I’ve taken a handful of trips around the U.S. by myself in the last couple of years, including my recent trip to San Francisco. My parents are appalled by my solo travel and many people shy away from it. During the recent trip, I thought about solo travel and the pros and cons a lot.
Feel less safe and more vulnerable.
While I didn’t put myself in completely dangerous situations, I was definitely more alert and cautious, especially at night. To feel safer, I recommend knowing what parts of town you should avoid at particular times of day, arriving in an unfamiliar location (especially if you need to find your hotel) before the sun sets, walking and acting like you know what you’re doing and where you’re going, and traveling in busy, public areas. Most of the time when your brain goes into panic survival mode, you are actually safe, and so it’s good to be prepared but stay calm.
Eat by yourself.
As someone who travels for good food, eating by myself is a con because I try less food to avoid being wasteful. Instead of sharing a multitude of plates, my whole experience depends on one dish. Conversing while you’re eating also adds to the dining experience.
Lack the shared experience.
“Oh, wow, do you see that cool [enter amazing thing here] over there?” – is what you’re saying to yourself. Life is meant to be shared, especially when it’s discovering something new. It’s one of the reasons I love sharing my travel experiences on my blog and why my social networks were flooded with updates during my trips. When I was recapping everything on the phone to my boyfriend at the end of the day or when I was telling my dad about the San Francisco I was experiencing that he had lived in years ago, there was a thought of “I wish you were here experiencing this too.”
Spend more money.
Hotel rooms, Uber or Lyft rides, meals, etc. add up! Traveling with others can help split up the costs!
Make your own schedule.
You get to pick what kind of food you eat, what attractions to see, how long to spend where, etc.! For me, I’m sure my crazy, packed schedules would not be well-received by most travel companions. I like doing whatever I want on solo trips!
Increase your independence.
Without someone to discuss directions and options, you’re left on your own to learn how to read the map and figure out which subway to take. I’ve walked five blocks in the wrong direction, taken subways to the wrong cities, and had to be brave enough to ask kind-looking people if I were going the right way. You get to make your own schedule but you’ve got to figure out how to make the schedule happen also! Once you get the hang of it, it’s nice feeling like you’ve accomplished something.
Meet new friends.
When you’re lacking the shared experience, you get eager to share it with whoever is around you! I was glad to talk to people on a tour I attended and converse with other guests and servers at restaurants. It’s nice being thoughtful and silent, but it’s so nice sharing a laugh with people around you! You never know who you might meet and what bonds may form.
Be more present and aware.
It’s just me and my thoughts. Me deciding what to eat. Me deciding which way to walk. When you’re by yourself, you’re forced to be alert and open.
I’ve learned that I do enjoy solo travel but only on short trips like a long weekend. Solo travel is an eye-opening experience to who you are, what you’re like, and how much you know about survival, and I recommend it to anyone. It’s not as scary as you think! (Though I’m only speaking from solo travel experience inside the U.S.) My preference is shared travel because you can still make time and opportunity to meet new people, gain independence and knowledge, and do the things you want on a shared trip.
Have you ever taken a solo trip? Where did you go? What did you learn from it?
*Photo by Death to Stock Photo