Is Solo Travel All it’s Cracked Up to Be?
Do you believe in all the solo travel hype? You’ve seen all the articles — “Solo travel changes your life! Everyone should try it at least once!” But like all things, it has its pros and cons. We’ve asked 20 frequent travelers about what they love — or hate — about traveling alone, so that you can decide whether you’re still up for that solo adventure.
- Planning your itinerary
- Meeting New People
- Having Fun
- Encountering Problems
- Making Memories
Planning Your Itinerary
Pro: Solo travel gives you absolute freedom!
Let’s start with the obvious — when you travel solo, you get complete freedom. There’s no one to tell you what to do, or what to eat, or where to go. When you travel solo, you do everything by yourself — you plan your trip, follow your own budget, and go see the sights that you actually want to see.
Laura Longwell of Travel Addicts, for example, uses solo travel so she can pursue her own interests:
“I love traveling with my husband, but I always try to take one big solo trip a year. I could say something like, ‘it makes me appreciate him more’, but the truth is, we have very different interests.
Like any couple, we don’t share 100% of the same interests. This is why traveling solo is a chance for me to engage in my own interests and passions without any compromise. It’s a chance for me to be entirely selfish without any guilt. I love traveling with my husband, but I also love my solo trips as I get to focus on myself.”
When you travel in groups or with another person, you always have to compromise and think about what the other person wants. Maybe they don’t like vegan food, or maybe they think museums are boring… the list goes on. When you travel solo, you only need to think of yourself!
💡Tip: Prepare your own itinerary and list all the places that you want to visit!
Con: You sometimes lack the motivation to do things.
While solo travel is great for exploring your own interests without the need for compromise, for some people, it could also lead to a lack of motivation to explore more. Without anyone to keep you on your toes, you could end up doing less than you originally planned.
Yatharth Gupta, a seasoned travel photographer at Yatharthgupta.co occasionally feels this way when he is on a solo trip:
“Sometimes you get lazy and skip things which you wanted to do because you lack external motivation — like a partner.”
This is especially true for those who rely on their travel partners to wake them up in the morning! Alarm clocks aren’t always enough!
Tip: Plan your trip realistically — don’t bite off more than you can chew. And if you really need to, ask hotel reception or a hostel roommate to wake you up if your alarm clock isn’t cutting it.
Pro: You can travel at your own pace.
Since you don’t have to deal with other people, you get to explore everything at your own pace. Donna Wilson at someboldadventure.com sums this up pretty nicely:
“When traveling with others, it can be an ordeal to get everyone up and moving at the same time. You often get someone who thinks that the day should start at 6 a.m. and someone who thinks it should start at 10. When alone, every day starts when you choose, and you are not rushed or waiting for anyone else. Like to move through things quickly? Prefer to linger when you find something unexpected? You can move at your own pace, as quickly or slowly as you like.”
Tip: Shake things up! Think of things that are totally unique to your destination — things you can’t do back home!
Meeting New People
Pro: It can be easier to make friends
Making new friends in a foreign land isn’t always so easy. And if you are in a group, it can be easy to just fall back and stick with the people you are traveling with.
If you’re alone, however, making friends can be so much easier — you are more likely to make the first move and talk to someone new (because there’s no one else to talk to). Plus, you get more freedom to change your plans on a whim if your new friends invite you along.
Kevin Wenning from Intentionally Lost shares his experience:
“I was in East Java, Indonesia, trying to get to the top of Mount Ijen to hike down into the volcano before sunrise.
I met a friendly local named Fendi, who offered to give me a ride on his motorbike to the top of the volcano. We had to leave at 3 am to get there before sunrise, so he let me stay in his living room where his daughters sat and giggled at me, while his wife served me tea and dinner.
The next day, he waited for me at the top of the trail while I hiked down into the crater to take a photograph. Then we spent the afternoon exploring the roads around the East side of Java Indonesia. If I had been traveling with other people, this opportunity never would have happened!”
