The solo traveler trend is increasing, and for good reason! No longer is it just about backpacking and sleeping in dorms or camping, going seriously budget and finding your inner self - It's a way to build yourself an exploration tailored to exactly what you want out of it without considering anyone else - Selfishly and rightly so!
It's certainly my preferred method of travel and from me to you, Malawi is one of the best places for it.
If you're planning a solo expedition to Malawi, be it for yourself or someone else. Here are some important things to keep in mind.
I'm all up for spontaneity - But when it comes to a foreign country, and especially Malawi, you don't want to be caught without a method of safe and convenient travel to your various destinations.
Get yourself a car hire, or get taxis number to get yourself started. Local transport across Malawi can be unreliable and often a stressful experience - You're on holiday, remember! It should be as enjoyable as possible!
Longer distances can be taken on coaches or with car hires and short distances work well with bicycle, motorbike or vehicle taxis.
To keep costs low and be able to experience everything, have yourself a run around vehicle hire for your stay - There are plenty of reliable operators to choose from (Like us...) And it doesn't have to be anything excessive if you're sticking to main roads.
When you're at your destination, get out and get on that bicycle taxi into town or wave down that motorbike to go the shops and get the experience without compromising on your comfort or safety!
So you've got your run around vehicle and you're taking to the roads of Malawi! - Whether you're planning your own trip or someone else, leave enough room for itinerary changes and detours, but make sure you always have an option for where to sleep for the night.
I don't suggest driving at night in Malawi - So stick to driving in the day and ensure you're not racing from one destination to the next without time to really enjoy the drive.
I'm a big advocate for road trips! So make it apart of your holiday. Your holiday doesn't have start once you reach the next lodge, it can be the whole thing!
We do picnic supplies for this very reason when you hire a vehicle with us - If I'm doing road trips, I must have tea, always! (And cookies)
So if you drive past a view or even one of the National Picnic spots, stop, catch your breath, and revel in the knowledge that you have this singular moment all to yourself.
Zambia tends to have many long driving days in itinerary planning, purely because the lodges and even towns are very spread out - But Malawi isn't as remote.
So as a single traveler, you're actually rarely truly alone. You'll always find help, you'll always be near available accommodation and you'll always have someone to talk to!
Don't plan your trip too much - The few times I've really enjoyed an experience, it's because I've done it on the spur of the moment, felt like hiking? Best hike ever! - Had to make myself hike? Hated every moment.
I tend to plan the lodge or the area I'm going to sleep in and leave the days open for activities and meals I come across. Like stopping by the market for roadside chips or walking across to the next door lodge for dinner because It's Pizza Thursday.
Planning everything meticulously means you end up disappointed in yourself if you miss something or an activity didn't quite go how you expected it to.
If you fill your days too much, you may end up arriving back home after your holidays exhausted! It's alright to be in a beautiful destination with the sun beating down and actually thinking, you know what? I'm going to huddle in bed and watch Netflix.
2022 is a year for me to step completely out of my comfort zone - and on your solo travels, I highly recommend you do the same!
A bit of an introvert? Pluck up the courage to chat to that group of people, go to a party even! Make friends!
Making friends is one of the best things about solo travel - You find people with such fascinating stories and backgrounds, people who are so similar to you or may even know people you do - And a big added bonus here, is you don't have to see them again if you don't want to!
So what about extroverts? - I wouldn't know too well as I'm completely on the opposite side of this scale, but my friend once said to me "I could never travel solo, I'd get too lonely."
So if you're anything like her, you're already out of your comfort zone and being amazing! - But if you're an extrovert who travels solo often and has never been horse riding, then maybe try that yeah?
Mix up your tour! - Yes, camp. Yes, book yourself into that fancy expensive lodge with all meals and activities included.
Do it all.
Rough it and get the "Vibe" - but also treat yourself. Find it in your budget to travel well and experience a range of options - It helps you figure out as well what sort of a traveler you are.
Pencil in an experience that will give back somehow. Every country will have these options, Malawi is no exception! You don't have to work yourself to the bone, but being a part of Wildlife preservation or education, sport, re-forestation in a developing country is highly rewarding and holds some of the most special memories. It's an opportunity to meet new people too and learn something that ends with a gratifying sense of accomplishment.
Choose your experience wisely and ensure you aren't giving in to places that exploit people or wildlife for profit.
I have traveled solo across Malawi for over ten years, luckily enough for work but also pleasure. I've always found Malawi to be safe and every trip I've taken has been a fulfilling expedition with new faces, new stories and a new sense of accomplishment.
Be brave, be wise and enjoy the journey!
So if you're on the fence about it.
Jump off the fence, It'll be worth it.