Love it, hate it, fear it, revel in it—traveling solo is an adventure. Experienced or not, here are seven myths of traveling alone happily debunked.
Dispelling the myths of traveling alone is not an easy thing to do. It all comes down to your experiences, where you have been, what sort of traveler you are, and so on. What could have been an amazing, life-changing trip for Jenna could be the worst thing to ever happen to Michael.
I’m not going to pretend that I’ve seen and done it all. Neither am I going to pretend like I’ve spoken to every solo traveler out there, compiled their experiences, and placed all the main points into a pretty little list for you. Everything listed below was drawn from my own experiences.
As an independent, professional writer, I have the flexibility to up and leave whenever I want to. Because I’m not tied to a 9-5 job, I don’t have the HR department calculating my annual leave. Or a boss to tell me what I can and cannot do with my life. I have the freedom to live a somewhat nomadic life and the opportunity to travel often.
Often, I travel for work, and should say that out of 365 days a year, I’m on the road for close to two-thirds of it. Sometimes alone, sometimes with a colleague, sometimes with friends, and sometimes with my partner.
Some people enjoy traveling alone and some people prefer traveling with someone else. I’ve experienced both, and have had good and bad experiences. When asked what some of the myths of traveling alone are, it took me a little while to come up with a list. But these seven myths I find relevant. Keep in mind the points listed are a mélange of pros and cons.
#1 “I have time to reflect.” An argument for traveling alone is having plenty of time to reflect on your life. I should say, up to a point, this rings true. There is no denying you end up reflecting on how lonely you are. Don’t get me wrong: being alone and being lonely are two different things. When you’re on the road, the two tend to converge.
I felt particularly lonely every time something funny happened. There’s just something sad about laughing alone, when you can have a chuckle with someone else.
#2 “I’ll easily meet new people.” When you travel solo, you’re more open to conversing with locals and other travelers, but it is a myth that it is easy. Whether it’s getting directions to the next village, or requesting recommendations on the best happy hour bar in town, speaking to strangers can be daunting.
The fear is amplified when you don’t speak the local language. Often, it’s difficult meeting new people.
You may think that just because you booked yourself a hostel, you’ll easily meet like-minded travelers. Although this may be true most of the time, there will be times when you end up staying with uptight people who have no interest in meeting anyone new.
Not only that, travelers are transient. The new best friend you met tonight may be leaving for Azerbaijan tomorrow morning, and you’ll have to make new friends all over again. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with crawling out of your shell and meeting new people, but sometimes there’s comfort in the familiar.
#3 “It is more expensive with others.” Another myth people have about solo traveling is how it is much cheaper than traveling with others. Sure, there may be some truth to it. I find that traveling with at least one other person makes it not only simpler, but a little cheaper. Everything, from jumping into a tuk tuk in Thailand, to buying a bottle of wine in France costs less when you split the cost with someone else.
Of course, there are ways to keep costs low while traveling solo. Such as buying a single bus or ferry ticket instead of jumping into a taxi, ordering a beer instead of buying a bottle of wine, and so on. Even so, I find it generally cheaper to travel with a buddy.
#4 “It’s not safe to travel solo as a woman.” Admittedly, there’s some truth to this statement. Culture and gender play important roles in it. It probably isn’t a great idea for a woman to travel alone in Iran, but totally fine for a man to do so. On the other hand, it is totally fine for both men and women to backpack across Western Europe.
At the end of the day, regardless of your gender and the country’s cultural expectations, it is very important to exercise caution no matter where in the world you are.
#5 “There’s safety in numbers.” Another myth people tend to associate with traveling solo is how it is way more dangerous. Not necessarily. Swindlers love big groups, as the chaos and excitement makes it easier for them to get what they’re after. Pickpockets love crowds and large groups, as their targets are easily distracted and tend to have their guards down.
When traveling solo, you tend to be more aware of your surroundings and your belongings, for the sole reason that there’s no one else to look out for you.
As important as it is to have an open mind and to rely on the kindness of strangers while on the road, be sure to practice caution. The last thing you want is for your organs to be harvested and sold on the black market.
#6 “No one’s going to take my picture.” One downside to traveling alone is you don’t have a buddy to get shutter-happy with you. Stop whining about it and get a selfie stick, if taking shots of yourself for Instagram is that important.
You can also rely on strangers to take pictures of you. Choose your photographers wisely. You don’t want them running off into the bowels of a Moroccan bazaar with your $1000 DSLR.
#7 “I’ll feel too homesick to really enjoy myself.” This is perhaps one of the biggest travel myths that I’ve ever been asked about. People who don’t indulge in travel because they’re worried about missing home just make excuses to avoid leaving their comfort zone.
I’m not going to deny that my first time traveling alone was a daunting experience. By the second day, I was all about making the most of my time. In my experience, wanderlust breeds more wanderlust. Before you know it, home isn’t where you grew up, but where you’re heading to next.
After years of bouncing around the globe, I have concluded nothing is better than traveling with someone. As fun as it is taking some time out and experiencing new things alone, I’ll always be a fan of traveling with another person.
From your best friend, to lover, to a total stranger you met on the bus, there’s just something about being on the same wavelength and indulging in conversation with another human being while on the road.
Traveling solo does have its place, however; as the myths above can attest, most people avoid doing so out of fear. Take courage, choose your destination wisely, and explore the great unknown—with only yourself to rely on.