I’ll admit, traveling alone to a foreign country was something that I never thought I would be interested in doing—I’m and only child and have lived alone all of my life, so traveling alone just doesn’t carry the same benefit of alone time and “self-discovery” for me as it does for a lot of people. And the older I get, the more I want other people around to share special moments with. I mean, travel selfies aren’t really my style…I can take those any day of the week! Not to mention, the general and social anxiety I get at the mere thought of arriving in a foreign terminal alone, with no one to meet me.
I’ve taken plenty of solo road trips in the States, but there’s at least a little comfort of “home” everywhere you go in your own country, even though that still can be scary and lonely at times. But a whole different country on your own can be downright terrifying (or at least very unappealing) to people like me.
But, I was surprised by Iceland’s ease and friendliness to solo travelers, so that’s why I recommend Iceland to anyone who may be struggling with the desire to travel, but no one to travel with. Iceland is a great first solo trip location for many reasons, and here are just a few:
1. It’s one of the safest countries on Earth – These days, almost no country seems immune to disaster or terror. While I definitely don’t encourage fear mongering or the spreading of mass hysteria, we can all admit that general personal safety is probably the first thing that individuals think of when they begin to plan a trip alone. One thing that calmed my nerves was finding out that violent crimes in Iceland are virtually non-existent. Sociologists haven’t come to perfect conclusions as to why this is, but it is generally thought to be due to their lack of tensions amongst economic classes, as well as lack of hard drugs compared to most other countries. Iceland also has had a murder rate of less than one per year for the past several decades. As a solo traveler, you should still remain vigilant, but Iceland seems to be one place you can be a bit more at ease.
2. It’s a great place to meet other travelers – Iceland has become one of the top destinations for tourists, largely thanks to Iceland Air’s cheap airfares with free stopover options. Who can resist that deal? This makes it a prime destination to meet other fellow travelers, especially at one of their many lovely hostels. It’s easy to talk to other travelers, even with a bit of social anxiety, as you already have something big in common to discus. I was offered to go on a couple of different trips and outings the first day I arrived at my hostel, which is nice for those of us who would prefer some company at all of the breathtaking sights!
3. It’s easy to drive there – There is one main road that covers the entirety of the country, and it makes it almost impossible to get lost there. If you can drive in a straight line, you can drive in Iceland. Even if you are visiting from a country that drives on the left side of the road instead of the right, it’s simple enough to navigate without anxiety. There’s hardly any traffic, and the majority of directions consist of “head that way until you see it.” Hiking can be a bit trickier, but generally, there is plenty of signage along the pathways and roads. I recommend renting a car, or meeting other people who have rented cars and traveling with them.
4. The locals are friendly and helpful – If you do ever run into any issues during your stay, you can always turn to the locals for assistance. They are very friendly, and seem to be willing to help out with guidance or directions to the nearest pub.
5. There are very few predatory animals and no poisonous insects – Aside from the stray polar bear or two that float over on icebergs from Greenland during warmer months (true story), there are no animals on the island that pose a threat to humans. And the only insects to be cautious of are wasps, but those are virtually everywhere on the planet, so shouldn’t be a major shock to anyone. This makes it feel a bit safer to be out in the wilds of Iceland solo, considering there are less threats to humans from other living creatures. Of course, solo hikers should still exercise basic precautions and have a knowledge of survival tactics in case inclement weather or injury occurs.
Overall, the absolutely gorgeous country of Iceland should definitely be first on your list if you are wary of traveling alone (or even if you aren’t). Basically, the only thing to fear there are the ancient trolls, rock elves and ghost legends, but even those seem to be more of the “friendly” variety!
Written by: Carolyn Eastman