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The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel | Is Travelling Alone Right For You?
There are many pros and cons of solo travel, especially when compared to travelling with someone else.
When travelling with others, compromise and disagreement are a common downside:
“What shall we do today?”
“How about hiking?”
“Naaa we did that yesterday. Let’s check out that museum?”
“Mmmm, any other ideas…?”
Trying to work out what you want to do, or even eat, in a given day can be hard when travelling with someone else. However, both forms of travel have their advantages and disadvantages.
In this article, I’m going to highlight the pros and cons of solo travel so you can decide whether solo travel is right for you.
The 10 Biggest Pros & Cons of Solo Travel
1) You’re on your own… Literally.
Although some feel that travelling alone is daunting, it can actually be really empowering, rewarding, therapeutic and relaxing.
For example, you:
- Don’t need to worry about anyone else’s plans or compromise things you really want to do, because your friend doesn’t want to do them
- Can focus entirely on yourself, your values and do what makes you happy.
- Are free to do what you want, whenever you want.
- Have a ton more flexibility
- Can move to your own schedule and beat to your own drum.
If you want to take a whole day to sleep, eat dinner out twice a week or just cook breakfast at home, you’re free to do it.
If you want to use the day to hike all around the city, be ultra-active, leave a destination early, change accommodation or meet new people, the decision is yours.
It is one of the most empowering things that you ever do in your life.
Although you’d think this is obvious, many first-time travellers don’t fully grasp the idea that being a “solo traveller” means literally travelling ALONE…
For the most part anyway.
- You are responsible for your safety and protection.
- If something goes wrong, it’s on you and YOU must find the solution
- You can’t rely on others to make decisions for you or bail you out
- You must “adult”, step up and take responsibility for EVERYTHING
- You will need to plan, budget, book, pay, cook and navigate all by yourself
- You don’t have the physical company or comfort of friends and family when lonely
- At times it will just be you and your backpack and you need to entertain yourself
2) Travelling Solo is HARD
Phwoah, do I wish someone told me how stressful travelling solo would be before I took off on my solo adventure.
Sure, you get thousands of incredible photos and have breathtaking experiences, but travelling alone can be HARD, guys.
Not only emotionally, but physically.
The good thing is that the difficulties associated with solo travel prompt you to:
- grow and develop as a person
- gain greater resilience
- learn to trust yourself and your instincts
- put yourself out there
- make new friends
- make your own decisions and
- take charge of your life
You also stop relying on others to do things for you, because when you’re travelling solo.
Dependency is simply not an option.
Unlike when you travel with a friend, you don’t have anyone to depend on or to share the load with, whether it’s:
- Frantically running through the airport because you’re about to miss your flight
- Anxiously walking back to your hostel at night with fears that you could get robbed
- Getting lost and having absolutely no clue where you are
- Trying to communicate with locals when you can’t speak their language
- Driving on the other side of the road for the first time
Solo travel has its ups and downs.
Just make sure you’re prepared for both before you go.
3) You’ll be pushed outside of your comfort zone
The more you get pushed outside of your comfort zone, the stronger you get and the more empowered you feel.
You gain a whole new sense of confidence, resilience and start to make some amazing friends.
Some of whom could even turn into lifelong friendships.
When you’re travelling on your own, other travellers tend to find you more approachable to start up conversation with.
As your journey unfolds, stepping outside of your comfort zone becomes less scary.
You will also develop a new sense of wisdom that cannot be taught.
When you first land in a new city or country, it can sure as hell be intimidating.
If you’re a natural introvert, you’ll probably feel a ton of fear and anxiety around what will happen when you take the leap or put yourself out there to meet new people.
This is natural & you definitely get used to it.
4) You have to organise everything on your own
Which type of traveller are you?
- Someone who invests time in research and plans everything down to the finest detail – aka ME! OR
- Someone who prefers “winging it” and being spontaneous, leaving things to the last minute.
Regardless of which one you are, I still think it’s important to plan and book some parts of your trip.
Especially if it’s your first time travelling on your own.
To make things that little bit easier and more convenient, ensure to check out our top travel apps for solo travellers.
They can help to reduce overwhelm throughout your trip.
Despite the added work, planning your trip alone can be a blessing.
You have complete control over your itinerary and don’t need to negotiate, compromise or share your time with anyone else.
It’s your trip. Do as you like!
You can also choose exactly how you want to apportion your budget and time.
This can be extremely empowering and exciting.
Solo travel is not all sunshine and rainbows.
There’s a lot of time and work that goes into being a solo traveller.
Sometimes, you may even need to forfeit half a day to have time for travel admin and planning the next steps of your trip. There’s also a possibility that you’ll make mistakes, wrong decisions and have bad experiences.
This is why it is important to set the right expectations going into it.
