Solo Travel: The Pros and Cons

By JoAnna Haugen on October 26th, 2016
BootsnAll

I couldn’t possibly spend another night sharing a hostel room with Amanda, who insisted on sleeping naked between the dirty sheets of the rented bed. Having a travel partner had, in the past, proven to be beneficial and fun, but I was definitely questioning whether on this trip I would’ve been better off on my own.

Deciding whether to travel solo or with another person is an essential question to ask—and a decision not to be taken lightly. If you aren’t sure whether your next trip is fit for a one-man show, or if you’d be better off with a buddy, here are nine things to keep in mind before you pack your bags.

1. Freedom!

PRO: Your trip is your trip—you don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules. What better way to find yourself than to immerse yourself in new cultures and experiences and make them all your own?

Once your initial fear and self-consciousness has passed, realizing how empowering solo travel can be is an exciting reason to go it alone. A trip plagued with uncertainty when you first arrive at your destination can be a huge confidence booster once you’ve completed your journey.
CON: It’s common for first-time solo travelers to feel a bit hesitant about globetrotting alone. It can be scary negotiating a taxi ride or eating a meal by yourself, especially when you’re used to being around other people.

Traveling to a place where you don’t speak the local language can compound that fear. If being alone keeps you from fully exploring your destination, you may be better off with a partner.

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2 . Connecting

is connecting easier when you travel solo

PRO: Solo travel opens doors to meeting people you normally wouldn’t have noticed and visiting places that wouldn’t have been on a shared itinerary because you (and only you) define your trip. On your own you will quickly come to realize you aren’t the only one-man show, and the opportunities to mix and mingle are wide open.

In fact, I would argue that traveling solo allows you to meet more people and spend more time with others (should you choose) than traveling with a partner. When you bring someone else, it’s more likely that you’ll just talk and hang out with that other person and not meet anyone new.

CON: Traveling alone can be especially intimidating if you tend to be shy or rely on others to help you warm up when meeting new people.

Especially when there’s a language barrier, it may take you a longer to connect with other people on the road, and when you travel with another person, there’s a built-in sense of comfort from day one.

3. Language


PRO: If you travel on your own, you’re much more likely to learn a foreign language faster. You have no choice but to speak the language—or at least give it your best shot.

Solo travel puts you in a better position to socialize with the local population in their language.

CON: Traveling to a place with a foreign language always offers up challenges, but with a travel partner, you can work together to creatively communicate with the locals. It’s convenient to have someone else who speaks your language as you work on communicating in a local language, and you may even be lucky enough to have a travel partner who has a flair for the foreign tongue.

If you know Spanish and she speaks German, touring Europe suddenly got a lot easier.

4. Getting Along

getting-along-solo-travel

PRO: When traveling with a buddy, you need to be at least willing to listen to her suggestions, even if you have no interest in what she wants to see or do.

As a solo traveler, you may have to do a little more legwork to plan your trip, but the all decisions made are your own. While it’s nice to have the back-and-forth camaraderie and help of a friend, it can also be maddening. We’ve all had these conversations when traveling with a partner:

“What do you want to eat tonight?”

“I’m not sure. You?”

“Not too picky, really. What about that street cart around the corner?”

“Eh, not really feeling street food tonight. What about that nice Indian restaurant we saw?”

“I don’t really want Indian tonight. How about we just cook in our hostel kitchen?”

“Ugh, I really don’t feel like cooking….”

And on and on and on it goes. If you’re traveling long-term with someone else, you’re sure to have similar conversations a few times a week. When you’re traveling solo, those often infuriating debates don’t exist. You just eat what you feel like eating that night! And do what you feel like doing the next day!

CON: With two people, you essentially have to do half the work. Brainstorming sessions open up doors to things you didn’t know about or places you’d never heard of before.

Together you can find the best deals, scope out great restaurant reviews, and pick the brains of people you both know separately for suggestions and ideas. One of you can pick up the luggage while the other flags down a ride. You can also get away with packing just one tube of toothpaste between the two of you.

