The Pros and Cons of Travelling Solo
I have travelled solo extensively my whole life. In my earlier years, my passion for travelling was unmatched by any of my friends but I was not going to let that stop me.
One of the reasons was that early in my career I worked for an airline. At the airline, I had access to stupidly discounted fares and often free travel. If my airline buddies were unavailable being the only one able to travel was not going to stop me!
Solo travel is still a big part of my life. As a travel researcher, it is more business travel these days and a bit of a secret treat. I am old enough to appreciate the ability to binge-watch my favourite movies with a glass of wine on a long haul flight. Reading is something I don’t get to do enough of so I love taking a book along to a restaurant – I can afford a little more now. And then, there is the people watching.
It was not always like this. In the beginning, travelling as a single was a bit daunting. But like anything, the more you do it, the less it becomes an issue.
Travelling solo, like any kind of travel has its pros and cons. Here is a snapshot of those from single travellers I have interviews, with a few of my own thrown in there.
The pros of single travel
- You can do what you want when you want. Yep, you can get up when you want – no alarm. Or, if you are an alarm type, you can have the alarm,
it doesn’t matter. Considering someone else who is not in total sync with you can be stressful.
- No one to please. Sometimes when we are travelling with others, we feel we need to be super considerate and super polite. Not when you just have to please yourself.
- Not waiting around for someone. Have you ever been to a museum that your travel buddy loves and can’t get enough of, and you really couldn’t care less about the topic! Drives me nuts!
- You meet more people. I meet more people when I am on my own. Both locals and other travellers. You are forced to look outside of your circle for conversation.
- Don’t miss out on travelling! Why do you want to miss out on travelling the world? If no one wants to go with you, just go anyway – no regrets should be your motto.
- Empowering. I promise after the first trip, you will be unstoppable. When you travel solo, you experience a kind of growth that is only possible by travelling this way. I truly believe that solo travel can be a personally transformative experience for many of us.
You get the best seats at concerts. One of my favourites. Every time I know I am travelling to a destination, I look up to see what’s on and who’s playing. As a solo traveller, you will get access to the best seats in the house because there are single seats available often where you cannot get 2 together.
My last solo business trip to New York I saw the Isley Brothers at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. I had a front-row seat for what was one of the best concert experiences I have ever had.
On that same trip, I got to see Neil Diamond in his final ever concert at Madison Square Gardens. We didn’t know that it would be his final concert at the time, but what a memory. I have to say, hubby was not happy, but hey, it was a solo work trip, what could I do 🙂
There are so many great things about travelling alone. Don’t let being single stop you from realising your life-long travel dreams. It is far easier now and more and more mature travellers are going along. At the same time, there are many more companies catering to the single traveller.
The cons of travelling solo
Like with many things in our travelling life, you have got to take the good with the bad. So here we go.
- One of the main things I have heard from my fellow travellers is that not being able to experience travel with someone is overwhelmingly the main disadvantage. You don’t have anyone to enjoy things with at the actual moment -that sense of wonderment when you first see and experience something.
- Then there is the travel download at the end of the day. Sometimes it takes a while to process the enormity of something you have seen or experienced. You have no one to pounce on with your thought or to discuss the happenings of the day. This is why I keep a travel diary…or a blog.
- Loneliness can get you down on the odd occasion. Sometimes you just want someone to talk to. It would be just nice to be able to talk to someone at the end of the day about the day. In my experience, it doesn’t last long
- Some travellers report feeling self-conscious. Especially if you are on a coach tour full of couples or Santorini, the Greek Island of love like one of our research respondents.
- And of course, there is the single supplement. Although we often groan about it, don’t understand it, it doesn’t stop us from travelling. And more and more, companies are catering to the single traveller. Cruise companies, for example, are building more single cabins and many tour companies have deals where you don’t have to pay the single supplement.
- You have to carry your luggage. I always travel on the assumption that I will receive no help with my bags. If I do, well, that is just a bonus!
- If you decide to share with a stranger on tour, I have heard of cases where it has not worked out.
Safety when travelling solo
Safety is a concern for our readers and solo travellers. There is a general sense that travelling alone as a woman you can be a target for unwanted attention, particularly from men. I have personally experienced this both when I was a young traveller to even now as a more mature traveller.
I have heard loads of creepy men stories from women and I also, unfortunately, have plenty of my own. We are still in a world where this happens. You just need to have your wits about you and don’t take unnecessary risks along the way.
Culturally some countries are just not able to fathom a woman travelling on her own. Here is what one of our travellers said in an interview.
“I felt constantly threatened in Egypt. I was always covered head to toe, I was in my late 50’s. The tour guide just said that I looked different from their women…so group travel suits me, I feel safer”
One of our research respondents was recently ‘flashed at’ at the window of her Paris restaurant whilst eating solo.
I am not writing this to scare you, it is just the reality. That as a woman travelling solo, some strange things may happen along the way. So just be aware of it. It may or may not happen. And, whatever you do, don’t let it stop you realise your dreams. It is just about being sensible and not taking unnecessary risks.
Travelling solo is a real joy. I promise, once you get used it, you will be unstoppable. And if you do happen upon a travel buddy that you align with, well, that is just a bonus.
Bronwyn White is a travel and tourism industry professional with more than 30 years of experience. Her special interest is helping retirees, semi-retired baby boomers enjoy the dream of travel. She loves to help them plan and get the most out of this time.