If you asked me 10 years ago if I would ever travel alone, I would have immediately said, “No way.” My version of solo travel back then was a trip to my local bar alone to escape a dwindling relationship with a boyfriend I lived with. I was afraid people would pity me for eating alone. After several meals, I learned that the fear was only in my mind, and that the dilemma of dining alone is actually is a delightful mini escape. People, for the most part, are friendly, and it turns out that no one gives a shit about who you (or who you don’t) eat a burger with.
If you had asked me five years ago, I would enthusiastically share my weekend escape — a three-hour road trip from home. This time, I wondered if I would get lonely. It was that trip when I experienced mutual excitement and contentment of having no agenda but my own. I hiked. I wrote. I drank beer with friendly locals. Driving home on Sunday, I remember feeling at peace. Most importantly, it was the confidence booster I needed to explore solo travel in far away places.
Today, I have continued my travels to multiple countries alone and started to realize that solo travel is not something people do just because they can’t find anyone to go with, it’s because they got tired of waiting for the perfect companion and just went. Not everyone’s lifestyle, schedule, budget, or passion for travel and adventure will match yours.
Don’t let it stop you!
As you will find out, there are many personal benefits, and it may become the preferred mode of travel.
However, before that happens, the biggest hurdle is getting over the fear of being alone, unsafe, bored, and scared. I’ve experienced all those fears and talked to many travelers who have too. Fear can hold many people back. The following are common fears solo travelers have and why those fears are unjustified.
1. Is solo traveling even safe?
Yes, absolutely. This won’t only be your concern, but your friends’, family’s, and significant other’s as well. Safety should always be at the top of your mind, but the way to combat this fear is to prepare, to be aware, and to be smart.
Traveling is just like being at home — you have to understand your surroundings and act accordingly. Adapt as much as possible by doing research on where you are traveling. Learn what to wear, how to carry yourself, and what is acceptable behavior. The key is not drawing attention to yourself, as well as not getting too intoxicated or letting anything negatively alter your inhibitions. With that being said, there are some countries that I would not feel comfortable exploring alone, and that comes from research and assessing your own personal risk.
Two weeks before a solo camping trip from Banff to Jasper National Park in Canada, news hit that a man was attacked by a wolf in his tent. I was terrified enough by camping in grizzly country. Rare? Absolutely. But I knew I wouldn’t rest well while worrying about being eaten by a wild animal. So I changed my plans to rent a larger car to camp in. While it may sound silly to some, it was an easy safety measure to plan for me.
There’s no magic formula apart from being aware of and respecting your surroundings.
2. Won’t I be lonely?
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, solo travel is for you. The fact is that you will meet people — many people — on the road. It will happen all the time. Most people have some element of shyness to overcome. Even if you think you’re shy and awkward, you’ll learn to lose it over time because travelers are friendly. Often, you won’t even have to be the one to start the conversation. In Rome, I was trying to enjoy my first bite of Italian Pizza while being harassed by a street vendor selling cheap bracelets. The table next to me was a group of Aussies nice enough to shoo him away and ask me to join them for dinner. Dinner turned into drinks, a lot of laughter, and a place to stay if ever I travel to Australia.
A good compromise is joining a travel or hiking group, yoga retreat, or any other organized trip of your interest, where you can have the best of both worlds: being with like minded people plus time alone to recharge.
Yes, you may have moments of loneliness or witness something amazing you wish a partner was there to experience as well. It’s normal. I remember having dinner on the Amalfi Coast, enjoying a glass of wine and watching the most luminous moon I have ever seen shimmering down on Meditteranean water. I had a romantic moment to myself and wished someone was there to share it with. But I also felt overwhelmingly grateful and proud that I had gotten myself to one of my top dream destinations and promised to come back one day with a special person.
3. What if my friends and family don’t approve?
Your loved ones might worry about you, but it’s because they love you, and given that fact, they want you to be happy. I have a small handful of people whose opinions really matter to me. Although these people know I can be stubborn in my desires, I do take their opinions to heart. Ask them to trust your intelligence and assure them that you’ve done your research to keep yourself out of obvious harm. As for the rest, there are always naysayers. Everyone else with negative opinions don’t need to be considered. Most people I talk to about my solo travels call me brave and are curious to learn more.
Traveling alone gives you confidence. And there’s nothing stopping you from being brave either.
4. Won’t I be bored being alone?
You will never be starved for adventure if you are really putting yourself out there. Try new foods, talk to locals for recommendations, attempt public transportation. I like to plan pretty detailed itineraries beforehand because I enjoy structure and making the most of my time. Leave wiggle room for spontaneity and things you can’t control, like weather. Part of the excitement of travel is being flexible and open-minded enough to turn any situation into an adventure. I also like to schedule a day meant for relaxing, because sometimes you need a break.
5. I’m still not convinced I don’t need a partner in case something goes wrong.
You can do it.
Traveling along improves your problem-solving skills because you can’t pass off responsibility when things go wrong. Because of this, you develop independence and cultivate fearlessness when you realize what you are capable of. It allows you to be who you really are without the judgment of others. Above all, people are adaptable.
We really are. Trust your abilities enough to try.
If you still aren’t sold, ease your way into it with a travel group or some friends who are okay with you venturing off on your own for a while. Once you get a taste of that sweet freedom, though, I am willing to bet it will change your mind.