There are many myths about solo vacations that keep people from going on them. We have a tendency to fear what we don’t know, right? Though I’ll be honest that it can be scary the first time you set off on your own, it needn’t be! Here is my perspective from 15+ years of solo travel on the most common travel myths and why you should go anyways.
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People Won’t Approach You
It may sound counterintuitive, but you are so much more approachable when you are on your own. It can be intimidating to start a conversation with someone and it’s even more intimidating to walk up to someone when they are with another person. Even more so when those people are leaning in, heads tilted down while deep in conversation. But when you’re alone, it’s a little easier to go up to you to start a conversation.
People will also admire you for having the confidence to go out on your own. Who doesn’t want to talk with someone they admire?
So, when you are out and about, especially at a place where tourists might go, take a look around you. If you see a person on their own, take a chance and say hello. Maybe the person truly wants to be left alone and that’s ok. If not, you could really make someone’s day by approaching and opening the conversation.
It’s Unsafe to Travel on Your Own
I remember going on my first solo trip. I was in my mid-30s, and though I was excited to go to Paris, I was a bit nervous about going on my own. Perhaps it was because my mother wouldn’t speak to me for deciding to go without a friend. Or perhaps it was because of my friends who all either asked if I was crazy or had that unbearably-long pause before barely convincingly saying, “that’s great!” Then asking if I was sure about it.
I’m happy to say I wasn’t kidnapped or mugged, and I had the time of my life.
Most people believe that we are more vulnerable when we are on our own and that may sometimes be true. However, when I travel solo, I’m a lot more careful about where and when I go places. There are ways to help keep you safe when you travel domestically or abroad.
Research in Advance
When I travel on solo vacations, I not only research in advance to learn what areas I want to avoid but also what to look out for where I am. For example, in Barcelona, there is a lot of pick-pocketing. So, I make sure that I don’t leave my bag open and I hold it tightly. I’ll write a post about safety tips while traveling solo in a bit, though the tips are good for traveling regardless, even with you’re with other people.
Be Aware of your Surroundings
It’s important on solo vacations to be aware of your surroundings and diligent about safety. I find that I do pay more attention to what’s going around me on solo vacations as I’m not chatting with a friend. Instead, I’m actively looking around me and scanning the area. I don’t even think about it anymore and do in unconsciously. It’s almost like when you are driving and you’re constantly scanning everything around you, but you don’t really even think about it as you’re so accustomed to doing it.
It Will be Incredibly Lonely
You may be alone, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be lonely—at least not all the time. Traveling solo gives you the opportunity to get out of your safe zone and out of your shell. It’s ok to be alone and it’s also ok to feel a little lonely. Solo vacations give you the opportunity to test some new skills and to reach out to other people when you want some companionship.
It also gives you the opportunity to test yourself in different situations. Feeling lonely? What are you going to do about it? Get out there and strike up a conversation. Go out to places with other people and make an effort to socialize. You’ll be happy you did once you’re talking with people.
Sure, you may have moments of loneliness. But, that’s when you have the opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and meet other people. That’s right! You can do it and if a little loneliness gets you out there meeting some amazing new people, then it’s a great thing. You can have companionship if you want it and it doesn’t take a lot of effort.
There are other ways to get companionship for part of your solo vacation without giving up the solo part.
Join a Day Trip
Take a day tour where you are visiting to meet other people and to have a feeling of connectedness. I have really enjoyed some of the free walking tours in cities that I have visited. It’s nice to connect with people around a shared interest in learning more about the place you’re visiting. Very often, I have continued to hang out with the people I met during the walks.
In Porto, a wonderful gal from Karzykstan invited me to dinner after a walking tour. Yes! I will be honest that I wasn’t entirely sure where her country was (I knew it was part of the old Soviet Union, but that was the extent of my knowledge). Over dinner, she shared about her life in Karzykstan and her family, as well as her moving to Paris to pursue a new job. We have kept in touch and I hope to visit her sometime soon. Dinner was such a great experience and I was so glad she asked me.
Meet Other Travelers
There are other ways to meet other travelers, including, at your hotel or hostel. Go to breakfast and you’ll see other solo travelers who may appreciate some connection. When you’re out to lunch, strike up a conversation. I met two great people from the United States while I was in Cartagena in a small restaurant during lunch. They invited me to dine with them and gave me some great tips, as they had been in the city for several days. Without meeting them, I never would have known about Ricardo, who introduced me to monkeys in Parque Centenario. It was one of the highlights of my time in Cartagena.
Meetup.com is a great option for you to meet other people doing things where you have similar interests. You just enter the location you are in and search for meetups that are interesting to you. Based on that shared interest, you have something to talk about with other people.
It’s More Expensive
There is a belief that solo vacations cost more, and in some ways that is correct. If you stay in a hotel or Airbnb, you have to pay the entire cost of the accommodation. Of course, if you stay in a shared room at a hostel, your cost is the same if you travel with someone or travel solo.
What you do get with traveling on your own is total control over your budget. You choose what you want to do and manage costs yourself. Decisions don’t require negotiation with someone else who may want to spend more than you do. You are not spending money on things you don’t want to spend on, and that impacts your total travel budget.
