10 Reasons to Travel Alone (and 10 Reasons Not To)

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Making all sorts of friends as I travel alone.

Want to know that it’s really like to travel alone? For the past four years I’ve been travelling the world on my own. Many solo travellers will tell you it’s the BEST. THING. EVER. And most of the time it is. But sometimes, and not that infrequently, it can really suck to wander the world on your lonesome.

Here I will share with you my 10 reasons to travel alone…and 10 reasons not to.

In there interests of ending on a happy note, let’s start with…

10 Reasons it Sucks to Travel Alone

  1. When you need the bathroom at a bus station in Asia and you have nobody to mind your bag…resulting in you manoeuvring your body and 15kg bag over a filthy squat toilet while simultaneously crossing your fingers that you won’t topple into the brown “sludge” on the floor. You might think being lonely is the biggest potential downside to when you travel alone. It’s not. I get lonely less than a handful of times a year. Conversely, I wish I wasn’t travelling alone every time I have to take a bathroom break at a bus station.
  2. When you can’t find a tour or affordable transport because there’s a 4 person minimum to hire the jeep/take a guide  to that remote waterfall you’re desperate to see.
  3. When you want to stray beyond the main sights of a location but you’re in one of those places where you’d be safer with company. Although I don’t come across this very often, I’ve definitely curtailed my plans to venture further afield in some locations when a solo trip hasn’t seemed so sensible. (You may also want to read my article: Is it safe for women to travel alone?).
  4. When you get off the bus or train at the wrong stop or station and you have to wait on your own for hours. I do this a lot. I’ve done it alone and I’ve done it with travel friends – the latter is always less stressful and definitely more fun.
  5. When you turn up at a popular restaurant at 8pm on a Saturday night and the waiter winces when you ask for a table for one. (You may want to read my 20 tips for eating out alone).
  6. When you have to check into a double room in a hotel, a private room in a hostel, a beach cabana in Thailand, all guesthouses in India, the casa particulars in Cuba… and have to foot the entire bill for two people.  Airport taxis are the same deal. Same with ordering “2 person minimum” dished like paella (for some ridiculous reason). If you travel alone a lot you’ll quickly reach the point where you realise it would be nice to split the cost (or dish) once in a while.
  7. When you’re lost – two map reading minds are ALWAYS better than (my) one. Okay, I probably get lost more than most people but if you’re hopping towns every few days, it’s nice to share the burden of figuring out your new turf day after day, which can get pretty exhausting on your own over the long-term.
  8. When creepy guys start hitting on you, following you or cat-calling you….or, from a guy’s perspective (as I hear from my guy traveller friends), when you’re approached by ladies wanting your company AND payment when you really just want to enjoy the sights.

  1. When you’re in the mood for a party but you’re all on your own…in your private guesthouse room…that you’ve had to spend all your party money on because there’s only one of you. All that said, I’ve been know to start a party in an empty room – a skill that solo travel has taught me and a skill I’m kind of proud of.
  2. When you look back and realise all your photos are selfies – bad, bad, does-my-chin-really-look-like-that selfies.

A word on loneliness: you’ll notice that being lonely doesn’t make the list. Why? Because most of the time when I travel (and most likely when you travel), there is barely any time to get lonely. If you’re opting for hostels (dorms of a private room in a hostel), you’ll have access to other travellers 24/7. When loneliness does hit, it’s more a case of homesickness and missing particular people (family and friends) than not having any company. Although homesickness if horrible, it can usually be cured by getting out, meeting people and keeping your day busy.

So, that’s how it sucks to travel alone. But, before you rip up your plans…dreams…hopes…around the world ticket, here’s the flip side of the story…

10 Reasons it Rocks to Travel Alone

Photo by: luis angel.

