The Pros and Cons of Traveling Alone

The Pros and Cons of Traveling Alone

The first time I boarded a plane for a trip without parents or chaperones was shortly after my 18th birthday. Granted, I was traveling to see friends and family in Pennsylvania, but that was the first time I was able to travel totally on my own terms.

Since this first trip, my trips have become a bit more daring. I went on a few small trips around the States by myself, then I spent some time alone in Rome after the rest of my group left. Most recently, I jetted off to Chiang Mai, Thailand for my first major solo trip.

I’ve traveled with my family, with my friends, as part of a study abroad group and on my own. Each trip I’ve taken has been unique, but the type of company I have on each has really made a difference. Throughout my travels, I’ve come up with of several pros and cons of traveling alone.

There is no right or wrong way to travel, but here are a few drawbacks and benefits of solo travel that you should consider before taking your first trip alone.

The Pros of Traveling Alone

Traveling alone is amazing, but it is not for everybody. It requires a bit of independence and confidence, but the benefits of solo travel are unmatched.

Let’s talk about some of the best parts of traveling alone.

Freedom

The ability to do whatever you want is pretty amazing. You choose where you go, where you sleep, what you eat and anything else you do. When you travel alone, you’re totally in control.

I really like this aspect because I am naturally super independent. I don’t like people telling me what to do, so when I’m on the other side of the world by myself, I truly have nobody to answer to.

Confidence Boost

Solo travel requires a ton of confidence. If you aren’t the most confident to begin with, you’ll likely experience some degree of shift. It’s a survival of the fittest situation.

I know that sounds harsh, but if you want to thrive on a trip by yourself, you will be forced outside of your comfort zone.

You’ll have to ask strangers for help, whether it’s with carrying your luggage or finding a convenience store. You’ll have to mutter a few words in a foreign language to get where you’re going at some point or another. Honestly, you may have to adopt a different culture for a little bit.

When you accomplish these little things, you will feel 100x more confident than before.

Alone Time

Spending time with yourself is so important. It gives you the opportunity to do a lot of reflection. You get to know yourself in a way that you’ve never experienced before.

You’d be surprised how much you learn about yourself during long periods of silence.

Personal Development

Traveling solo is definitely a feat. Getting yourself on that plane by yourself is something to be proud of.

Over the course of your trip—even if it’s just a week long—you’ll probably notice that your confidence and independence is greater than when you left your home.

You’ll also find out a lot about what you like and don’t like. Maybe the alone time teaches you that you’d prefer more down time. Or maybe a wild bungee jumping experience will teach you that you’re an adrenaline junky.

Solo travel requires a lot of putting yourself out there, and that alone will help you grow as a person.

pros and cons of traveling alone

The Cons of Traveling Alone

Solo travel has tons of perks, but there are also some downsides to consider before planning your trip by yourself.

Here’s what you need to know!

More Expensive

When you travel alone, all travel expenses are on you. There is no splitting accommodation costs, groceries, taxis, etc.

If you make an effort to find deals on accommodations and such, this won’t be as hard on your wallet. However, if you plan on staying at super fancy hotels, things may get a bit expensive.

It Gets Lonely

As I mentioned before, the alone time is one of the greatest benefits of solo travel. However, you will get lonely if you don’t put yourself out there to make friends.

If you are confident enough to introduce yourself to strangers and insert yourself into social situations, then this may not be an issue for you.

You’re Responsible

When you travel alone, you’re responsible for everything. You have to plan every detail, and you have to make sure all of the details are correct.

Knowing bus numbers, train times, airline info, reservation details and the like all falls into your hands. This can get a little overwhelming, especially if you have several destinations on a trip.

Less Secure

Before my first solo trip, so many people warned me that I was going to be robbed, killed or taken advantage of. These words were definitely discouraging.

I’m not here to say that you will die if you travel by yourself. I just want to make the point that you have to be more cautious when you’re on your own because you’re the only one there to watch your back.

