Yes, solo travel benefits you in a multitude of ways. But you know what? It can really suck too. Here’s my brutally honest take on how solo travel sucks.
By now, you’re probably well aware that I love traveling by myself. In fact, I’d say I prefer traveling solo to traveling with friends and family. Solo travel is transformative, uplifting, and generally one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. But traveling alone is also challenging in ways you can’t understand until you try it for yourself. While I don’t want to turn anyone off the idea of solo travel, I also don’t want to make it seem like traveling alone is endless relaxation and sunny skies. To be blunt, solo travel sometimes sucks. A lot.
The pros of solo travel certainly outweigh the cons, but the drawbacks of traveling alone are constant. No matter how experienced you are at traveling by yourself, there are certain hurdles you’ll always have to jump over every time you’re away. I’ll always support solo female travel and can happily spout all the reasons you should give it a go, but I think it’s equally important to chat about the many ways it’s not so great. As with anything in life, transparency is key and I think you have a right to know what exactly you’re getting yourself into when you book your first solo trip. Here are all the ways traveling solo blows, in no particular order.
You have to eat every meal alone
I’ve traveled alone extensively over the last few years, and even though I’m used to eating alone at restaurants I’ll admit that I do often wish someone were with me to keep me entertained. After a long day of exploring, I’m itching to talk to someone about all the things I saw and heard. Sitting down to dinner by myself can be a bit frustrating because I can’t get the immediate gratification of discussing all the little things I noticed while I was out. To remedy this, I’ll pack a lightweight paperback in my travel backpack so I have something to read over my meal. It’s a great idea 80% of the time, but oftentimes the more popular restaurants have music blaring overhead or there are too many people chatting around me to focus on the page in front of me.
While these things showcase the more irritating parts of dining solo, the realkicker for me is that eating out by myself means I don’t have anyone to split my meals with. Which means I’m limited to just one entrée and I have to pay for the entire meal by myself. I love sharing meals with friends and family because we’re able to order multiple dishes and sample a variety of foods. Trying local cuisines is arguably my favorite aspect of traveling, and anything that limits how much food I’m able to try really gets my goat.
You have no one to spot you when you need cash
Thankfully, I’ve never been in a situation where I was stuck abroad without access to my money, but it’s a major fear of mine while traveling solo. So many things can prevent you from accessing your cash — your bank could freeze your account while you’re abroad with the assumption that someone’s stolen your credit card, you could leave your wallet at a restaurant, you could get mugged, you could forget your ATM pin number and not be able to withdraw cash. The list is endless.
While any one of these examples would be annoying if you’re traveling with other people, you’d at least have someone who could pick up your portion of the bill for a few days until you’re able to access your money again. But when you’re traveling alone, the only person who can help you out is yourself. So if you misplace your wallet or forget to put your credit card into your travel wallet, you’re kind of screwed.
Read more: How to Keep Money Safe While Traveling
You have no one to ask for help or advice
Doing everything yourself is the blessing and curse of solo travel. Yes, dealing with flight delays and navigating unfamiliar cities by yourself builds your self-confidence and makes you a stronger person. But in the heat of the moment these transformative experiences are a pain to deal with. Do you think I enjoyed lugging three suitcases all over Berlin’s cobblestone sidewalks as I hopped from one AirBNB to the next until I finally found a place of my own to live in? Absolutely not. I hope I never have to experience that again in my life.
When you first start traveling by yourself, it’s difficult to adjust to doing literally every single thing by yourself. There are so many little things you never realized you relied on other people for, like getting a second opinion on the best subway route to take from point A to point B. I was completely drained after the first few trips I took by myself because I’d spent so much mental and physical energy, and I needed a day at home afterwards to recover from my solo travels.
