One of the most common messages I receive is, “I really want to travel but I’m scared to go alone!”
I will admit, I think I’m missing a gene because I’ve always been unusually bold when it comes to traveling by myself. I took my first solo trip when I was 13, and I remember the passengers next to me asking, “where are your parents?” and the look of concern on their faces when I told them they weren’t coming with me.
I have taken my share fair of solo trips, but I’ve also had many opportunities to travel with friends. I’ve seen the positive and negatives of both options, and I think it’s important to talk about both sides of the coin. I like to start with the bad news first, so here are few of the cons to traveling solo:
It’s Not Always Safe
The sad truth about solo travel, especially for women, is sometimes it’s just not the safest idea. In general, you are safer traveling within a developed country than one with high levels of poverty that lead to higher crime. Many cities I’ve traveled to have very little crime (I’ve even been to places with a 0% crime rate!) and you can easily walk alone at any time of day and feel perfectly safe. However, here in the U.S. we have many urban areas that are safe to walk during the day, but can be dangerous at night. It’s also not a good idea to be alone if you plan on traveling or hiking in any remote areas.
Statistics show that Central America, South America, and parts of the Middle East and generally the most unsafe places to travel. As fearless as I am, I recommend traveling with a friend or meeting with a local if you plan to travel to these places.
That being said, here’s the truth: don’t listen to the media or what you’ve heard from people who have never traveled to the place you want to visit. There are so many places I was advised against going to that I felt much safer in that I feel back home in the U.S. The best thing you can do is talk to locals or people who have been there, because they will know first hand what it’s like and can advise you on the safest way for you to travel there.
It’s Harder for Women
Being a woman, I have experienced the sad truth that there are added challenges being a solo female traveler. Us women have to worry more about our safety and there are many countries that we are at higher risk of being victimized. India is ranked as the most dangerous country for women to travel to, followed by Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Egypt, Kenya, Turkey, and the majority of the Middle East (excluding UAE and Qatar)
It Can Be More Expensive
Another factor to consider is that when you travel with friends, you can often save money by splitting costs such as Airbnb/hotel, rental car, and even food costs. When I was in Greece this summer, I was able to split an Airbnb in the heart of Santorini for just $60/person (that would have been $240 on my own).
However, you can easily avoid these higher costs by staying at hostels, taking public transportation, and buying groceries instead of eating out every meal. 🙂
It Gets Lonely
Being the outgoing individual that I am, this is a big one for me. My longest solo trip was my cross-country trip around the U.S. where I was on the road for a month. I drove over 150 hours and went to about 7 national parks by myself. I saw some of the most incredible sights of my life, and don’t get me wrong, it was incredible! But looking back, I would have preferred to have someone with me that I could share the experiences with.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are the pros to solo travel that might just convince you to go alone!
It’s Safer Than You Think
I talked about the dark side of safety when traveling alone, but I want to also address the irrational fear that has been instilled in far too many of my friends. The truth is, much of the world is probably safer than where you live! If you drive a car every day, you are in more danger than you would be traveling to a city where you can take public transportation everywhere.
You’ll Meet More People
I wrote a bit about this in my recent post “How To Choose A Travel Partner”, but one of my favorite parts of solo travel is all the new friends you get to make! When you travel with friends, you aren’t forced out of your comfort zone because you don’t really need to meet anyone. Hostels are the perfect place for solo travelers because many people will also be alone and looking to make friends, and they are great at organizing group activities like community dinners and bar crawls. You can also sign up for tours and excursions with groups where you are bound to meet other travelers. It seems scary talking to complete strangers, but it’s really not that scary. I promise 😉
You’ll Have More Freedom
This is obviously one of the biggest advantages of solo travel. If you want to wake up in the morning and go to a certain coffee shop and a museum after, you can do it! If you are tired one day and would rather be lazy and sleep in, you can do that. If you end up wanting to go home early or stay longer, you’re free to do so. Being with even the closest of friends 24/7 presents unique challenges, and if you’re an independent person like me, this may be a major factor to consider.
You’ll Grow As A Person
One of the greatest rewards of this time spent with yourself is the growth that will take place. Our society makes being alone seem like a bad thing, but it’s so important to spend time learning to love and understand yourself. It’s okay to eat dinner alone (or ask to join someone!). It’s okay to spend an entire day exploring a museum and filling your mind with knowledge. It’s okay to be in a place where you don’t know a single person – with a little spontaneity, you’ll leave with friends.
So what is my personal preference? It depends! For shorter trips to big cities, I often prefer to travel alone so I have complete freedom on what to see and do and get to meet other travelers. For longer trips and road trips I love to go with friends who share in my excitement for adventure. After all, I believe the greatest adventures are the ones that are shared.
What solo trips have you taken and what did you like or not like about it? Let me know in the comments below and on social media!