The only time that this has really been an issue for me was when it came to going out alone or drinking. I am not much of a drinker, but I am a light weight. I don’t drink at all when I’m alone because there is nobody there to make sure I’m okay. However, not drinking saves me a ton of money so I could probably add this to the “pro” column.

No Photographer

Okay so this is super silly, but one of the saddest parts for Instagram lovers like me is not having anybody to take pictures for me. Even if you aren’t big on social media, it is still nice to have photos to go with your memories.

Of course you can ask people to take pictures of you, but there is no guarantee that they will turn out how you want them to. Obviously, I wouldn’t let this con hold me back from traveling alone, but it is an annoying aspect.

Taking the Plunge to Travel Alone

As you can see, there are quite a few pros and cons of traveling alone. However, I don’t think any of the cons are bad enough to outweigh the benefits of solo travel.

I do enjoy traveling with a group, but traveling alone is an experience like no other. Even if you take a solo trip and realize it’s not for you, you will be proud of the confidence you had to make an experience like that happen.

So, what do you think? Is traveling alone an option for you?

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What My First Solo Trip Taught Me

What My First Solo Trip Taught Me
solo trip to chiang mai

I did it. I took the leap and went half way around the world by myself. It’s not that taking a solo trip was particularly scary for me, but it was definitely out of my comfort zone.

Everybody was curious as to who would accompany me on this huge trip. Many were shocked when I said I was going alone. The more people I talked to, the nervous I got. Just about everybody I talked to warned me of the dangers that lie overseas.

But made it through. I lived to this point, and I am here to share what I learned during my first solo trip.

7 Things I Learned During My First Solo Trip

I am not going to sit here and pretend that I had an Eat, Pray, Love sort of experience. But I definitely learned a lot during this trip.

I’m also not claiming to be any sort of solo travel pro. Really, I’m here to share quite the opposite.

My trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand taught me a little bit about myself and a lot about travel in general. Here’s what I learned.

1 – It Gets Lonely

The first two days of my trip were spent at a conference, so I assumed I’d meet people to hang out during the remainder of my trip. I was wrong.

As somebody who spends a ton of time alone (mostly because I work from home), this was a bit difficult. I am typically super social, but I have a hard time approaching people and making the first move.

Being 12 hours ahead of my friends and family at home meant there were a lot of times that I didn’t have anybody to talk to if I was desperate for some conversation.

Something that was great for beating the loneliness — and the occasional boredom that came with it — was doing Airbnb experiences. These are small tours and experiences lead by locals.

The groups were very small (most are capped at 10 people, but mine each had 5) so it was easy to get to know the other people. I spent time with people from around the world who had all different backgrounds and reasons for traveling.

One woman made a comment about how much she enjoys traveling alone because her job demands a lot of attention and interaction with others. This opened my eyes to the different perspectives of different travellers.

Learn more about getting discounts on Airbnb experiences.

2 – But Being Alone is Nice

Traveling alone really gives you the power to travel exactly how you want to.

I had a ton of quiet time to rest, work and do whatever I wanted. Despite the moments of boredom and loneliness, spending time alone was pretty refreshing.

I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. There was no coming to a compromise on where to eat or what to do. If I wanted to go to sleep at 9:00 PM, I didn’t have to worry about if somebody else wanted to go out.

There was nobody else to answer to or compromise with.

3 – Plan More Carefully

So, I pretty much booked this trip on a whim. Here’s how it went: I saw a post about the SEO conference, bought a ticket and booked flights all in a span of about 20 minutes.

While I am glad I booked the trip, I should’ve worked out the logistics a little better. I did not consider the dates I was traveling, and I missed a huge festival in Chiang Mai by about 24 hours.

I didn’t consider how rough the jet lag would be. My plane arrived the evening before my conference, and I slept through over half the work shops.

Next time, I will plan my layovers better because the 12 hour time change and full day of travel made adjusting really rough and I wasted so many days sleeping.

