Open TicketWould You Travel Solo?Stephanie Spitler

I’ve done lots of things, travel-wise. I’ve backpacked and bedded down in dodgy hostels, but I’ve also lived it up in boutique hotels. I’ve hopped on guided bus tours and planned my own city tours. I’ve figured out train systems and trams and subways in places where I didn’t speak the language. I’ve tried local foods and, I admit it, I’ve given in and eaten at McDonald’s in more than one foreign country. (Don’t judge; sometimes you need the blessed relief of a familiar Big Mac).

But there’s one major travel experience I haven’t had yet: I’ve never traveled alone. Entire blogs are dedicated to this specific form of travel, and you’ll find the “go somewhere solo” recommendation on most “lists of things to do before you’re 30” and the like. Travelers who’ve done it wax poetic about how freeing and empowering it is. And I’ll admit, I’m intrigued.

Sometimes, when your travel buddy wants to check out a museum and you want to check out some “retail exploration,” it can get uncomfortable. Sure, you can split up, but differing expectations can, at best, involve awkward conversations and, at worst, lead to hurt feelings and awkward tension for the rest of the trip. So I can definitely see the appeal of doing exactly what you want, when you want.

I don’t really know why I’ve never traveled solo before. I’ve been lucky enough to always have enthusiastic and willing companions to come along. And the truth is, I like having someone with me. I like having someone to people-watch with in the airport, and get lost with in the streets of Venice (map? I thought you had the map?). And I really like having someone to take pictures of me posing awkwardly in front of famous landmarks.

Especially on longer trips, it’s nice to have someone there to keep you in a good mood when you get down (and vice versa), to take the reins and find a hotel when you’re exhausted (and vice versa), and to encourage you to climb that mountain when you want to quit. But the biggest reason I like traveling with a friend is that, once it’s over, you have someone who knows exactly what you’re talking about when you reminisce about that crazy bar crawl in Rome.

On the other hand, all those reasons I listed could just as easily be seen as drawbacks. When someone else is there with you, you have the luxury of deciding to be in a bad mood, or deciding to throw your hands in the air and dump the responsibility of booking a hotel on them. I’m not saying it’s right, but the option is there; you know there’s someone else who could take care of whatever it is, so you can decide not to. I think that must be one of the most eye-opening things about traveling alone: while you discover another country, you also discover a lot about yourself.

Having said all that, I do feel like a solo trip is something everyone should do. If travel is about adventure, then the biggest adventures for me include things I haven’t tried yet.

Would you (or have you ever) traveled alone?

Let’s talk about travel: follow me @StephSpitler

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=89800292 Lia Marie Banks

    I find that travelling alone is best if you are taking a short-ish trip, and you have plans. My first trip alone was to Paris. 5 days, all museums. It was perfect because museums/historic sites you don’t really need someone with you (whereas riding roller coasters in Florida? I think you would.).

    The only thing is. . . As a single (very small asian) woman, I think that I miss out on some fun aspects of the cities I visit because I am too nervous to wander about at night by myself.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      You bring up a good point, Lia. We have to balance between embracing adventure and being smart about our safety, no matter where we are. And 5 days in Paris sounds amazing!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=90000613 Lindsay McKissick

      I felt the same way when I spent a day in Tokyo. I didn’t know anything about the food, the language, or the culture, so I was afraid of looking foolish and of making mistakes. Still, I’m glad I went, and I’m glad you had a great time in Paris. I love museums, too. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=48400770 Courtney Anne

    I spent 5 weeks alone in Ireland, with a 4-day trip to Barcelona randomly thrown in. Traveling alone allowed plenty spontaneity (like deciding the night before the flight to go to Barcelona), and it also allowed me to make new friends every single day. It forced me out of my shell. Instead of having a friend to hide behind, I had to get out and spend time with people I didn’t know. I had my favorite haunts, made friends with bartenders and bookstore staff, and ended up having an experience I’ll never forget. In fact, the first 3 weeks I was there I had a friend with me (I was in Ireland for two months: 3 weeks with a friend, 5 alone). I hardly met anyone while she was with me. We had a great time, but I was there to meet locals and fellow travelers, and that only happened when I was alone. I highly recommend traveling alone, doing so for as long a stint as your job will allow, and seeing the sights, but also learning to live like a local.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      That’s great to hear! I suspect I’m guilty of the hiding-behind-a-friend thing :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1067880003 Rachel Kleist

    I’ve traveled alone. I was 18 and threw caution to the wind and escaped to Africa for a month. Luckily, “Taken” hadn’t come out yet, I think it would have been harder to sell to my parents.

    While I bunked with the locals, I spent the majority of my time exploring on my own on the weekends – I worked with children on the week days.

