Traveling solo isn’t as difficult as one may think. In fact, I think it’s the best way to travel, especially when you’re a teen or twenty-something exploring the world! Once you go solo, you won’t want to travel with anyone else.
There are two main reasons why many people don’t want to travel alone:
- It’s difficult; and/or,
- It gets lonely.
While it is (partially) true, you will easily overcome those challenges. In the process, you’ll even meet new friends and discover your personality better! Here are, in my opinion, the best things about traveling solo!
1. It’s Scary…at First!
I think many people don’t want to travel alone because they think it’s scary and difficult. I’ll be honest: it is not easy to take the first step of traveling solo.
When I first travelled alone to Germany for an exchange program, I was having second thoughts about continuing the trip because I’ve never travelled alone before, let alone outside the country. However, I already placed my money in the program so I couldn’t back out anymore.
With that said, I find it easier to overcome the initial fear by buying the solo plane ticket and figuring out the trip afterwards.
There are two things you need to do when traveling solo:
- Do your research about the destination and trip; and
- Use your common sense!
This includes researching:
- What you’ll do for the trip (sightseeing, food, drinks, bars, museums, etc.)?
- Where you’ll stay?
- How to get around the country/city?
- Which areas of the city/country are dangerous?
- Customs and traditions of the country?
- Cultural norms and taboos?
- What to wear?
- Any deals exclusive only to foreigners?
Research brings a lot of insight to your destination, so do your research and book things as soon as you have all the information! When I travel, I quickly visit the “must-visit” attractions, then venture off to the roads less travelled.
However, you won’t be able to prepare for everything, no matter how much research you do! In these cases, stay calm, assess your situation, be aware of your surroundings, and act appropriately.
This is my rule when I travel solo: don’t do things you won’t do alone at home. Would you go out past midnight? I won’t. Go drinking with a stranger at night? Nope. Go to a stranger’s house or car? Definitely not.
In Berlin, I was snapping street photos when an older man asked if I wanted to have dinner in his apartment with his wife. I obviously said no. I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth, but I didn’t risk it.
Keep in mind that there are places that are safer than home even at night, like Scandinavia, Japan and Singapore. This is where doing your research helps!
2. You Do Things at Your Own Pace
Have you ever been to a family vacation? Or a getaway with friends? Well then, you know that you need to accommodate everyone in your planning. You have to cater to their dining preferences and their physical demands.
I’m an adventurer, and as such,
- Hiking and nature is my jam.
- I prefer to get around by walking, and I don’t mind walking for long distances.
- I’m open to new experiences and I’m not picky.
- I also love trying out new food and drinks.
- I love visiting museums and cultural icons.
- And, I’m not much of a shopper.
In contrast, my close friends & family don’t like physical activity, and they’re quite conservative when it comes to eating—not really open to eating new cuisines. As an adventurer, I feel like they would just hinder my enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong; I love them, but I wouldn’t want to travel with them.
When you travel solo, you don’t need to worry about other people; you only need to worry about yourself. You can do things at your own pace. You can follow your schedule, or don’t…your choice. 😛
Also, remember that you are still on vacation. If you don’t feel like going out one day, you don’t have to, and don’t feel guilty! I had a few of those days, just lounging in my room, eating and watching movies/Youtube.
3. Meet New Friends and Personalities Around the Globe
Leaving the comfort of your friends and family behind, it can be challenging to travel alone, especially in extended periods (like exchange programs, semester abroad, work abroad, etc.). I won’t lie, it can be quite lonely if you don’t make an effort to explore and meet other people.
I consider myself an extroverted introvert, so I don’t really like going to parties or clubbing or casually drinking (except when I’m with close friends). Rather, my scene is the cafe or museum or home. Whenever I travel alone, however, I become this social butterfly who is friendly and eager to start conversations—definitely someone I’m not back home.
Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
I really don’t like meeting new people, but I push myself to be sociable so I don’t feel lonely. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to, but I still crave social interaction sometimes. Moreover, because you’re alone, you’ll most likely be more social and outgoing than at home. It’s really interesting who you become without your friends and family!
To help me step out of my comfort zone, I usually stay in hostels so I’ll be forced to interact with people. It’s awesome who you’ll meet in your hostels! For example:
- In Singapore, I met a student from Germany who did a working holiday in New Zealand.
- In Japan, I met a travelling bartender from the UK, an English teacher from the USA, two brothers travelling from Hong Kong, and a hiker from France.
- I met two university students in Germany travelling for vacation (and we drank some tequila in the room). 😛
- In France, I met an Argentinian man based in the UK.
Because I stepped out of my comfort zone, I now have friends in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, the UK, the USA, Argentina, Thailand, Mexico, Canada, India, Indonesia, France, Lithuania, Germany, and Malaysia!
4. Learn to Love Your Own Company
For much of the day, you are alone. In that time, you’ll really have to learn to enjoy your own company. You’ll discover things about yourself you’ll otherwise won’t learn if not traveling solo.
While some dismiss the idea that “you will find yourself when you travel,” I am a huge proponent of self-discovery during travel. I guess one doesn’t really know who they are unless placed in front of challenge & new territory & danger. When you are away from the comfort of home, everything is new to you, and I was put in places that required me to react. How I reacted told me much about who I am as an individual.
When I travel, I find myself talking to myself all the time. And I even tend to laugh to myself when I embarrass myself or see something funny. Throughout my travels, I also learned so much about myself:
- I’m quite independent, and don’t need people to do things myself.
- I like trying new experiences.
- I’m actually an extroverted introvert.
- After a social gathering, I need a few days just for myself.
- I love food, and trying out new food & drinks.
- Instead of things for myself, I shop for souvenirs and food to bring home.
- I can make mistakes and learn from them.
I enjoy my company so much that I now much prefer to travel alone and do things myself back here. In some cases, I even find myself irritated whenever I hang out with friends (sorry guys).
-1. Con: The Single Supplement
One of the biggest downfalls about traveling solo is the solo surcharge, i.e. “single supplement.” It’s extremely prevalent where a trip is more suited for group travels like with Contiki group travels or a safari or a cruise or an all-inclusive resort, for example.
This can vary from an extra 10% up to $500! It’s really unfortunate, but you can avoid those in some cases.
You can avoid this too by planning your own trip instead rather than following a rigorous schedule by tour companies. Hostels, B&Bs (Airbnb) and hotels don’t charge a single supplement. Some countries are actually great places for individual travel, like Japan & Taiwan.
Take the Challenge and Explore the World…Alone!
So as a call to action, don’t be afraid to travel alone! It is difficult and won’t be a breeze, but it is very rewarding! Explore the world, discover yourself and meet new friends!!