Understand that you may need to allow down time during your trip for admin.
5) You’ll have to pay for all your expenses
Although you will, in most cases, have to pay for everything yourself, I believe there are ways you SAVE A TON of money by travelling solo.
This does, of course, depend on how you like to travel.
From personal experience, I found it much easier to stick to my budget when travelling solo. I never felt pressured to eat out every night or stay in lavish hotels.
Instead, I could save money by doing simple grocery shops and organising “home-cooked” meals.
I could even stay in cheap accommodation if I felt like it without feeling judged, disapproval or impacting someone else. I even couch surfed in some cities for FREE.
It’s a cool option if you have the balls to try it.
Although you can opt to travel more cheaply in certain circumstances, it is true that there’s a solo travel TAX!
It’s common knowledge that many tour providers, cruise ships and accommodation require solo travellers to pay a premium for their services/ rooms.
This can be a pain because you have to pay extra for things that you wouldn’t have to when travelling with a friend or partner.
The other advantage of travelling with a partner is that you can share the expenses and go “halfies”.
6) You can get lonely & homesick
Another pro and con of solo travel is that you can get lonely and homesick.
Feeling lonely on your travels is a relatively common thing, especially in the first week or so because you’re not used to it.
But once the initial fear and self-consciousness has passed, you realise how empowering and social solo travel can be.
Meeting others all over the world who are in a similar position to you can be very uplifting and encouraging.
In some cases, you can even develop lifelong friendships, as I have.
It also gives you the opportunity to get away from toxic or judgemental people back home. Since you’re travelling, you now have an excuse not to be around those people.
In my opinion, this was one of most liberating gifts I gained from solo travel.
Learning to be independent and enjoy your own company, whilst developing a deeper appreciation for those you love and care about is another advantage.
Although you’ll have a lot of fun, adventure and life-changing experiences travelling on your own, you’ll also have a lot of downtime.
There are days when backpacking around gets exhausting and at times, draining. Especially when carrying a MONSTER of a backpack…like I was.
You will also have moments where you crave the simple things like:
- Speaking to or sharing experiences with someone you know (rather than surface conversations with strangers in your hostel).
- Not having to pay accommodation EVERY NIGHT
- Staying in one place for over a week
- Not living out of a backpack
- Sleeping in your familiar and comfy bed or
- Even just having a relaxing warm bubble bath
At some point in your trip, it’s inevitable that you’ll feel homesick or lonely.
But, it’s a common experience for almost all travellers.
I promise you, it is only temporary and will pass.
7) You must ALWAYS put Safety First.
Although safety can be of greater concern for solo travellers, you’re probably just as likely to die from getting hit by a car or being stabbed in your home country.
If you take the right precautions, it’s unlikely that you’ll have anything REALLY BAD happen to you during your travels.
Obviously, this does depend on where you decide to travel and the decisions you make during your trip.
From my experience, I feel that being a solo traveller actually makes you more cautious.
You naturally find yourself avoiding situations that could put you in a vulnerable position including:
- Walking alone at night
- Visiting unsafe neighbourhoods or
- Getting outrageously drunk
You also make more responsible decisions.
Some people develop a naïve confidence when travelling with a friend.
Then with the addition of “liquid courage” (alcohol), it becomes too easy to make stupid decisions or take unneeded risks due to the perceived safety blanket of being around friends.
Either way you go, always take your safety seriously.
Put it first no matter what.
If something feels off, then it probably is. Trust your gut!
Obviously, travelling solo does put you at greater risk when it comes to safety. However, this shouldn’t stop you from making the jump.
Although there are some ways you’ll be more vulnerable as a solo traveller, there are many things you can do to stay safe.
8) It can be hard to share your experiences & adventures
Yes, there are times when you can’t share your travel experiences with your friends or family.
But, there are many ways to keep in touch with friends and family and share your latest stories and adventures.
Especially with social media in arms reach.
In my opinion, a pro of not having those you know with you when you travel is that you can fully immerse yourself in the experience.
When you’re alone, all you can really do is take in everything around you.
You notice the small details and get the true feel of a place.
- No distractions.
- No judgement.
- No need to make conversation.
- You can just enjoy your trip as you want to.
When travelling with someone else, you often feel obliged to create conversation or hold discussion. This prevents you from taking things in the same way.
Let’s be honest, there will be something that happens when travelling solo that you don’t want your friends or family to know about.
Not having your loved-ones or friends close to you when travelling the world can, at times, make things seem underwhelming or disheartening.
It’s a very weird feeling when you achieve something BIG (eg. hiking to the top of a mountain) or see something beautiful, but have no one next to you to share it with.
At times, you have the most awakening experiences of your life, but have no one to turn to or tell about it.
Instead, there you are….standing alone at the top of the precipice in awe.