Sometimes friendships can also turn into something more. Cepee Tabibian of She Hit Refresh shares her story of romance while traveling alone:
“My best solo travel story happened when I was 24 and exploring Rome on my own. A handsome Sicilian man about my age approached me and asked for directions in Italian. I responded that I only spoke English, but luckily, he spoke perfect English! He was on his way for some drinks with friends and invited me to join them.
When the universe presents you with an opportunity like this and your gut says yes, you go! Well, that encounter turned into a magical week in Rome, riding on Vespas, zipping around the Colosseum at night, and feeling like I was in my own little rom-com. We ended up dating long distance for a year — he came to visit me in the U.S. and met my whole family, and I spent a month in Sicily with his. It was an experience that probably would not have happened if I were with family or friends!”
Tip: Try to learn a few words of the local language to get the conversation going.
Con: Solo travel can get lonely.
Of course, solo travel can also get lonely — not every destination will have a stunning Sicilian waiting to meet you! Despite your best efforts, sometimes, you don’t really find people that you connect with. There’s often a bit of luck involved when it comes to meeting new people.
One of the toughest things about traveling solo is the possibility that you may not always have someone around to share your travel experience with. You won’t have anyone to gush over all the beautiful sights you are seeing, or talk about all the crazy places you have been.
Plus, people come and go — even if you are constantly meeting new people, you will likely have to say goodbye to them as soon as it’s time to leave.
Jenny, a travel blogger from MoveToNewZealand.net says:
“It can get lonely if you’re more introverted and less inclined to get out there and meet people. It can also be hard seeing or experiencing something beautiful and not having someone there to share it with.”
Tip: Use apps such as Meetup and Facebook groups while you travel, to easily meet people you have things in common with.
Pro: You don’t really have to go “solo” — Join solo travel groups!
Even if you are traveling solo, you don’t really have to travel alone — you can choose to solo travel with groups and have an amazing time!
Becca of halfhalftravel.com shares her story of hanging out with solo travel groups.
“In South Africa, while traveling solo in Cape Town, I was lucky to meet some wonderful solo travelers in the hostel I was staying at, and we all decided to go out to a big group dinner. It was like a big table of the United Nations! We tried new foods (warthog meat!) and took a big Thanksgiving-style photo to remember the great night.”
Melissa at melissachiou.com also shares her tips for not traveling solo while out on a solo trip:
“It’s true that solo travel is sometimes lonely, especially when you want to do things that are better with someone else (amusement parks, barhopping). However, I’ve found ways around this by meeting up with locals for short events through Facebook groups, Meetup, or Couchsurfing.”
Tip: Find free walking tours online, which are available in many of the more popular travel destinations. Be sure to leave a tip for your guide though!
Con: Fun isn’t always guaranteed.
Of course, fun isn’t always guaranteed, so you have to learn how to make things work for you, or take it in stride and move on if things don’t turn out as planned.
Tessa Clare, a writer at tessaclare.com shares her thoughts on traveling alone:
“Of course, one con of traveling solo is that you have to get comfortable with being by yourself. While you may meet new people, it’s not a guarantee. There were times when on one day, I’d be surrounded by incredible people, and the next day, I’d be completely alone.”
When you are traveling alone, do expect that there will be days where you will actually have to be alone. While it is possible to have fun by yourself, sometimes it takes a bit of extra work.
Tip: Be curious — go off the beaten path to avoid dull moments.
Con: You have no one to rely on when you travel solo.
Of course, a major downside to traveling solo is the fact that you have no one to rely on but yourself. If something goes wrong, it is up to you to figure out what to do — without panicking!
Tessa, who runs the travel website Travel Where to Next says:
“Any problem, or challenge that arises, you have to deal with alone. Sounds like a no-brainer but the term ‘two heads are better than one’ is popular for a reason. Alone, when you are trying to figure something out the answer can elude you even if to others it is obvious.”
Tip: Be prepared and have several emergency numbers at hand — including your family back home, local contacts, your airline, police, hospital, and the number to your embassy. You should also remember that you are entitled to compensation should your flight be delayed or canceled.
