solo travel – PROs and CONs

When I started my blog in the Spring of 2017, it was mainly because I got asked so often about solo travel – and, obviously, there are PROs, but there are also what might be considered CONs.

illustrating the pros and cons of solo travel: Renata Green walking through the Museu Niemeyer in Curitiba
This picture was just too congruent to illustrate solo travel. However, you do not always walk alone!

Therefore, I decided to share my experience not only with my friends. Actually, I hope to inspire, inform, and encourage as many of you as I can to give solo travel a try.

No Big Deal

I’ve been reading so many posts on solo travel. On how to do it, on where to go, on what to consider.

Over the past decades, I’ve never noticed that hitting the road solo is such a complicated process with so many aspects to consider.

The other day, someone even contacted me since they want to ‘raise awareness’ for solo travel.
Raising awareness for solo travel? Wow!
Has it really come to that? Is solo travel a disease? Are there awareness walks – which would nicely match with the cause of travelling, though?
Are you given sea blue awareness ribbons to stick to the lapel of your explorer vest?
Or is it just a disability, so you better travel to countries accessible for the impaired?

To me, solo travel has been nothing more than buying a ticket for one.

Why Solo?

First of all, I think I need to demystify solo travel.

As a matter of fact, I mainly travel solo because

  • not many of my friends travel as much and as often as I do
  • I don’t feel like coordinating travel dates with others
  • I don’t feel like compromising on a country
  • I don’t feel much like compromising at all, 

especially since after decades of solo travel I’ve developed sort of an it’s my way or the highway attitude when planning the trip – or even a single day.

So there are no philosophic reasons like ‘I want to break free’, ‘I want to feel my inner self’. No, it basically comes down to technicalities why it’s more convenient to go by myself. And yes, over the years I got the hang of it for various reasons that I list in the PROs-section.

The Difference Might Be Only In Your Head

Talking ’bout technicalities: The fact that you are travelling solo is nothing but a technicality.
The country you are going to will be the same whether you are by yourself or in a large group. So places won’t be more or less dangerous and the weather won’t be better or worse.
Another person – unless it’s an ex-pat or someone who already has been to the place of your choice – will not be necessarily of any help:
Instead of one lost fool not knowing where to go, you’ll be two lost fools looking for directions.

illustrating the pros and cons of solo travel:  Renata Green on the bus from Delphi to Kalambaka in Greece all by herself
I’m definitely a solo-traveller – taking the whole alone travel to an even higher level: Here in Greece, I had the entire bus to myself.

Do you think that’s better? According to my observations, travelling couples – lovers or friends alike – get approached, hassled, pestered much more often. Obviously, a couple of victims is more profitable than a single victim.

So yes, this post should neither convince you nor hold you back from travelling solo. Thank God, people are complex and have diverse needs and totally different preferences. That’s great and makes the world a colorful place.

Where To Begin

Honestly, I don’t think that there is a particular place where to begin travelling solo. I’m positive that you can travel to any country solo. It might be a bit more complicated for women e. g. in Islamic countries, but even that is totally makeable.

Shop in Kuantan
People were more reserved on the Malaysian east coast which is much more Islamic than the west.

The only thing that I personally would consider is the risk of getting sick which definitely is higher in certain places than in others – due to climate and hygiene. And I find being sick by yourself in a foreign country can be pretty nerve-wracking. I’ll tell you about it in the CONs-section.

Other than that, I believe that there is nothing else to consider that you don’t have to think of like a family- or group-traveller, too.

Beach on the Island of Sal, Cape Verde
Sal, one of the islands of the Cape Verde atoll. One of the best beaches in the world – and I was as sick as a dog. A very sick dog, that is.

So all I intend with this post is to prepare you for what you will probably face when travelling solo. I will neither convince you nor hold you back.

I don’t believe in missionaries.

Early Trips

I had my first real solo travel experience in 1992 to the United States. Before that, I had been by myself to England, France, and Jamaica, but that was different insofar that I either stayed with a host family, with friends or had been there before in the company of friends. In 1992, the trip to the US was just me alone going for the first time to a country I’d never been to before.