You spend a few seconds breathing in the view, take a few silent selfies, pat yourself on the back and then you leave.
It can be a bit of an anti-climax.
9) Eating out alone can be awkward
Yep, eating out alone is one of the greatest fears that people have when travelling solo.
“How the heck do I eat alone. I’ll look like such a loner…”
Trust me, you’ll only look like a loner, if you make yourself look like a loner… or bring a lot of attention to yourself.
By the end of my trip, I really enjoyed eating alone.
I deliberately made it an indulgent and rewarding experience. However, if you believe that you’re going to be awkward as HELL, simply distract yourself and use the time productively.
Use it as a time to GET SHIT DONE.
When eating alone you avoid meaningless “small talk” and don’t feel pressured to make conversation with anyone.
Sometimes it’s freaking great!
It is also the perfect time to reflect on everything you’ve enjoyed so far in your trip, and to even start planning your next steps.
Eating alone doesn’t have to be intimidating or awkward. Like anything, it becomes what you make it.
Yep, sometimes eating alone can feel a bit awkward, and for some, humiliating. Especially when you’re presented with the cringeworthy phrase:
“Table for one?”
Sometimes all you can think is “I swear I’m not a loser.”
Occasionally you get that one person who looks at you funny. But, for the most part, people treat you exactly the same – with open arms and a smile.
If you act like you have no issues with eating alone and look like you’re “on a mission”, others won’t care either.
10) You don’t have someone to mind your gear or take photos
Not having someone to mind your gear or take your photos, although often inconvenient, can have its positives.
Firstly, you never get complacent about leaving your stuff around.
In many cases, you have little choice but to take it with you.
You’re also forced to get creative and think outside the box when it comes to taking interesting photos that aren’t just of your double chin.
Boy oh boy….
In my opinion, not having someone to take cool photos of you or mind your gear is one of the biggest inconveniences when travelling solo. EVER!
Taking selfies gets old REAL quick, as does continuous photos of landscapes and buildings without you in them.
Sometimes just having the ability to leave your bag on the beach with a friend as you go in for a quick dip is a luxury.
The reality most solo travellers experience at the beach includes:
- Sitting on the sand for a good 30 mins wondering if swimming is even worth the hassle
- Looking around for people who look kinda dodgy
- You decide to make a run for it and enter the waves feeling ultra reckless
- As you wade into the water, you can’t help but watch your bag like a hawk (currently, it remains hidden under your beach towel)
- You continue to feel paranoid as f***k everytime someone comes close to your bag
- You see some get close to your belongings so you high-tail out of the water like a ninja, reclaiming your spot on the beach
- As they pass, you unhide your belongings with a sigh of relief
To the normal folk out there, this may sound paranoid. But that’s legit how my beach experiences went.
Especially in countries where petty theft and pickpocketing were issues.
You do get used to it, but sometimes it’s good to make friends so that you can simply swim at the beach and avoid the paranoia.
My biggest recommendations & photo tips:
- ONLY give your camera or phone to someone you can trust or who looks like they’re in a similar boat to you.
- Try your best to avoid giving your camera or phone to locals you don’t know.
- Look for a traveller who is either:
- travelling solo like you and struggling to take a photo of themselves, or
- is a travelling couple who’d probably like a shot together.
- I go for the standard “Would you like me to take a photo of you?”
- Then when they say yes, I ask them if they’d mind taking a photo of me in return. I also explain what I’d like in the photo so you don’t end up with a dud.
This strategy works a treat every time AND I’ve never had my phone or camera stolen.
My biggest tip to anyone wanting to travel on their own is to consider both the pros and cons of solo travel before you leave.
But, never let the fear and uncertainty of solo travel stop you from taking the leap.
For me, I will never regret taking a year off my career to travel the world. It changed and transformed my life for the better.
The PROS and CONS of Solo Travel | Is it right for you?
- You are free to do what you want, whenever you want
- You will grow, build resilience and learn to trust yourself
- You get stronger and more comfortable stepping outside of your comfort zone
- You have complete control over your itinerary & budget
- You have greater flexibility with how you travel
- You can meet new people, build independence and learn to be comfortable in your own company
- You tend to make wiser decisions and be more cautious about putting yourself in a vulnerable position
- Can fully immerse yourself in the experience without judgement or distraction
- Eating alone can provide a great time to reflect and plan the rest of your trip
- 10) You learn to look after your gear and think outside the box when taking photos
- You’re on your own…literally
- Travelling solo can be hard & stressful
- You’ll be pushed outside of your comfort zone and tested
- You have to organise your entire trip on your own
- You’ll have to pay for all your expenses yourself
- It’s normal to occasionally get lonely & homesick
- You must always put safety first
- It can be hard to share your experiences & adventures
- Eating out alone can be awkward
- You don’t have someone to mind your gear or take photos