Since I was traveling alone absolutely all of the planning was up to me. I know now that I need to pay attention to even the smallest of details.

4 – Be Ready to Face Your Fears

For many, boarding the plan to head around the world is really scary, so even making the trip is facing a huge fear.

Booking my first solo trip was a feat in itself. It wasn’t that I was particularly scared of going, but it was a giant area of unknown.

I definitely had some small fears going into this trip and most of them surrounded food. I know it sounds silly, but I am not a brave eater. Ordering food from a restaurant was seriously the scariest thing to me.

It took an unreasonable amount of convincing and pep talks to get myself into stores and restaurants. But I did it. I was mostly nervous about the language barrier.

Approaching others was also way out of my comfort zone. This was a fear that I didn’t completely overcome on this trip. But I know next time I travel alone I’ll need to make a greater effort with this.

Something else that held me back at first was an overwhelming fear of accidentally offending somebody. Chiang Mai has a very unique culture, and I didn’t want to accidentally do something rude.

Getting to know locals who were open to my million questions was really helpful. I was able to ask them about common behaviors that I observed but didn’t understand (like people bowing to me).

If I learned anything from my solo trip, it was that I have to put myself out there, go beyond the confines of my comfort zone and face some fears.

5 – The World is Not Out to Get You

So many people — mostly people who have never really traveled — warned me of the dangers that I’d face overseas. I was told I’d be raped, kidnapped and killed. This is not to say that there are dangerous places on the other side of the world, but there are also lots of dangerous places here in the United States.

I actually felt safer in Chiang Mai than in NYC during the layover on my way home.

The only time I felt really scared was when I arrived early to a meeting point for a sunrise hike. I was on the outskirts of town at 5:35 AM and I couldn’t find where I was supposed to be.

I talked to 4 people and they didn’t understand what I was asking them. They did not come across as threatening. But they knew that I was lost in the middle of the night so it would’ve been easy for them to rob me or take advantage of me.

6 – But Be Safe

Even though I didn’t come across any danger, I know that it is there. I just don’t let the possibility of danger (which is absolutely everywhere) scare me from traveling.

You just cannot let your guard down.

Blending in rather than drawing attention to yourself is important. Don’t flash your money or valuables. Wear plain clothes.

Something that one of my professors said when I studied abroad was to not act like an American. In Asia, it was a bit difficult to hide my ethnicity because I am clearly caucasian, but in Europe it’s much easier.

She told us not to speak English too loudly. What it came down to was not being obnoxious or flashy.

Just pay attention to your surroundings and follow your intuition. And don’t be too trusting!

7 – Solo Travel is Not for Everybody

While I enjoyed my solo trip, I can see why others wouldn’t. You have to be confident and adaptable.

There is some extra effort that comes with traveling alone. All of the planning responsibility falls on you.

Also, if you hate being alone, you may not enjoy solo travel. It could also serve as a great experience for self-reflection as it gives you quite time to work out why you don’t like being alone.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with preferring to travel with pals.

What I learned on my first solo trip

The Takeaway from My First Solo Trip

If you’re on the fence of traveling alone, I’d say go for it. People will tell you all of the reasons you shouldn’t, but it’s really what you make of it.

If you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone, you’ll be fine.

During the first few days, I swore I’d never travel alone again. I was still super jetlagged pretty nervous about the whole food thing at this point, so I hadn’t gotten out to explore.

I enjoyed the freedom that came with solo travel. The down time to think and reflect were also very enjoyable.

I’m not really sure how long of a solo trip I could handle. But something that an older traveler I met stuck with me.

She commented on how traveling has changed as she’s aged and “gotten better” at traveling.

I love traveling now and I’m confident that I’ll get better at it with experience. I’m eager to plan another solo trip, but I’m definitely not opposed to traveling with others.

Traveling with my friends when we studied abroad was a blast, so I’d definitely like to travel with groups of friends again.

Since most of my friends are either in school or have jobs that are location dependent, I see lots of solo trips in my future.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to take your first solo trip?