Ten Solo Travel Myths Debunked

Why doesn’t everyone travel solo? If you explore the world alone, like I do, you may ask yourself this question during times of particularly acute bliss borne of travel experiences you never would know if not alone.

I have to remind myself, though, that solo travel is not for everyone. Most people seem to want to actually share their travel experiences with people whom they love, people whom they like, people whom they cringe and tolerate so they can split the cost of a hotel room. Many individuals, mostly women, may strongly desire to strike out and explore the entirety of the world or even just take a short vacation but flat out end up staying home due to lack of a travel partner. Some of you want to travel and want to travel bad. Yet many arguments against traveling solo abound. I can tell you that these reasons not to travel alone are rooted in myth, though, not in reality.

Perhaps you’re tampering with the idea of hitting the road alone but are rendered motionless by tales of negativity that have seeped into your psyche. Here’s ten solo travel fallacies accompanied by the truth, to get you out of a can’t-do mindset and onto the road.

1. Traveling alone is dangerous – Probably not to the extent you think, unless you are traveling in a part of the world known to be a red hot danger spot. The town I live in is literally more dangerous than many, many parts of the world. Perhaps the same holds true for you. Just because you’re all alone while traveling, you are not automatically a crime target and you don’t have to be on guard during every single moment you’re out there.

Do, however, carry yourself with confidence, and think smart at all times. Walk tall and look like you know where you’re going even if (in fact, especially if) you don’t. Avoid getting inebriated alone. It is best not to get plastered at all, unless you’ve managed to hook up on the road with someone whom you’re confident won’t abandon you in the midst of a drunken haze so that you’ll have to wander the streets alone. In short, think your way through your travels. Don’t worry so much that you never give it a go.

Solo female traveler walking alone

2. Traveling solo is scary - Don’t allow yourself to go through life avoiding experiences because you are scared. Live today as if you are going to be stricken with a debilitating illness or injury tomorrow. If you don’t, when you grow older you may have not much more than a life of unfulfilled dreams to accompany you into the twilight.

To conquer your fear, expand your comfort zone. First, step one foot carefully into something that scares you. More likely than not, you’ll come out on the other side with less fear and more bravado. Now take your new comfort level and shake it up again. And again. Soon you’ll wind up capable of most anything.

3. I’ll be lonely – Not necessarily. You’ll probably get to know one or more travelers at some point, perhaps even locals, with whom you can share experiences. Also, family and friends are only an internet away. Tell them to set themselves up with Twitter and Facebook before you leave, and you can communicate with them en masse easily through every step of your journey.

Interestingly, a traveler named Leyla Giray commented on a post of mine called Five Great Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo, saying she’s actually lonelier when she travels with people. Here’s what she had to say: “I actually like to travel solo because… it’s LESS lonely! When I travel with someone, I’m usually with that person and no one else. Over the course of weeks or months, that might close me in a bit as I become accustomed to one person’s company but not in need of anyone else’s. Solo, on the other hand, forces me to reach out constantly, meeting new people every day. The problem I usually have when I’m on my own is how to actually find some solo time!”

4. I can’t plan a trip all by myself - Internet travel sites and forums with loads of helpful information abound. Study these websites to become familiar with the process of planning a trip before you step foot into your own. Learning about other traveler’s mistakes and victories can really help steer you in the right direction before you dig in and start cementing your own travel plans together.

Solo female traveler planning a trip

5. I don’t know how to travel alone - You’re probablly accustomed to letting your travel partner(s) share some of the necessary footwork on the road. While traveling solo you can still get the help of others when planning your adventures. Ask people you meet for their input on where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Enlisting other people can help you more gently ease into traveling alone. You’ll find that some aspects of solo travel are similar to traveling with others, except you’ll enjoy a great deal more freedom. At all times you’ll be able to do exactly as you please. Take off in the morning when you want, do all that you wish each day, and return to your room when you feel like it. With no one else to answer to, solo travel will set you free.

6. I can’t afford to pay for a room by myself - You don’t have to pay for a room at all. You can join an on-line couch surfing network and spend your nights on people’s sofas across the globe. This may not sound all that appetizing, but it is free. Don’t want a family gathered around watching you sleep on the couch? Spend just a little more money for your own bed in a hostel dorm room. If sleeping with strangers is also too uncomfortable, shell out a little more money and you can sleep at the same hostel in an inexpensive yet perfectly acceptable private room.

