Solo travel. Just you and the open road (or a plane ticket, I guess). Is there anything more freeing? You know we’re no strangers to solo travel here at the Budget-Minded Traveler, but we understand that it can be daunting for those who’ve never done it before. Rather than give you the trite and somewhat unhelpful advice of “just go,” let’s take a look at the pros and cons of solo travel first.
Since I like to save the best for last, we’ll start with the cons and maybe debunk a few solo travel myths while we’re at it.
Cons of Solo Travel
1. It can be frightening.
Traveling by yourself can be nerve-wracking, whether it’s the first, fifth, or five-hundredth time you’ve done it.
If you’re worried about safety, take standard precautionary measures: check for travel advisories for your destination, give copies of your itinerary to friends and family, purchase travel insurance, stay alert and aware of your surroundings, etc.
In many ways, travel safety demands the same attention, no matter whether you are solo or traveling with companions.
If you’re worried about solo travel because you’re a woman, take heart! There are plenty of adventurous gals out there going solo; you’ll probably even meet some of them on your travels. In fact, studies show that the majority of solo travelers are women!
How’s that for girl power?
Of course, you might not be frightened of solo travel. That’s great! But keep in mind that it could be a scary prospect for your loved ones. Set their minds at ease, but don’t let their fear affect your ultimate decision to stay or go.
2. It can be costly.
While it’s true that you won’t be splitting costs with a travel companion (goodbye gorgeous three-bedroom Airbnb on the waterfront), traveling solo doesn’t have to be any more expensive than traveling with family, friends, or significant others.
Hostels are a great resource for solo travelers. At the bare minimum, they offer inexpensive accommodation and usually a shared kitchen space, so you can save on food expenses. The best kinds of hostels also organize events: happy hours, movie nights, walking tours, etc. These are great ways to get to know your hosts as well as your fellow travelers and potentially make friends.
3. It can be lonely.
When weighing the pros and cons of solo travel, this one definitely tips the scales more than you’d think it would. People are afraid of being alone.
I’ll let you in on a little secret, though: you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. In fact, you probably aren’t alone if you’re traveling solo. You might be sleeping in a room with seven other people or crowded onto a bus with a bunch of locals or packed in with a hundred tourists trying to see the Mona Lisa and somehow still feel lonely.
Solo travel and loneliness are not one in the same. Alone does not equal lonely, and lonely does not equal alone.
I’ve been lonely and homesick while traveling with eight other people or even sitting at home in a room full of people I love. Loneliness is just a human emotion. It comes and goes. But if I had to choose between being lonely on my couch or lonely on a beach in Italy, well… I think you know the answer.
So go, armed with the knowledge that yes, you might get lonely more than once (it’s normal), and you will be okay. You might even grow from it (gasp!). Also, go armed with all the ways to meet people as a solo traveler.
Oh, and there won’t be anyone to take your photo, so brush up on your selfie game.
Now for the Pros of Solo Travel
1. It’s all about you.
The logistics of traveling with other people can be a nightmare and plans often fall apart because schedules collide. Not when you’re traveling solo, though. The only schedule to worry about is your own. You have a week off for Christmas and 8 days of paid leave to cash in? New Year’s Eve in Paris, it is!
You can also say goodbye to quarrels over whether you should visit the modern art museum or go mountain biking. Do either or neither or both. It is 100% your decision and will put no stress on any of your relationships.
This trip is about you. Where you want to go, what you want to do and see, and when and how you want to go, do, and see all those things.
2. It’s an immersion experience.
Traveling solo is helpful if you’re abroad to learn a foreign language. Without the crutch of traveling companions who speak your mother tongue, you’re forced to rely more on your knowledge of the language you’re learning. It’s also easier to find a host family to live and learn with if you’re traveling solo.
This isn’t just true for the would-be polyglots, either. Solo travel is also great for cultural immersion. Being by yourself forces you out of your shell and blurs the line between tourist and traveler. If you’re open to it, you might be surprised by the conversations, dinner invitations, and friendships that will find you.
3. It’s an opportunity for growth.
While planning your solo trip might be easier than coordinating everyone’s schedules to plan a trip with friends, there are hurdles unique to solo travel that make it inherently more challenging than other types of travel. You might be thinking this should be under the cons instead of the pros of solo travel, but hear me out:
Overcoming those challenges is one of the best parts of solo travel.
I’m not going to say that traveling solo is a magical cure-all, because it’s not. But it might be a stride in the right direction. Just look at the literature: Under the Tuscan Sun; Eat, Pray, Love; Wild. Listen to Jackie’s own story. Prefer scientific research to anecdotes? Here’s a psychologist’s take on it. What I’m trying to say is that there is evidence everywhere in support of solo travel as a means for personal growth.
Daily life doesn’t often present you with the opportunity to prove it, but you are braver, smarter, and stronger than you think. Solo travel gives you space to explore that. Whether it’s summiting a mountain for the first time, being alone with yourself, or recovering from a broken heart, you will find the courage to face it.
Related: 5 Ways Solo Travel Will Change You
Solo Travel and You
Now that we’ve broken down some of the pros and cons of solo travel, I’ll give you that advice: If you’re seeking adventure or healing or just don’t want to wait for your friends to clear their schedules, whatever your motivation, just go.
Have you ever traveled solo? What would you put on your personal pros and cons list? We’d love if you’d share in the comments!