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The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel: Is it Right for You?
With the many questions swirling around solo traveling I’m going to try to answer some providing the pros and cons of solo travel through my view. Hopefully, you’ll get a better idea on whether solo travel is right for you (or if you are right for it), and you’ll come away with the confidence to at least try it once. You never know where that experience may take you. How wonderful!
What is Solo Travel?
First, let’s start with some basics. What is a solo traveler? Simply put, a solo traveler is a person who travels alone. Other descriptions, however, are wanderer, wanderlust seeker, free spirit, nomad or digital nomad, and so on.
Is Solo Travel a Thing?
Oh, you betcha! It has been for some time. Actually, I’ve asked myself, “What is the big deal about traveling solo?”, when reading articles and other travel blogs. Then I’d have to take a step back and remind myself, well, I have been doing it for a long time now – over 25 years internationally and well over that domestically. Thinking further, I’d have to admit it can be a big deal for some people who’ve just started it or have never done it. Are you in this category?
Today, apparently, solo travel is on the rise. In 2019, it was reported that 18% of global bookings were from solo travel, an increase of 7% from the year before.
Travel Agent Central notes that of U.S. Millennials polled in 2018, 25% say they plan to travel solo within 12 to 24 months.
A Booking.com survey also found that 34% of those who have taken a solo trip said they would do it again.
Is Solo Travel Over 50 a Thing?
It sure is! Condor’s 2020 report found that 86% of solo travelers are over 35 years of age, and the average age of the modern solo traveler is 47.
Additionally, the same Travel Agent Central poll found 40% of global Baby Boomers (55 to 64 years old) reported to have traveled solo in the last year and 21% plan on taking one in the future.
With people living longer and the single household numbers growing, these solo travel statistics are surely to grow as well.
So why travel solo? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of solo travel, shall we?
The Pros and Cons of Solo Travel
What Solo Travel Can Teach You
Like I’ve said, solo travel is not just about going to new places, it also has many benefits. Let me count the ways…
You are in control. The number one rule in solo travel is, “there is no shame in solo travel”. The number two rule in solo travel, “there is no shame in solo travel“. Why say this? Have you ever tried to book a trip with someone and they bailed on you? Repeatedly? Do you want to go somewhere but your significant other doesn’t? How about you want to go somewhere but don’t know anyone else who likes to, or can, travel?
Point is, if you wait around for others, you could wait forever. You could find your life passing you by. Ask yourself how many opportunities will you have to travel? If not many, then what are you waiting for? Solo travel puts you in the driver’s seat of living your life the way you want to.
Additionally, while traveling solo, you get to come and go as you please. You don’t have to wait for others holding you up on the next attraction you want to see, or you can sleep in if you want. You can take that well-planned itinerary and chuck it out the window and not have to answer to anyone. I cannot tell you how much I love this freedom when traveling solo.
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Solo travel boosts your self-confidence. I completely understand if there is a certain level of fear you may have in attempting solo travel, but with all other things in life, do you research, equip yourself the best you can and move on. Don’t let fear hold you back. A life lived in fear is no life at all. I’m sure that’s a quote of someone’s somewhere, but it’s true.
If that doesn’t inspire you, then how about, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I’m not saying traveling solo is a ‘horror’, but you get the point.
You will be more in tune with yourself. Trust me, once you find yourself in a new place with only your wits to get you to point B, you will start to learn what wits you really have. How well do you read a map? How well did you plan your trip so you know how to get to your hotel? Did you budget enough for your trip? How’s your knowledge of the local language? When you are traveling alone, you will be relying on yourself to answer these questions. Then you will truly know where your travel strengths and weaknesses lie, and where to improve for the next trip.
You’ll also get a better understanding of your comfort zone. This ranges from your personal safety to finding out what your personal tastes are. New locations and experiences give you an opportunity to try new things that you won’t know if you like until you try them. Traveling solo will gently push you to know your personal boundaries, which you will inevitably take with you into your daily life.
You learn how to be alone. In your daily life, do you spend much time alone? Do you have a family or roommates? Are you always surrounded or on the go so there is not much “me time”? Traveling solo will provide you plenty of that.
For some it may be an adjustment. Others may fall into spending time with themselves more easily. Whichever, being alone can bring much tranquility and time to reflect. If we are to be comfortable with anyone in our lives, it definitely should be with ourselves, don’t you think?
You learn how break social barriers. How well are you at meeting people? Speaking with strangers or strangers from another country? When you travel solo, you will most likely be eating your meals alone, going to attractions alone, and riding transportation alone. You may find yourself wanting to engage with others for fun or simply for need of assistance. This is a great time to learn how to ‘break the ice’, if you don’t know how to already.
