Why should you miss out on a well-deserved holiday or travelling somewhere you’ve always dreamed of going because you haven’t got anyone to go with? So what you don’t have a partner to go to Paris with, and your mates are too busy holidaying with their boyfriends to lie on the beach in Thailand. No one else can afford to go on that city break you’ve been daydreaming about, so you’re just not going to go? People, life is wholly too short. Go and see the places that spark your imagination whilst you can. Go and eat pasta in Tuscany and marvel at that New York City skyline from an overpriced rooftop bar. Sure, you may have wanted to share that experience with somebody, I understand that – but don’t let not having someone to go with stop you from doing something you’ve always wanted to.
Even if you do have someone to go with, I still advocate for people to give solo travel a go. It’s such a rewarding adventure, and hopefully I can convince you to try it out for yourself. So, I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of travelling solo, but before I harp on I want you to remember there are also highs and lows of travelling with people. Most of us have been on a nightmare holiday with someone at some point, right? All of us have had bust ups with family or friends over too much sangria, surely. Going away by yourself and with people both have their advantages and disadvantages.
PRO: The Freedom To Do Whatever You Damn Well Please
The best part of it all. Want to lie in? No problem. Want to eat three desserts for lunch? Go for it, there’s no one to argue they want pizza. Actually don’t really fancy that museum you’re ‘supposed’ to visit? Great, don’t go! You can do whatever the fuck you want to, because it’s just you. Rise when you want, eat as often as you want, do what you want, start drinking whenever you God damn please. (The answer is at the airport, I don’t care if it’s 7am, you’re on holiday and airports are timezone free. This is a scientific fact.)
CON: Loneliness Can Creep In
Look, there’s no point sugar coating it – sometimes you do get lonely when you travel alone. And I’m not just talking months on end backpacking when you haven’t met anyone you click with in a couple of weeks; it can happen on a city break too. I’ve been there. This is also why I have no shame in talking to my friends back home whilst I’m away. A group chat can save your afternoon if you’re feeling down or keenly alone. There are no rules with this – you don’t have to go off the grid just because you’re away, as long as you’re not losing touch with why you’ve gone in the first place.
PRO: It Will Build Your Confidence
Not much will build your confidence like a trip away by yourself. Solo travel forces you out of your comfort zone, makes you feel capable, leads you to be braver. You’ll get talking to people around you whether you want to or not – more often than not other friendly tourists and even locals will strike up a conversation with you – people are so often curious about you if you’re by yourself, especially as a woman, I’ve found. Even getting to the airport alone and navigating the journey from flight to hotel alone can make you feel more confident. These are basic things but they can be very intimidating, and you should be proud of achieving them!
CON: Lack of photos with you in them
May sound a little vain, but it is great to have photos of you in the places you’ve visited, isn’t it? You can’t fit the whole of the Golden Gate Bridge in a selfie, trust me – I’ve tried. There are ways around it: selfie stick, self timer with tripod (panic over someone nicking your camera much?), asking someone random to take a snap and hope to God they know what they’re doing with a camera (9/10 times they don’t) – but tbh I find these a bit of agg and a little much. But you do you – this lack of commitment to the perfect Instagram shot is probably why I’m still booking meetings and flights for other people for a living.
PRO: Immersing Yourself Fully Without Distraction
Other people are a distraction. Cool if you’re travelling with someone who respects the need for silence sometimes, but I really enjoy immersing myself fully in a new place and I do find that easier to do when I travel solo. I enjoy having the time to do some photography without being distracted by someone else hovering, waiting for me to get a move on whilst I try different angles to get an interesting shot. I can spend extra time on a particular piece of art in a museum – or skip something. I can people watch without someone else talking about how Karen at work keeps pinching their milk. It’s easier to get a feel for somewhere when it’s just you taking it all in.
CON: Accommodation Can Get Expensive
Obviously, sharing the cost of accommodation with someone is a bonus. Accommodation isn’t something that gets subsidised for being occupied by just one person, so this is usually the biggest cost on a solo trip. That said, Air BnBs do make things cheaper than it used to be when only hotels were really an option, and you can still find some reasonable deals, though it isn’t ideal. But at least you don’t have to share a bed!
PRO: You Can Usually Get a Table
With just one of you, there’s almost always room for you to squeeze into a cool bar or restaurant at the bar or in the corner, skipping what can be a lengthy wait for a spot to park up. I often get ushered past couples and groups of friends waiting to be seated and I won’t lie, that VIP feeling is something I’m not entirely adverse to. Same goes for spots on tours or the like where they only have one space left. It can be handy and time saving!
CON: You Don’t Get To Try As Much Food
My biggest gripe when it comes to solo travel – I can’t order as much as I would like to on the menus I have been eyeing up for ages in advance of my trip. It’s such a joy to share dishes when away so you can try a bit of everything. The amount of times I’ve wanted to try half the menu in Italy but can barely fit two courses in? It’s tragic, honestly. I mean, sure, I could over order but wasting food is a dick move, so I try not to, and never waste food on purpose.
PRO: It Tends To Be Less Stressful
I’m not saying I don’t stress myself out. That happens from time to time; I can be pretty highly strung and although I will maintain that I have chilled out a LOT over the last decade or so, it does take me a while at times. However, the thing that has taught me how to chill out the most over the years has been travelling. There are so many things that happen on the road that cannot be helped: broken down buses, delayed connecting flights, 32 hour journeys that were supposed to take 20. It is what it is. Now, I find it easier to shake things off if I’m by myself, as I don’t have to deal with anyone else being stressed and getting wound up in turn. I allow myself some time to be pissed off and then let it go. If I travel with someone, it’s likely that them being annoyed will irritate me, stress me out, and end up in someone snapping. Removing others from the equation means your trip is likely to be less stressful; either when things go wrong or you disagree on how to spend your time away. Petty arguments born of long travel days, begone! To be honest, I find travelling with people a finer art than travelling solo. That shit can end friendships, I’m telling you.
CON: Being More Aware Of Your Safety
I know that a big concern for people, especially women, is for their safety whilst travelling solo, and that is absolutely understandable. It’s bad enough at home: we walk with our keys in between our fingers and we ask each other to text when you get in, so of course being somewhere you don’t know can be more intimidating. Let someone know where you’re staying, check in with friends, and most of all be vigilant. Trust your instincts. Yes you have to be more aware of your safety whilst you are travelling solo, but bad things unfortunately happen everywhere, all the time, whether you’re alone or not. Keep your wits about you, but don’t let it stop you living your life.
PRO: Feeling Like You Can Do Anything
In 2016 I went to California on a 2.5 week roadtrip by myself. I went to meet a friend who lived in LA for a few days before driving up the coast to San Francisco. I won’t lie; I was nervous. It wasn’t the first solo long haul holiday I’d done but the previous had been in Thailand and there are backpackers everywhere. I’d travelled in Thailand previously and I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to meet people if I really wanted to. California is very different to Asia, and I was aware I would be alone for much of the time I was away. I had also always envisioned that I’d be able to delegate the nerve-racking task of driving on the other side of the road to somebody else, but I wasn’t going to let that fear stop me, and after about twenty minutes in which yes I did scrape someone’s wing mirror, I was fine! Me and the Californian sunshine, driving the 101. I genuinely felt unstoppable. I’ll never forget driving up into the Santa Ynez hills, covered in orange poppies and standing out looking on the vista before me, blasting out Florence’s Shake It Out from my phone, feeling like I could do anything.