You have to pay for everything yourself
Again, this is an aspect of solo travel that everyone is aware of, yet no one fully appreciates until they take their first trip alone. Even if you stay in the cheapest AirBNB you can find, those few nights away from home quickly add up. Add to that the public transportation costs, the snacks you buy at the grocery store, the meals you order while you’re out, and the cost of museums and other attractions, and suddenly all those individually inexpensive parts of your trip seem really expensive. I’ll admit, I still grit my teeth a bit when planning a solo trip. I love traveling, but I hate spending money — it’s a real problem. Somehow traveling with friends never seems as expensive because you’re sharing the experiences (and food) with other people.
Read more: 10 Easy Ways I Save Money While Traveling
You have no one to take your photos
In case you couldn’t tell from my Instagram feed, I take a lot of photos of myself when I travel. Like, a lot of photos. So many photos that my parents have put a cap on the number of pictures they’ll take of me in a day. So when I travel by myself, it’s a real pain having to lug my tripod everywhere and find the best places to set up my gear so I can get a few shots that will work for my blog. Yes, you can always ask a stranger to take a photo of you, but 99% of the photos strangers have taken of me are horrifically bad. They’ve either cut half my head out of the photo, zoomed in too much on my face, or the photo wound up being too blurry to even tell it’s me in the photo.
There are many ways to take photos of yourself when traveling solo, but they all involve planning and extra effort. I prefer taking photos of myself in the moment and don’t like having to scout out the best time and place to get the perfect shot. So while I’m willing to do that on my solo travels, I much prefer traveling with a photographer. Ahem, I mean a friend or family member.
Read more: How I Take Photos of Myself While Traveling
You sometimes feel less safe
I hate that I’m writing this, but I want to keep things super real. And the truth about traveling alone as woman is that it does sometimes feel a bit unsafe. As I’m sure many of you already know, being a woman sometimes feels like you have a target on your back. You always have to think things through — is it safe to walk back to my hotel after dark, or should I call a cab? Should I tell this nice couple at the restaurant bar that I’m traveling alone, or should I lie and say I’m meeting my boyfriend soon? Does my dress draw too much notice, or am I covered up enough?
In the five years that I’ve been traveling solo, I’ve only felt genuinely unsafe a couple of times. Most of the time I have no problem walking alone or exploring after dark, but I always keep my wits about me, I don’t drink when I’m by myself, and I send texts to friends and family back home so they can keep tabs on my whereabouts. I don’t want you to be scared to travel alone — it’s perfectly safe most of the time — but, again, I wanted to keep things brutally honest and safety definitely plays a part in planning solo trips.
You have no one to reminisce with
On a less intense note, another big way solo travel sucks is that you have no one to reminisce with about your trip. Sure, you can tell your friends about the highlights of your trip once you’re back home, but no matter how much you go into detail about the things you saw and did, they’ll never fully comprehend what exactly you experienced. And that can be tough, because years down the line when your memories of that solo trip have gone a bit fuzzy, you won’t have anyone to fill in the details for you. It’s up to you to remember the name of your favorite restaurant in Rome, and how funny it was when a pigeon tried to steal a bite of your pretzel in NYC. Once you’ve forgotten the tiny, personal details of your trip, poof! They’re gone.
One way I try to combat this is by writing in my travel journal every night. There are still details that get forgotten, but having a written record of my trip jogs my memory and brings past trips to life. Another way I make up for not having someone to reminisce with is this blog. As soon as I’m back from my adventures, I shut myself up and write a few posts about my favorite parts of the trip so that we can all collectively remember my trip.
From this list, I hope you have a better sense of what to expect when you travel by yourself. And even if you’re feeling a little wary at the thought of traveling alone, I cannot emphasize enough that solo travel is worth it. Yes, there are some drawbacks, but I guarantee that you’ll be glad you took the plunge and started adventuring solo.
Tell me: Have you traveled alone before?
More posts you’ll love:
- 10 Useful Tips for Taking Your First Solo Trip
- 15 Common Solo Travel Mistakes to Avoid
- 5 Useful Tips for Falling Asleep in an Unfamiliar Place
- My Top Tips for Dealing with Airplane Turbulence
- 12 Things to Do Before Leaving the Country
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