Additionally, you will end up finding you are not really alone traveling solo. There are many solo wanderers out there just like you! If you’re lucky, you could make a connection with one of them and have a friend for life. Facebook really does make that easy. Once you start traveling solo you’ll find your fellow solo travelers more easily. Then they’ll be those you’ll really relate to. Free spirit and all.
You’ll gain appreciation for new environments and cultures. There is nothing like learning how much people are truly alike around the world. People want to be able work and support themselves, have families and provide for them, provide for their children’s education, and so on. Even better is finding out how people live their lives differently in pursuit of the same goals. Traveling solo provides for opportunities to put yourself out there to meet the locals, volunteer, or even extend your stay to work in a new region. It won’t take you long to realize that the world is not as scary as the media lets you believe.
Who Can Travel Solo?
In short, anyone. Whether you’re female or male, a Millennial or Baby Boomer, married or single, young or older professional – if you have the will, there is a way.
Let me make a small note here on views of solo travel: you may hear differing opinions on it. You’re reading my views on it right now. Please, however, do not take stock of those who view solo travel as the “best” or the “worst” way to travel. Solo travel is like anything else – it’s personal. Heck, if we were all the same, we’d buy the same things, speak the same way, do the same things, etc. But we are not all the same.
Case in point, if you were to take a basic, personality test, such as a free one like Truity’s, you can see humans possess multiple types of personalities (disclaimer: I do not endorse any particular online tests and you take results as you will); so, why would you base a decision on what is right for you that is perhaps wrong for someone else?
Someone who is a real extrovert may have had a horrible experience because they had a hard time meeting people, for example. Perhaps an introvert had a great time because, hey, they like being alone anyway. Me? I’m in the middle of the road.
In fact, what is your personality type? Doesn’t hurt to do some personal introspection if you are considering traveling solo for the first time.
Types of Solo Travel
How you travel alone is completely up to you. Beautiful, huh? Whether it’s going someplace new or different, going to a place within your country or to a new country, or if the trip is three days or three months, only you know will know what type of solo travel is best for you. Recall that you are in control. That’s the bonus of what type of travel you wish to embark on.
Solo Travel vs Group Travel
Here you may ask, “Gwen, I’m wanting to try solo travel for the first time but I’m not sure I can handle doing everything myself.” And that’s ok. I hear you first-time solo travelers. Like I mentioned above, you’ll learn your comfort zone and a group tour may be the place for you to start, if need be.
You’re still booking the trip on your own, paying for it on your own, and going on your own. You’ll just be with others daily for some company – depending on the group tour. A group tour may also take the load off your travel planning, which can help beginner solo travelers.
Also, don’t forget the multitude of day excursions and activities available, like on Viator, you can use to break up time you spend alone. Will you be in Belize and want to go snorkeling? There’s a day trip for that. Want to learn Italian cooking in Florence, Italy? There’s a class for that.
My only recommendation is to first thoroughly research if a group tour is truly right for you. They can be pricey or may not give you what you’re truly looking for on your trip. Again, do some research on you and the trip.
I also encourage you to try to go a little outside your comfort zone. If you continually do this, you may find the world will be your comfort zone. Not too shabby, huh?
Where to Solo Travel
For the most part, you have skies-the-limit on where to travel alone. I have been to twenty-four countries at least once (and counting) and 46 of the 50 United States, including Alaska. My global travel guides show that solo travel to these locations is possible. Check out the travel guides I have provided on each location. They are there to assist you.
First-time solo travelers may be asking where are the best places to visit first. I have written on how to choose your first solo trip destination and will write more on where might be a good place to start solo traveling, like Belize. So, please keep checking the solo travel blog. Again, all locations I’ve already provided can be done solo. I did.
My note on safety: this is the most important thing in travel, solo or not. I consider safety more important than price or convenience. Always be safe and do research on each location before you even book your travel. I have provided safety tips in each of my travel guides for convenience, but feel free to go beyond and see what other solo travelers also have to say about a particular country or city.
Speaking of safety…. Of course, there are some places around the world that may not be advised for traveling alone – groups may be best. There may be areas that are not safe for female solo travelers in particular. This can be inevitable. Again, please do your research thoroughly before you book you travel.
When to Solo Travel?
Again, this is mostly a personal choice so have at it! If anything, traveling alone only provides more options because you can pick and choose when to travel based on your own life in terms of things like time off work, finances, and school, and not have to plan it around others. Big bonus for solo traveling.
Of course, always check your safety factor and make sure it’s the right time to visit a particular location.
As with any other travel, cost can always be an issue, and time of year can greatly affect how expensive, or inexpensive, it can be to travel. However, that is true whether you’re traveling alone or not, but I’m going to keep this note under the “Cons” column because it looked like it was getting a little lonely.