    While traveling alone was liberating and freeing, there was always uncertainty and a thread of fear lingering over my head. Sometimes I wish that my senses hadn’t been so heightened, I think I missed part of the experience because of that. However, I’ve never grown so much in my life. I came home a different person because of my experiences in Africa. I was lonely while I was there, but I discovered parts about myself I often wonder if I would have discovered had I not had that experience.

    So, I probably wouldn’t travel alone again, but at least I did it once.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Wow, Rachel, I’m impressed! To be 18 and have the guts to take off to Africa on your own; my hat’s off to you. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=783304933 Rosie Clarke

    I’m 19 and I’ve travelled to a few places on my own. I’ve done long haul flights to London and Australia, I’ve been to new york, new orleans, georgia, the Harry Potter Wizarding World.. all on my own (HP world was AMAZING because you can do exactly what you like… in my case spending 6 hours going on the hogwarts ride over and over!!) I’ve stayed in relatives homes, crummy little hostels and big hotel chains and it’s all been awesome. I don’t regret a thing! Even if the actual physical travelling bit can be boring on your own.. no-one to chat to on long bus rides, etc.. it’s well worth it because you end up getting to know yourself so well instead! I do think balance is good though and you want to try to plan it so you spend time with people you know as well! maybe meet somebody after a week or so?! :) xx

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Good advice, Rosie! It might be easier to take the leap if you know you’ll be meeting up with some friendly faces along the way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=70308512 Anke Ruwette

    Love the post!

    It seems that I’m slowly living abroad more than actually in my own country of The Netherlands since I’ve traveled abroad by myself multiple times! (1 year high school exchange in New Zealand when I was 17, Studied a semester in Jonesboro, AR, 5 month internship in Washington DC, and now I’ve been in Cape Girardeao, MO for the past 3,5 years). So my experiences are a bit longer than just a vacation, except for my One Woman Roadtrip (yes I named my trip) to Louisville, KY during Springbreak! I love the excitement of something new, meeting new people, new adventures and being independent. It is something I can recommend others to do to!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      That’s great, Anke! Seems like you’ve really embraced the solo travel lifestyle (and have seen/lived in some interesting places).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=546673709 Catrin Morgan

    Have I? No but I would if I could.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Hopefully you can, soon :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509041028 Dakota Katherine M. Lloyd

    I have done the “Travel to France w/ family” (Super stressful, I’m the only french speaker and they were moving there), I had the travel around Europe with the bf (Also stressful, he’s an anglophone). I have travelled extensively alone though, but the biggest key is I had friends at my end goal already. I was always off to meet someone. With the except of my trip to LA this past summer, where I didn’t even know my roommates save for 2 phone calls…

    My favorite travel buddies are friends from a forum I was on when I was 13. 9 years later they’re still my favorite people, who are there for me always. While the group has grown, they’re all amazing.

    I turn 22 next month, and at 19 I took my first solo-non school trip, to meet internet friends I had never met in person, in a foreign country. My parents are incredibly trusting in my judgement, and over the past few years met the friends they trusted not to murder me. (My mum absolutely adores 2 of them)

    2 weeks, I take my next solo journey, this time is the first time with my Dad not being on the same continent. (SCARY!)

    As much as I love travelling alone, my favorite travel companion is my Dad, because we are both adventurous, nerdy, weird and have a tendency not to plan ahead… (nearly had to sleep in the car once…) but we are good at the comprise things (We go see HP studios “My thing”, and I join him on his whiskey tours, and we break off if there’s night stuff i want to do that he won’t etc.) We both love travelling together, but hate travelling with my mum and brother.

    Travel solo! See the world. You will meet people that you wouldn’t otherwise! I wouldn’t have met some of my closest friends if it wasn’t for travelling alone!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Have a great time on your upcoming trip, Dakota! Hope it’s the best one yet :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=565181528 Suzi Piratesarebetterthanashworths

    I have backpacked across the Balkans to Istanbul, and done Hong Kong & parts of southern China plus a few european spots solo. One thing I would say is that fellow travellers are very friendly and girls quite often temporarily pair up with other solo girls for giggles & safety! I met people in Mostar and Sarajevo that i still talk to now, 3 years later! if you’re sensible it’s not scary at all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Another great tip! Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505926761 Neha Modi

