick up at your destination. If you're feeling lonely you can connect with home, read the news or just watch videos of kittens. Podcasts are great for wiling away long bus journeys, whilst a Kindle is invaluable for reducing baggage bulk and killing time in stations, on beaches and in restaurants. But a little white lie to friends or family that you 'might be out of wifi for a few days' every now and then is completely acceptable.
Talk to people!
Not everyone is responsive, but I've chatted to lots of lovely people who I've then shared a taxi, a drink or a meal with. You may never see them again, but it means you won't be spending another evening eating alone.
Get in touch
Your brother's mate's sister lives in Timbuktu? Ideal! Take up any offer of contacts and don't be afraid of facebooking people you haven't spoken to in years; local knowledge is invaluable and it's amazing how refreshing it is to see a familiar face who doesn't need to ask you the same three travellers small talk questions ('Where are you from? What do you do? Where have you been?' Whatever happened to originality people?!)
It's ok to spend the occasional night watching terrible films on your guesthouse's tv. You wouldn't be out every night at home, it'd be exhausting, so why would you try and do it for 5 months abroad?
Don't be afraid of tours
They're not all middle-class middle-aged Americans being told where to look through ear pieces, it's just a question of finding one to suit your needs, be it a half-day boat trip or a 6 week trek. They can be a great way of meeting people, finding out more about a place and seeing things you'd never find on your own.
If it doesn't feel right, don't do it
The thing I miss the most when travelling alone is having someone else to say 'hang on, I'm not sure about this minibus/hostel/dark foreboding alleyway' or to thrash out the pros and cons of where to go next with. But if you trust your instincts and ask for advice from people you meet you'll be fine. Online review sites are also great for getting a feel for a place and don't forget your guidebook (many of which you can now get electronically).
Don't let not having a buddy stop you from travelling, see it as an opportunity to set yourself free from the constraints of other peoples plans and discover what it is that you want to do. Off you go, I promise it'll be the best decision you ever make.