I must admit, in a way I’m kind of a loner. Being a never married (or close to it) thirty something lends itself to having a lot of ME time over the years. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a recluse, I spend as much time with my family and friends as anyone. But while others were having long-term relationships that inevitably led to marriage and families I had shorter relationships that inevitably led to being single again. I don’t mean to sound bitter; I’m not, because being a single thirty something has afforded me the opportunity to venture into this unknown lifestyle of ‘traveler’. I won’t go so far as to say my time alone prepared me for long-term solo travel but I do think in certain situations it can help, especially if you’re naturally an introvert, like me.
Here are a few pros and cons of solo travel I’ve encountered while traveling:
- At times travel makes even the most reticent introvert come out of their shell (which is a good thing!). Since there isn’t anyone else to count on you are the doer. So…say you want to try the native cuisine but don’t speak the language, you can’t figure out the automated ticket machine at the train station, or you just want to tag along to the pub with some people at the hostel…it’s on you. You must step out of the shadows wallflower and ask that girl to dance. If you don’t; there’s only one person to blame.
- There’s no compromising. You get to pick what you spend your time doing, all of your time. If you don’t want to go to another museum…don’t. The only person you have to please is you. Recently I met another solo traveler, Jana, on a bus to Newcastle and she put it perfectly: “I get to be as selfish as I want!’
- If you’re traveling unmapped, like me, you can make decisions on the fly about when/where you go, how you get there, and how long you stay…without needing a consult from anyone except Mr. Budget.
- The opposite is true for the first point above. It’s on you…always on you. That can get old. There’s nobody else to make reservations, buy and cook food, wash clothes, decide when/where to travel next, etc. As nice as it is to have the freedom to do what you want, when you want, and how you want, having another decision maker on board is nice once in a while. I think that’s one reason solo travelers, if only for a day, join with groups or each other. They not only gain the camaraderie that’s missed in a ‘table for one’ setting but also someone to share the decision-making ‘burden’ with.
- At some point you’ll want to get away, lay in your favorite recliner, and be alone. The problem is your favorite recliner will be 7000 miles away and all you’ll have is the common room at the hostel. It’s not always the best place to just veg out. (a good hack to fix this problem is to find a scenic park, pop in your ear buds, and ignore everyone around you)
- When you cook…it’s hard to only cook for one person. Hostel refrigerators are usually small and full of other people’s food items so you won’t often be able to save ‘leftovers’.
- You can’t take advantage of the discounts given to two or more. Some include railpass discounts, plates for two at restaurants, and rooms for two at hostels.
This is a small list but whether you’re solo traveling for a weekend, a week-long work trip, or a gap year…at some point you’re bound to encounter some or all of these situations…and more. I’d love to hear your ups and downs from being on the road alone. Comment here with your solo travels pros and cons!