Nowadays it seems solo travel is being pushed harder than waist trainers and detox teas. There are entire blogs and vlogs dedicated to the “feat” of solo travel. Mention that you want to travel someplace but don’t have friends down to go with you and you’ll have 100+ people encouraging you to go solo faster than Usain Bolt running a 100m dash. The solution to somebody venting about having nobody to travel with is not always for them to go alone.
I am here today to tell you solo travel is NOT for everyone. Repeat that to yourself like a daily mantra. While the experience can be empowering, exhilarating, and whatever other colorful adjective you can think of, it is not always ideal. I have traveled both alone and with others and have to say both have their pros and cons.
If I had a dollar for every person who claimed to love solo travel but stayed on SnapChat, GroupMe, or other social media their entire trip without leaving their room I’d be richer than Oprah.
The purpose of this post is not to discourage you from solo travelling, if that is your wish. But for goodness sake do not feel like you’re not a true traveler if is not your desire to go someplace alone.
I love traveling alone. As an amateur photographer it is great to not feel restricted by other’s time constraints or interests. I am able to see what I want, when I want, how I want. Solo travel can feel divine if you are looking for time to sit back and hear yourself think.
- Ability to set and follow your own schedule
- Challenges you to step outside of your comfort zone
- Encourages you to be more social and engage more with locals
- Freedom to do activities you might be judged for by your peers
- Increased confidence to do things on your own upon return home
- Some tours require a minimum of two people for booking
- Comfort level or safety concerns may impact your desire to explore
- Cost of lodging can be more expensive than travelling with someone
- Having to ask strangers to take a picture of you or relying on a tripod for selfies
- Finding affordable lodging may mean compromising the quality of accommodations
One of the biggest pros I hear from people when encouraging others to travel alone is that you have the freedom to follow your own schedule. They recount horror stories of trips that were ruined by wayward travel companions *eye roll*. While this may very well be true, maybe your friends just suck?
Group travel has taught this youngest child how to be selfless, considerate, and introduced me to activities I might not have otherwise considered.
- Splitting costs can make trips more affordable
- Someone there to share moments with you as they happen
- Ability to strengthen the relationship with your companion
- Diversity of skills (i.e. your companion may know a language you don’t while you may be an awesome photographer and they’re not)
- Can condense things packed by splitting up items needed among companions
- Dealing with other personalities during your trip
- May not have companions who are willing to travel
- Companions may be interested in different activities
- May be hard to make decisions with another person
- Have to align your budget with that of your companion
Alternatives to Solo Travel
If you’re not 100% sold on solo travel, but are not in love with the idea of group travel, fear not. Here are some options.
- Lookup programs abroad that allow you to sharpen your skills
- Surf camps
- Dance lessons
- Studying abroad
- Language learning classes
- Research tours that do not charge a single supplement
- Inquire about programs that let you volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about
- Global Volunteers
- Fulbright Specialist Program
- Professional short-term volunteer opportunities
Pros and cons aside there are limitations to solo travel. Not everyone is capable of travelling alone. Heck, not everyone is able to travel period. There are limitations that exist, whether physical, mental, or financial.
There’s nothing wrong with encouraging somebody to step out of their comfort zone. However, be mindful that a gentle nudge is much more polite than an insistent push. Be willing to respect people’s choices and feelings.
If you’re hesitant about taking your first solo trip, ensure you’re doing it for yourself. Don’t feel forced or shamed into doing something you don’t want to do. However, if you do end up taking a trip by yourself, I hope it is amazing.