Solo Travel, Just Go! 27


Finishing up a long round of book research, I’ve been on the road exploring by myself. Many people have commented about how brave I must be to travel the world alone, but I don’t really understand that. Solo travel is part of my job, it’s just the way my life is and that’s fine by me. Admittedly, I’m kind of an introvert and the only person who finds me funny, but still. Solo travel is fun.

Do you want to travel but can’t find anyone to go with? Are worries about going alone keeping you from hitting the road? I’d suggest you set aside your hesitations and fears and just GO. Here is why…

 

Solo Travel Doesn’t Cost More

Hitting the road by yourself means not paying the way for someone else, and that’s a big cost savings. If you’re used to splitting the tab for a trip, being alone means no argument about the dinner bill. If you don’t have any normal dependents, it may seem that travel alone will be more expensive, but that’s not necessarily true. Many hotels offer single rooms for much less than a double. Some tours will cost more for a single supplement, but tour companies like Rick Steves will find you a roommate if you don’t want to pay extra. Solo travelers may find the food bill is lower as they probably eat in restaurants less frequently or order just the right amount of food.

Solo Travelers Do Exactly What They Want

One of the most pleasing aspects of solo travel is that you do what you want, whenever you want. Want to eat only a buffet of cake or a pile of fruit for dinner? Want to try the coffee shops in Amsterdam? Want to stay in a museum for 10 hours? How about sleeping in every day? Go for it, no judgement from anyone when you’re by yourself. It’s your time and your way, no matter how indulgent, experimental, lazy or silly. Solo travelers do what they want, when they want. Believe me, it’s liberating and a little addicting.

Solo Travelers Get Benefits

Sometimes being on your own is a big help. Tickets to the theater or a tour may be sold out for couples, but will have singles available. I’ve seen any show I wanted in London, and at a low price, because I was alone and didn’t care where I sat. Special tours like the Scavi under Saint Peter’s can be hard to score as a pair or a group, but not hard for a single. I’ve also had great luck bumming tickets to the Papal Audience off of people at the gate, there is always one extra, rarely two. The best seats on airplanes also often don’t come in pairs, I’m happy to take a lonely bulkhead seat or that last place in Comfort Plus. See how lucky singles are?

Solo Travelers Meet More People

If you’re a sociable type, solo travel is a great way to meet people. When I travel with friends or family, I tend to stick with them, only chatting and experiencing the world in our little bubble. If you are alone, you are more motivated to talk to others. Really outgoing solo travelers will stay in hostels, shared AirBnB apartments or guesthouses with a convivial vibe. I have met far more people when I’ve been alone, because everyone becomes my travel partner, from waiters to hotel staff, to the lady sitting next to me at the bus stop complaining about the Italian transport system.

Solo Travel is Productive

If there is nobody else to consider in travel plans, solo travel can be incredibly productive. Sometimes I want to see things at an inhuman pace that nobody else would put up with. I don’t know many people who would like to sit with me in a cafe for two hours while I paint or write, or to scour a church and read every little detail about its history, that would be pretty boring. If I’m being creatively productive, I’m in my mind palace focusing on my thoughts and am terribly antisocial. Traveling alone, there is no need to worry about that, and the creativity process can flow freely.

Solo Travel Doesn’t Have to be Alone

If you want to travel with someone but can’t find a travel partner, there are ways to find someone to go with. Organized tours are the obvious, easy way. There are always single travelers on every tour I lead. They can spend free time alone or hang with others in the group, whatever works. The singles typically have no problem finding friends, and often find buddies they will travel with again in the future.

If you’d rather travel without an organized tour the whole time, walking tours and day trips give you temporary travel buddies for an hour or a day. While I was in Thailand recently, I booked a half-day tour each day to see some new things. I met people from all over the world and had a blast eating weird food and seeing the sights with temporary travel partners. The group was different every day and gave me a chance to chat with a wide variety of people.

Solo Travel is “Me Time”

A highlight of solo travel is to do the little self-care or pampering things that you couldn’t really do if you were with others. In England and Scotland, I like to go browse bookstores for hours, then take whatever trashy romance novel that catches my eye to high tea and read. In Thailand, I like to have a daily massage. In Rome, I’ll aimlessly stroll and pop into every church that has a door open. In any city, I’ll occasionally spring for a bathtub and buy some lovely bubblebath, a nice bottle of wine and chocolates. I’m worth it, so why not? Spending your “Me Time” relaxing and taking good care of yourself is what a vacation should be about.

 

No Worries

Traveling alone may seem dangerous or scary, but it shouldn’t. Unless you’re going somewhere dangerous and scary…good luck with that, but that’s a different story. Normal travel destinations are just fine, as long as you take some basic precautions:

Be organized and give your itinerary to a loved one, and check in occasionally.

Take a cell phone with international data (I recommend TMobile) and keep it charged and on hand at all times. Know emergency phone numbers.

Keep enough local currency in your pocket for a cab ride back to your hotel, and a business card for the hotel.

Take travel advice from your hotelier or host, they always know what’s up in their city.

Be sensible about staying out late, and don’t go crazy with drinking or the party scene. You are responsible for putting yourself to bed!

No Guilt!

For some reason, there seems to be a strange attitude towards solo travelers. It’s either pity, curiosity, suspicion or some combination of weird feelings. I occasionally get the feeling that people think I must be a spy or am up to something. I have no patience for this. Tell people you are a spy and they will probably leave you alone. Getting out and doing your thing on your own terms is great and should be no cause for worry, fear or guilt.

The prospect of doing things alone may seem intimidating, especially at meal times. The best way to avoid feeling awkward is by reading or writing. Bringing a book, tablet or notebook and pen with you will keep you occupied. I actually love writing while I’m dining alone. It’s a good moment for reflection on my day.