I travelled the so-called “Deep South” resp. “Bible Belt” by Greyhound from Charleston, South Carolina, to New Orleans, Louisiana, and it was quite an experience. It was long before the internet and smartphones, and when you were on your own, you were on your own. Anyway, after four very interesting weeks, I came back really inspired and bursting with confidence.

Initiation to a life of travelling by myself.

Alone No More

Then the same year I got pregnant (which had nothing to do with that initiation, though) and my travelling changed. Not only because I now had a baby in tow, but because I began to work as a freelancer and switched from vacationing to temporarily moving to places.
Before my daughter started elementary school we stayed every year for a couple of months in Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica.

illustrating the pros and cons of solo travel: Mimi Green in a stroller in Punta Gorda, Belize
Punta Gorda in Belize: Placing the toddler in front of a group of people allows you to take pictures in a more discreet way; and it’s nice to have a pic of your child, too.

Besides the baby, I was by myself. Sounds tough? Actually, it wasn’t. Because the fact that you’re by yourself does not mean that you’re alone. You meet people and you have the chance to maybe show a different side of your personality.

You make new friends who might have a totally different perception of you than your buddies back home. Because you are different. You are exposed to distinct situations that evoke sides of your personality that usually lie fallow.

People drinking on the beach of Koh Phi Phi
Meeting a jolly bunch from Scotland and Italy on Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. Usually, I’m not the kind of person that drinks whatever this was out of a blue plastic bucket.

Back To Where I Started From

After having travelled for almost twenty years together with my daughter, she eventually started to travel by herself and with her friends.
Since I don’t have a steady partner to be automatically my travel companion, I had to look for some friends to travel with me. And agree on the destination. And on the route. And on the activities. And coordinate time and length of the trip – and agree on the budget. Phew! That sounds exhausting.

Travelling by yourself is like living by yourself. You can do whatever you want and whenever you want to do it. You develop habits and – yes, quirks. Eventually, you realize that you wouldn’t want it any other way; and maybe that you hardly could have it any other way.

Just like living a single life has its pros and cons, travelling by yourself does, too. Here I’m weighing some pros and cons. If you choose to follow my example, you might find yourself travelling with the best companion ever: yourself.

P like PROs

Personality!

My blog’s title bye:myself is not a typo! When leaving my hometown and my everyday life,  I’m saying bye to my comfort zone and to a part of – myself. It allows me to show a whole different side of me, I address people much more openly – and not only because I have to be more open. I’m leaving my everyday’s self behind and give this other me more space.
This does in no way mean that I’m pretending to be someone else. Actually, it might even be the contrary. Finally, I have the chance to be absolutely myself with a clean slate.
This is of course much easier without someone in tow who constantly reminds me that usually, I’m like this or like that.

Actually, by bidding bye to one side of myself, at the same time, I say hello to another.

Power!

Needless to say that travelling by yourself gives you the luxury of freedom. From choosing your destination, the route, your accommodations etc. you can get up as early as you like or sleep as long as you want, skipping breakfast.

You can stay in stores, museums, or on a park bench as long as you please.
You can talk to people or spend your day in silence.

When I was in Florence by myself, I visited eight (!) exhibitions in one day with a lunch break of only a couple of minutes; and I was happy and satisfied, it was just perfect for me.

Food in Florence enjoyed while travelling solo
The only place in Florence that can slow me down – luring me with incredible food.

Most other people wouldn’t call this a break or vacation.
Most other people would call this boot camp.
But I can spend my days exactly the way I like.

Public!

Many people tell me, they don’t like to do things by themselves because they want to “share” the experience.
In a way, I can relate to that, especially when it comes to resting and dining:

When I’m resting between let’s say two exhibitions, it takes a couple of minutes.
I sit down, drink my coffee or water – and off I go.
What else do you want me to do there? Stare at the wall? Stare at other people?
Then I rather stare at more paintings.

So that’s not very relaxing, I give you that.
But as always there’s an upside: I’m getting far more things done resp. I get to see and experience much more in a day because I’m not distracted. There’s not another person who needs to go to the bathroom, who is thirsty, who’s tired and needs to sit for a while, who sees something in a shop window and needs to check it out.
There’s me, and I’m on a mission. My mission is to make the most of my day by seeing as much as possible.

