The difference between traveling solo versus with other people is complex, to say the least.
If you talk to a traveling pair about their experiences, it will be in stark contrast to the conversation you’d have with a solo traveler even if they followed the same travel plan and itinerary. (I may be biased, but I’d almost always prefer to hear the stories of a solo traveler.)
The experiences are completely different and it’s important to consider this before making plans to go abroad with or without other people. You have to ask yourself what you want to get out of your travels and go from there.
People constantly ask me what I think is the BEST choice between the two travel styles, given that I have experienced both. There is no one right answer for everyone, though. Both travel experiences have their positives and negatives. At times throughout my solo travels I have been painfully lonely; wishing I had someone to experience it all with. Those times made me question my decision to go alone. Then there have been other times I’ve found myself stupidly grinning up at the sky thanking my lucky stars I decided to go it alone…because, well you know, you can literally do whatever the hell you want.
I’ve enjoyed asking friends and other travelers which experience they prefer and why. Starting a conversation like this always leads to even better conversation (aka. travel stories!) so I am all about it. I have found that each person is a tad different from the next.
Some say without pause they “would definitely ONLY travel solo,” then continue to tell me about the crazy summer they had in Australia or something. Others respond with more questions: “I don’t know how you could actually go to another country…alone! How do you do it? Don’t get lonely?!”
My answer(s): Yes. No. Maybe so. It depends on the day you’re asking me!
My response has changed over time, of course, but I have consistently said that traveling solo- difficult as it may be- is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I wouldn’t change a thing about the experiences I have had.
What I’ve learned as a solo female traveler is this: there are positives and negatives just like anything else in life, and you must weigh them out. So, perhaps, this will help you brainstorm your options while deciding whether or not to travel solo.
Pros of traveling solo:
- Easy eating. You never have to ask someone else what they want to eat. Am I the only one who despises this conversational game of chess? “What do you want to eat?” Pause. “I don’t know what do YOU want to eat?” Rinse, repeat, gag me, repeat again.
- What Schedule? You’re on your own schedule. Period.
- Traveler’s choice. Tours, excursions, etc. are all up to you which means never having to do something you only half want to do in order to appease another person.
- You meet more people because you are more approachable as a solo traveler.
- Self awareness becomes vitally necessary and you grow as a person because of it.
- Confidence becomes you. Whether you’re “faking it till you make it” or just a natural, to travel solo one MUST foster some level or self-confidence and inner strength. Every day that confidence continues to grow the more you tap into it.
- Sharing is caring. “Hey look at that ____! Oh wait…there’s no one here.” Sharing a moment doesn’t exist when you’re alone.
- Awkward photos. How awkward can the solo photo thing be when you have to ask a stranger to quickly snap you in front of some church alone “for your Mom” (aka. for your Instagram). It’s either that or take one of those downwards angle shots featuring a bit of your arm in the frame. Because, no…I don’t have a selfie stick. I just…can’t. I’m sorry.
- Your bubble confines you. The range of your overall experience automatically becomes smaller when you travel alone. I’ve noticed during certain times on the road alone that I get into my own little routine and lose a bit of my adventurous spirit, versus when I am with others they encourage the group to do different things. It’s natural to be pushed outside of your “bubble” more so when you are around others, and it’s healthy!
- Language barriers set you apart from the crowd immediately, which can leave you feeling isolated and silent.
- One mind is less than two. Traveling solo means no one to share the challenges with. Even for those that aren’t the best with organized group activities (ME), two minds problem solving is better than one. Period. Ever tried to navigate a metro station where no one speaks English and you can’t read the signs? Yeah, you’d want someone there with you. Trust me, I did.
- Laughing soothes the traveler’s soul. If for nothing else than to laugh about a bad situation (instead of crying), companionship can go a long way.
Where do you stand on solo travel? What would you add to this list on either side?
Personally, if I were given the chance to do over my first year of world travel, I would still go by myself- and that’s coming from someone in a happy relationship. The personal growth that I gained by traveling alone helped me become a better version of myself (which lends to being a happy relationship now).
The challenges I faced alone on the road helped me get to a healthy, balanced state of well being, and I firmly believe that no matter how many “cons,” EVERYONE should travel solo once in their life.