Pro: You become an excellent problem solver.
Of course, not having anyone to rely on can also be a good thing — you become an excellent problem solver.
You are taken out of your comfort zone and forced to deal with things on your own. If something happens, it is totally up to you to be creative and resourceful enough to get yourself out of a sticky situation. Definitely a useful skill to have!
Ben of Horizonunknown.com agrees:
“Solo travel isn’t always easy, but it can be a much more fulfilling learning experience when you’re encouraged to step out of your comfort zone.
You become a problem solver. If there’s an issue you face while traveling solo, it usually falls on your shoulders to solve it. Miss your flight or bus? It’s up to you to find an alternative. You subconsciously develop a mindset that if things go wrong (and eventually, they will), that you’re prepared to solve anything thrown at you.”
Tip: Don’t be so hard on yourself — breathe in and try to think through things clearly. Ask help from the locals if needed.
Con: You don’t always end up taking the best photos
Okay, so this is a relatively minor con, but something that can quickly get annoying if you’re the type of traveler whose favorite souvenir is a photograph. Your travel buddy can easily take great snaps of you, and you don’t have to be bogged down with tripods or worse — take pics with an ugly selfie stick poking out from the bottom of the frame.
This is exactly what Eva Glasrud, a travel blogger at TheHappyTalent.com, had to deal with when she’s without a travel buddy:
“It’s hard to find someone to take photos of you sometimes. When asking a stranger, it’s always a small risk. And… most people suck at photography. You might have to specifically tell them, ‘Make sure the waterfall is in the photo!’”
Tip: Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell strangers exactly how you want your photo to be taken! If possible, find someone who is carrying a DSLR camera as they are likely to have better photography skills than most.
Pro: You pick up languages more quickly.
Picking up a new language is probably the best (and most impressive) souvenir that you can pick up from traveling. Dane at holidayfromwhere.com says:
“You have a tendency to pick up languages faster due to the fact you have no one else to rely on to communicate for you.
You are already out of your comfort zone more often than not, and it tends to make you more open to trying new things and meeting new people.
Due to the somewhat isolation of traveling solo you tend to immerse yourself more into the local communities allowing you to experience more local cultures and traditions.”
It’s true that one of the best ways to pick up new languages is to just go and speak it — with a local. Total immersion in the culture is by far, the best way to learn a new language.
Tip: Don’t rely on Google Translate — bring a pocket dictionary if you can!
Con: Solo travel can be expensive.
Chizoba Anyaoha of TravSolo says:
“Realistically, solo traveling is quite expensive considering you have to pay for literally everything yourself and not having anyone to share expenses with (food, accommodations, transportation, activities, etc).”
It’s true that one of the biggest downsides of solo travel is that it can be expensive. More often than not, travel packages and attractions will always offer some kind of group discount — something that is obviously not available to a solo traveler unless you somehow manage to join an existing travel group.
You also can’t share a room or split the costs of a taxi or rental car, and eating alone at a restaurant means there’s no-one to split dessert or a bottle of wine with.
Tip: Ask around your hostel or through Facebook if there are groups who are still looking for a plus one!
Pro: Solo travel doesn’t have to take weeks.
Tessa Juliette from Travel Where to Next says:
“I encourage everyone—male and female alike—to take a solo trip somewhere, even if it’s just a long weekend. You can learn more about yourself in 24 hours on a solo trip than you do over the course of day to day life each year. Plus, it’s highly likely those lessons you learn will aid you in every aspect of life, from personal relationships to situations on the job.”
For many people, solo travel can be a life-changing experience. But those of you who worry about the costs — well, solo travel doesn’t have to take weeks. As Tessa mentioned, 24 hours of traveling solo can already enrich your life in so many ways. You don’t need to take a gap year and be a nomad for months at a time — just a few days can be enough (and cheaper too).
Tip: Find weekend travel deals online to get the most bang for your buck!
Con: Solo travel can be dangerous.
