Solo travel is something I firmly believe is something everyone should try at some point in their life. There's no better way to get to know who you are as a person than by spending time with yourself away from the distractions of life.
Over the six years I've been traveling, I've been fortunate to experience solo travel, couple travel, and travel with friends. Which is my favorite? They all have pros and cons, but I'll always be fond of solo travel.
In fact, despite now traveling with my boyfriend, I aim to spend several months of the year traveling alone so that I can get my solo travel fix.
If you're debating whether to travel alone or with a friend or partner, it can be tough to know which will suit you best. This article outlines the advantages and disadvantages of hitting the road on your own.
First, the pros:
Solo Travel Helps You Grow As a Person
Solo travel has many, many benefits and it has definitely helped me to grow as a person. Traveling solo forces you to become independent, make decisions and step out of your comfort zone on a regular basis -- something you wouldn't necessarily do if you weren't traveling alone.
When you travel solo, you have nobody to rely on but yourself, and it's that that pushes you to learn how to function in the world. It's sink or swim time! If something goes wrong, it's down to you to figure out how to get out of the situation.
It's Easier to Meet People as a Solo Traveler
One of the biggest benefits to solo travel is how easy it is to meet people on the road. I'm one of the shiest people you'll ever come across, and yet, I've never struggled to make friends when traveling alone. All you need to do is wander into a hostel common room and within minutes, someone will strike up a conversation with you -- it really is that easy!
You'll also find that when traveling solo, you're much more approachable than when you're in a couple or a group. A lot of travelers will assume that if you're already in a group, you don't want to be disturbed, and will turn to the solo traveler almost every time.
You Only Need to Worry About Yourself
Another great benefit to solo travel is not having to compromise on your travels. You can wake up whenever you want, eat whatever you want, decide to have a lazy day, or choose to go on a 12 hour hike. When you're traveling solo, you can be selfish and change your mind every few days and not have to consult anybody else.
Solo Travel Improves Your Social Skills
Solo travel can be helpful for your mental state, too. Solo travel builds confidence as you navigate an unfamiliar city, converse with strangers and figure out how to get from one place to another. Your social skills will also improve as you meet more and more people and get used to introducing yourself and making conversation.
Solo Travel Gives You an Abundance of Time
Solo travel is a time for reflection and solitude, which can help bring peace to your mind. You'll get to know yourself better than you ever have before, learn what truly makes you happy and what you need to work on to improve as a person.
It can often be challenging to face these truths but learning to overcome them is all part of the process of growing.
You can spend time working on a hobby, reading books in coffee shops around town, hiking every day, or simply sitting and meditating. When you're on your own, you can do whatever you want without having to worry about anyone else. That freedom is incredibly liberating.
And now for the cons:
Solo Travel Can be Lonely
Traveling alone for long periods of time with no constant in your life can be draining, and you may struggle with issues of loneliness. Not having someone to share all those amazing experiences with can be disheartening and lead to depression. Homesickness is something every long-term traveler deals with, and the effects can be amplified when you're alone.
Solo Travel Costs More
Traveling alone nearly always works out to be much more expensive than traveling as a couple.
As a couple, you can share meals, stay in private rooms and split many of your expenses. You'll also often find that for private tours you'll be charged a lot more if you plan on taking it alone. There's no doubt about it: solo travel supplements suck.
As a solo traveler, you'll have to pay a single room supplement if you're going to be in private rooms, you have to stay in Airbnb apartments without having someone to split the costs with, and in some parts of the world (often in South Korea), you'll even have to pay more to eat alone in a restaurant! It makes sense that businesses would charge more money for one person, but it certainly does punish solo travelers for something they can't control. Time to start making friends and sharing rooms so you can split the cost!
Solo Travel Isn't as Safe
Solo travel isn't unsafe, but it's definitely less safe than traveling with other people. You're more vulnerable when you're on your own, because you only have you looking after you. When you're in a group, you'll have other people to look out for scams, to steer you away from danger, and make you less likely to get lost.
So while I would never recommend that you avoid solo travel, I will advise that you take extra precautions in order to keep yourself safe. Things like being cautious when out alone after dark, researching unsafe neighborhoods before you arrive, and not getting too drunk when out with hostel friends are all things that will improve your safety levels on the road.
Solo Travel is Sometimes Underwhelming
Here's what I mean: when you travel all the way to Sydney and stand in front of the Sydney Opera House, sometimes it's a little underwhelming. You don't have somebody to turn to and discuss how incredible it looks and how amazing it feels to be living your travel dream. Instead, you snap a few photos, you sit and look at it in awe and silence, and then you leave.
I believe that solo travel is one of the best things you can do for yourself, but I can't deny that sometimes it's a little underwhelming when you don't have someone you love to share it with.