7. I won’t be able to get around all alone - Since you’ll have only one brain to figure out on which streets to walk, what bus to take and when it’s time to double back because you’ve overshot your target, getting from Point A to Point B probably will be more stressful when you’re traveling solo. But you’ve got a good brain in your head, don’t you? Traveling alone you’ll learn how to pay more attention and become more resourceful by figuring out every step you take all by yourself.

Solo female traveler studies map

8. I won’t have any fun - Fun can be redefined while traveling. Fun is living your lifelong dream of visiting the Louvre. It’s spending the day on a white sand beach in Bali. It’s experiencing your first tuk-tuk ride in Thailand. Simply opening yourself up to the enjoyment and excitement of traveling alone will introduce you to a whole new world of fun.

9. Guys might hit on me - Seriously? What’s wrong with that? Whether you’re single or attached to someone back home, there’s no reason to worry. If you don’t want the attention, a polite good-bye usually suffices. In many instances, though, you may feel like you’re being hit upon when a really nice guy is simply trying to talk to you. Talk back. You might make a great new friend. I have, many times over.

Solo Female Traveler with new friends

10. I’m not the solo travel type - Are you positive? We are all multifaceted. Realize that at least a little bit of a solo traveler may very well be lurking inside of you. Some part of you, even if only for a week of your life, is capable, and possibly even looking forward to, setting out to explore a bit of the world on your own. Don’t ignore this aspect of yourself. It could enrich your life from this point forward.

    Thumbnail girl on bus photo by trygvesmor, woman walking alone by
    Ollie Crafoord, girl planning trip photo by The Alieness Gisela Giardino, woman studying map photo by Alex Castella, group photo by BrandontheMandon.

27 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Rebecca says:

    great tips Sabina! love number 9 and i’m a big fan of solo travel

  2. Dina says:

    Female non-travelers need to read this :)
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..Friday Photo: Kyoto Imperial Palace’s Beauty Secret =-.

  3. Gray says:

    Great article, Sabina. I kind of wish #9 would happen to me one of these days. :-)
    .-= Gray´s last blog ..Shiny Travel Objects: May 9, 2010 =-.

  4. Sara says:

    LOVE #9!

    I don’t really get why so many women are afraid of ohnoez! someone might hit on me! I mean, sure, it’ll probably happen. But who cares? And how is this different from anyone who might hit on you at home?

  5. Great tips, Sabina – I hope they inspire some girls to get our their and do what they want to do. Its a bit overwhelming the first time but you never look back!
    .-= Camden Luxford´s last blog ..My first published piece – to Matador Abroad on balancing study and travel =-.

  6. Thanks for this post. I think it’s great that you addressed some of the issues women might have with flying solo. So far I’ve traveled in West Africa, Europe and Asia alone, and the only real issue I’ve had is with gender relations. I completely agree that in many cases, guys are just looking to talk, but in some cultures, talking between sexes is inappropriate. I suppose a distinction should be made between fellow travelers, and locals. Doing a bit of research before you go, talking to other female travelers and generally keeping your eyes open helps with that.

    The only advice I have is to watch your drinks ladies. The same dangers we deal with at home exist abroad. All too often here in NYC and abroad, I find myself sitting with a woman who drank too much or was drugged, and ended up in a bad situation.

    Safe journeys!

  7. JoAnna says:

    Fantastic tips! I’ve done some solo travel but not a whole lot of it, and I have a big solo trip planned for later this year. I always get a little freaked out about it because it is kind of scary. My worst fear is always that I’ll get sick and not have anyone to help me. But every time I travel alone, it ends up being a really positive experience.

  8. Sabina Lohr says:

    Thanks, Rebecca! It seems odd that I even had to mention number nine, but I read so much about it.

  9. Sabina Lohr says:

    Thanks a lot, Dina!

  10. Sabina Lohr says:

    Oh, Gray, come on. Number 9 must be a regular thing for you.

  11. Sabina Lohr says:

    Sara, I know. I don’t understand how it’s different either.

  12. Sabina Lohr says:

    Why, thank you, Camden! I hope so too.

  13. Sabina Lohr says:

    Oh, those are two excellent points. In some cultures male/female interaction really isn’t at all like in Western society. And the drink advice – thanks for mentioning that.