One of the biggest worries about solo travel, especially solo travel for females, is that it can be dangerous. When you are alone, there’s no one to have your back in case something goes wrong.
There are so many stories of solo travelers who get themselves into dangerous situations for one reason or another.
Alex from 99boulders.com shares his scary story:
“While staying in Buenos Aires I was almost robbed twice in two weeks. Both times a group of teenagers saw me walking by myself on the sidewalk and tried to rob me. Fortunately, both times I was able to run away. After that, I was afraid to walk around the city at night by myself.”
Sometimes, you can even find yourself in a place where there’s some sort of unannounced conflict or political disturbance:
Elizabeth Avery, founder of Solo Trekker 4 U shares her experience:
“Whilst traveling through a low-grade civil war in Africa, my hotel was so concerned for my safety that they assigned me security. I was whisked away to a part of the hotel listed as unoccupied and under construction while my guard dutifully sat awake all night facing the elevator to make sure that there were no uninvited guests.
On another occasion, I was surprised to find myself arriving to find an unpublicized cholera epidemic.”
Other times, you just plain don’t have anyone to warn you that you are walking off a cliff! This is exactly what had almost happened to Melissa of The Portly Passengers:
“On my trip to Ireland, I was left behind by my tour group and almost fell off the Cliffs of Moher. As this was my first solo trip to Europe I had no one to remember me on the bus of my tour group.
When we reached the Cliffs of Moher we weren’t given a time to head back to the bus. So I kept my tour guide in view and walked around trying to take some video and pictures.
As I was doing this, I learned that our perspective of a straight line doesn’t always actually mean a straight line with the earth. As I stopped to take a picture, I looked down — one more step and I would have fallen into the Atlantic ocean!
Catching my heart in my stomach I stepped back from the ledge, turned around and saw the bus taking off without me. I found myself running after the bus, arms flailing, and screaming for the bus driver to stop. I stuck closer to the tour guide and my watch for the rest of the trip.”
Tip: Be aware of your surroundings and do a lot of research on an area so that you can avoid possible danger zones.
Pro: It’s actually not as dangerous as everyone makes it out to be — yes, even when it comes to solo travel for females.
Though it’s good to consider the risks when you travel solo, it is actually not as dangerous as everyone makes it out to be — yes, even if you are a solo traveling woman. As long as you keep a level head and take a few precautions, it can be totally safe!
Gurvinder Kaur, founder of Agapeless.com shares her experience:
“One of the best trips I’ve ever done was done solo. As a young female traveler, I had often been warned about the crazy amounts of danger I could face by going out into the world on my own, especially to destinations pre-perceived as ‘dangerous’.
I decided to embark on my first solo adventure when I was 20 years old to Costa Rica for a month. Through a website called Workaway, I was able to get in contact with a Costa Rican local who agreed to host me in his home with his family and to allocate three meals a day for me in exchange for my help in any project or job he needed help in.
It resulted in the best possible adventure! The guy, Fernando, turned out to be an adventure and wildlife tourist guide who needed help translating instructions to clients. I got to know some of the most beautiful and unknown corners of the world, and spend time with some of the most humble people I’ve ever met.”
Crystal Bui, a travel writer at adventureswithcrystal.com also believes that solo travel isn’t really all that dangerous:
“Frankly, we need to dispel the myth that women need to be constantly protected and anyone who doesn’t look like us or have the same background and traditions like us are possibly very dangerous and unsafe. But that’s almost a different topic on patriarchy and xenophobia, but it’s a serious misconception that’s preventing so many people from enjoying the thrill of traveling solo.”
Tip: Listen to your gut — and your heart. Be careful, but go where it tells you to go!
So, should you travel solo?
You go on holiday because you want to enjoy yourself and experience someplace new. Solo travel can undoubtedly be a beautiful, enriching experience that can take you out of your comfort zone and see the world. There are plenty of pros! But if you think the cons outweigh the pros for you then that’s fine too — do what makes you happy.
So what do you think? Is solo travel really for you? Tell us in the comments!
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Featured image by Free-Photos from Pixabay.