Traveling solo sounds scary to many people because they don’t like to be alone and don’t see the benefits of a solo trip. In this post I want to show the perks of traveling solo; I actually learned a lot from my trip to/through California. For those still doubting or those without travel-like-minded friends: keep reading !
It’s really your trip and your experience
You are the one who made the planning, who decides where to go and when. Passing by a very nice view or an interesting building? Just stop walking (or stop the car in case of a road trip) and take your time to enjoy or make some nice pictures. You are only shifting your own planning, no one is waiting or will start to complain. Same thing if you want to go bed early, you just call it a day and return to your ho(s)tel whenever you want.
On the other side there is also no one pushing you to visit those “must see” – attractions, which actually look kind of boring to you. When I was in San Francisco for example I skipped the “obligatory” Alcatraz visit, although everyone said it was one of the top attractions in San Francisco. I just thought it wasn’t worth my time (and money), there were too many other things which were higher on my priority list, so I skipped it, easy!
Besides doing (or skipping) what you want, you will also perceive things your way. There is no one who will (probably unintentionally) force his/hers opinion on you. Even a small comment like “look that mess over there” might spoil the experience for you and change your view on a particular location or part of the trip.
You will become… a Selfie-master
Maybe not applicable for everyone but I love to show my family and friends that I was really present at a certain location and as I am not always carrying a tripod (or a personal photographer) with me, there is only one solution: a selfie! Like with many things in life “practice makes perfect”, meaning after traveling and making selfies for at least 7 days you will notice that your selfies get nicer (you will actually get a whole scenery in the background and not only a part of a tree) and more creative. It might even look if someone else took the picture, in this case you have really reached the highest level of selfie-taking, congratulations!
If you are lucky (or you fell into a tourist trap) there might also be someone in your neighborhood offering to take a picture of you. Watch out if they are a bit too eager to take a picture, they might run away with your phone, which can make the solo-experience a bit too lonely and adventurous. If you are carrying a (semi-) professional camera with you, it is always best to adapt the settings already upfront, you don’t want to bother this kind stranger with weird instructions (or end up with an underexposed picture).
Selfies, selfies, selfies : do you notice my selfie-volution?
Here I was lucky enough to have someone offering to take a picture, there is clearly a difference in photographer-skills.
You learn to keep your shit together
While traveling you might end up in some unexpected and sometimes unpleasant situations. When traveling solo, there is no one who is going to solve these for you while you just whine and wait. You have to tackle the problem and… find a solution! No time for whining, bitching or crying (there is no one who will hear you anyway).
During my California trip my credit card got skimmed, which is quite common in the US as they still refuse to use codes and just keep swiping their (and your) cards around. Anyway, this caused me a lot of troubles with my rental car, cancelled hotel reservations and payments in general. Normally I would really freak out and get mad at the people close to me, luckily for them they were all safely sleeping in Belgium, more or less 9000 km’s away from me. I just had to handle it myself and (surprise surprise) things got solved, no bitching or whining needed. (I must admit that it involved a little bit of crying, on my own, in the middle of Union Square in San Francisco.)
You can choose the restaurant
If you want to eat nachos all day every day, you can! Or at least I could (and I definitely did in Cali), nom nom nom!
Eating/having dinner on your own might seem a bit uncomfortable, definitely when you enter and the first thing you hear is: “Only 1 person?”. I am traveling quite a lot on my own for business purposes so I am already kind of used to it and trust me, it is not so bad as it seems. Waiters (and waitresses) are in general actually nicer when you are on your own, they pass by more often to ask if everything is okay and even have a short chat with you. Oh and if you are really lucky, you might even get something extra like a digestif or an extra portion of chips. One time I even got a free dessert from the chef 🙂 So… no reason to avoid entering “real restaurants” (No, Mc Do is not in this category) just because you are a bit scared.
Did I already tell you I looooove nachos?
Random chats with strangers
Like some of the waiters/waitresses, also other people might start to talk to you just because you are on your own. I also noticed that I started talking to random people way easier when traveling solo than when being in company. I guess it is (I am not a psychologist) because we are social animals and if we can’t talk to someone for a while we just start “attacking” random strangers with our chats. These “attacks” might lead to very interesting situations and insights. In Santa Cruz for example I ended up eating pizza with two homeless guys and during this short chat I learned so much about their situation and the social security system in the US (or at least their view on it).
Less outfits needed
This is definitely applicable if you are doing a type of round trip and changing location quite often, you can just show that 1 favorite outfit to different people every day. No need to pack multiple outfits to surprise or impress your fellow travelers, only thing you have to maybe pay a bit of attention to is the smell 😉
The space you win by packing less outfits can be spent on the “necessary” things because there will be no one nearby whose toothpaste you can use.
I didn’t experience any drawbacks when traveling solo but there are some, let’s call them inconveniences, I encountered.
First one is that traveling solo is quite tiring; you are constantly processing new inputs and planning the next parts of your trip. If you are traveling with other people or in a group you can sometimes just follow and “go with the flow”, which allows you (or at least your brain) to rest.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, a solo trip is really your experience. This also means that when you encounter something incredibly beautiful or moving, there is no one to share those feelings with. Of course you have your phone and social media and several message services but people on the other side of the line are most likely sleeping or busy with something totally different (like work or doing the dishes). They are not seeing what you see and it might be difficult for them to understand your feelings at that moment.
However, these minor drawbacks are nothing compared to all the benefits you will encounter, lessons you will learn and amazing experiences you will have when traveling on your own. So if you are still doubting, just go for it!
If you have questions about traveling solo or experiences to share, feel free to use the comment box below 🙂
Lots of Love,