Oh, and another thing: thanks to – yes, for some people a no-no – social media, I am sharing. I’m sharing with far more people than just one travel companion, I’m sharing with dozens of friends all over the world; who do not mess up my schedule by going to the bathroom.

People!

It’s a fact that as a single traveller you get in touch with other people – travellers and locals alike – much easier than travelling as a couple or in a group.

People drinking Aguardiente on a boat in Colombia.
Cruising around the mansion that used to belong to Pablo Escobar, a lovely Colombian family shared their Aguardiente from a tetra pack and some laughs with me.

Many people are curious about why I’m travelling by myself and how it works out for me. And often they find me interesting and my company pleasing so they suggest doing something together; and I can choose to go for dinner and a drink with them or have a snack watching local TV in bed – by myself.

Privacy!

You can stretch out on this huge bed, you can put all the pillows you want behind your back.
You have all the cute little toiletries for yourself and four towels instead of two.

Bed in Portugal
Double bed – for me alone. Just like the complimentary port wine and the petit fours on the tray. Actually, I don’t get why the lovely people at this hotel in Portugal left two glasses with it – what a waste.

Everything is just for YOU, you don’t need to share a thing. You can be noisy, you can leave the light on as long as you please and when you’re tired there’s nobody there who wants to keep watching TV or needs the night light for reading.

The room is your oyster – and yours alone!

C like CONs

Contact.

Travelling by yourself means you are…by yourself.
Even if you enjoy travelling by yourself – and being alone in general, for that matter – there comes a moment when you feel like hanging out with other people, chatting over a drink, sharing your travel stories and experience.
In a moment like this, you cannot just turn your head to the right and there is your travel companion.
You have to go out and approach people – and yes, they might reject you because they want a romantic drink in the sunset; without you.

After years and years of travelling bye:myself I cannot remember this happening to me, though.
But that is also because I’m prepared and willing being bye:myself when travelling bye:myself.

If you’re not ready for this, from time to time this might become a toughie.

Actually social media such as facebook can be an instant cure for this: share your day with your friends back home. With every comment and like you will feel less alone.

Cautious Mingling

Going on an organized day trip can be a great way of meeting other people since you communicate quite naturally – free walking tours that are available in most big cities are perfect; but please don’t forget to tip your guide.
And – being discreet is crucial. If you throw yourself on people and seem desperate, you will most certainly chase them away.

Walking Tour in Curitiba
Walking tour in Curitiba: I guess this is not how you are picturing solo travel?!

Then from my experience, it’s much easier to meet openminded and friendly people in smaller and – yes: cheaper – guesthouses than in luxury five-star hotels. It’s probably even not the people’s attitude, it’s just that the whole atmosphere is more reserved and not encouraging to mingle.

Cocktails.

Going out for an exclusive dinner, having a lovely cocktail at a posh bar – I hardly ever do this when travelling bye:myself.
And this is the situation where I feel like depending on others.

While sightseeing, going to a museum or hanging out on the beach can be fun with or without other people’s company. Having a special meal and a couple of drinks is always more enjoyable with others; and you depend on finding other travellers who want to share this with you.

Celebration or Consumption?

When people travelling together go out for dinner, they take their time to order, They have a glass of wine, they talk, have another glass of wine, then they eat, talk some more, more wine (ok, now I’m making these good people a bunch of winos – so ok, forget the last glasses of wine, actually they’re having coffee after their meal).

Restaurant in Puerto Madryn
I always say that one of the very few downsides of solo travel is dining alone. But then I take a look at the couples around me….

When I go to dinner, I order, I eat, I drink, I pay, I leave. 20 minutes. And even if I linger over a second glass of wine – 30 minutes.

While exhibitions demand focus, dining requires idleness.

Having dinner by myself at a culture restaurant in Chiang Mai in Thailand
Sometimes it’s really easy: At the Khantoke Dinner and Cultural Show in Chiang Mai, I was seated next to a lovely couple from the United States. They asked me to take their picture and offered to take mine in return – and then we spent the rest of the evening together having a fantastic time.

