Solo travel is one of those things that so many people believe they are incapable of. When I tell people that I have traveled solo and will continue to do so, it’s usually met with awe or horror. Some people like the idea of it, but the thought of doing it is so far beyond what they think they are capable of.
We buy into the belief that we should be with others when we travel, and this is especially so in certain cultures. I find many more Australians and Europeans traveling solo than I do Americans or people from other areas.
There are so many myths that we buy into about solo travel and they just aren’t true! We can get so many benefits from solo travel and I highly recommend it to anyone, at least once. You will learn so much more about yourself and what you are capable of and you might even enjoy it!
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You Enjoy Being on Your Own
If the thought of being on your own for a period of time makes you want to cringe, then solo travel may not be right for you. But if that’s something that you enjoy, even for a short while, it’s worth giving it a try. It can be a lot of fun to go to new places on your own. There’s something quite liberating about it.
And here’s the thing, most people think that when you travel solo you are alone the entire time. While that can be the case, it really doesn’t have to be. You can be alone as much or as little as you want when you travel solo. Join a free walking tour, attend a local meetup group, take a yoga class—the opportunities are endless. You don’t have to be alone or lonely when you travel solo. You really just need to enjoy some “me” time occasionally.
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I wasn’t so sure about traveling solo when I first started doing it and if I’m honest, I wasn’t very comfortable on my own at that time. But once I started traveling alone, I loved the freedom of it. I loved being able to do exactly what I wanted when I wanted to and to have the choice to hang around with other people, not be required to do so all the time.
It was my traveling alone that made me more comfortable in my own skin and really, comfortable with being alone. So, you don’t have to be head over heels about the idea of traveling solo but just open to it. Then you’ll learn what your tolerance for being on your own is and you can adapt.
What Solo Travel Can Look Like
This picture was from my trip to Lisbon. I went solo and had an amazing time. I did want to go to hear Fado, which is usually played late at night at bars and some restaurants. Usually, I try to limit my late-night wandering when I am traveling alone for safety, but this was something I really wanted to do.
Well, I met a great gal at this tiny restaurant. The place was so small that they sat people together to fill tables as there were only a few in the restaurant. We hit it off and ended up going out for Fado together so each of us didn’t have to do it alone.
You Are Self-Reliant
Traveling solo requires self-reliance. Because you don’t have anyone else traveling with you to lean on when you need help. And, that can be just a willingness to ask other people for help. If you’re like me, the thought of asking others for help isn’t a fun prospect. I’m not sure why I’m so funny about it, but perhaps I feel that if I ask for help I’m not independent? I’m not sure. But regardless, there’s no shame in it and you *may* just find people appreciate your asking. I know I have, and it has encouraged me to get over my little hang-up.
You need to learn to think quickly on your feet when you travel alone. Without someone else, it’s YOU doing all of the navigating and if there is a snafu, it’s YOU that needs to figure out a solution. Don’t worry if you’re not a pro at solving problems. Who really is before you have experience doing it? Just be open-minded and if you run into an issue and things go wrong, give it some thought as to what you can or should do. It really helps you build your problem-solving muscle and you become so much better at it with time and experience.
Problem-solving is a life skill that’s great to have, and it’s not only useful when you’re traveling but in your day-to-day life as well. Because I have traveled to other countries and have been able to figure things out in a number of situations from getting lost (a lot!), canceled flights, drivers who didn’t show up, and lots of other situations, I have a lot more confidence in my ability to handle whatever may come my way. Is it always easy? No. But, I know I can do it.
You Like Meeting New People
You might think solo travel is all about being alone, but that hasn’t been my experience. When you’re traveling on your own you are so much more approachable! I find more people come up to me when I travel solo than when I’m with someone else. Just think about it — are you more likely to walk up to someone if they are deeply engaged in conversation with someone, or if they are standing on their own?
I do enjoy my own company but also find it to be a lot of fun meeting new people. It’s a great way to get a better knowledge of the area when you meet locals. Sometimes even asking for help or for directions can open up a nice conversation and even a friendship.
You can certainly avoid people altogether and that’s ok, but try being open to meeting some new people and see where it leads you. It can be a lot of fun and it can make for a much more fun travel experience when you’re open to it.
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When I went to Colombia, I stayed a few days in Salento and did an epic hike in Cocora Valley. I didn’t want to hike alone, but I didn’t have to worry about it! I met someone on the bus ride to Salento and we decided to hike together. At the trailhead, we met two more women who didn’t want to hike on their own, and voila, fast friends! Though the two did go their separate ways, I did hang out with the woman I met on the bus for some of my time in Salento, which was great.
