The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel

A tourist snaps a photo of the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu, near Beijing.
Frans Lemmens / Getty Images

Solo travel 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.

Solo travel, couple travel, and travel with friends all have their pros and cons and 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 for the first time.

Personal Growth and Setting Your Own Schedule

One benefit of solo travel is that it 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 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.

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.

Meeting People and Building Confidence

One of the biggest benefits of solo travel is how easy it is to meet people on the road. 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.

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.

Freedom and Time for Reflection

Another item in the "pro" column for solo travel is that is can be a time for reflection and solitude and 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. 

Avoiding Loneliness

One downside of traveling alone for long periods of time with no constant in your life is that it 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.

Higher Costs

For budget-minded travelers, another downside is that 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. In some parts of the world, like South Korea, meals are served family-style so you'll even have to pay more to eat alone in a restaurant or rely on fast food. 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!

Safety Considerations

While solo travel isn't unsafe, it's definitely less safe than traveling with other people, making the safety issue a "con" of traveling alone. 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. 

Missing the Human Connection

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. Solo travel is one of the best things you can do for yourself, but it sometimes it's a little underwhelming when you don't have someone you love to share it with.