There are many reasons to travel solo, not the least of which is that you get to be wild and free, answering to no one but yourself. You also get the chance to meet new people in places around the globe that you might not meet if you were with a partner or family. In my opinion, one formed over four years of travelling alone, I think that solo is the ultimate way to go. Looking for advice on how to travel by yourself?
1. It’s your life, thus your schedule.
When you’re on the road alone, you can dictate every moment of your day. If you prefer to sleep in one day and get up at the crack of dawn the next, that is completely your prerogative. One of my favourite things about travelling is the spontaneous aspect of it – at times I really don’t know where I am going next and that’s totally fine with me.
As a writer, I sometimes need to spend an entire day writing. Other times, I want to tackle a 12 hour hike. On my own, I can do whichever I prefer without feeling like I’m making all the decisions for the team.
Solo travel means that you can design your itinerary around your wants, not a groups needs.
2. You can be spontaneous.
Spontaneous travel is best when you are travelling alone. You can jump in the car and drive – stopping wherever and whenever you like. There is no flipping through a guide deciding between two museums when you only have time for one.
You can bag a last minute ticket to a coveted show or game without being concerned that your travel companion will feel left out. I was once in NYC and trying to get a ticket to Wicked, when it was first on Broadway. I went to the matinee and lined up for a lottery ticket. I didn’t win one, but I did buy a ticket from a woman who had won two and only needed one.
Finding spur of the moment accommodation is also easier when you are solo. One bed at a hostel is infinitely easier to come by than two beds, or three, on a busy weekend – trust me on this.
Changing your mind is infinitely easier when you are the only person you need to please.
3. You can really perfect your selfie.
Your photo taking skills really improve as you travel alone. You learn the ins and outs of your camera, from how to use the self-timer to how best to position the camera for that perfect shot of you and the mountain. They’ll get so good that people will ask you, “who took that?”
People can be funny about taking photos for you, and when you write a travel blog you are constantly searching for the best shot, the one that will be your new profile picture or the featured image on a post. I’ve seen people watch me position my camera and take the photos without offering to help. Others are rock stars about being a one-time “Instagram husband.”
You can take as much time as you need or want to when taking photos. Travelling alone means that you don’t have to feel rushed if you haven’t got the perfect shot.
4. You’ll save money.
If you are on a budget, traveling with a companion is the best way to blow it. Your companions might suggest that you go to dinner instead of cooking, or you’ll definitely spend more money on groceries, attractions, tours, and day trips. (All that said, however, the cost of big items like car rentals and hotel rooms can be split multiple ways.)
Travelling solo means that you can save money where you want to. You can stay in cheaper hostels, book cheaper flights at stranger times, or take advantage of last minute deals. If you want to know the best travel websites for cheap deals, search student sites like STA Travel or the backpacker boards – every country has them.
As for accommodation, I prefer car camping – super cheap at around $7/night – and its a really great way to save money to spend on a little something extra. When I splurge, its on a hostel so I have access to a kitchen and a laundry – big spender over here! Sometimes, I don’t even know my destination until the afternoon. If I was travelling with a friend, making last minute decisions about a campsite or hostel would be much harder.
Another perk to travelling alone + saving money is that you can pick up a quick job: pick fruit for two weeks, bar tend for some fast cash, or be a cleaner at a hostel for free accommodation. All of these are easy ways to make more money for your travels.
5. You’ll meet more people.
I find it much easier to meet people while I’m alone than when I am with another person. Think of it this way: you can only talk to yourself for so long, so you’ll go out of your way to find interesting people.
Running through my to-do list or itinerary in my head day after day gets monotonous and sometimes I feel like I’ll go crazy, so I go out of my way to meet other travellers. I’ve met people in bars and coffee shops, campsites, and on the trail. Some of these people have gone on to become good friends and even travelling companions.
Recently I set up a campfire at the beach, and almost everyone who was camping there came around. We had bottles of wine, interesting hobbies, and a game of frisbee for several hours as the sun set. Groups of people are easy to mix with – there is always someone there that will pique your interest (whether platonic or romantic.)
My favourite part of meeting new people is the advice or travel secrets they have for me. You might think you know everything there is to know about a place, but there will always be someone that has a tidbit of information that you don’t. Backpackers and budget travelers are good sources of free and/or interesting things to do – museums, galleries, random outdoor concerts – in various cities, especially expensive ones.
If you are solo, you can decide whether you want to meet people or not. If you travel with friends, you are pretty much required to make conversation with them!
6. You learn about yourself.
In my opinion, this is the biggest aspect to solo travel. It sounds cliche, but you really do learn a lot about yourself when you are alone in an unfamiliar place. Over the years, I have learned what triggers stress, adrenaline, and even exhaustion.
I’ve also learned things about my emotional and physical strength. Over time, I have pushed my body beyond its limits and my mind to trust me to do something it doesn’t want to do. I have a healthy fear of the unknown, but I’m working to curtail that in certain aspects – snorkelling in open ocean, skydiving, hiking alone, these are all things that twenty-year-old Sarah would never have done.
7. Travelling alone does not mean that you are alone.
Not only will you (hopefully) have the support of family and friends back home, you will begin to amass a family around the world. Some of my best friends are scattered in various countries across the globe, from the United States to Turkey to Scotland to Canada to New Zealand. Some of these people I met while in school, others I have met on my travels.
They range from fellow backpackers to couples I’ve known for years. Every single one has the same thing in common though: they are genuinely interested in me and my travels, sending me love and support, and the occasional strange e-card.
As technology has improved, so to has the way I stay in touch with these people. FaceTime and Skype are easy ways to see a familiar face when you feel drained in a foreign country or when you want to share a big success story, like your first mountain climb, skydive, or scuba certification. Sharing your stories on a blog, Facebook, or Instagram allow your friends and family to almost be there with you.
You have a support network and can feel connected to your home even while on the other side of the world.
Whether you want to be a world traveler or someone who knows your own country like the back of your hand, I hope these tips have helped you decide if solo travel is right for you. Happy travels!