Much has been written about solo travel and the reasons why it is a good way to explore the planet. Often these articles talk about how solo travel is a great way to meet new people and how you can learn a lot about yourself while travelling alone. The issue I have with this narrative – and the reason I wanted to write about solo travel myself – is that I don’t really relate to it very much. It’s not that those reasons for travelling solo are not valid nor true for many people, possibly most people. It’s just that I like solo travel for quite different reasons.
You see, I don’t think I’ve learned many life lessons while travelling solo and I certainly don’t do it to make friends (something to do with my pronounced introversion, which I wrote about in this post on travel for introverts). So I thought I might add a different perspective into the mix and share ten good reasons to travel solo – and none of them has anything to do with ‘finding yourself’.
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My Solo Travel Experience
Before I jump into the list, I thought some context on my solo travel experience would be useful.
Since I met my husband 20 years ago, he has been my main travel partner and we’ve travelled to 29 countries on six continents together.
However, I took my first solo travel trip nine years ago. My husband was invited away for a week for a friend’s stag trip, and rather than stay at home feeling sorry for myself, I decided to book a trip of my own. I spent a few days exploring Budapest, Hungary on my own– and it was great!
Over the years since, I’ve travelled solo more often. In part, this was due to me wanting to travel more than my husband, and not wanting to miss out just because he was working or didn’t want to go to that particular place. But necessity is no longer the main reason I travel solo. I’ve developed a real taste for it and there are now lots of reasons I travel solo – so let me jump into the list…
10 Reasons To Travel Solo
1. Travel When You Want
If you’re travelling alone, you don’t need to coordinate with anyone else’s calendar. Whenever it suits you and your own circumstances, you can take a trip.
Me, I am self-employed, so I have clients and deadlines – I can’t travel literally whenever I feel like it. However, if I can make it fit with my work schedule, and it doesn’t clash with anything else in my diary, I can do it.
For example, I recently booked a trip back to Barcelona, one of my favourite cities. I did this with a few weeks’ notice and it was possible because I didn’t have to plan around anyone else’s availability.
2. Go Where You Want
Not everyone has the same travel interests, but you don’t need to compromise where you go if you travel solo.
I realised this when I went with my husband on a city break to Bucharest in Romania. Like me, he loves big vibrant cities and we’ve enjoyed trips to places like New York and Hong Kong together. However, at the end of the Bucharest weekend, he said he hadn’t really enjoyed it – a smaller city like that just wasn’t his cup of tea.
3. Travel How You Want
There are so many ways to travel: road trips, cruises, and again, not everyone likes the same thing.
For example, last Autumn, I took a train to Barcelona via Paris. It’s a fairly long journey – longer than if I had flown there. Similarly, when I visited Luxembourg, I went by train via Paris (for one day) on the way there and Brussels on the way back – again, the journey was much slower than if I had flown directly.
I’m not sure whether any of my previous travel buddies would have wanted to travel this way or not – but I didn’t even have to consider that. I did it because it’s what I wanted to do.
4. Stay As Long As You Want
Some travellers love to dwell in a place for a long time – slow travel seems to be a big thing in the travel community.
I can’t quite bring myself to travel that way. A big reason why not is that I do have to work and I am not able to work fully remotely, like a digital nomad. So I travel in gaps between projects. Even if I have more than a week or so to spend abroad, I normally have some pent-up wanderlust which makes me want to explore as much as I can in that time period.
For example, last year I visited six cities in France, Spain, Andorra and Portugal in 10 days. I’m not sure everyone would enjoy moving around as much as I did on that trip! And that’s OK because when travelling solo, you can stay as long as you want to.
5. Do What You Want
Have you ever had that awkward conversation on a trip you try to work out what to do that day? Maybe you want to please other people, so you try to suggest things they’ll like; maybe you have a strong desire to do a certain thing and you’re crossing your fingers that your travel buddies will be up for it?
Well, there’s none of that with solo travel! If you want to dive deep into some niche museums, you can do that. If you want to simply wander the streets for a while – go for it. The agenda is entirely yours.
I was reminded of this on a trip to Dublin recently with my husband. I was really interested in learning more about Dublin’s literary history, but my husband was not – and I remembered the need to compromise when you travel with others. Luckily, he wanted a nap one afternoon, so while he was sleeping, I raced out to the Dublin Literary Museum on my own.
6. Eat Where You Want
I’m sure you’re noticing a trend for these reasons by now…
Like the other reasons, you can eat where and what you want if you travel solo. During a solo trip to Luxembourg last year, I really wanted to try Luxembourgish cuisine. However, many of the restaurants that served it were closed (perhaps because it was winter).
The only one I could find was a funny place with a canteen vibe by the train station. I don’t know if anyone else would have wanted dinner there, but that didn’t matter as it was my choice.
7. Get A Table Without A Reservation
Now, this isn’t universally true, but I have noticed that it can be easier to get a table in a restaurant, without a reservation if you’re on your own.
I first noticed this in Lisbon last year when I tried a couple of very popular restaurants in the Principe Real area. Twice I was able to get in because they had a spare seat at the counter, which wouldn’t have worked for couples or groups.
I’m quite happy eating at a counter, even when I’m with someone else – so this is fine for me!
8. Go At Your Pace
Now, contrary to what I said earlier about how much I like to cram into my trips, I do still need downtime. If I’ve been exploring a city all morning, I might take a break in my hotel room in the afternoon, or stay in and watch TV in the evening. Sometimes, it is just too much to be out and about all the time (even if my curiosity is compelling me to try!). I’m also very introverted and my brain needs time to process the information around me.
If you travel solo, you can go at your own pace – take breaks when you need them, without slowing anyone else down (or being slowed down by them!)
