solo travel

Ah, the solo traveler – fearless, wise and free. She is someone who breaks society’s rules to fulfill her own zest for adventure. For some, there is nothing more liberating than the idea of venturing out to explore the unknown alone. For others, there is nothing more terrifying.

When I lived in Madrid for one incredible year, I challenged myself to travel solo at least once. So, one weekend I set off for the city of Porto in Lisbon. While I quickly learned that solo travel was not my personal favorite, I also learned a bit about why that may be.

Do you think you were made for solo travel? You might have been, if:

1. You prefer to make all the rules.

Traveling solo offers a unique level of choice in that the only person you have to factor into decisions is you! You can eat and sleep when and where you choose. You can visit the attractions that most appeal to you and decide for yourself how long to stay at each place. You have ample time to cater completely to yourself. Of course, it also means you will be doing all of these things alone and, depending on how you look at it, that’s either incredibly boring or a dream come true. If you’re often frustrated by balancing what you want out of a trip with what someone else wants, you may want to consider a solo trip.

2. You crave discomfort and the growth it brings.

Touring alone, eating alone, navigating a new city alone and taking selfie after selfie alone are all highly uncomfortable experiences. We derive a lot of comfort and confidence from the presence of our friends and family. This is especially true in uncomfortable situations. Yet, there is a certain level of growth that comes from flexing the uncomfortable muscle of independence. You learn to rely on yourself and get a chance to see what you are made of. When things go south, what does it take to boost your spirits and are you capable of providing that for yourself? If you live for the challenge of real-time personal growth, then you may have much to gain from solo travel.

3. Your favorite time is “Me Time.”

Sure, we all like our space from time to time. Sometimes, nothing sounds better than shutting out the rest of the world for a few hours after the constant rush of balancing work, family, friends, health and more. Beyond that, maybe you find yourself constantly reveling in your own headspace – listening to and observing your own thoughts, taking stock of your own reactions and wonderment, and connecting everything you see or hear with what it awakens within you. Solo travel is a great opportunity for reflection and self-observation. It allows you to focus completely on getting in touch with your own thoughts and feelings rather than those of your would-be travel partners.

 If you live for the challenge of real-time personal growth, then you may have much to gain from solo travel.

4. You want to expand your circle.

Conversely, when you travel alone you open yourself up to meeting new people. You may make friends at a hostel you’re staying in, swap travel tales with strangers while waiting in line or join members of a tour group you’re in for a drink. When you’re traveling with friends, it’s very easy to stay wrapped up in your own group. When you travel alone, you’re much more likely to branch out and approach (or be approached) by fellow travelers. This can lead to new perspectives, new opportunities and even new friends.

5. You’d rather go alone than not go at all.

Imagine that you are raring to quench your wanderlust and unable to find someone to join you. Maybe you can’t make the timing work or your finances are in different situations. What would you do? If your priority when traveling is spending quality time with friends and family, you would likely hold off on any travel plans. This is an understandable decision, but one that can seriously hold you back from travel. If your priority is to see as much of the world as you can with or without anyone else, you may want to go ahead and book that trip, solo.

In the end, the only way to really know if solo travel is for you is to give it a chance.

What about you – have you ever traveled solo or do you plan to? Were you made for solo travel or would you rather have someone along for the ride?

Image via Jillian Guyette



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11 comments

  1. Omg #5 and #2 all the way! This article made my heart sing. I found out that my traveling style is much different from my friends and family’s style, so the more I planned with them the less interested I become in the trip. I delight in taking part of living the way the local’s live- even if it’s for just a day. My solo travels showed me more about myself than I allowed myself to realize when I was surrounded by others. It’s like I was forced to look in the mirror and actually build the characteristics I easily masked myself with otherwise. Characteristics like courage, which I found in Sedona, AZ hiking one of the trails that lead to the devil’s bridge. That was a life changing trip.

  2. I love travelling solo but I’ve found a compromise in that I travel by myself and sometimes meet up with people I know 🙂 I’m an only child so I think that’s definitely made me happier alone a lot of the time – I get overloaded easily when I’m around too many people! I love to set the agenda and wander around places, which other people don’t always like. This article definitely rings true for me.

  3. I’m going to go ahead and say all 5 of those apply to me!

    After driving cross-country by myself a couple years ago, I discovered that I really enjoy traveling by myself. I loved being able to start and stop my day whenever I wanted, stay in one place to enjoy it (some of my favorite moments were at rest stops with killer views), and wake up each morning without a set schedule. I also found that when traveling alone, locals were far more likely to suggest amazing, quiet places to eat (which is perfect when you’re alone and just want to chill with a huge steak and glass of wine).

    Traveling is one of the very few things my husband and I are polar opposites about. I love venturing out into new and unknown places, and he’s much happier being at home. He usually gets so anxious and grouchy when we travel that it kinda ruins it for me too.

    I’m hoping to find a few day trips near home this summer to take him to, which might be the right in-between for us: close enough to home that he doesn’t feel like he’s on Mars, and far enough that I don’t feel like we’re still at home.

  4. Reason #3 especially resonates with me. Being a highly sensitive person, traveling solo can also be a way of protecting your energy. To always sense how the other person is feeling, and being (un)consciously impacted by it, can take up the space you need to bloom and grow. In my experience such meaningful connections have taken place in this space, often serendipitously, without losing myself in it. Thank you for the wonderful article x

  5. I have *become* a happy solo traveler! It is still way out of my comfort zone to do so, but I think thats my main motivator… doing things out of my comfort zone. I travelled by myself to Europe last year and made some of the best friends and memories I have in my whole life. My tip is dont wait till youre comfortable to travel by yourself or you may wait a lifetime! P.s. traveling alone and joining a tour for part of your trip is a fantastic way to start solo travel!

    1. Greatt up about the walking tour, I joined one in Porto and it was a great way to break up my time alone! Certainly not the most comfortable way to travel right off the bat for most but definitely worth a shot!

  6. Definitely a solo traveler! Mainly for reason #4. Traveling alone is such a great way to meet new people! I am still in touch with some of the people I’ve met on my journeys – people I may have never interacted with had I been with friends. Amazing things can happen when we’re willing to depend on the kindness of strangers, rather than insulating ourselves with familiar faces.

    1. That’s incredible, making new and unexpected friends while traveling is so thrilling! Glad to hear your willingness to venture out led to some great relationships.

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