Costs.

It’s indisputable that travelling by myself is more expensive than travelling with a companion.
Only in Europe, the price for a single room differs from a double room. Everywhere else you pay for the room, no matter if you stay there by yourself or if you share it with another guest.

You cannot share taxi fares, fees for drivers etc. Unless you find another traveller – or even a couple or a small group – that is willing to share these costs with you.

But your expenses are not automatically divided by two; and that sucks. Period.

Care.

Getting sick on a trip is never funny. But getting sick when travelling by yourself is a pain…not only in the neck.
The only time I felt really abandoned on a trip was when I got sick in Africa and had to get up and get me something to drink and go to the doctor – all by myself.
I felt like vanishing from mother earth. I thought I would die by myself on an African island and nobody would ever know about it.
Yes, I was a little dramatizing the situation, but that was for exactly this reason:

I was alone!

I was by myself!

It’s really annoying when you have nobody you can boss around to get you something to drink and get your drugs from the pharmacy and take every shit from you because you feel lousy.

Solution: Stop pitying yourself and get over it; or stay healthy.

Camera.

This single traveller problem shrunk significantly with the invention of smartphones and selfie sticks. You don’t need to ask other people to take a picture of you in front of Buddha. You just take a selfie.

Renata Green in Ayutthaya in Thailand
Me and Buddha in Ayutthaya.

I personally don’t like selfies – unless they are meant ironically. I actually wrote kind of a rant about this whole selfie-culture.

Being opposed to selfies, I still ask people to take my picture in front of Buddha sometimes.
And sometimes I try to take a decent selfie with him.
And often I simply don’t have a picture of myself with Buddha.

Conclusion

So now you can weigh some of the CONs against the PROs.

If you think, travelling by yourself might be worth a try, go for it.
Maybe you can start with a weekend trip to another city. This way, you’ll be able to check out whether this could be an option for a longer trip, too.
It certainly will be a journey.

I’d be very happy if you’d share your perspective and experience on single travel with me in the comment section below.

If you have any questions, I’d be pleased to hear from you!

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61 Replies to “solo travel – PROs and CONs”

  1. Great discussion! I do not want to travel solo just as much as I do not want to live alone. I can sight-see alone but the main thing I enjoy doing with someone is having meals, drinks, and conversation, especially for dinner. And planning with others is ok if it’s just with one other and he let’s you plan the whole thing!

  2. Great list! I like to travel solo for many of the same reasons that you have listed, it is so much more convenient and I like having the freedom to do what I want when I want. I love that you have listed both pros and cons and showed both sides of solo travel.

  3. Honestly the idea of solo travel sounds lovely to me. I am a very independent person who likes to work on my own schedule so not having to worry about accommodating anyone else on vacation besides myself seems great. It is a little daunting traveling to a new place all alone, but the experience you have is 100% worth it!

  4. Most of my travels have been alone and I think it’s such a positive experience that everyone should have at least once. I think it’s a great way to build confidence and have some experiences that are unique to your wants, needs and whims.

    Although my more recent trips have included my fiancé. We are very lucky we love the same things. We have both experienced lots of trips on our own before

  5. I used to enjoy traveling solo when I was much younger and lived only for myself. Those were short and safe journeys to nearby Poland, Sweden, and Germany. I felt very comfortable traveling alone since I could go anywhere and whenever I wanted. Of course, there was loneliness on such a journey, but that loneliness was mine and tamed.

  6. Such a wonderful post with the pros and cons of solo traveling. I have been traveling solo for many years now. As you mentioned, I started traveling alone because I did not have company but now solo travel has become my identity. I love being by myself and making new friends.

  7. I always like to go traveling by myself. I just have to be careful of my surroundings but I like going by myself because I can get more of the trip. I can plan my own routes and days.

  8. I travelled solo for many years and never let the fact that I was alone stop me from visiting where I wanted. When I finally found a partner who wanted to travel as much as I wanted to, that finally changed things. Luckily we are pretty good at compromising and have many of the same tastes that most of the time we are both happy with our travels. But I must admit I send David off at times to give me time to myself. As a pretty heavy introvert, I was much less likely to approach new people and that was a real negative about solo travel for me. Luckily David has no such issues.