  1. You can go where you want, when you want and you never have to compromise. Ever. Feel hungry at 3pm? Take yourself for a late lunch without wondering if you’re travel partner is ready to eat despite chomping on a slice of pizza 10 minutes ago. Fancy that kinda geeky/a bit out-there museum – go ahead and go. Don’t underestimate the power of being able to do exactly what you want to do and when you want to do it. Just think ME. ME. ME. Oh…and some more ME.
  2. Your confidence and independence is going to increase ten-fold. Sure travelling alone can feel stressful at times but every time you stretch yourself you become better for it. Before you know it, out of the once fearful solo traveller will grow the most confident and independent butterfly who is able to fly free on a whim and without fear.
  3. There’s usually at least one space left – on the bus, the train, in a café, on a tour. Yes, sometimes the words “only one” can be uttered in a positive way that can get you where you want to go (to the airport on the last bus you’re able to catch without missing your flight) while families of four have to wait (and run the risk of missing their flight). (The flight incident happened for real in Japan – bless my solo travel status).
  4. People are much more likely to befriend you. From locals to other travellers, you’re much more approachable when you travel alone. And you’re more likely to mingle with others, too. Unless you plan to spend your entire trip alone, you’ll reach a point (very quickly) where you’ll just need to take a deep breath and learn how to strike up a conversation with complete strangers. It’s an excellent life skill to learn and one you’ll acquire quicker than your travel peers who have the comfort zone of their group, partner or travel friend to turn to.  I’m certainly more social with strangers when I travel on my own. And isn’t that a huge part of travel – meeting other people?

  1. You don’t have to get embroiled in group decisions. Ever asked 12 people where they want to go for breakfast? I have and what follows is rarely smooth or fun. If you travel in a group you’ll spend a huge amount of your trip in time sucking discussions about the smallest of things. Either everyone will be so polite with their “I don’t mind…whatever” that no decisions will be taken (or at least not for half and hour) or there will be strongly conflicting views and chaos and shouting will ensue. Meanwhile, your lone traveller will have skipped off to do whatever it is that they want to do.
  2. You can change your plans at a moment’s notice. If you click with another traveller and decide to take a clockwise route around a country with them instead of your original plan to go anticlockwise, or you decide to stay longer at the beach or choose to skip a country entirely, you can do it. Try and change plans when you have upwards of two people invested in the original itinerary and you’re probably going to hit a lot of road blocks.
  3. You’re more likely to be given freebies. From free entry into sights, to a free tour of a museum to free cake, wine, and coffee, every time I’ve been given free stuff or treated to the best seat in the house/on the bus, it’s happened when I’ve travelled alone. Oh, and those flight upgrades – much easier to get when you’re solo.
  4. You don’t have to wait for anyone. EVER. I’m as impatient as hell but even if, like my dad, you possess the patience of a saint, waiting time can be multiplied by a factor of four for every additional person that a travel group has. I once recall having to wait over an hour as six people from my hostel readied themselves in various ways just to go out for lunch – from packing things away to checking something “quickly” (for the record, when someone says I’ll be quick, sit down and open your Kindle) to bathroom stops to chatting to people on the way, having travel friends means waiting. A LOT.
  5. You don’t have to feel guilty for taking the last hammock, bottom bunk, sleeper on the train. I’ll say it one last time – all you need to think when you travel alone is ME. ME. ME.

Any more to add? Any other pros and cons when you travel alone? Let me know in the comments below.

Author - Jo Fitzsimons

Avatar for Jo Fitzsimons

Hi, I'm Jo, the writer behind Indiana Jo. In 2010 I quit my job as a lawyer and booked an around the world ticket. As a solo female traveller, I hopped from South America to Central America, across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It was supposed to be a one-year trip but over a decade later, it's yet to end. I've lived in a cave, climbed down a volcano barefoot, spent years as a digital nomad, worked as a freelance travel writer, and eaten deadly Fugu. Now I'm home, back in the UK, but still travelling far and wide. You can find out more About Me.

