Discover the joy of travelling alone by looking at the advantages of solo travel.
Let me start by sharing a recent, but not infrequent, experience.
I was waiting to embark on a one-week cruise around Norway and started chatting to the lady next to me in the queue. The conversation went something like this:
“Are you travelling alone?” she asked.
“Yes I am,” I replied.
There was a moment’s pause as she looked at me with a mixture of pity and horror, mouth agape. “Oh. You’re so brave!” she exclaimed.
What I wanted to say was that I was about to take a leisurely cruise from southern England. It was not as if I was about to go hitch-hiking across Afghanistan or shopping in Primark at 4 pm on a Saturday. But not wanting to offend her I replied meekly, “Not really.”
Here’s the thing.
Solo travel, and especially female solo travel, is perceived as a risky business. Hence, if you travel alone, many people are prepared to pin a bravery reward on your lapel.
This is rubbish.
Of course, you should always reduce the risks of solo travel, regardless of your gender. But equally, fear and others’ reactions to solo travel, should not hold you back from going it alone.
Travelling alone can be transformational and should not be feared.
But what are the advantages of solo travel? To try to persuade you to take the plunge and travel alone for the first time, let’s take a closer look at the rewards that travelling alone can bring you.
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Advantages of solo travel
1. You will meet great new people
Isn’t solo travel lonely?
This is the most common question I am asked about travelling alone and taps into one of the biggest fears that people have around solo travel.
It’s fair to say that whilst travelling with other people is fun, there is less incentive to reach out to other people, be it fellow travellers or locals. You are in a cosy friendship bubble, your human contact box well and truly ticked.
When you are travelling alone you are pretty much forced to talk to other people, otherwise, you will feel very lonely. But the good news is that it is relatively easy to strike up friendships on the road and, as a solo traveller, there is more of an incentive for you to do so. And, in my experience, people are more inclined to approach a solo traveller than a group of people.
Don’t get me wrong; I am very comfortable in my own company but even I would not be able to travel for more than a few days without striking up conversations with others. Some of my most enduring, closest relationships have been formed with those I have met whilst travelling alone.
And I would add that it is far preferable to travel alone than with someone who turns out to be a nightmare away from the shores of your home country. I’m sure that most of us have stories to tell of the travelling companion from hell. I know that I do!
The joy of forging new friendships on the road is articulated perfectly in one of my favourite inspirational travel quotes:
There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.William Butler Yeats
2. You can spend your travel budget however you choose
Most of us have been there. You are travelling with a group of friends, one or two of whom may have a penchant for 5-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants.
And it can work in the opposite direction also. When I fly long-haul, I choose a business-class flight, which would not necessarily be how friends would choose to get bang for their travel buck.
Budgeting is often a tricky part of travelling and is made more difficult if you have to accommodate other people’s preferences. Travelling alone means that you have complete control over your travel budget, including how to spend it.
To say that solo travel is cheaper is a sweeping claim and one that is hard to substantiate. But removing the social pressure of matching the spending habits of travel companions can partially offset the unavoidable costs of solo travel, such as the dreaded single room supplement.
3. You have complete freedom to choose your own path
But it’s not just about financial freedom. Freedom when travelling can assume many forms.
Travelling with another person or as part of a group involves a lot of give and take.
For instance, your travelling companions may not have the same interests as you. Or they may hate Italian food whereas this is your favourite cuisine. Compromise and negotiation are the order of the day.
When you travel alone you can be selfish but in a good way.
You can direct and choose your itinerary, going when and where you want and at your own pace. You can be spontaneous, changing plans at the drop of a hat, sometimes as a result of fellow travellers giving you the inside scoop on an amazing waterfall they visited or the fantastic meal they had the previous evening.
Want to indulge a personal interest? No problem. Given the chance, I love to spend my time seeking out the perfect photographic angle, This would drive many other people nuts but when travelling alone this isn’t an issue.
And it’s hard to beat being able to decide what to do on the day. Relax by a pool and go on a hike; the choice is yours alone. You have no one to disappoint but yourself.
4. You will step outside your comfort zone
Have gone to see a movie or play alone? Or eaten solo at a restaurant? Let’s face it …. many women don’t even go to the toilet alone.
Although travelling with family, friends and loved ones can be fantastic, going it alone will give you more opportunity for growth, both as a traveller and as a person. Stepping away from the familiar, can force you to do things you might never have contemplated before.
As daunting as it may seem, how do you know that you won’t create great travel memories by jetting off somewhere by yourself?
Comfort zones are where dreams go to die.Unknown
5. You will learn more about yourself
Stepping outside of your comfort zone is a great way to get to know yourself better.
Being left to your own devices in out-of-the-ordinary situations forces you to overcome your fears and, in doing so, you find out just what you are capable of.
Our everyday lives are so busy and don’t often allow us the freedom to learn about ourselves. Spending time by yourself in an alien environment allows you to indulge in self-reflection, both who you are and who you want to become.
This opportunity for self-reflection may also provide much-needed insight into what you want to get out of life. Who knows? During that trip to Mexico (other countries are available), you could reach the conclusion that your current career path really isn’t right for you.
6. You will become an ace problem-solver and decision-maker
There will always be bumps in the travel road this means that you sometimes have to make tough decisions. And, when you are travelling solo, you have no one to rely upon but yourself.
If you are someone who struggles with making decisions or solving problems, this is a great life skill that you can take away from solo travel.
I have been in situations where I have had to quickly weigh up my options and learn to trust my instincts. This is a skill that has developed over the years and has been put into practice so many times in my ‘normal’ life.
7. You will be motivated to learn a language faster
If you are itching to learn a foreign language, solo travel will help you to reach this goal.
How so? Well, if you are travelling with friends or family, it is much easier to default to speaking in your native tongue. However, if you are travelling alone, you don’t have the option and are almost forced into trying to speak to locals, be it for casual conversation or to ask for information.
To give you an example, one of my early solo travel trips was to Mexico and I surprised myself as to how much basic Spanish I could manage by the end of three weeks.
9. You can embrace the power of anonymity
When travelling alone, you can be whoever you want. You are in an unfamiliar place where no one knows who you are and there are no expectations to meet. Be true to yourself.
To the people you encounter, you are simply just another traveller in that particular country. No one knows your past, the job you do, or your past triumphs or failures. With this anonymity comes equality and freedom.
10. You will feel empowered
Solo travel is an instant self-esteem booster.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
There’s a lot of truth in this quote, one of my favourite travel captions.
Travelling solo is sometimes not easy and can push you to the limits of your ability to cope with challenges that you encounter. It’s all down to you to overcome these obstacles and helps to make you a stronger person and to grow as a traveller and human being.
Nothing boosts your confidence like navigating unfamiliar cultures in unfamiliar territories. This sense of achievement can be a transformative process, not only at the time but spilling over into other areas of your life on your return home.
Travelling alone is, in itself, a challenge, and the confidence and sense of achievement from solo travel are its greatest rewards. Trust me.
And a Bonus 11th Benefit of Travelling Solo …
I will leave you with one final thought.
The advantages of solo travel are not just confined to when you are travelling. Instead, they persist long after you have returned home and can be transformational.
Go on. Take the plunge. What do you have to lose?