  9. Interesting read! I’ve heard mixed reviews about solo travel but you’ve definitely changed my mind about it. I’ve never (never ever) travelled by myself but it’s something I’d love to do at some point. Great article!

  10. I haven’t ever planned a vacation for just myself. However, I have travelled solo as far as transportation is concerned and loved it. When I was younger I used to fly or take the bus often to get from one city to another. I value the time to catch up on reading or just to talk to random strangers. Now my solo travels are in the car. I have used the time to listen to audio books and sing loudly.

  11. I always wanted to travel but was always too scared to do it alone because I was always told something bad could happen to me. This makes me more confident to do it now. Sometimes I just want to go somewhere by myself and not have to cater to someone else’s agenda. LOL

  12. I have never traveled solo. It’s not easy here in India for a female to travel alone. But after reading the pros and cons I can try travelling solo. It will be fun to do all things by myself while travelling.

  13. This is very relatable as most of the time I travel solo. It can be quite daunting at first but the pros always outweigh the cons, at least for me. Traveling alone means we are the master of our itinerary though it can be a bit expensive but the experience is more meaningful

  14. I agree with you and I don’t think any form of travelling works for me, I do travel in groups or solo depends on the situation and don’t let solo travel stop you from travelling!

  15. I hope I have the courage to travel alone. I’m afraid to go alone but maybe someday I will try. I always go travel with my family because I enjoy it a lot when I’m with them.

  16. Love this post! It is always great to see other women traveling solo for no other reason besides they like to. I also travel solo and agree with everything you said on the pros and cons. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Heather. Yes, there is no other reason for travelling solo than the joy of life! Hope to meet you somewhere on the planet for a drink or two to celebrate life’n’travel!

  17. By looking at your list, I think the only two cons for me are the extra costs of travelling solo and the lack of care. I remember how much I missed having a friend when I got food poisoning in Dubrovnik 🙁

  18. Great post clear and easy to follow.Your article is very valuable for travelers because appropriate solo guide can be a powerful tool for spending great weekend

  19. It's so awesome that you travel solo! I don't like to travel solo, although I have lived in other countries solo. I guess when I am traveling I like to go with others, but don't mind living in other places solo. Sounds a bit strange!

  20. I really enjoyed reading this! I’ve never actually travelled by myself, but I do plenty of things bye myself when I’m at home – go hiking, go to the movies, etc. So I really would like to have the experience of traveling alone one day. Like you, I much prefer not having to coordinate with a bunch of different people!

  21. I didn't mind travelling alone for business but I love travelling with my family for vacations. Way better!

  22. It was nice to read that people need not have always have a philosophic reason for traveling solo. Convenience and practicality can be a good enough reason too. Kudos to you. Happy and safe travels!

  23. So far I just travel solo nearby & kinda enjoy the experience. I hope to find a place to start with; I believe travelling solo will gimme a different insight about many things. Looking forward to that 🙂

  24. Therese and I love traveling together, but we also love traveling solo – apart. We do it often. I am off on a week adventure soon myself, bye:myself. Though unlike you, I linger at cafes and restaurants over coffee, cake, wine … I love to people watch, sketch and paint in my ejournal. I also love to engage with people when I wandering, eliciting conversation, smiles, laughter. It is all how one travels — solo or with a friend — that makes travel so interesting. I love your post, and the way you compared your views on the Ps and Cs of solo travel. Nicely done.

  25. I honestly admire both your confidence and bravery to travel alone! I often think about it but I stress and worry way too much haha

  26. Everyone is different and so has different ways of dealing with things. For some people being by oneself for a long time is unbearable, for some it's the only way. We all work by different ratios. Finding our own way is the key, not just on this topic, but in all things in life.

  27. I've been wanting to write a similar blog post but you nailed it! I like the way you wrote this P for Pros and C for Cons. I can totally relate with all your experiences as a solo traveler.