There are ways to reduce your travel cost which are sometimes easier when you’re traveling solo. Travel hacking includes things like using credit card points to secure free or reduced airfare or hotels. It’s much easier to use miles for free airfare when you’re not coordinating a flight with someone else. When I am searching for flights on a trip where I’m traveling with someone, I’m looking for the best cost and flight times for both of us, and that may not be the same carrier where I have miles. Some carriers also don’t allow you to use miles for every flight, or they have a limited number of seats that are eligible.
It’s a Waste of Time
“Why would you want to travel on your own? Isn’t it a total waste of time?” I was asked that years ago and at the time, I didn’t know how to respond.
Why would traveling on my own be a waste of time? Is it not a real trip, and not validated, unless I go with someone else? I can’t think of a better way to use my time than traveling, whether it be solo or with someone else. Solo vacations help you to build skills and confidence, and you get to really know yourself when you have no one else to lean on.
People are Bad
There is so much negativity in the world—just turn on the news and you’ll be bombarded with it: images of violence, drug issues, and other negative aspects of our society. It’s easy to look at the world through this lens and think that most people are bad. When you travel and see more of the world, you realize that there is a lot of good as well.
When I went to Peru, my friend bought a walking stick that was the equivalent of a month’s wages or more for the local people. We got to talking and she left it behind. Someone actually ran us down to give it back to her. He could have sold it and made a lot of money to him but instead, he did the right thing and returned it. Pretty amazing.
In Colombia, I was in a sardine can of a stuffed subway car feeling a bit overwhelmed. A girl standing immediately in front of me caught my eye and smiled. Just that small thing, a connection, made me smile back and made the crowded car seem a little less claustrophobic. I was so appreciative of her kindness, especially when we happened to be getting off on the same stop and she helped me escape the subway car.
Generally speaking, if you are nice to other people, they will be nice to you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be alert and cautious, but give people a chance and you may not be disappointed.
People Prefer to Travel with Others
It can be hard to travel with other people. Even the best of friends can have some friction during a trip, and if you haven’t traveled together before, you may not know what to work out in advance and how to handle those frustrations while you’re traveling.
It can be a lot of fun to go on solo vacations and while I do enjoy traveling with other people, I enjoy both. Not everyone does prefer to travel with other people and some will choose to travel solo.
Though there are a lot of stresses that can come up while traveling, I don’t think there is more stress during solo vacations. The only difference, in my opinion, is that you are the only one to handle them.
However, that can go both ways. I have found sometimes that when I travel with other people, I get more stressed because I want to be sure they have a good time. I’m more concerned about the trip and how things happen than sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying what is.
And as I mentioned, travel partners can cause stress if you have different travel styles, body clocks, or ideas about what you want to do.
You Have to be Brave
I’ll admit it—the first time I traveled solo, I was pretty terrified. I landed in Paris in the late afternoon, just in time to wash up and head up for dinner. The sun was setting and I was wandering looking for a restaurant to dine at alone. Everyone seemed to be paired up and I was walking around alone. At night.
I decided to stay close to my hotel for dinner and got a recommendation for a safe area to walk to. It was a fun trip, though I very much felt like an outsider as I didn’t really understand that I didn’t have to remain alone, and it was my responsibility to make connections if I wanted them. I learned that more in later trips, though I did learn how much more approachable we are when we’re on our own.
Fake it until you make it. If you’re not feeling brave, that’s ok. Act it. Keep on acting brave and eventually, you will feel that way.
Only Singles Can Go on Solo Vacations: It’s Selfish
There is a belief that so many people have that you cannot travel unless it’s with your significant other. If you want to travel without that person, either with friends or on solo travel, there must be problems in your relationship. Or, your relationship isn’t important to you if you want to go without your S.O. and it’s a selfish thing to do.
Though many people who go on solo vacations are single, many of them are not. Either their S.O. doesn’t have the vacation time, has responsibilities such that they cannot go, or, (gasp!) maybe the traveler just wants to go on solo vacations. That is entirely ok! There is truly nothing wrong with someone in a relationship setting out on the road without their partner. It’s not selfish, it’s self-care.
You Won’t Have Anyone to Share Your Experiences With
You may not be traveling with someone, but that just means you need to get out of your bubble and meet people to share your experiences with. Some of my favorite memories from trips are those where I met some amazing people—some that I’m still in touch with today.
In Salento, Colombia, I met a great woman from Belgium on a bus into town. We hit it off, and when I met her later that night, I invited her to a bonfire that my hostel had. There we met three guys from France, Germany, and Belgium who met and were hanging out. We met up with another guy from Lima as well, and had a couple of great dinners together. We even played tejo, a fun game where you throw rocks at a small package of explosives. Yeah, we did that!
People Will Judge You
You must be a total loser to be alone, right? Obviously, you have no friends if you are traveling alone.
The truth is: no one cares. No one really cares if you’re on your own and besides, who is really paying attention? People are busy with their lives and what they have going on and they aren’t really paying attention to you. If you feel like you have a big spotlight of judgment on you, that’s all you. Give some thought to why you feel that way and reframe your perspective.
Anything can be a little unnerving until you try it, and solo vacations are no different. I encourage you to get out there and give it a try, at least once. It’s a truly amazing experience and one you shouldn’t miss. There are so many great reasons to travel solo and to learn what the experience of traveling solo might be like.
You Might Also Like
- How to Know Solo Travel is Right for You
- 19 Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo
- Solo Travel Tips—a Guide for Staying Safe
- How to Prepare for Safe Travels Before You Go
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