Thinking about taking your first solo trip? Awesome! Here’s what you need to know before traveling alone.
Traveling alone is an incredible and also challenging experience. With the highs come the lows. For the past three months, I’ve been living in London alone. I had lived by myself out of college for 7 months, but this is my first time living alone in England.
If you’re curious about my London trip I shared my thoughts here & here.
If you’ve been curious about traveling alone and whether it’s a good option for you, then buckle up because I’ve got lots of thoughts.
The Perks of Traveling Alone
You get to make the agenda… all the time
When you’re traveling alone you’re the boss. I know, obvious right? But seriously – if you’re super excited about a specific destination, solo travel is amazing.
Traveling is wonderful because the options are really limitless. Some people love short trips. They love hopping from city to city to get the feel for a country. Others, including myself, love to really immerse themselves in just one place for long period of time.
Not just that, but how much you like to plan is a huge variable in travel. Many travelers love having agenda’s and lists and they want to see specific sites. I’m more of the “find one spot and explore from there” kinda gal, and I totally get that’s not everyone’s jam.
That’s one of the biggest and best perks of solo travel. No compromise, just traveling in the style and speed that works for you.
You have plenty of time and space to really reflect on your experience… and pretty much everything
Another huge perk of solo travel, especially for introverts, is the ability to really soak in and reflect on the experience while it’s happening. I find when I’m in a big group, I can often end up absorbing too many different energies and a lot of my attention goes into the other people around me versus the place itself. This isn’t always a bad thing, it’s just a force to be aware of.
If you’ve been craving time and space away from your daily routine, solo travel is this beautiful breath of fresh air and reflection. Often, the highlight of my day is walking in a new neighborhood. Sometimes I have music or a podcast in my ear, other times I’m just soaking up all the sites and sounds around me. This silence and space leads to my best ideas, revelations and moments of peace.
One challenging aspect of travel is managing your expectations versus the reality of what’s happening. I’ve been guilty of dreaming up a “perfect trip” only to feel disappointment when things don’t go the way I hoped. Traveling solo allows you to check yourself in real time. It also helps not to have to worry about someone else’s experience or possible disappointment.
You can set your ideal travel pace
This one is similar to creating the agenda, but traveling alone means never having to compromise on timing. Whether it’s waking up early, spending hours in a cafe, preferring to be (really) early for flights or just how long you like to stay in a museum, timing can be a big source of tension. If you are traveling with someone, the timing conversation is one you want to have before it becomes an argument.
Traveling solo means being the master of your time. Ahh just writing that made me so happy. I’m in the camp of “it never hurts to be extra early” and I know that drives other people nuts, the same way cutting it close drives me nuts.
The Challenges of Traveling Alone
I decided not to call this the “bad” because it’s not necessarily bad. All these things are challenges, but I’m a firm believer that even when you’re being challenged there are plenty of things you can gain and benefit from. Let’s be real, solo traveling can be quite hard sometimes. Here’s why:
When things go wrong – it’s all on you
Traveling alone can be a lot of pressure. With the good comes the hard: it’s all on you. While you’re in charge of the agenda, you’re also in charge of all the details. That means flights, where you’re staying, what to do, getting around. All of it is on you. Oh and when things go wrong? Also up to you to figure it out. When you’re with someone else, it can feel comforting to know even when all fails you have someone to lean on and commiserate with. Solo? You have to be your own bff.
the upside of being in charge when things go wrong:
On the flipside, you feel like a badass boss knowing that you can handle it, when everything falls apart.
For example, the first apartment I stayed in on this London trip had a shared bathroom. That meant I needed to bring my key card with me even to go pee. This made me SO anxious because I knew if I got locked out of my room, I’d be shit out of luck. But the crazy thing is, and I know it sounds cliche, what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. As someone who has dealt with some situational anxiety, especially around travel, I’ve found one of the best therapies has been facing fears head on. Missing a train, getting locked out, all of these things scare me a lot. But when they inevitably happen (or don’t) it actually feels great because the world doesn’t end.
It Can Be Lonely
This one is pretty obvious. The hardest thing about traveling by yourself is feeling lonely. I’m most definitely an introvert (someone who needs alone time to feel energized) and I still get lonely being on my own at times.
When I’m feeling lonely, I usually like to spend extra time either going out for lunch or coffee. I’ll try to chat up whoever I can. I’ve found asking people questions is a great way to start a conversation. You can quickly read if they’re friendly and interested in talking by the way they react. I like asking people to watch my things while I go to the bathroom, if I’m working at a coffee shop. Asking people to do little easy favors helps build a mini bond even if it’s just for the hour you’re there working.
If you’re in a place for more than a week, becoming a regular somewhere is a great way to feel less lonely. There are a couple coffee shops I frequent multiple times a week and it’s nice to recognize baristas and have people to make small talk with when you’re on your own.
the upside of feeling lonely:
I believe feeling lonely is a beautiful part of life. Not only does it help you get to know yourself, but it helps push you outside your comfort zone. Normally small talk is pretty annoying, but when you’re on your own for a while, it can actually be really nice and comforting. Getting used to feeling uncomfortable, whether it’s feeling lonely or feeling awkward trying to meet new people, is a huge sign there’s some major growth going on.
A note on safety:
As a woman traveling alone, I’m definitely aware of my limitations. I do a good amount of research without letting fear take over. Fortunately, in my years of traveling both alone and in groups, I’ve never felt truly unsafe. I think allowing too much fear in, can attract negative energy. I have a very optimistic (without being too naive) view on the world. I pay special attention to how my body feels when I’m out alone. I know this might sound a little out there, but I really trust my gut when I’m by myself. If I have that “funny feeling” I trust it 100%.
I think traveling alone is an incredible experience. If you’re curious about it, but not sure, you don’t have to leave the country for three months. You can book a weekend alone in a city you’ve wanted to explore and take it from there.
I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting up with a friend from college who was spending a week alone in London. It was so nice to grab lunch and catch up. She shared that she’s taken a couple vacations in and out of the states by herself and loved them.
Happy solo travels!
- Have you ever traveled alone? Would you?