What to expect traveling solo on a horse riding holiday

You have just found your dream riding holiday! But you just can’t seem to find anyone to come with you. Or maybe you have been thinking of traveling solo but it always seemed a bit daunting to you. The first time you travel by yourself is always a little scary and you might be quite nervous to take that step and finally do it. However, traveling by yourself is one of the most liberating things I personally have ever done and am forever glad I took that step. In this post I’ll be going through all the pros, cons and everything else you need to possibly know about what to expect traveling solo on a riding holiday.

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Let’s get started! Solo travel has been getting more and more popular which means you’ll never truly be solo on your trip, both on your riding holiday and during your itinerary before or after your ride. There are so many different accommodation options for solo travellers, and you can choose which is good for you based on whether you like to be surrounded by other like minded travellers at all times, or if you want to be alone but go out to meet people when you please. This is mainly for your plans before or after your trip when you are in a foreign country completely by yourself and you can choose what you want to do and when. I will be getting into the riding holiday of it all later in this post.

Hostel living: the solo travel lifestyle

If the first option is what you’re looking for and you want to be completely and utterly immersed in the solo travel lifestyle, I recommend you stay in a hostel, but not just any hostel. Have a good look around for hostels on hostelworld or booking.com and make sure to really pay attention to the reviews and see if they have a bar and common area (highly recommended for meeting other solo adventurers!). When you check the reviews, do not only look for 5 star reviews, but also for comments about vibe, and the possibility of meeting other people. Even though it’s great that a hostel gets 5 stars and lots of praise on cleanliness, these are not very promising reviews for meeting other travellers. You’ll be looking for reviews saying the bar is always busy and fun, the playlist is fantastic, and meeting a new group of friends. These are the hostels that are well-known meeting places.

Also read: Horse riding in Essaouira Morocco

White nooitgedacht horse in a stable in the desert in botswana
Traveling solo gave me the freedom to return to Botswana the moment I started missing the country and horses.

AirBnBs and boutique hotels

If the second option sounds better to you and you’d like to sleep in your own room by yourself but want to have the option to go out and meet people. Even though the first option used to be my favourite and felt safest to me, over the years I’ve really started to love this second option. The first usually means late nights, very little sleep, and meeting lots and lots of new people, and this was really great for me during my first year of solo travels. Now, I really like to stay at AirBnBs, boutique hotels, guest houses, and especially small lodges. By staying in these types of accommodation, you get the chance to talk to locals at length, the staff! Some of the most inspiring and amazing people I’ve met while traveling solo has been staff of places I was staying. Other meeting spots are local bars and parks! Make sure to ask the staff where to go and they’ll give you the best and safest suggestions. Also have a look at the experience page on AirBnB, there is some very interesting stuff on there.

building a shelter in the forest in uganda
Traveling solo in Uganda in 2019.

Complete independence as you travel the world solo

My favourite part of traveling by myself is the absolute and complete independence. You can go and do whatever you want, whenever you want. This can definitely be challenging in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it you’ll have all the freedom in the world. If you meet fun people, join them! Don’t like it anymore? Go solo again. Don’t set your alarm or set it every day at 5am, it doesn’t matter because it’s only for yourself (except you might get some slightly angry dorm mates at 5am…). Having this complete independence and therefore only being able to rely on myself gave me such a massive confidence boost and really helped me in other aspects of my life as well!

hiker girl in the yellow mountains china
Traveling to China by myself gave me an insane amount of confidence and a fantastic trip.

Going out to dinner alone

Something I was really not looking forward to, was dining alone. And yes, I absolutely hated it the first few times, I thought it was awkward, even embarrassing to ask for a table for one. This will change though. I started enjoying going out by myself when I found better restaurants for this type of dining, these are restaurants where you can sit at a bar (you can talk to the staff, and there will be more solo diners) or outside on a terrace, but not too fancy. When I started being more comfortable in those settings, I really started loving the experience of dining alone. Also, take a book with you in the beginning, or take some headphones so you can watch something on your phone, just in case you feel too awkward staring into the distance. At this point, I love taking myself out on a date and going to fancy or even romantic restaurants that serve fantastic food. I feel like I enjoy the food experience much more by myself and I love finding restaurants with great views so I can literally stare into nature while eating good food and sipping great wine. Make sure to enjoy that time with yourself.

I’ll give you one more con, just so it’s not all positive: having to take ALL your stuff into the bathroom while waiting for your flight is quite the hassle. Trying to pee in those tiny stalls, while carrying my backpack and all other luggage is far from ideal, but won’t take more than 15 minutes…

Also read: Horse riding in Zimbabwe

Safety while traveling solo

Yes, safety comes in numbers they say. However, this is definitely not always true. When you travel solo, you will look WAY less touristy. But only if you know how to dress for it, so here’s some standard rules: please, no I heart *insert city here*! Also, have a look at what others are wearing, even just google *city* street clothes and see what people are dressed like. Don’t wear flip flops in the middle of a city centre in a landlocked town, no expensive flashy jewellery, and never ever sports t-shirts (you don’t know who you’ll be offending…). The following might be a little self explanatory, but don’t slap your expensive phone on a selfie stick while in busy places, this is different for riding holidays of course, I’ll circle back to that just now. Some other things: always trust your gut, turn around if you feel uncomfortable. If you are in a situation where you feel trapped such as a taxi you don’t trust, call someone (or pretend to) and tell them you’ll be right there and that you’ve sent your live location. If you’re unsure which areas are safe, make sure to ask a local! Either someone that works at the place you’re staying or someone else you trust enough. When you do find yourself in a slightly sketchy area and you’re not sure where you’re going, pretend! Walking with purpose and confidence really does wonders, try not to look lost and definitely don’t take out a map (immediate tourist). Some last tips, don’t drag your entire backpack along, it’s safer at the hostel anyway, instead take a small fanny pack for your essentials, and a money belt for your valuables.

photoshoot at lilongwe airport malawi
During a layover in Lilongwe, I walked into a shop and the staff and I did a random 2 hour long photo shoot to pass the time.

Traveling solo is definitely safe enough if you follow these general guidelines and I by no means am trying to scare you off! It’s good to be cautious but try to find the balance, 99% of people are nice and have no bad intentions whatsoever. So enjoy your solo travel but always trust your gut, it knows what’s up.

Also read: Horse riding in Mexico

The horse riding holiday

Finally, the actual horse riding holiday! Traveling solo on these types of trips is actually quite epic. Many people travel solo on equestrian holidays so you’ll definitely make some new friends. The great thing is that you immediately have horses and (solo) travel in common, which is what I would call a good beginning of a friendship. My experience with longer and more extreme horse riding holidays with some hours in the saddle and crazy weather is that you’ll bond with others so quickly in these rough conditions and make lifelong friends.

group of horse riders on horse riding holiday in south africa

Single supplement for your horse riding holiday

One of things to keep in mind when signing up for a horse riding holiday as a solo traveler is the single supplement. However, you will almost always be given the option to share a room with another solo traveler, which I personally always do as it’s a great way to make friends quickly. If you don’t want to share your room, you’ll have to pay the single supplement for a private room which ranges from 10% to 100% of the price of the holiday. Another way to get rid of the single supplement is to find a solo travel buddy online. This is in case you don’t get the option to share with another rider or if you’d like to find someone that you can travel more with. There are plenty of facebook groups for this, such as our very own: Horse riding adventures around the world!

And last but not least, a selfie stick is definitely acceptable on your horse riding trip. It’s also a great way to capture all your new friends on video or on a picture together!

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