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5. Schedules

coordinating schedules with travel companions can be tricky

PRO: You’re a morning person, but your travel partner prefers to party through the night. Do you really want to sit around waiting for your friend to wake up, or would you rather get up and go when you are ready?

One of the biggest benefits of traveling on your own is that you make all of your decisions, especially when it comes to deciding what you want to do and when. If you want to breeze through a museum or skip it altogether for an afternoon relaxing with a cappuccino and people-watching … you can!

CON: Together you and your travel partner can bounce ideas off of each other as you plan the perfect day. She may open your eyes to a backdoor experience she heard about from a friend, and you might convince her that you should take the time to hit up some great restaurants you read about.

As you build your travel schedule together, you just might devise a unique plan that neither one of you could have created on your own.

6. Budget


PRO: As a solo traveler, you can find great deals, especially if you’re patient and flexible. It may be easier to fly standby and reap the benefits doled out by the airlines when you are on your own schedule.

Bunking in a dorm room at a hostel can save you a chunk of change and introduce you to travelers like yourself. And with a keen sense of observation, you can scope out other single travelers looking to share a cab or split the cost of a multiple-person entry fee.

CON: Traveling with another person allows you to share the cost of many expenses on a trip. You can share hotel and hostel rooms, large meals and transportation costs.

From sharing a guidebook to talking vendors down at street markets for purchasing more than one of the same item, the two of you may be able to get by on a lot less cash than if you go it solo.

7. Safety

PRO: On your own, you’re more likely to be aware of your surroundings and belongings. You may be hyper-sensitive about what is going on around you and consciously make smarter decisions knowing you’re alone.

With a buddy, it’s easy to become too comfortable and let your guard down in situations where you should be more aware of your safety.

CON: After dark, at border crossings and in otherwise questionable situations, it’s always better to be accompanied. You’re less likely to be singled out as a potential victim if someone else is present, especially if you’re a woman.

On a train or bus, one of you can sleep while the other keeps an eye on your luggage, and when you’re accosted on the street, you can both work to diffuse the situation and move on.

8. Home-sickness


PRO: In our global world, it’s simple to take a couple comfort items with you and stay in touch through a variety of ways — in this present period of time and technology, a piece of home isn’t far away if you want it.

Besides, if you’re hoping to use your trip to escape, widen your horizons, and start again, traveling with another person might remind you too much of home—especially if your partner insists on comparing everything (the food, the climate, the people, the smells) to something familiar.

CON: For people who don’t have much travel experience, a travel buddy can help ease the transition into a foreign environment. Homesickness is kept at bay and a familiar face and voice can make frustrating or lonely moments more tolerable.

9. Making Memories

You can make memories on a solo trip

PRO: One of the biggest benefits of solo travel is that you’ll make a whole host of friends from around the world who share your memories.

Hook up on social media and your memories (and future travel destinations) will never be further than a mouse click away.

CON: You’ve got your selfie stick, so you can capture that beautiful sunrise over an isolated beach in the South Pacific or that perfect meal in a hidden bistro in Italy and share it with friends and family on social media when you find a good wifi connection and when you get home.

But in the moment itself you’ve got no one that’s physically there to share the experience. 

Conclusions about Solo Travel

Like pretty much every travel situation there are pros and cons to solo travel. All things considered, the best way to find out if it’s a travel style you enjoy is to give it a go. If you’re an inexperienced traveler it may be best to start with a few shorter trips to give yourself a chance to adjust and see how it goes.

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About the author: JoAnna Haugen writes from Las Vegas, where she can often be found planning her next great adventure. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, her travels have taken her from the waters of the Nile River, up the Inca Trail and to the rainforests of Australia. One of her life goals is to touch all seven continents. You can find her online at www.joannahaugen.com.

Photos credits: SutichakoneinchpunchZurijetasergign