Traveling solo these days is more common than years ago. It is an experience that can change your life not just for what you see and where you go, but for your inner self. You can discover who you are, what you want in life, and what is important to you. This kind of independence can give you self-empowerment and confidence. While it is exhilarating, it is also full of challenges that are part of the journey. Understanding the pros and cons of setting off on your own before you go is important so you know what to expect and how to deal with whatever comes your way.
Pros of Traveling Alone
Traveling alone can give you an overwhelming sense of freedom. This, of course, depends on if you have always lived alone or your situation in your daily life. But being in a different city, country, and culture, and all on your own, makes you realize that your trip depends on you.
You may have a limited time, whether that be days or months, but you are free to use it as you wish. You can make it jammed-packed with activities or take it slow and savor every moment.
You can go where you want to visit, eat what you want, and make the decisions that will make your trip the best for you.
A New Sense of Confidence
This is magical. While at times you could feel like you are constantly questioning yourself, you will see all you have accomplished when you look back. Just buying a ticket and going is a huge feat in itself! You have overcome all the nay-sayers or concerns of everyone around you who have expressed their concern without realizing that you were a bit afraid too.
Confidence also comes from facing cultural differences. Going somewhere you don’t know the language, but finally being able to learn to communicate in some way, can feel like you have just gotten a higher degree of education. Solving obstacles makes you stronger, and having to resolve daily issues on your own gives you the confidence you didn’t know you could have.
Meeting New People
You can make great friends when you are traveling. They can be from different cultures and have different first languages.
The experiences you share with people you meet are ones you keep forever. Your friends from home might not understand the emotion you felt with the group of people you were with when you were diving in the Coral Reef. The friends you made while doing so will.
You find commonality with people who you meet while traveling. They also take a risk, are curious about other cultures, want to learn new skills, and want to experience something different. Finding people similar to you in that way is wonderful as you see you are very normal with why you are traveling too!
Flexibility To Do What You Want – You Can Be Spontaneous.
Imagine planning your trip, doing your research, and it all depends on your likes and interests. If you have always dreamed of going to a certain place or just closing your eyes and pointing to somewhere on a map, you can do it the way you want.
Or you may be the kind of person that doesn’t like to plan much, instead, you just go with the flow. Once you arrive at a destination, you decide where you want to go, whether by asking for recommendations there or by seeing what options arise.
Either way, your spontaneity depends on you.
Getting To Really Know Yourself
No one tells you that when you travel on your own, while you are getting to know another culture and new people, you are also in an intense boot camp of getting to know yourself.
You can start to see who you really are by the choices you make. Do you have insecurities? Do you compare yourself to others? Do you want to transform something within yourself? What gives you so much joy in life?
These realizations can come from what you are doing on your trip and what you are not doing at home at the same time. You can come to appreciate your daily life and your loved ones even more. You can see how you want more in your relationships or within yourself.
Sometimes travel also provokes an assessment of yourself. Are you emotionally how you want to be? Do you feel like you are in the physical shape you would like? Are you challenging your mind and letting your curiosity push you to keep learning?
All these realizations can come while you are traveling or even when you return home. A trip like this maintains its value for a lifetime.
Traveling alone can give you a more intense cultural immersion as you are forced to interact with people, even if that means ordering food or asking for directions. You can pick up on gestures and what people are trying to say, as you don’t have anyone else to rely on.
Your senses can be a little more open as it can seem like survival, but by doing so, you are really seeing the people and getting to know the culture.
Learning a Skill
Giving yourself time to focus on learning a new skill or improving on an already developed skill can be done when you travel alone. You can dedicate more intensely as there are fewer distractions when you travel alone.
Controlling Your Budget
When you travel alone, you are forced to control your budget and pay attention to what you are spending. If you spend all your money on the first four months, the last month, you may be eating one meal a day.
This is a great opportunity to learn to alter your spending and decide what is important for you to spend on when traveling. Also, there are two more valuable lessons that can be learned: improvising and learning to negotiate.
Negotiation is so necessary to do when traveling, and if you don’t, you will be taken advantage of.
Improvising is a great way to learn to use your resources instead of spending more money or time when it is unnecessary.
There are a lot of useful life skills that can help you in many situations.
Time For Reflection
When we are very status quo in our routines, sometimes we don’t take the time to reflect on the “Should I have said that?”.
We live by instinct, and when we are not actively reflecting, our instincts are the norm in our life, and we don’t think about how to change or evolve within that. Maybe we don’t work actively on our relationships or where we are in our careers. Maybe we don’t question a reaction that someone has to our comment, or better yet, our reaction and understanding of what provoked it.
As you are out of your comfort zone, this time for reflection can come a little easier. Being out of your element can give you time to stop and pause to think about your actions and reactions in life.
Compatibility of Travel Mate
Imagine that you are great friends and have a lot of fun together! So you decide to travel….. Well, sometimes your compatibility with someone for some aspect of your life doesn’t mean you will travel well together.
You like to be flexible. They want a schedule. You like to walk. They want to go by taxi. You want to take your time. They are ready to be finished and head back to the hotel.