You Know How to Say No
Keeping this in mind, people will approach you more when you’re on your own. Sometimes it’s a great thing. I have some friends to this day that I met when I was traveling solo and one of us approached the other. It’s a wonderful way to meet someone.
But, sometimes you’ll get unwanted attention or someone won’t get the hint when you politely try to let them know you’re not interested. Being alone isn’t an open invitation and you need to be able to say no to unwanted attention.
I had this happen when I went to Paris for my first solo trip. I had a great time, and in Montmartre, my favorite part of the city, I met a guy named Paul. He introduced himself and decided to join me while I explored the area.
He was friendly enough so I was ok with it, but when I decided to leave that area, he was insistent on joining me. I finally told him no firmly and was able to get the point across. Finally. It was a bit annoying though and unnerving for a little bit.
When you travel solo, you too may find this type of behavior. I’m not sure what his intentions were or how far he might have pushed things, but if you’re not comfortable or not enjoying yourself, say no. Be polite but be firm. This is YOUR vacation and you should enjoy it in the way you want to. You are not obligated to accommodate anyone else.
You Don’t Shy Away from New Things
Traveling solo is not for the faint of heart. It can be downright scary, especially in the beginning. And even when you’ve been doing it for a while, it still can be. You can end up in a situation where you don’t feel comfortable and don’t have a friend with you to bail you out, like the situation I mentioned in Paris.
Or, if you are like me and have NO sense of direction, you could get massively lost in a rough part of town. Or, just end up in a rough part of town not intending to go there. When I visited Medellin, I almost got hit by a car in a crosswalk. Minutes later, a moped drove up on the sidewalk and almost plowed me down. It was really unnerving.
My tour guide the day before had warned us that “crosswalks are considered a recommendation” there and to be careful, but this car almost nailed me as I was steps away from the curb (having already crossed the street). I could have let that deter me from traveling solo again but I didn’t, and you shouldn’t either.
I find that I am a bit more willing to try different things when I travel solo. In Costa Rica, I went horseback riding to a waterfall in Costa Rica when I had only ridden a horse a couple of times. In Krabi Town, Thailand, I went snorkeling on a small boat tour, and in Merzouga, I rode a dromedary.
I’m not the most daring of people (my one time on a zip line was plenty for me!) but I do also enjoy doing new things in new places. It’s part of the excitement of traveling. Give it a try! You might learn something wonderful about yourself.
You’re Not Afraid to be a Little Scared
I’ll admit it — I’m a little nervous whenever I set out on solo adventures and there are times during my travels that I am scared. No, scared isn’t a comfortable feeling, but the more you do it, the more you get used to it. Honestly! In fact, I think people’s beliefs that only brave people travel solo is a myth.
And traveling solo is something I highly recommend to anyone. So many times people tell me they couldn’t do it and the truth is, you can travel solo and enjoy it if you want to. I wasn’t sure I could the first time I went either but I booked a spontaneous trip before I really thought it through and had the time to talk myself out of it. I made it, and I really enjoyed myself, and so will you.
Start small, and do a weekend trip close to where you live. I think traveling, and traveling solo is a skill you can develop. Just like any other skill, as you practice it you get better at it and become more comfortable. But, it’s ok to be scared. As you gain experience, you learn the difference between being scared because something is new or uncomfortable and being scared because it’s a dangerous situation.
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If you’re really unsure if you can handle it, try taking an “afternoon off” when you’re traveling with a friend or a significant other. Decide to do your own thing for a day, or even a few hours, and meet back up for dinner. Just that little bit will give you a taste of what it’s like.
You’re Eager to Try a New You
If you’re looking to stretch yourself a bit to see the type of person you can be, there’s no better way to test yourself and grow as a person than when you’re traveling solo. You might be shy, but decide how being more outgoing fits you. If you are reserved, be bold. and if you’re a planner, try being spontaneous. There’s no better place to test new versions of you or to bridge a gap between the current you and the you that you know and want to be than when you travel solo.
No one knows you so you are whomever you show yourself to be. Take advantage and try it out. What’s the worst that will happen? You may decide this new you just don’t fit and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or, you may really like what you learn and that’s great too! It’s a social experiment of sorts.
Now that you know more about solo travel, I hope you’ll consider trying it. It’s such an amazing way to see someplace new, or even a place you have been before with new eyes. If you decide to try solo travel, there are lots of great places to go. Do it once, and you won’t ever look back.
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