If you are a travel lover who doesn’t have someone close to you who shares your passion, you’re not alone. There are plenty of solo travelers out there who not only hit the road alone for long periods of time, but many have come to prefer it. Since I’m part of a traveling duo who doesn’t get out on his own very often, I’m not the perfect person to give advice for planning a solo trip.
So for you solo travelers out there, it’s important to know that you’re not alone, and there are a multitude of tips and advice for hitting the road alone. Preparing for a trip by yourself is going to be a bit different than going with a partner or a group, but what you can get out of it might have you reconsidering why you didn’t get out of your comfort zone sooner.
How Planning is Different
Scott Hartbeck of The Shirt Off My Backpack, agrees, saying, “When you travel solo, you rule your wanderlust dreams. Planning a solo trip is exciting because there is absolutely nothing or no one you need to bounce your destinations off for approval. You have absolute carte blanche to throw a dart at a map and as long as where it lands puts a smile on your face, then it makes the cut.”
Going on a RTW trip is all about freedom, and traveling solo provides travelers with the most freedom possible. Aimee Cebulski, who runs the Finding Forty Project, points out the ease of planning your trip when going at it alone. “The planning becomes much more about what you and you alone want to get out of the experience…are you seeking to get back to nature, meet friends in new cities or just try different foods? You don’t have to account for anyone else’s desires when planning your schedule.”
>> Read more about planning your RTW trip
Budgeting Becomes Easier (but it may be more expensive)
Some people like splurging on nice meals out while staying in a dorm in a hostel to offset the costs. Some are happy always eating very modestly and cooking their own food if that means staying in a nice hotel sometimes. Still others enjoy spending all their money on activities and entertainment while not caring about where they sleep or what they eat. Everyone has different priorities when traveling, and no matter how compatible you are with your travel partner, you’re never going to find someone who wants to spend money in the same way every single day for a long term trip.
Nearly all the solo travelers I talked to agreed that budgeting for a trip alone is much easier than if a partner or group is in the mix. Dagney McKinley, who is a writer and photographer for Undiscovered Earth, points out that, “If I’m starting to go over-budget, I can cut back in ways that a fellow traveler may not enjoy. I always end up spending more when other people are with me.”
Amanda Scotese has worked as a tour guide with Rick Steves’ tours in Italy and has also had the opportunity to hit the road solo. She now owns an off the beaten path tour company called Chicago Detours. She claims “it’s much easier to figure out your budget because you don’t have the preferences and whims of a partner, but of course, everything ends up being a little more expensive because you cannot share costs.”
>> Find out how much money you need to travel
Taking Extra Safety Precautions
Creativity is key when you are traveling alone, and solo travelers have plenty of it when it comes to safety. There are many different ways to make sure you aren’t left high and dry if something bad does happen. Laura George puts, “A little bit of cash in a bunch of different places. Enough money for a cab ride is usually good enough. I place that amount in not only my wallet, but also a front pocket, tucked in my sock or bra, and in a seemingly empty suitcase pocket, purse pocket, or bookbag pocket. That way if I’m robbed, I still have a little cash to use.”
Sara Nakash is a freelance travel planner, and she uses social media to, “Let the people at home know where I am. My Facebook status updates increase significantly when I’m traveling. If no one hears from me in a few days, they know something’s up.”
For women, it’s important to remain on top of your game at all times and take a few extra precautions. Alexis Grant tries “not to walk alone by myself after dark. I’m careful about the places I stay. I try extra hard to befriend locals, particularly women, because then they’ll watch out for me…I’m super cautious about men in foreign countries, never giving them the benefit of the doubt.”
If you love the outdoors but also traveling by yourself, it’s still possible to hit the trails and remain safe. It is important to plan ahead and have a plan though. Dagney McKinley is an avid hiker who often heads to the outdoors with nothing but her gear and her dog. She lets “people know where I’m going to be and when I expect to be out. I also have a rescue plan in place if something happens. If my dad doesn’t hear from me within a certain time period, he calls for help.”
Dealing With Loneliness & Joining Forces With Another Traveler
Scott Hartbeck agrees with turning the technology off. “The best way to deal with loneliness is to shut off the computer, the IPODs, and the cell phones, and just talk to people. I know everyone bemoans the infamous ‘five questions,’ but they are essential. I love finding out where people are from and where they have been.”