9. Spend According To Your Budget
I have travelled on all kinds of budgets. I remember travelling in Spain with friends years ago and I was on a self-cater kind of budget, but they wanted to eat out every night. It was tricky – I had to stay back at our apartment some nights and that didn’t feel good.
Another time, when I had more disposable income, I wanted to splash out on a meal at an amazing restaurant. And that also felt awkward, as not everyone was in a position to spend as much.
When I travel solo, I can spend according to what I have, without any awkwardness.
10. Wear What You Want
This last one might be a reason to travel solo that only applies to me – but I do like not really caring about how I’m dressed when I travel solo. I don’t take selfies when I travel (my Instagram motto is ‘scenery over selfies’) and if I’m not with anyone whose opinion I care about, I just go with whatever is comfortable for me. You won’t find me twirling for photos in a lovely long skirt or a stylish hat anywhere I travel!
Last Christmas, I travelled to Paris solo and I treated myself to a stay at a luxury Paris hotel. I turned up in trainers, joggers and a hooded rain mac. I imagine I looked rather unlike their other, well-dressed guests, but thankfully the staff at the wonderful Hotel Regina Louvre were far too professional to show any disdain for my attire.
Reasons To Travel Solo – in Summary
So basically, the theme is that when you travel solo, you have more freedom. You can do things on your own terms – and I love it!
You could say that solo travel is a selfish way to travel – and I think it can be. And honestly, I’m OK with that. Maybe I have ‘found myself’ through solo travel after all: perhaps, I’ve learned I’m a selfish traveller, haha!
Is There A Downside To Solo Travel?
In focussing on all the reasons to travel solo, I am talking up the positives, but there are negatives too. Based on my solo travel so, far the downsides include:
- Not being able to share the experience: of course, many experiences are better if shared with someone, especially someone who values that kind of experience. And I think this is the reason many solo travellers write travel blogs – to share their experiences with people!
- Single supplements: if you book a tour as a solo traveller, you will pay more than if you book as a pair because costs are often based on sharing rooms. And even if you’re not on a tour, I’ve noticed it doesn’t cost much less for single rooms than for doubles or twins.
- Single rooms are not that great: they’re often very small and a couple of times I’ve been given a single room with no external window – just a window opening into a stairwell.
- It can be harder to manage your mood if you get down. I discovered this when I visited Auschwitz on my own. The horror of that place (plus getting drenched to my skin waiting for a bus afterwards) made me feel low. Without any friends around me, I struggled to lift my spirits afterwards. So maybe heavy-going emotional places are not such a great idea to visit solo.
- Safety is a greater consideration – it is understandable that solo travellers, especially solo female travellers are concerned about safety. And I think it’s a good idea to think about how to stay safe, which leads me on to my next thought…
Is Solo Travel For Women Safe?
The truth is, I don’t know if travel is any more or less safe for solo travellers and for solo female travellers – it’s hard to find reliable statistics. However, I do know I feel more vulnerable as a solo female traveller – and that makes me take extra precautions when I travel solo.
I do this, not because I think it’s my responsibility to avoid crime, or because I blame victims of crime – only the person committing the crime is responsible for their actions. But I do know that crime happens and I think it is smart to try to reduce the chances of it happening to me, whilst acknowledging I can’t reduce the chances to zero (I can’t control everything and bad things can happen anywhere).
My Solo Travel Tips For Staying Safe
- Stay in budget hotels rather than Airbnbs or hostels. Some people love hostels and feel safe in them, but I have avoided hostels for years – mainly for hygiene and privacy reasons, but also for safety reasons. I also avoid Airbnb when I travel solo. I prefer to have the extra security of a hotel including a manned entrance / two locked doors at night, CCTV, plus the recourse to a company if something were to happen.
- Lock doors in your room: I always lock my hotel room with the deadlock/bolt when I’m inside – just in case someone unscrupulous gets hold of the master key. I have been known to put a chair up against the door also, as a ‘just in case’.
- Be careful with belongings – I’m really mindful of my belongings when I travel. For example, I wear a bag that goes across my body, making it harder for someone to grab. I almost never let it go – even when I sit down, I loop my bag strap around my leg, so it couldn’t be tugged without me feeling it. I don’t flash my phone or cash when I’m out and about.
- Two drink maximum(& obviously, don’t accept drinks from strangers): I do drink alcohol when I travel solo, but I have a limit of two drinks. Again, it’s not that drunk people are ‘asking for trouble’, but I do think that when I’m under the influence, I could be seen as a softer target and I might be less alert and aware of what’s going on around me.
- Don’t wander the streets super late, obviously.
- Listen to local advice about safety, for example, in Barcelona I was warned about pickpockets around La Rambla. And in La Paz, Bolivia, the guidance was not to take any taxis that were not booked by your hotel. Where it’s available, I listen to this valuable local info.
Final Tip For Solo Travel: Ease Yourself Into It
If you are thinking of trying solo travel for the first time and you’re not confident about it, my final tip is to start small and ease yourself into it. I started with the weekend in Budapest, and then after a few other short weekend city breaks, I did a week, then ten days travelling on my own. I’m now planning a month of solo travel this summer.
Similarly, start with a location that feels more comfortable to you. For me, I’ve only solo travelled in Europe – I guess I know it well, the culture is similar, and it is close enough to home in the UK that it wouldn’t be too hard to get home from, should I need to. Maybe one day I’ll go further afield (I have been thinking of a solo trip to Jordan…).
I hope this inspired you to consider solo travel!
Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts on my list of reasons to travel solo.
And check out my recommended travel gadgets and gear for solo travellers!