    I don’t normally comment but I just had to throw in my two cents. I’ve done a lot o solo traveling over the past few years, mostly domestic but in November I went to Sydney all by myself for a week. A lot of people look at me weird when I tell them I’m going alone. I’ll admit sometimes it feels weird and I feel like I’m being judged, but at the same time, I’m not traveling alone because no one wants to come. Traveling anywhere requires time and money, and not everyone has that all the time and that’s understandable. And, I’m the type of person that if I really want to do something, I’ll do it, even if it means doing it alone. And it’s true, I look at the perks of traveling alone as I can literally do whatever it is that I want — I plan my own itinerary from sightseeing to food, stay wherever I want, spend whatever I want etc. Even when I’m traveling I get a lot of weird looks when I ask for a table of 1 and “yo go girl” from people where I’m visiting. I don’t understand why others think it weird, I don’t think they realize how much stuff they do by themselves and maybe they’re just not as secure as I am in those matters. Of course it’s always nice to have some company but, I’ve never had a terrible time because I’ve traveled solo. I say if there’s a place you really want to go, do it inspired and if you must, then go it alone!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      I agree, Neha! If there’s somewhere you want to go (or something you want to do), you shouldn’t let anything stop you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9344458 Kallie Feigenbaum

    Yes. I love traveling alone. Sometimes I’ll stay with a friend on their couch so while they’re at work and generally living their life I get to explore on my own but also have someone to grab drinks with at night.
    I like being in charge of my own adventures, and while traveling with friends/my boyfriend is fantastic too, there’s something about doing it all on your own at your own pace that can’t be beat.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      That’s a good balance, Kallie. I like the idea of spending some time solo and then spending time with friends.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=721394645 Paula Boardman

    I travelled solo last year. I jumped on a plane, flew for 22 hours, and then spent 4 weeks travelling around the UK (and France & Dubai). I didn’t join up with any tours, but I did occasionally stay/meet up with friends.

    I loved it for exactly the reasons you listed. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. If I was running late, or got lost, it was completely my fault.

    The downside is also exactly what you listed. If I wanted a photo of myself at some memorable location, I had to ask a stranger to take the photo – and PRAY that they wouldn’t steal my camera (photos were downloaded nightly to reduce loss of photos if that happened).

    Also, not having someone to reminisce with makes it a little frustrating.

    BUT – I did stay with friends for some of the holiday. So for those parts, I can reminisce with them.

    And, if I’ hadn’t been on my own in Dubai, I doubt the lovely US Navy boys would have adopted me as quickly on our desert safari ;)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      22 hours! My longest plane ride was 9 hours. You are inspiring me with your awesome experiences. Thanks for commenting!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=721394645 Paula Boardman

        Yeah, Australia to pretty much anywhere is a LONG flight. Unless you’re flying to NZ, Asia, or the Pacific Islands. (Heck, it’s cheaper for me to fly to NZ than to visit my parents who only live in a different state!).

        I’m currently planning my next solo holiday :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1443982652 Vero Pannitto

    Last year I’ve travelled to Europe; 2 weeks in London with friends and 1 week alone in Paris. Both were great experiences, I learned to share and be patient (in London) and then I learned to manage myself in a big city without speaking their language. It was quite an adventure, funny, amazing and unforgetable. I also had time to think and connect to myself; and do all the things I wanted when I wanted.
    It’s agood experience, you should try at least once…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Sounds like you had the best of both worlds in your trip!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1493580707 Lauren Byrd

    I traveled to Scotland for three weeks by myself when I was 22. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself. It was intimidating the first day, but I loved it. I loved setting my own schedule and being responsible for myself. I am a huge museum buff, so I could spend 3 hours there and no one would pester me to go. I could go to bed early or stay up late. I also find that the desire for companionship is more easily met when you travel with someone, but when you get to know your cab driver or the guy who serves you a late lunch or some other random person, you can have such fun adventures and really get to know the people who live in that country in a way that is much harder when you are with someone else (not that it’s impossible). You have to be keenly aware of your safety and you have to plan for some things when it’s just you and your luggage, but it’s completely possible. I honestly think every one (especially every girl/woman!) should do it. It’s so empowering, which sounds silly, but it’s awesome. I was blown away by Scotland, so perhaps that’s where you should take your next trip! It’s beautiful and the people are so kind. Go for it!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1165258716 Shannon O’Donnell

      I’m so excited you posted this!! I’m studying abroad in Ireland right now and I really want to spend some time in Scotland when we have our break – you’ve inspired me to actually consider making it a solo trip! Any recommendations on where to go, what to do, where to stay?? (I definitely want to go to Glasgow but I would love to see more of the country too!)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

        Shannon, if you make it Edinburgh definitely check out Edinburgh Castle and the Baked Potato Shop in the Old Town! Best baked potatoes ever.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Lauren, Scotland is so beautiful. I’ve only been to Edinburgh (and it was a trip with friends) but it’s definitely a possibility to go back and see more of the country for my first solo trip!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2512040 Suzy Evans

