Since I was 19 (now I’m 35!) I have travelled both solo and with others. Readers have been asking me to share my tips for travelling alone.
Indeed, solo travel is the ultimate sense of freedom and achievement. But, the reality of solo travel often unrevealed by enthusiastic solo travel bloggers – solo travel can be tough and very, very lonely. Today, I decided to reveal my own opinion and tips for travelling alone. Whether it be long or short term, here are the pros and cons of solo travel.
Pros of Solo Travel
- The Ultimate Sense of Freedom and Achievement – In my opinion, there is nothing as rewarding as an extensive overland trip. When you have reached the next capital or the next border as a solo traveller, this is the ultimate sense of liberation and achievement.
- You can do What you Want, When you Want! No need to run the idea of the 23rd Buddhist Temple visit past your fellow travellers. When travelling alone, there is never any need to compromise on what you do or where you go.
- Take Rest Days when you Want and Travel at your own Speed – Travelling alone allows you to be completely flexible on your schedule. Perhaps you are an advocate of slow travel? Or maybe you hear about something from other travellers that you would hate to miss out on? Travelling alone? No problem!
- No Travel based Arguments and Disagreements – You don’t have to worry about falling out with your friend, disagreeing about the next city or arguing over beach vs mountains. Many people I have met or known in the past have travelled with a close buddy, only to fall out half way through the trip. It really can put a downer on your travels if you can’t overcome the little problems, or you have to still continue to travel with someone you have fallen out with!
- It develops your Personal Qualities – When travelling with others, it is easy to depend on those you travel with. However, when you travel alone, you are forced to develop certain personal qualities on the road. You will find that you become independent, self aware, assertive and thrifty.
- It is Perfect for Learning new Languages – If you are travelling alone and completely immerse yourself another language, you will pick it up extremely quickly. There is no one constantly with you to speak English to, making solo travel perfect for learning that new language such as Spanish, French or Arabic.
- Solo Travellers are more likely to make friends on the Road – It’s true – solo travellers meet other solo travellers. When I have been travelling with my boyfriend, friends or family, it is unusual to be approached. When I travel alone, I always get approached by other travellers in bars, cafe’s and on public transport.
- Set and Spend your Own Budget – If you feel like splashing out on a 4 Star Hotel instead of a hostel, go for it. You don’t have to ask if anyone else can afford it!
The Cons of Solo Travel
Despite the amazing freedom and experiences that you have as a solo traveller, there is often something missing when you travel alone. Here are the cons of solo travel that you will need to be aware of.
- No-one for Support – Travel can certainly take it’s toll emotionally. You will get ripped off, ill and see poverty head on. Life on the road is not easy, and it is even less easy when there is no-one there to support you. You may find yourself confiding with people you meet on the road, but it’s not the same as true friends.
- Solo Travel can be a Challenge for Single Girls – Sorry to say this, but solo travel for a woman is more more challenging than Solo Travel for a man. Unfortunately, there are some situations that a man could help you to get out of easily. As a solo female traveller, you have to deal with these situations yourself.
- It can get Lonely on the Road – Loneliness is something not often discussed in the world of solo travellers, but believe me, it does exist. You will miss your friends and family back at home, and this happens more so as a solo traveller.
- Accommodation can cost more if you don’t want to Hostel it – Sharing a twin, double or triple room will keep the cost down. The only way to keep the cost down on a solo trip is to go in a dorm, and that means sharing with people you don’t know!
- No-one to share Food / Transport Bills with Either – You can save money with other travellers by sharing a meals and splitting a restaurant bill or sharing a rick-shaw. This is not the case when you travel alone, so you do need to fork out a little more unless you meet another solo traveller to team up with.
- Meal Times can be Pretty Boring – Unless you can hook up with other solo travellers or befriend a few locals! (But be aware of their motivations, of course!)
- Be Prepared for a lot of Goodbye’s that can be Emotionally Draining – When you meet another solo traveller on the road, you can strike up intense friendships. But sadly, the time often comes when you have to say goodbye. Sometimes, a solo trip can be a long string of emotional goodbye’s to great people have met along the way, leaving you mentally exhausted.
Tips for Travelling Alone
- Plan your Journey from A to B thoroughly, especially when you arrive in tough city, such as Delhi. Make sure that you know exactly where to go.
- Conceal your Money perhaps in an inside pocket or money belt underneath your clothes. Some solo travellers even pop a bit of extra cash in their shoe. That way, if the worst happens and you get robbed, you always have money to get back to your hotel or to get a taxi.
- Take a cheap Smartphone (remember that it could get nicked!) and install Skype and What’s App to contact home frequently. Most hostels and cafe’s have WIFI these days, even in the most remote and unexpected of places.
- Take a Lonely Planet Guidebook – As well as maps, the Lonely Planet’s have tips on where to eat and stay. They also contain advice on con-avoidance!
- Hostel It! When you stay in dorms, you will find that you meet other people in exactly the same situation as you. I had an amazing time staying at Sultan Hostel Istanbul.
- Have an Emergency Contact Back Home – Nominate someone back at home who can be on the other end of the phone if you need them, or wire transfer cash to you if you run out.
- Don’t walk Alone Late at Night – Most of the muggings and undesired occurrences that I experience or hear of on the road happen after dark. Most con artists and criminals don’t rise early, so if you have early mornings and early nights, you are more likely to miss the trouble and keep safe. You will also be more likely to trade with the deserving people who earn an honest living and really need the support.
- Pack Light – As a solo traveller, you have to carry everything – medical kits, books, gadgets. There’s really no need for more than three or four changes of clothes, particularly if you travel to a country where shopping is ridiculously cheap. In India, I paid just £1.20 for a gorgeous wrap around skirt!
Overall, I really do love to travel alone for at least a couple of months a year. However, I also love to travel with my boyfriend (now finance!), my mom and my sister. I think it is important to get the balance right in order to nourish your relationships.
But, it’s a personal decision, so don’t let anyone tell you that there is a right or wrong answer – only do what is right for you. Have an amazing year of travel everyone!
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