  14. Sabina Lohr says:

    JoAnna, that surprises me. I figured you went solo quite a bit. I hope you have a great time on your solo trip this year!

  15. Suzy says:

    Great tips Sabina, especially the last bit of advice. I think people just write themselves off and say they could never travel alone and yet they have never even experienced it. It is something I think take a bit of push for many, but I will agree. Once I pushed myself to travel alone, most of my travel experiences and stories were so much more richer and memorable.
    .-= Suzy´s last blog ..Mount Sinai Wishes You Were Here =-.

  16. Sabina Lohr says:

    Thanks, Suzy. Alone is where it’s at.

  17. Alison says:

    I love traveling solo– an idea that some people just can’t seem to wrap their minds around. When I was studying in Paris I went on a number of long trips where I’d be on my own for a week then meet up with friends the next. As you mention in #3, it was always so much easier for me to meet other travelers when I wasn’t traveling *with* someone. I’m setting off on a RTW with my boyfriend, so I’m a tiny bit apprehensive about how traveling as a couple will turn out. I’m banking on enjoying his company more than missing the freedom of traveling on my own :)
    Alison recently posted..How much is too much?My Profile

  18. Solo (male) traveler here and think these points are great. And true. Good post.

  19. ayngelina says:

    I was petrified to travel alone but I really wanted to travel for a year so it was the only way. I’m nearly 5 months into my trip and I am so happy I did it alone.

    A few things:

    1) You will get lonely, but that’s okay, you can get lonely sitting at home as well.
    2) Traveling solo doesn’t mean always traveling alone. I often meet up with other solo travelers and we’ll travel together for a few days and then go our separate ways.
    3) There are an incredible amount of solo female travelers in Central America. I’ve had a lot of great nights out with other solo women in their 30s discussing what it’s been like to travel alone.
    ayngelina recently posted..The Otavalo Animal MarketMy Profile

  20. Sabina Lohr says:

    Hi Alison! I hope you enjoy your boyfriend’s company more than miss your freedom on your RTW trip too. Traveling solo can be addictive, I think. Traveling with a loved one, though, will put an entirely different spin on the world, I think.

  21. Sabina Lohr says:

    Hi Michael. Thanks a lot! I’m glad you think the points I’ve made are valid.

  22. Sabina Lohr says:

    Hi Ayngelina – I know. Sometimes if you want to travel for any length of time, you’re just going to have to go it alone because no one else is going to want to come along, or they can’t get away from work. I’m so glad you’re overcoming fear of traveling alone and are actually have a great time!

  23. Sergio says:

    When I was living in Germany I always traveled alone all the time. I’ve been in 18 countries just in Europe 16 of them I was alone.

    I really love to make my own research, buy my tickets, hostel, couchsurfing… and plan my whole trip. I’m my own travel agent.

    I’m brazilian as you guys might know for many of us it is really hard to traveling even in our country though it is so expansive, year after year many Brazilians are discovering the beautiful of travelling abroad. It is a huge opportunity to them known another cultures around the world.

    Fortunately I always had the opportunity to travel and living abroad. I have spent 2/3 of my life living abroad.

    I’ve already made my plans for my next trip. I’ll be in USA on October 2011

  24. Warren B. Miller says:

    I am a 65 year old, healthy, semi-retiredsingle male. Thus far I have visited 24 countries, but I always want a private room. Single supplements are usually extermely expensive, especially for boat or ship tours.

    I often travel alone & sometimes with groups, but still with a private room and, like to have free time to explore new places. Side trips with a group are no problem; I just don’t want my entire trip with a group of people – most of whom are married couples.

    Any suggestions for singles who do not want strangers sharing a room or want to trevel with a group everywhere I go!

  25. Sabina says:

    Hi Sergio, it’s great that you get to travel so much! I hope you’ll like what you find in the US later this year :)

  26. Sabina says:

    Hi, Warren. Have you ever stayed in hostels? They’re usually cheaper than hotels and many of them have private rooms, even with private baths. You can search on the internet and look for hostels that don’t have bars so you won’t have to deal with twenty-somethings partying all night long. Also, have you tried traveling to really inexpensive countries like those in SE Asia, as well as Mexico and Egypt, for example? Accomodations are usually less expensive in these countries, so you can more easily afford a single room. I hope I helped.

  27. bo says:

    some great thoughts here and nice sharing

    bo

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