Solo travel. We do it for different reasons. Necessity–sometimes our loved ones aren’t available to travel with us and we don’t want to miss out on chasing our next passport stamp. A love of freedom–often we want full control of our itineraries (or lack of them!). Not forgetting the life experience solo travel brings–what journey could better grow and develop you than seeing the world solo? These are the highs, lows, and is it worth it?’s of solo travel.
To many people, traveling alone is a ‘hard’ option peppered with potential dangers and fears of loneliness. Like many solo female travelers, I’ve come up against this opinion many times. I’m the first to roll my eyes, or fire up in defense of solo travel when someone says ‘but aren’t you afraid?’
While I’d love to proclaim that there’s no truth in the fearmongering, I’d be lying if I said I’d never felt lonely or nervous when traveling alone. Bring me a solo traveler who hasn’t–I’d like to meet them! Travel may look perfect on Instagram but we know better by now than to take curated content as gospel, no questions asked.
Like anything in life, there are ups and downs when it comes to solo travel. Personally, I believe the pros always outweigh the cons, although many people would disagree.
Have you solo traveled? If not, do you want to try a solo travel trip? Whatever camp you’re in, if you’re reading this blog you’re surely more than a little curious about the trials and tribulations of traveling alone.
THE GOOD BITS
TOTAL CONTROL OF YOUR ITINERARY
Compromise is often a word that we often use with positivity. You ‘compromise’ for your loved ones, putting aside any selfishness to find a solution that makes you both happy. But, when it comes to travel, not so much. Most travelers have made overwhelming efforts to get there: quitting jobs, saving money, moving back in with family, leaving people behind. The list of possibilities goes on. Why should your travel experience be anything less than exactly what you hope it to be?
Solo travel allows you to do everything you want when you want to do it. Don’t like someplace? Move right along. Love someplace? Get a job, an apartment, stay as long as you want (or can, with visa regulations). I don’t think I could go back to making decisions as a pair or group, giving up places or experiences I want under the construct of a ‘compromise’.
Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to get great photos of yourself traveling if you follow these DIY tips!
BALANCE YOUR FINANCES YOUR OWN WAY
Want to keep your lunch budget at $2 and eat local street food? When you’re traveling solo you don’t have to cater to anyone else’s sensitive stomach or cravings for pizza. Want to treat yourself to a feast? Whether it’s a fancy restaurant or you’re favorite food from back home, there’s no need to let a companion’s budget stop you.
We all have different priorities when it comes to budgeting for a trip. Personally, I save money on accommodation by staying in hostels but I like to splash out when it comes to ‘bucket list’ activities. In contrast, I have friends who would never stay in a dorm but could pass on hiking a volcano if it was above their budget.
Ultimately, there’s no wrong or right when it comes to travel. As long as it’s ethical and doesn’t damage the environment or disrespect local culture, it’s completely up to you. So why let someone else’s priorities and budget shape your once-in-a-lifetime experience?
YOU PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE – AND GROW IN CONFIDENCE!
If you want to become the life and soul of the party, book a solo backpacking trip. Building up friendship groups and then starting afresh every few days can be tiring but it’s inevitably a test of your social skills. As you begin to meet people from all walks of life, it will become easier and easier. Solo travel pushes you and tests you in ways you won’t expect, from dealing with people you don’t like, to perfecting the art of the introduction.
Bottom line, no one’s going traveling as a social butterfly and coming back a wallflower, right?
THE BAD BITS
ORGANIZATION CAN BE TIRING
However organized you are, it can get tiring doing the bookings, making the plans, and mapping out the routes. It’s fine when travel is still a novelty but by month 10 it can get weary. Sometimes it would be nice to take a day off and let someone else do the planning. Even for decisive types, it’s second nature to question your decisions–is arriving at night really the best idea? Are two days enough to see that town properly?
A little reassurance can go a long way when it comes to organizing an itinerary. When you’re riding solo, it’s not always easy to come by. Personally, I love how the internet is changing things. If you’re unsure about a decision, there will almost definitely be someone who has done it and written about it online. Make use of female travel communities on Facebook such as Girls Love Travel and Girls Vs. Globe.
Usually, traveling solo isn’t as anti-social as it sounds. Hostels as a whole are inclusive environments full of other people traveling solo. ‘No’ won’t be the answer to ‘can I join you?’ and although I can’t vouch for everybody, I can assure you I’ve made some friends for life from traveling solo.
It’s inevitable that there will be times when you end up alone. On various occasions, I’ve ended up in an empty dorm. Privacy can be nice but it’s not particularly helpful when you’re keen to make new adventure buddies. In small towns or remote areas, I’ve had to stay in Airbnb or guesthouses which don’t expertly cater for the solo traveler. Long journeys can be boring without conversation, as can meals in restaurants. Like it or not, there are always times you’ll be alone and that can be challenging if you’re not in the right mindset for it. My advice for this is to plan in advance. Whether you’re a bookworm or Netflix binger, don’t get caught out by a dead battery or finished book. Know how long your journey will be and ensure you have enough to do.
NOT BEING ABLE TO SPLIT THE COSTS
Where hostel dorms are concerned, spitting costs is irrelevant. For any other type of accommodation, you’re looking to pay double for a private room compared to a couple or friends sharing. Taxis can be another irritating expense when you’d happily share but no one else is going your way. Even in tourist-friendly destinations like Bali, there are virtually no buses or forms of shared transportation. To get a taxi from Ubud to the airport, for example, takes almost two hours and costs up to $30–a daily budget for many backpackers.
As my dear friend, Abby pointed out when I called for opinions about solo travel on Instagram, who do you split a whole camembert with when you’re traveling solo?
WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?
It leaves us with a conundrum: an enriching, soul-searching journey full of freedom yet peppered with periods alone, alongside other challenges. For me, it’s those challenges which make the journey all the more rewarding. Yes, I felt alone the first time I dined alone, clutching my tattered book and wondering who was watching. Now I don’t give a fuck. I’m the girl who can enjoy her own company as well as someone else’s, and I’m richer and stronger for it.
Solo travel certainly has its ups and downs but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Plus it’s not that calorific to eat a whole camembert, right?
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