There are many scenarios where you just don’t agree on what you are doing on the trip. Obviously, if you are traveling alone, this is not so much of an issue. If you are traveling with a friend who has a different travel style, you can propose that you spend your days doing what each wants and meet for dinner. You don’t want to ruin your friendship over a silly fight that is escalated due to other issues, such as tiredness, homesickness, etc.
Cons of Traveling Alone
Safety is probably the biggest drawback of traveling solo. You can seem more vulnerable when you are alone, especially as a woman.
There are precautions that you can take, and you should take. Doing your research is the most important. Seeing what areas you should avoid is a good start.
When thinking about accommodations, it is best to check reviews and decide what will be the best for you while thinking about location and safety.
It is not wise to take unnecessary risks. Although you may feel you know what you are doing because you do something in your home country and home city, that doesn’t mean you should do it while traveling abroad.
Don’t take long walks alone in isolated areas. Don’t hitchhike. If you go out to a bar, watch your drink and stay in control of yourself. If you go to a beach, always keep your important belongings close by. Let people at home know where you are or where you are going.
It is tricky when traveling alone at times since you always have to be responsible for your own documents, phone, money, and, more importantly, you.
Having mishaps can be avoided if you are just a little more cautious. It doesn’t mean to be paranoid, but instead, smart. There is nothing you have to prove to anyone, and the best part of a trip is knowing that you make the right decisions to keep yourself safe and healthy.
When you travel, you are always with yourself. You learn to have a good time while you are traveling alone if you enjoy your own company! That is not always easy to do, but it is invaluable to get to that point.
Travel nowadays is also different. With the internet, social media, and video chat apps, you can easily communicate with family and friends anytime. Don’t let FOMO get the best of you, though, as you are traveling the world, and it is your friend’s birthday, and there will be a party you won’t be going to. These moments can creep up on you but try to ride it out and do something to make you feel better.
Also, knowing what sets you off with loneliness and what can make you feel better is good to know, even before you travel! Make healthy choices.
More Trial and Error
Taking a trip on your own and making mistakes is normal. There is definitely a learning curve, so be patient with yourself. You will find you are even more capable than you knew! Since you are only relying on yourself, not others’ opinions, at the moment, you have to trust yourself.
If you get overcharged and don’t catch it the first time, you will look for it the next time. If what you order is not what you expected, you will know the next time. This is all part of the journey.
You Are Constantly Challenging Yourself
The smallest things in life can be the most challenging. Language, for example. Trying to communicate can be an issue. Or figuring out Google Maps for how to get to where you need to go when you see signs in a different language. Or having a problem with your Airbnb and figuring out how to resolve it. Or negotiating for a bag of apples at the market when you see that you don’t always have to pay the foreigner's price.
Daily tasks that we take for granted can now become huge accomplishments when traveling. Even more so when you are traveling solo, and you have to do it all on your own. You can’t rely on someone to do these tasks for you, so you learn to rely on yourself.
This kind of challenging yourself, while at times can be frustrating or even tiring, will be so rewarding. Taking yourself outside of your comfort zone and making it work is something to be very proud of!
Social Interaction Depends On You
If you are an introvert, or if you love meeting new people and socializing, the amount or quality of social interaction really depends on you and what you want.
It is easy to meet other travelers when traveling. Whether it be on a tour or in the hostel, it seems that many foreigners are open to striking up a conversation. Even more so if you are from the same country, the idea of familiarity when traveling could be the reason.
Wanting to do activities on your own is not a problem as long as you are taking into consideration safety. Going on a hike solo for two weeks is something you may want to evaluate before doing so nowadays, depending on the area, but joining in on a tour by yourself can be really fun.
The best part of this is that you don’t have to put pressure on yourself and can meet interesting people. Traveling alone can be easier to do as you don’t have others that you are traveling with to talk to.
Facing Lack Of Respect
There are different levels of disrespect you can feel, depending on who you are, your upbringing, your culture, and what you stand for in life. Everyone has their own limits and an idea of what respect is.
For example, while traveling, you may meet a taxi driver who will ask you every question in the book. Are you married? Why or why not? Do you have kids? Why not, or how many? How old are you? Or a comment about your weight.
Since you are traveling alone, this may occur more often. To some, it can feel rude. It feels like analysis and judgment at the same time. While in your culture it may be considered rude, you are not in your culture at the moment, so you deal with it as you feel necessary.
You don’t always have to say your deepest inner thoughts and feelings when asked the questions. It is best to keep it light but also realize you don’t owe this taxi driver insight that he or she feels a right to.
Making up a story or answering the questions in a way that will let the conversation end about this topic is easy. Or even turning the conversation around on him or her. And lastly, using the “I don’t understand” can be a card you might need to pull out in moments like these.
Just realize that it is a cultural moment, but don’t let it rattle you. Always remember that for this person to understand what they are doing, they would have to take a trip to your country. Then they will get it and see it is disrespectful to you.
Maybe do a Shorter, Trial Run?
Traveling solo has its pros and cons. See which is right for you, to go solo or with someone else. Also, there are cultural exchanges. All can have rewarding experiences!