Updated October 11, 2020
When I tell someone that I travel solo, I usually get the same responses:
“Wow! You must be so brave! I could never do that.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Is it safe?”
“Don’t you get lonely?”
The general consensus from people who have never travelled solo is that it must be a hard, lonely and dangerous life. Especially for a woman.
But, honestly, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Making the decision to travel by myself was the BEST decision I have EVER made. Seriously.
Sure, there are times where I do feel lonely, afraid, or just long for the comfort of my own bed. But these feelings are truly in the minority.
Although I am no longer a solo traveller, I learned the most when I had no travel partner, and I would love to share my reasons with you.
(You can also read about my experiences with couple travel here. Because, you know, things change!)
1: You’re not really alone (much)
One of the first things I learned was that solo travel doesn’t REALLY mean that you’re travelling alone.
If you’re a solo traveller, you are much more likely to interact with other travellers. And they are much more likely to interact with you.
Trust me on this, there will be PLENTY of people in the same boat as you (sometimes literally). You are guaranteed to make friends almost immediately, no matter how scary it seems at first.
Take my first night in Thailand. It was my first solo stop and I had booked myself into a beautiful beach-side hostel with a pool.
As a naturally shy person, I was absolutely terrified. When I was shown to my room, I took a breath, greeted my dorm mates and introduced myself.
Nothing. They basically ignored me.
This completely threw me. So I set up my bed in silence, lay down facing the wall and struggled not to cry out loud.
“What am I doing here? Why have I done this to myself? This is the biggest mistake I’ve ever made! I want to go home!!”
All these thoughts rushed around in my head until, eventually, I got up and stumbled to the beach. I called my dad and told him everything I was thinking.
After a small pep talk, I felt a bit better.
“Give it some time,” he said. “If it doesn’t get better you can always come home. But I know you are going to have an amazing adventure”.
And he was right, of course.
As I was eating dinner (alone), a girl came in wearing her swimsuit and dripping water everywhere.
She was asking everyone if they had a ball she could use for a game in the pool, and everyone was saying no.
When she came to me, I told her I didn’t have one, she thanked me anyway and turned away. After two steps, she stopped and turned back to me.
“Are you alone?” she asked. “Do you want to come and join us in the pool when you’ve finished dinner?”
My face lit up and I agreed. 20 minutes later I was playing pool games with people I’d just met and having a great time. We even ended up going to a full moon party together.
From that night on I was never alone, at least not for very long.
Every new place I visited, I made new friends. I quickly realised it was not hard at all, even for a shy person like me.
Whether they’re friends that just hang out with you for a day or two, or friends that join you for the next leg of your trip, you will never be travelling alone unless you want to be.
2: You can go your own way
Yes, I’m a Fleetwood Mac fan 🙂
Probably one of my FAVOURITE things about solo travel is that you don’t have to work your agenda around anyone else.
You can go wherever you want, whenever you want!
Fallen in love with a place and don’t want to leave? Stay! (Unless your visa is ending, then you should definitely get going.)
Arrived in a town with rave reviews but don’t feel it’s the place for you? Leave!
This is also why I don’t plan how long I’m going to stay in a place before I get there. You never know whether you’ll love it or hate it, despite what anyone else says.
You have total freedom to make your own decisions about everything, and this allows you to be spontaneous too if an opportunity arises that you don’t want to miss.
3: Travel solo to Gain confidence
This was a big thing for me.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a naturally shy person, and one of my hopes before I went travelling was that it would help me with my confidence (or lack of it).
It totally worked.
I went from that terrified person sitting alone on my first night, to the person that could approach a table of people I didn’t know and sit down with them.
I became confident at navigating my way around new towns, taking transport and talking with locals.
Once you become accustomed to your own independence, you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do!
You start using your common sense and trusting your gut instincts a lot more, and you learn to say no if something doesn’t feel right.
Most importantly, and as cliché as it sounds, you find your own worth in the world, and you realise that you are just as important as everyone else.
4: Join other people’s adventures
The best thing about being totally open to new plans is that you will likely end up doing things that you might never have done otherwise.
Things have a way of falling into place, and talking to new people can open up so many exciting possibilities.
For me, my most unforgettable memory is of a tiny island off the coast of Cambodia that I had never heard of before, and definitely wouldn’t have visited if I hadn’t joined someone else’s adventure.
I was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, chilling at a hostel when in walked a friend that I’d met a few weeks earlier in Thailand.
After a somewhat surprised greeting, he introduced me to the two friends he was now travelling with and we all spent the evening drinking beer and talking about our travels.
It turned out that they were heading south to Sihanoukville the next day, and they invited me to join them.
At the time, Phnom Penh had just closed everything down for the late king’s funeral, so I had been considering leaving anyway, and I accepted their offer.
After arriving in Sihanoukville and meeting some more of their friends, I found out that they were all buying boat tickets to an island off the coast, so I chipped in for one too.
I’d heard of Koh Rong, but never Koh Ru, a much smaller and more remote island with only 6 hours of electricity per day and only around 40 inhabitants.
It sounded fantastic. And it was.
All the lights would go out at midnight, and we would build a bonfire on the beach and look at the billions of stars above us; with no light pollution we felt like we could see them all.
We would even go swimming in the sea and the water would glow with bio-luminescent plankton.
It was truly magical, and is still one of the highlights of my travels.
After leaving Koh Ru, I spent a month travelling Vietnam with some of the people I’d met on the island.
Be open to new plans and ideas, or you might just miss some of the most wonderful experiences.
Note: a couple of months after I left Koh Ru, I found out that it had been bought by a French resort company, and would no longer be accessible to backpackers on a budget. Although I was devastated at the news, it made me realise how lucky I was to have experienced it the way it was.
5: Your budget is your budget
Difficulties arise when you’re travelling with somebody whose budget is different to yours.
If they have more to spend than you do, it’s likely that you will end up spending more of your budget than you would if you were alone, because your travel mate may try to convince you to join them in paying for things that you know you shouldn’t really be considering.
In most cases they won’t be doing it intentionally, they’ll just be thinking of their budget and not yours.
If it’s the other way around and your budget is higher, you may feel like you’re being talked out of things you want to do because your travel mate can’t afford it.
Either way, it’s a tricky situation for both of you, and it could result in some disagreements or even arguments.
When travelling solo, your budget is your budget.
You don’t need to explain it to anybody and you can keep track of your own spending.
Is solo travel safe?
I know what you’re thinking.
You’re pretty sure you would love to travel solo but there’s still that nagging question at the back of your mind: is it safe?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, because nobody can predict what will happen while you’re on the road.
But I will say this. Common sense will have a HUGE impact on your safety.
As long as you can trust your gut instincts and use your common sense, you will most likely be fine.
In all my years of solo travel, there has only ever been one incident where I found myself in danger. And, while that is another story for another time, I assure you that it could just as easily have happened in my home town. It was not related to my location or the fact that I was travelling alone.
So many women around the world are travelling solo and absolutely loving it, and you can too!
Be smart, and you will be safe.
While I could relay story after story about my solo travel adventures, that is not the reason for this article, although I hope that my experiences have made you excited to start making your own!
So, if you love the idea of complete freedom, new friends, exciting opportunities, unplanned adventures and new-found confidence, take the leap and travel solo!
You won’t regret it.
Do you have any questions or thoughts of your own on solo travelling? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
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