If anyone makes any remarks about the fact that you are alone, keep in mind that many people only wish they had the guts to go it alone. Any comments I’ve ever gotten, once I’ve asked more questions, have confirmed that there is a certain amount of jealousy about being a bold, adventurous solo traveler.

Don’t Wait

I would bet you $11.50 that a big reason that many people never realize their travel dreams is because they can’t find anyone with the time, money or motivation to go with them. How many travel dreams are dashed on the rocks by flaky friends or lazy lovers? There is no reason to wait. Don’t let anyone hold you back. The world is out there and it is calling you–just you. Go and experience it on your own, you may meet someone bold and brave that you didn’t know existed before…yourself.


About sarahinitalia@yahoo.com

Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.


27 thoughts on “Solo Travel, Just Go!

  • Rachel

    Totally agree! On my first trip alone, I was able to get a seat at Pizza Da Michele in Naples right away while 100 people waited outside for hours for 2-tops. On my second, to Central/Eastern Europe, I took in more classical music than anyone else I know would have been able to tolerate. Thinking of what to do next!

  • Kathleene

    I’ve traveled solo to Europe several times and have enjoyed the freedom of being able to spend as much or as little time as I please at a museum, on a walk or sightseeing. Although it’s fun to travel with a companion, solo gives you a different perspective. I have found that I am more thoughtful and inward thinking about my travel experiences when I am on my own.

  • Kim

    I’ve decided that I have to take this step in the coming year – too many places to see to wait on others! LOL
    But taking that first step is a little scary! Thank you so much for this post.

  • Kathy Noll

    Ohh…I get the decadent me-time bubble bath — I did that in Greece 🙂 When people have shown concern of my traveling alone, I always ask them if they have ever walked down a street or gone anywhere at home alone. No difference.

  • Carol Lorenzen

    I agree! I have one friend who phrases travelling solo alone which I love, instead of travelling by myself I’m travelling with myself.

  • Shearer Suzanne

    Solo travel is empowering, renewing, intellectually challenging and gives you the opportunity to reintroduce yourself to yourself. Much cheaper than therapy and certainly more fun.

  • Santa Barbara

    I am a solo traveler and agree wholeheartedly with all of this! I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t want a friend to come with me because I’ve gotten used to doing what I want, when I want. I love that! The only time I wish there was someone else with is at dinnertime when I’d like to have a huge, long Italian dinner. Can’t eat all that on my own:)
    One question – what’s a good strategy for keeping your belongings safe at the seashore? I usually just take the minimal with me, but I’d sure like to take a nice swim in the ocean without constantly looking at the shore.
    Thanks for sharing your travels. Can’t wait to see what else is going on with you this summer!

    • Mary

      I agree. I don’t mind eating breakfast, lunch or snacking alone. But — After a long day sightseeing or shopping, I like to break bread and drink wine over a long dinner with a friend or acquaintance.

  • Melissa

    I’m leaving on my fifth solo trip to Europe (this year, Italy) in a few weeks. This article does a great job of summing up why I love solo travel. As you said, people are always telling me how brave I am to do it … either that, or asking if it isn’t lonely. But I tell them what you said: that I meet more people than I would if I had a traveling companion. Also, like you, I’m somewhat of an introvert, and it’s great to be able to have company when you want it (by going on organized tours) yet to have alone time when that’s what you want.

    The only thing I don’t agree with is saying that it’s less expensive to travel solo. Yes, one person can travel more cheaply than two, but (in my experience, at least) not on a per-person basis. Good point about probably spending less money on food since you’re likely to go to restaurants less often. However, you can’t always get a single room, and even when you can, you’re almost always paying more than your share of a double room split with someone else. And if you want to rent a car for part of the trip, you don’t have anyone to split that cost with either (nor do you have a navigator – thank goodness for GPS). But the other benefits more than make up for those extra costs.

  • Barbara

    Leaving Rome tomorrow after 8 days on my own bookending the Rick Steve’s vfr tour. I sort of did this to make the big3 easy and taste some solo time outside north America. It’s really all the same travel and will never hesitate to go solo again. Loved the tour, guides (Karin and Dara), and new friends so its been a great mix. Your blog also gives me ideas for doing it all better and easily. Thanks

  • Vickie Coffland

    Thank you for this article!! You helped me decide to just go for it!! Single travel sounds very doable when you put it like that!!

  • Kate Hunter

    One more benefit. When something goes wrong, like your recent google map detour, uou only have to worry about yourself. You don’t have to worry about how you are impacting your travel partner’s trip. I finf thst very freeing.

  • Iluv2travel

    Great blog on solo travel. I travel alone for work often. I also tend to read while dining. I leave on a solo vacation to Rome in a couple of weeks and am very excited about it. I want to see it in leisure including spending as much time in museums, churches, and drinking coffee or wine while people watching for as long as I want. It will be great! When I want to be around people I will book a tour of some sort or make small talk with someone around me.

  • Kristine

    Love this. I take most of my trips solo and always have great stories and new friends from each trip. I took the advice 15 years ago to never wait to travel if you want to go. The risk of it never happening is too great! Too many people back out last minute, never commit or are no fun to travel with. I’d rather go, see and do…and regale the couch sitters with amazing tales they can only dream of. I love to have a friend travel with me, but I won’t wait and hope. I just GO!

  • Margaret Hammond

    I agree…my trips have all been wonderful, but full of compromise and accommodation. This time I am traveling solo….me, my Rick Steves back pack and my BritRail pass. I will spend three weeks in the UK…mostly rural Scotland except for the final days….I will celebrate my 70th birthday in Glastonbury. I leave in three weeks! Excited.

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