Many bloggers have talked about the joys and disappointments of solo travel.
While traveling alone can have a lot of advantages, sometimes it can also be very lonely. Constantly having to ask strangers to take photographs of you becomes a regular routine. Having to answer questions about why you are not traveling with your friends also becomes routine, and you will have an immediate response ready.
While there are both advantages and disadvantages to traveling solo, I believe that there are two main advantages to traveling by yourself:
- While traveling alone, you can make your own itinerary and do and see what you want in your own time
- You can meet many new and interesting people (i.e. through programs like Couch Surfing)
Combatting Loneliness as a Solo Traveler
The loneliness aspect of traveling solo is often a deterrent for people thinking of hitting the road on their own.
Not being able to share an experience with someone you care about or constantly having to take pictures of oneself can definitely make a person feel lonely.
Sometimes you don’t want to explain to strangers why you are alone on your travels and sometimes you just want someone to talk to.
A great way to combat loneliness and get to know people is by taking a tour. Personally, I love taking walking tours, as they are a great way to meet other travelers. I have met many solo travelers through walking tours, who were also looking for a temporary travel buddy, and it helps make being on the road alone a little bit easier.
If taking tours to meet people is not your thing, there are also other ways to combat your loneliness, such as joining different events through websites like Couchsurfing, where you can attend events happening in the area with other travelers and locals. If you are staying in a hostel, you could also meet travelers that you are sharing a room with or that are in the common areas.
Getting Lost as a Solo Traveler
“Getting lost will help you find yourself” -Holstee Manifesto
Once in a while traveling in an unfamiliar area, you will get lost; it is inevitable, but there is no need to fear.
As a solo traveler, what do you do when you do not know how to get around in an unknown place? The same thing you would do in any unfamiliar place: either rely on the kindness of strangers to help you figure out where you are going, or use a GPS service, such as Google Maps.
Dining Out as a Solo Traveler
As a solo traveler, you might dine out alone (unless you make friends with someone), and although it can sometimes be a tad uncomfortable, your body still needs nourishment.
When I first started my solo travel adventures, I was always self-conscious about eating by myself. I always felt like people were staring at me, and probably taking pity on me because I had no one to eat with. These days I am a lot more confident in eating alone, but sometimes I do wish that I had someone to share a conversation with. Generally, when I am eating by myself I strike up a conversation with employees or other solo travelers at nearby tables.
Still a little bit nervous about dining alone? Check out this article by Indiana Jo entitled “20 Tips for Eating Out Alone – From A Seasoned Solo Diner”
Taking Photos as a Solo Traveler
When you are on your solo trip, you might want photographs of yourself in your destination. So how do you go about getting photographs of yourself when you do not have a travel companion? Well, you have a few options: ask someone to take a photograph of you, use a tripod, or use a selfie stick.
Over the years I have learned that you have to be selective when asking strangers to take your photograph. There are some people who are just not skilled in taking photographs, even with basic point and shoot cameras. On numerous occasions, I have asked people to take photographs of me only to get my camera back with blurry pictures. These days, I generally tend to look out for people who are carrying a professional camera or who are looking for an amazing shot.
There are times that you might be in a remote location or a location with no one around, and you might want a photograph of yourself at that very moment. At those times, you might opt to use a tripod or a selfie-stick.
Staying Safe as a Solo Traveler
When it comes to safety, I generally follow the same rules all of the time, whether I am at home in New York City or in an unfamiliar country.
- Keep an eye on your purse (or backpack). In New York, I do not necessarily worry about this that often, but when traveling to other countries, particularly countries in Europe where pickpocketing occurs frequently, I always make sure I keep an eye on the zipper of my bag.
- Avoid desolate places after dusk. One way to minimize the risk of being involved in dangerous situations is to avoid places where there are not many people around, particularly after dusk.
- Party like it is your birthday – safely. It is fine to go out and have a couple of drinks, but make sure you stay alert enough to know how to get back to where you are staying during your trip.
- Let people know where you are. Whether it is a friend or a family member, at all times, someone should know where you are (even if it is just a general location). Whenever I travel, I keep my family updated on what hotels/hostels I will be staying at or I give them the address of the location of the apartment rental I will be staying in.
Make sure to check out my article about avoiding travel scams so that you can avoid getting put in a sticky situation.
Solo travel is an exciting adventure that you can make up as you go.
While at times it can be very lonely and frustrating, in the end, it helps you to get to know yourself better. You also learn more about what you like, dislike, and won’t tolerate, and what truly makes you happy.
I do enjoy traveling alone, but you are right, it does get lonely. I also find that I can get very lazy when traveling alone and sometimes miss doing something that I really wanted to do because there was no one pushing me out of bed, or off of that beach chair.