Alexis Grant says, “This is the best part about traveling solo – You’re often not really alone. I find I meet more people and am open to more friendships when I’m traveling by myself.” Whether it’s in hostels, at bars or restaurants, or in parks, meeting other travelers is quite easy.
“You’re never really alone when you travel,” agrees Mike Schibel, who runs My Grateful Journey after a 7 month solo journey through Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia. “By simply saying hello, you never know what door that will open.” Mike tried to embrace his loneliness when he was on the road, and he changed things up quite a bit to make sure loneliness and travel burnout didn’t set in. Since he rented his own transportation in Australia, he thought it would be a good idea to change it up in New Zealand and travel by bus. Like many other solo travelers, Mike talked about the fact that social media made traveling alone much easier, with the opportunity to chat with friends and family from home and hook up with other travelers he met along the way.
>> Learn how to make friends on your trip
What Solo Travel Can Teach You
Jeff Jung of Career Break Secrets, agrees with Janice, saying, “By having to figure out the basic things like where to eat, where to sleep on an ongoing basis, your problem-solving skills and confidence goes through the roof.” Sometimes when you find yourself in a completely foreign place with local people who don’t speak the language and no partner to help you out, so you simply have to go into survival mode and figure it out.
Confidence and patience are good traits for any traveler to learn, but solo travelers seem to learn a lot about themselves because of the situations they are thrown into. “One learns to be one’s own best friend, not constantly seeking validation from the approval of others,” says Janet Groene of Solo Woman RV.
Laura George is a huge advocate of traveling solo, saying that “traveling alone is really about reaching within yourself and heading on your own journey. Self-discovery isn’t just hippie mumbo jumbo. It actually happens when you take time away from your world.” Turning off the television, closing the laptop, and ignoring the cell phone is something we should all do in this technological age we live in. There’s also something to be said for spending some time alone with oneself, and what better way than to get out on the road?
Solo Travel Advice
But the fact remains that many people can and do travel the world alone, and they all feel they’re better people because of it. I asked all of our solo travelers to give one final piece of advice to someone who may still be on the fence about a trip like this. The advice they give is invaluable for any traveler looking to take off on their own.
“Do it. There is a whole community and sub-culture that you will easily integrate into. Traveling solo does not mean being lonely. You will be surprised how comfortable you feel traveling solo after a short period of time…The travel experience is so intense that you can’t help but meet people and be inspired by the people you meet.” – Jeff Jung, Career Break Secrets
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Have trust. Embrace the community.” – Mike Schibel, My Grateful Journey
“While challenging at times, its a precious opportunity for growth that will uncover many truths about yourself, the culture around you, and the universality of the human experience.“ – Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours
“Traveling the world alone is something that many dream of, but very few will actually do it. I can truly say that solo travel has really helped me to epitomize a quote by Maya Angelou that I love so much: ‘A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination, prepared to be herself and only herself.’ In everything that I do, that confidence and self awareness follows and has made for such a vast improvement in my happiness and quality of life.” – April D. Thompson, The Absolute Travel Addict
“I do think it takes a certain type of person to enjoy solo travel – it’s not for everyone. There are plenty of ways to find travel buddies if you really feel like you need one. To try it out, take a short trip by yourself and see how you adjust. Also remember that when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, that’s when you’ll have the most rewarding experiences.” – Alexis Grant, The Traveling Writer
“Have you ever wanted to be in a movie? Well, traveling full time is the closest thing you can get to being in one. Magical memories will be the norm and you will yearn to relive them the rest of your days. There are thousands of people out there right now, we all have your back. Just do it.” – Scott Hartbeck, The Shirt Off My Backpack
- Read Glad You’re Not Here: The Solo Traveler’s Manifesto
- Seven Solo Female Travel Myths Debunked
- Solo Travel: The Pros and Cons
- 12 Ways to Combat the Solo Traveler Blues
- 19 Resources for Solo Travel
- If I Knew Then… 5 Things I Would Do Differently
- Why Travel Is Better Done Solo
Adam Seper and his wife, Megan, decided that 50+ hour workweeks with 2 weeks of vacation a year simply wasn’t going to cut it. So they decided to take a leap of faith and put The American Dream on hold. In October 2008, they took off on an epic, year-long adventure, traversing the globe and traveling to 89 cities and 11 countries across 4 continents, never to be the same again.