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With solo travel becoming increasingly popular, many bloggers and influencers have been discussing the benefits of traveling alone (and there are many!). However, few discuss the disadvantages. This article may come as a surprise to those who know me. I LOVE traveling alone and often prefer solo travel over group travel. I love the freedom of choosing what I want to do each day and the flexibility that comes with it. However, it isn’t always as glamorous as it seems. This post is not meant to scare you away from solo travel (far from it). I created this list of the disadvantages of traveling alone to help you prepare for your next solo journey.
Also, don’t forget to check out my article on the top tips for your first time traveling solo!
Disadvantage 1: There are days you will feel lonely
Out of all of the disadvantages of traveling alone, this may be the most obvious one. It can truly feel lonely. Though you will meet people along the way (especially in hostels!), they are with you for a short time. It can feel isolating because you have to say goodbye to people just as quickly as you meet them. I will not lie, this can become mentally draining. There will also be days when you don’t meet anyone you connect with, and you may feel homesick…
The memories and connections you make along the way will be worth it! I now have friends worldwide and have created unique relationships that will last a lifetime. I can travel almost anywhere and already have friends in the area. Additionally, the days you are alone may surprisingly become some of your favorites. Take the time to enjoy your own company and do something that will bring you joy such as visiting a museum, trying new cuisines, or checking out a famous landmark! Call your friends and family to update them and bring them into the moment with you! Most importantly, let yourself feel the feelings of loneliness and homesickness and fully embrace those emotions. Then you can put things into perspective and focus on all of the beautiful moments your travels have brought.
Disadvantage 2: You don’t have anyone back home to laugh about the memories with
Do you know that feeling when you go on a trip with your best friends and come back with crazy travel stories and inside jokes? Maybe it’s that wild night partying in Amsterdam, or trying to stumble through the Japanese train system, or meeting a new group of people and going on an unexpected detour. When I went on my first solo trip, I came back with so many stories and it was overwhelming trying to share them with my friends. I had gone on this journey filled with emotions, adventures, and tons of new people along the way. However, I found it challenging to convey to my friends and family, no matter how enthusiastic they were to hear about my experiences. It wasn’t the same as having someone else there who shared these experiences with me. In the end, I had no one I could reminisce with.
This did not make the memories and experiences any less special. You will share your stories with people back home, and they won’t quite get it because they weren’t there with you…and that is okay! It is important to remember that you went on this trip for yourself. I encourage you to capture your memories and feelings in a way that you can easily look back on them. This can be through photos, a journal, or even the notes app on your phone. I like to write down at least one thing each day. This can be an emotion I felt, something new I discovered, or my favorite part of the day. This helps me reflect on and cherish special moments during my solo trips.
Disadvantage 3: You have to be more diligent regarding safety
One of the biggest disadvantages of traveling alone is it is more dangerous. You should always be diligent when it comes to safety, but this is especially true when traveling solo. As a woman, this is always at the forefront of my mind when booking a new trip. Traveling alone can already be scary enough. Unfortunately, not everyone you encounter will have the best intentions. I’ve faced this a couple of times both in my hometown and abroad, from catcalling in New York City to a random man following me off a subway in Paris for a few blocks while yelling at me in French. There is a reason why “safety in numbers” is a famous saying. When you are in a group, strangers are less likely to approach or try to harm you.
This does not mean that it is unsafe to travel alone. It does mean that you should do your due diligence and take extra safety measures. Always research the area you are traveling to, remain in well-known and well-lit areas, constantly observe your surroundings, and take all possible precautions, no matter how small or silly they may seem. It is also VERY important to listen to your gut. Especially for my ladies, if a situation makes you uncomfortable, it is okay to leave or lie and say that you need to be elsewhere.
Disadvantage 4: You can lose confidence if you have a bad experience
I will not sugarcoat it. Not every trip you take will be a magical experience. There are some days that you will not enjoy yourself. A bad experience could be caused by running into unfriendly people, your hostel or hotel messing up your booking, activities being canceled, or the location you are visiting simply not living up to your expectations. You may get an unexpected injury, food poisoning, or run into someone who treats you poorly (all of which have happened to me). These experiences can make it easy to view solo trips negatively, especially if it is your first one. You may lose confidence in yourself and your ability to enjoy a vacation independently.
Mindset is critical here. Think about your day-to-day life. Is every single day happy? Chances are there are ups and downs throughout the day, so why would traveling abroad be any different? Travel is not magic (though it can sometimes feel like it). In the same way that you have good days and bad days at home, you will have them during your travels. This is totally normal! The new people, cities, and cultures I have discovered have been worth it despite the negative encounters I have had.
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Disadvantage 5: You have to navigate any obstacles by yourself
Out of all the disadvantages of traveling alone, this is the most difficult one to prepare for. You have to rely on your ability to solve any issues. For example, during the last stretch of my backpacking trip around Europe, I got a concussion that lasted for two weeks (thank you to cramped hostels for that injury). I was still supposed to be working remotely, and it was impossible to rest in a crowded hostel room. Simple tasks like grabbing lunch became difficult. I could not help but think about how much easier it would have been if I had a friend to rely on. A concussion is an extreme example, but others include finding your way in a foreign city if you get lost, dealing with flight or train cancellations, or someone stealing your belongings.
Once you deal with obstacles like this on your own, you become unstoppable. You realize just how capable you are of getting through difficult times. If a traumatic brain injury wasn’t enough to stop me, nothing will! It is okay to ask for help, and traveling alone does not mean you have to face everything alone. I would not have gotten through my concussion if I did not have amazing souls at the hostel offering to bring me food or helping me navigate the medical system. Being open about your struggle and asking for help is key.
I hope this article gave you some pointers regarding the disadvantages of traveling alone and how to tackle them. Even if your first solo trip does not go well, I highly encourage you to try again! I have said this so many times, and I will say it again: The positive memories you come back with will be worth any challenges you face. Even if you decide that solo traveling is not for you, I promise you will learn so much about yourself and gain a greater sense of confidence.
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