  28. Great post! I agree with so many of your points, both the pros and the cons. Costs can definitely skyrocket when you're not sharing, and with the importance of Instagram in today's travel blogging, it's always helpful to have a "photographer" friend with you. Strangely, I quite enjoy going out to a nice dinner or cocktail by myself. My first solo travel experiences were work trips in my early 20s and I'd always arrange the flights for extra days to take advantage, and at that time I got accustomed to treating myself out for a nice meal and a drink one of those nights… and the habit stuck! Cheers to solo travel and to many more trips to come 🙂

  29. I love to travel on my own too! I agree that meals can be the worst sometimes as you are trying to drag them out, but I try to always make friends wherever I am.

  30. This a great balanced summary of the pros and cons of travelling by yourself. I like its neutrality and honesty. Having travelled by myself, I whole heartedly agree with them !

  31. I don't like travelling alone, so I always travel with my boyfriend. Travel is our bond 😀

  32. Well, true, both have pros and cons. I don't like traveling alone, but often do for work. Happily I have friends in many places of the world.
    Sometimes though, I leave a travel group, when I need to concentrate on photography.

    1. Yes, but meeting friends – or even staying at friends' homes – is not travelling together. I also love going to places where I already know people. Travelling with them is a whole different story.

  33. I love solo travel, but I agree that it can be lonely at times! I am good at making new friends wherever I am though, luckily 🙂

    1. Same here – I always meet sooo many people. And thanx to Social Media, it became so easy to keep in touch.

  34. I can understand after going so often on your own it would be hard to compromise on the places you want to go and the things you want to see while you are there. I get that. But I love sharing the adventure because I love having that connection and the mutual remembrance later.

    1. That's a very good point, David, that actually deserves a place in the CONs-list: While I very seldom miss sharing the moment, it is nice to remember – positive or negative – travel moments together. I can tell others about situations or people I met, but it's not sharing.

  35. You listed some very great points. I've always wanted to travel solo, I think it's an amazing opportunity to learn and grow and obviously an amazing experience. I've always thought that it would feel lonely and that by travelling solo you wouldn't get to know many people, but that's just because I'm very shy so an experience like this might also help me to get better in that department as well.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  36. I have always traveled with my family, but I would love to travel by myself someday. I know it would be quite of an experience!

  37. I barely travel and when I do it tends to be with family and or friends. I haven' really been one for solo travel although can appreciate it can be easier and fun sometimes.

  38. I travel by myself all the time for work. But never for adventure or leisure. You present very interesting pros and cons. I think it is great that travelling bye:yourself opens you up to meeting new people and immersing yourself in the cultures you visit. I love travelling with friends, but they can be a distraction at times.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

  39. Totally agree with you! 😀
    I love solo traveling because my friends always have some excuses – no money, no job, it's not a good time right now and so on. So, I just started alone and I didn't regret it, the best decision ever! 😀

  40. This was a good read- you are right solo travel is just a different type of travel and not a disease. Though I have not been I imagine it would be fun and you can do what you want with no restrictions on someone stopping you. Love the camera point.. with modern technology you don’t need to get a lot of other peoples help for that photo

  41. Solo travelling is super exciting it helps in exploring the place, and you are the master of your own and do however you feel to do so… It's a way responsibility task to do but enjoyable.

  42. Your three/four reasons for traveling solo are the same reason I would like to do it more often. I enjoy traveling with people but sometimes, the freedom and flexibility of traveling by yourself is worth doing. Especially because I like to take random naps during the day and some people want to continually move.

    Your daughter is very lucky to have an example like you to go out there and travel!

  43. I think solo travelling must be so liberating, you get to explore everything on your own terms.

  44. It's not easy to travel on your own but it's also life changing because you get to learn so much about the country and yourself. I think it's a great way to get away from your life and just enjoy a place without worrying if your travel buddy is enjoying the experience as much as you.

  45. Wow, that is awesome that you travel bye;yourself. There is so much empowerment and strength in that and I am so happy to meet someone like you. It lets me know that there are people out there living free and loving on purpose. Congrats to you and daughter for living so free. (FB: Addie Cotoure)

  46. wow, its good that you weighed the pros and cons. it is true – stop pitying yourself and get over it or stay healthy 🙂

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