    I’m a very independent person. I have no problem going to movies and the theater alone or eating dinner by myself on a Friday night out. (I promise I’m not a loner!) But I went on my first solo adventure to Austria and Germany last year, and I thought I would love the ability to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and for how much money I wanted. But I was surprised by how much I hated it. Travel to me is such a communal experience. I want someone to tell inside jokes to. I want someone to share the memories. I kind of felt like the tree that fell in the woods. If one falls and no one hears it, did it really happen? If no one saw me traveling, did I really go on a trip? Sure I have the pictures, my journals, and the memories, but for someone who is independent to an extreme, traveling alone was not for me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Thanks for sharing! It’s always interesting to hear a different side. I suspect I’d feel the same way as you, but I definitely think solo travel is something everyone should try once!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=540070271 Lisa Holyoake

    I spent a month in Thailand on my own and it was the best thing I have ever done! The first part was a gap-year type tour group, so all total strangers, and the second part I met up with a friend who was working as a scuba instructor at the time, so while she was ‘working’ (hardly a horrible job!) I would busy myself at the spa, or taking a rock climbing course, or just lazing on the beach.

    People always tell me I was brave to do it, but it was booked on an almost-whim so I didn’t have the chance to think about the fact that I was “alone”. You get to plan your days and see what you want to see without compromise. I’d have another adventure like that in a heartbeat.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Hanging out at the spa and the beach doesn’t sound bad at all :-) I could get used to that kind of solo travel!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001491492673 Megan Alexander

    I really want to go to Paris on my own, despite the fact that my French isn’t the best. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do as there are so many things I want to discover that I know my friends wouldn’t be interested in.
    Being in a large group of friends means that there is a lot of compromise a lot of the time; it would be nice to be able to decide what I want to do, when I want to do it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      You should go for it, Megan! Paris is an amazing city.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=73002793 Emily Hazlett

    Travelling alone is the best type of personal development you can gift yourself. I traveled through Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru solo after my study abroad in Argentina and it was amazing. Staying in hostels, meeting new people, being completely immersed in your own emotions, loneliness, awe, and excitement.–I felt my truest and rawest emotions sitting in bus stations, seeing monuments, and stepping off airplanes. When I traveled through Costa Rica, I met a ton of super nice Canadians (the place is swarming with them) and surrendered to their ever-adventurous spirits and wonderful planning skills.

    Places you shouldn’t travel as a single female are obviously the best places–Egypt, Iran, Venezuela (per the New Yorker’s recent article about a slumlord…scary!). But other mildly dangerous places, like Turkey, Colombia, Ukraine, etc. are definitely places I think I’d have the most rich and rewarding solo travel experience. I’ve actually been to Ukraine to visit a friend in the Peace Corps so I wasn’t totally alone, but it was a crazy experience. If you haven’t been, go go go.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      All of your trips sound amazing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=841990135 Celeste Young

    I traveled to Amsterdam by myself for a week, it was amazing! Wandered for hours taking pictures of buildings and cute little european cars. Have also been to NYC and Toronto a few times by myself and I got so many comments of “You’re here by yourself, arent you scared?” and even from one of the douchey old men at customs coming home “You’re traveling alone? your husband let you?” wth? Yes, my husband let me…am I twelve? I’ve never had any problems with safety, as long as you walk with purpose and look like you know what you’re doing… nobody will bother you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      OMG, “your husband let you?”! It’s comments like that that make me want to grab my bag and go. I agree, walking with purpose (and looking like you know where you’re going, even when you don’t) is a great trick.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13735440 Crystal Lynn Kamm

    I have never taken a really long road trip by myself yet, thought it’s definitely on my to-do list, and soon! The longest trip I’ve ever taken was an 8 hour solo drive, and that was pretty incredible in and of itself! I am certainly looking forward to more soul-searching opportunities: just me, some music, and the open road. As a writer, I think it’s a necessary means of tapping into the soul. Also, my favorite movies of all time list include both Elizabethtown and One Week :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      Good for you, Crystal! A solo road trip sounds even more daunting to me than a regular trip (I’m not the world’s greatest driver).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=526647004 Priscilla Hernandez

    Though I was just traveling in the states, I went to New York City (from LA) when I was 19 and I could honestly say it was the best trip I’ve taken in my 20.5 years of living. Being able to do what I wanted when I wanted was extremely refreshing. Not that I hate traveling with people, but I have to admit that I love to people-please, so when I can tell someone is not having as much fun as me, I feel extremely bad and bummed. So not having to worry about someone not having as good a time as you is so nice!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=632009572 Stephanie Spitler

      I totally get the people-pleasing thing! :-)

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