Everybody’s talking about packing your things and go, leaving your boring cubicle-life and see the world with your own eyes before you get too old. But, let’s be honest, solo travel is not for everyone and maybe you shouldn’t travel alone…
So, you wanted to travel the world but you can’t even leave the building without texting your friends, talking to your boyfriend and sending an email to your boss so he knows where to find you… Are you really going to survive alone 7,000 miles away from your mother? Are you?
Keep reading, you might find the reasons why I love to travel solo and why you should travel alone too, at least once in your life.
1. Solo travel is expensive
So, you prefer sleeping at a nice hotel, are planning to go on a guided tour, joining a cruise in the Mediterranean or would love to rent your own apartment in central Manhattan for the weekend. Expensive if you are not sharing cost, BUT how much more expensive is it to travel solo?
While many countries use a single rate for rooms (charging the same for 1 or 2 people), many other use a per person rate. To be honest, with the exception of cars (which you could share through BlaBlaCar and others), almost everything else comes in a per person price: food, insurance, flights, museum tickets…
So, while solo doesn’t cut the costs in half, it does not double the price per se. And you can save by booking way in advance staying at shared rooms in hostels, or booking a room for one through Airbnb or Wimdu on a shared apartment, do some couchsurfing…
2. You are alone
We all know someone who can’t stand being alone. When you travel alone, you’ll most likely eat alone, walk alone, ride the bus alone… at least most of the time. So, if you are one of those who need to travel in flocks or herds, solo travel is not for you. Think of this, you need to ask directions on your own, you will get sick alone and you will get bored (yes, it happens sometimes) alone.
On the other side, you can stop where you want, change your itinerary, change your timetable, eat what you want, spend as much as you want… without having to convince anybody else to do it. Plus, you can plan your destination and your dates without having to wait for anyone to join in.
3. You need to take control
When you go solo, you must make decisions. When, where, what, how… everything is set by you and you are the only one to blame if you are late, don’t like the itinerary or the place is a mess. And if everything is awesome, incredible, superb… you are the one to congrats for such an amazing decision. Traveling alone is amazing to improve your decision-making skills. Interesting, huh?
Plus, if you are a control freak, you can be a control freak alone too.
4. You need to talk to people
At one point or another, you will have to talk to people. It doesn’t matter how much technology you use or how alone you want to be, travel will force you to talk to people you never met before.
You’ll have to learn to solve other people’s problems and answer to questions you didn’t expect. Why don’t you have children? why do you travel alone? where is your husband?… they don’t want you to feel ashamed or intimidated, but they’ll expect an answer (preferably a polite one.)
On the other side, you will learn a lot about yourself, what you like and how to be assertive (highly valued skill they say).
5. People might not understand your jokes
So, you and your friends have built a sense of humour and know what you like and talk about more or less the same issues. You have a common background and live in the same area, watch the same shows and speak the same language. When you meet new people on the road, they will not share that same background and you’ll have to work your way around that.
So, if you are not into making new friends, learning about new cultures and trying new things, get stuck in your comfort zone and stick to your group of friends. Or…
6. They don’t speak your language
No matter what they told you in high school, English is not THE common tongue. In all my travels, I have only been able to speak “just” English in Iceland, UK and US. So, if you don’t want to learn a new language, are bad at drawing and can’t understand directions in signed language… don’t go without a guide or a friend who can do all of that.
Or you can try. It won’t hurt you to learn a few words and you never know when you could be using them again.
7. It’s dangerous (for you)
Ok. You might have heard how dangerous and intimidating the world can be, specially for female travelers. Everybody will highlight that when you tell them that you are going solo. There are countries were your dress code will be limited, others where you shouldn’t speak to men, some in which finding women’s items can be really difficult… But men get their share of “warnings” too.
You just need to be extra prepared, conscious of every danger and making every choice with care. But that doesn’t mean there will be a problem right around every corner.
Just remember, you are not the first woman (or man) to travel the world, think of Jeanne Baré or Amelia Earhart for instance, they travelled the world in the 18th and 19th centuries. And you’ll discover that people is kind to strangers in many places around the world.
13 Comments and Questions
This is great, as always! I wish I could travel alone more but my fiancé is always so worried about me being one my own, and we have so much fun together anyways, that my trips alone are pretty sparse. Maybe once we move back to the States I can explore more on my own but for the last five years we have done all of our backpacking together and I don’t see that changing anytime soon! Cheers!
I’ve been traveling alone for most of my life. Not always by choice, but I won’t sit at home waiting for someone to go with. I agree it isn’t for everyone. If you aren’t comfortable eating out alone at home, you will starve on a trip alone. ;-) (Or eat lots of fast food in your hotel room) I enjoy eating out alone and making my interaction with the wait staff my company. I think there is a deeper knowing that I enjoy my own company. I enjoy the excitement of exploring somewhere on my own. There are times when certain activities would be much more fun with someone to share it with, but you learn to accept the good with the bad. I definitely believe in safety above all. If something feels off, I’m outta there. Traveling alone isn’t for everyone and many of my friends would never do it. I know I’ve seen much more of the world than they have and I would never trade those experiences for anything.
I think there are pros and cons to both. As a couple traveling, we probably don’t meet as many people as we would if we were alone, we have to compromise on EVERYTHING and even though we understand each others jokes they can get annoying when your on each other’s nerves. On the other hand, sometimes I’m just not in the mood to talk to new people, we have someone to reminisce with (friends & family get sick of hearing about travel stories) & sometimes we think each other are the funniest people around. All I know is you can’t let your situation, solo or duo, keep you from traveling if that’s what you want to do!
I have only just recently started traveling solo and it wouldn’t have the right thing for me to do when I was younger but now I feel so much more confident in myself I actually really like going solo!
People wouldn’t understand my jokes… but I am up for feeling foolish and making new friends. :)
You could really argue that all of those points are valid even if you’re not traveling alone. For us, just because my husband and I are traveling together doesn’t make it any less hard, or make anyone understand my jokes better or be able to speak my language.
Hi Laura, It’s fun how the post has gotten controversial in twitter and facebook too. You are right that traveling in couples doesn’t make traveling easier or better and that’s exactly the point. If you have found the perfect travel companion, like you have, that’s a blessig; but even if you don’t, that shouldn’t stop you from traveling.
I guess I should have highlighted the #sarcasm alert :idea:
I agree when you say solo travel is not for everyone, but I still think everyone should try it before thinking it’s not for them. I have a friend who had always thought she’d hate to travel by herself. I have traveled solo a lot and we discussed about it. It’s sad to see so many people who don’t travel because they cannot find someone to travel with. She tried it. Nothing too crazy, just a week to New Zealand (we are in Australia). And she had a fantastic time! It’s great that you showed the pros and cons for each reasons, good idea.
That’s awesome!! Glad to hear she had a great time in New Zealand (and a bit jealous, I really want to visit Australia and New Zealand)
I only travel alone, when all friends are busy or broke. I love to share moments and new experience with someone. And taking turns reading the map is fun too.
That’s so true! And you can’t do that when you are traveling alone. Good point! :)
I really love solo travel and have written about it on my own blog. The best part is that you can do exactly what you want to, for as long as you feel like it, and never worry about disappointing your travel companion!
So true! by the way, I looove your procrastination article :)