I recently took a trip with family/friends and realized that while having them there was fun – I prefer the sound of my own thoughts!
Thanks for sharing Angela! Yes, sometimes it is good to have someone pushing you to do something, I completely agree 🙂
It takes a certain inner strength to travel alone. The most important and rewarding aspect of traveling alone is, as you mentioned, learning more about yourself. I admire and respect you for being able to do what you do so gracefully.~
Thank you Fancy! I believe that anyone can travel alone and do it successfully, it is just mind over matter!
Pinning this 😉 You know what helped me with the whole eating alone thing… doing it at home first! Taking my lunch break solo, grabbing dinner out when I’m hungry, chipotle runs… solo! haha >.< I'm so used to it now that I can eat by myself anywhere
Hi Francesca! Those are great ways to practice eating solo 🙂 Thanks for pinning!
Great information and tips. As you know I love solo travel. The loneliest part for me was dining out alone but only if I was at a table in a restaurant. I ended up eating at bars if possible or a corner or window table. Your phone is your friend! I use it to read or look busy so people won’t talk to me lol and I won’t see stares or looks. I only go out at night to crowded areas and yes you must know your way home and have your phone charged and not get too “happy”. I use Tripit to fill out my itinerary and mail to family before I leave. And I just got a selfie stick!
Yes Nadeen! I do many of the same things to ignore the stares I get sometimes and yay for selfie sticks! 😀
Great read and spot on. I love a walking tour, too. In fact, any old tour when I’m feeling lonely!
Hey Jo, thanks for stopping by and commenting 🙂 Walking tours certainly are great when traveling solo!
Great tips! I’m solo traveling this summer and while I am really excited, some of the worries you listed reflect how I’m feeling. -Dana
Hi Dana! Thanks for coming by 🙂 I am sure your trip will be amazing and that you will learn a lot from the experience too! I love solo travel now, and generally about 90% of my trips are alone 🙂
Traveling solo kind of appeals to me! It does take some inner confidence I think to actually do it, but I love the idea of the entire itinerary being at my disposal! I would probably get lonely after awhile, but I bet I’d love it at least for a solid week!
Even when traveling solo, you can definitely meet a lot of people, so you don’t have to be alone unless you want to be!
I have’t done much solo traveling, but you make some great points about the differences and obstacles solo travelers have when compared to group travelers. I especially like the tips you have about staying safe! It’s important to be vigilant when traveling in new areas!
Yes! It is important to do what you can to stay safe on the road, especially when going at it alone! 😀
I have never travel alone on a vacation before. I would be so scared and nervous. I am not sure why I can take care of myself. I guess I am just afraid because it is something new. My best friend has a solo trip planned, I am interested to hear how it went for her.
Traveling alone can seem very scary at first. Maybe you could try doing a trip alone in near where you live, a weekend getaway of sorts 😀
I think Europe is a great place for solo travel! Personally, I always get asked why I am alone and I agree that when I travel alone I tend to meet more people than when I am traveling with somebody else 😀
Yes Pam! Getting lost in the dark can certainly be a scary experience!
These are some pretty great tips! I have my solo eating tool kit when I eat by myself. They include my phone a good book and a journal. I think keeping busy makes me feel less lonely.
I definitely use my phone a lot when I am eating alone Winter. It is really nice to have a little ‘solo eating kit’ 😀
I did this once when I was still single. I did enjoy it as I was able to go wherever I wanted to go. Yes, I learned more about myself. It was the eating alone that I didn’t like very much about that trip, but I did okay.
Yes, I love the freedom of solo travel and doing whatever you like!
I havent done much traveling alone but I think I would actually like it! No expectations from others, eat what you want, go when you want. No feeling rushed and no feeling like you’re being held back!
Yes, it is very wonderful Cynthia 😀
I did a lot of solo traveling in college and loved not having to wait for someone. I think now it would be great to travel solo as well, so much to see and do! Smart phones
make it easy to stay in touch with family while traveling.
It is easy to stay connected Jennifer even when you are alone! I wish I had done more traveling in college myself, and I wish that I had taken the opportunity to do study abroad! 😀
I’ve never had the courage to travel alone but it looks like it would be a lot of fun! Thank you for sharing these wonderful tips with us! 🙂
You’re welcome Susie, and it is never too late, even if you just do a weekend getaway near where you live!
Traveling alone takes a lot of courage, I’m not sure that I have it in me… yet! I think part of the reason I enjoy traveling is because I like to enjoy the sites with travel companions! I suppose heading to a B&B nearby or staying at a resort by myself could totally be do-able!
A nearby b&b sounds like a great idea Lauren if you are not ready to travel on your own! 😀