13 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Travel Alone (and 10 Reasons Not To)”

  1. Thanks again Jo, I love the “Solo Rules” pic. Sums it up perfectly. I think you’re more of a target for scammers & worse, solo but as you put it you’re naturally more cautious alone. My first solo trip away overland Singapore to Nth Thailand in the first week I met the same Aussie couple 3 times, shame we didn’t have internet & Facebook those days or we’d still be friends. Traveling with family especially kids can be a low point, kids get sick = stress, plus I could have spent millennia around Angkor Wat but the wife & kids just weren’t that interested. That’s why my next trip (first one for years) will be solo Mexico to Lima, 105 days, I just can’t wait 🙂
    PS: I should be trip planning rather than reading your blogs but they are enjoyable 🙂

    • Scotty, I agree there are definite up and down sides to solo travel but overall I prefer to be alone. I can do what I want and also I don’t ruin anyone else’s trip. I loved Angkor Wat but I could have had a 3 hour snooze at Herculaneum near Vesuvius and I bet my friend I was with wished I had! Mexico to Lima – what an adventure! Send me a link to your blog and I’ll follow along.

      • Just started my blog with only a few short entries, used Siteground for the domain, Worpress.org software & “Jolene” for the theme. I think I’ve got Shareaholic connected to my Paypal acc but making the conn. seemed suspiciously easy so I think I may have mucked up.
        Anyway, enough of the boring stuff, 23rd Jan 2016 I go to Thailand via Bali with my wife for a month then only back for a short week & on 2nd March I fly to Mexico City & return from Lima on 11th June, can’t wait 🙂

          • That was 2 years ago, not long after disaster struck & my home was destroyed in a bushfire. I’ve nearly finished rebuilding now & I plan to head off on that trip on 21st February. I let the blog go but you can find me on Facebook Scotty Elliott, or maybe you already have. Getting close to take off time & I’m so going to appreciate this adventure since my plans were so cruelly crushed last time. ?

          • Scotty – that is horrible. I hope you’re ok 🙁 I’m pleased to hear that your travel plans are back on some sort of track. You know you can revive a blog any time 😉 I’ll find you on Facebook in the meantime. Happy travels and good to have you back!

  2. Really great post, Jo! I can totally relate to #1 – this has always been one of my fears. Once during a trip to Vietnam, we were in an overnight bus driving from Hoi An to Nga Trang when a guy asks if we can pull over. It was pitch dark, everyone else was asleep and a few went outside to use the bathroom, but as soon as the first came back in, the driver just started driving. I yelled at him to stop and saw the poor guy come running outside the window. Since then during stops, I’ve always asked someone in the bus to make sure the driver doesn’t leave without me!

  3. So many on-target things here! One of the things that sucks about traveling alone (that you touched on as well) is having no one to watch your bags when you have to pee. This happens to me all the time in restaurants!

  4. I was about to start writing about this too. I’m traveling solo at the moment n staying in hostels again after a few business trips for work involving fancy hotels and no time to make new friends.
    It feels good to hit the road my way again. And I met amazing ppl too. I love traveling alone but I understand it is a skill and not everybody can do it. Love your writing 😉

    • Thanks Ana! Solo travel really does have its ups and downs. I could have done with a travel buddy yesterday when my hostel booking hadn’t processed and I found myself in Cali without a room and no idea where to go. I solved it, obviously, but sometimes solo going is hard…but most of the time I love it!

  5. Great post! I’d add to the ‘group decisions’ problem: peer pressure overriding your gut instincts.

    My worst ever travel day was looking for a private shuttle. I could tell that shuttle we’d found were dodgy. My group kept telling me I was paranoid, and pressured me to get on and shut up. Let’s just say I was right (I’m still too angry to write about it six months later!). It’s the only time I’ve actually cried on the road, and it was as much out of frustration at myself for not trusting my instinct and letting others bully me into a dangerous situation as it was about my stupid companions and the stupid scammers. If I’d been travelling solo, I’d never have gotten on the shuttle.

    Your reasons to travel alone convince me that it’s the way forward for me! I enjoyed travelling with my friend this year, but there’s no denying that we irritated each other with the things you mention.

    • Urgh, going against your instinct and then being right is a gutting moment. You kick yourself but there’s nothing you do about it. Sounds like it was a particularly bad experience – though on the plus side, at least you know you have some good instincts (following them is a completely separate skill). And I agree, I’m often more cautious when I’m alone, which is generally a good thing. Hopefully in time you’ll find the calm to write about your experience or at least look back without being so angry.


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