Is Solo Travel Expensive?
I’ve done much budget-friendly travel while solo. In fact, I’ve been providing tips, destination suggestions and itineraries for budget travelers. The good thing, of course, is that an airline or train ticket price is not going to be affected on if you are traveling alone. The better thing is that, because you are solo, you don’t have to worry about booking around someone else so it gives you more ticketing options, which may also save you money. Cha ching!
Accommodations can also be very budget friendly for the solo traveler. Hostels open up more opportunities for budget travel and meeting people. Other options such as AirBnB or house sitting can also provide budget friendly options. Last, with the rise of solo travel popularity, some hotels and booking chains are starting to decrease or remove single supplemental fee. Ultimately, the more you can plan ahead always helps.
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There are trips and excursions based solely for the single or solo traveler. Looking into these can provide great opportunities to travel more, yet not necessarily pay more.
Last, you don’t have to worry about high rental car and gas prices to get around while traveling alone. Public transportation and ride shares, like Uber, provide many travel options and flexibility. Not to mention, public transportation is eco-friendly.
Of course, there are still those hotels and booking services that do tack on the single supplement fee, so this may not always be avoidable. Also, even if you wish to stay in a hostel but want a private room, these rooms can cost as much as a hotel room. You do have flexibility being solo, but depending on your tastes and preferences, it’s possible a higher price may come with it.
What is Solo Travel Like?
Wow, this seems to be a popular question. Well, for me, it’s wonderful! It works well for me, personally, and it provides me the chance to hook up with my solo traveler friends (because they are out there solo traveling, too).
I’ll break down two popular, specific questions as I see them:
Is Solo Travel Lonely?
Depending on your personality type, where you stay (like a hostel), where you go, and how you go (perhaps on a group trip) will affect this. Not to mention travel apps – there are an abundance out there to assist in travel planning and fit your travel style, including finding things to do and meeting people.
Personally, I don’t find that I am ever really alone, so I don’t get lonely. I not only enjoy having my “me time”, but since I’m also an outgoing person who can talk to anyone, including in the grocery line, I’ve never experienced a problem ‘breaking the ice’ to meet new people while I travel.
In fact, I enjoy the fact that I’m alone so I can meet new people. Sometimes the people we travel with are not as extraverted, or even friendly, so they may not want to engage with strangers. Not me. I love it. It’s how I learn more about the world – through the people I meet.
Again, depending on the factors I mentioned above, it’s possible you could get lonely. Do you have a medical condition that may predispose you to feeling loneliness, or would your doctor not recommend you travel solo? It’s really a matter of you knowing you. This is why I mention it’s a good idea to test the waters in a manner that is right for you.
Is Solo Travel Safe?
I’m firmly putting this in the “Pros” column, because I have never, not once, felt unsafe traveling solo. That said, I consider myself street-wise and try not to put myself into situations where I will feel unsafe.
As I stated above, safety is the most important thing in travel, solo or not. Again, always do your research before you go to ensure your safety. Listen to your gut – if it’s telling you to leave a situation then leave. Don’t forget to check out my travel guides – I do provide some destination-specific and general safety tips.
How to Plan Solo Travel
Boy, are you lucky. Living in today’s world with the internet and smartphones, how much easier can it be to travel solo? I remember the days of traveling with actual guide books and no internet, let alone smartphones. But now I sound like someone’s grandpa who had to walk to school. Barefoot. In the snow. Both ways. Yikes.
What I was trying to get at was that with at least CORR Travel at your fingertips, your solo travel planning just became a whole lot easier. I’m here to help you. My travel guides will continually expand with more tips and photos so you can benefit the more I travel.
With frequent updates on the solo travel blog, you get great travel planning tips and hacks, solo travel destination ideas, travel itineraries, budget tips, eco-travel tips and volunteer ideas. I also provide great travel resources – from travel gear to booking resources – to help make your solo travel planning easier.
I also answer comments, so if you have any solo travel questions, please feel free to send them my way. Seriously, with CORR Travel on your side, how do you feel about solo travel now?
Is Solo Travel Worth It?
By now, with the “Pros” I’ve listed being in the majority, you can understand why I say, YES. Solo travel is completely worth it. The places I have gone to, the people I have met, and the experiences I have had through solo travel have enriched my life more than I can say.
If you’re new to it, I highly recommend trying it. If you’ve done it before, I say keep on doing it. After all, that’s what CORR Travel is for – to inspire and empower you to travel solo.
When it comes down to it, if you decide to take your first solo trip and don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again. At least you can always say you tried. How wonderful!
“You’re off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So…Get on your way!”
– Dr. Seuss
Oh, The Places You’ll Go