There are many pros and cons of travelling alone. Some people do not feel comfortable in travelling any substantial distance alone. Others have to do a significant amount of travelling alone because of business commitments. There are also people who positively enjoy the freedoms of solo travel. There is good and bad in most things, and single travelers need to consider both the pros and the cons.
Experienced travelers may think nothing of venturing into unknown territory with nothing more than a old rucksack and a shabby novel. Others don’t enjoy the idea of being alone, and would prefer to travel with another person or several companions. Both options have amazing perks and irritating pitfalls, and you should weigh them accordingly before you take a solo road trip.
Things to know before you go on a solo trip
Travelling any distance can be impeded by delays. Even if you are driving, there can be major hold ups that can leave you sitting in stationary traffic for hours. Some people do not mind their own company, so no worries! When there’s no way of knowing how long you will be stuck, though, it can be a lonely way to spend a few hours. This can be particularly poignant if all the cars surrounding you are full of families, couples and groups of friends.
Remember to charge your cell phone before you leave. If you are using public transport, loneliness during unexpected delays may not be an issue because you are in close proximity to your fellow travelers. Take the time to look at the scenery, even if you are in a city center. You may not have noticed before the range of architecture on your daily route to work. Travelling alone can allow your thoughts to escape without interruption.
Are you really alone?
The close proximity of other travelers can bring a host of problems. You have no say over the personal hygiene habits of the individual in the seat next to you. Sometimes it may be possible to change seats, but not always. You may find yourself sitting next to someone who falls asleep within a few minutes of the journey starting and snores through the whole trip. This may make it impossible for you to sleep or even get out of your own seat without feeling bad about waking them up first.
Alternatively you may have someone who talks incessantly, either through nervousness or just a general love of their own voice. When there is no obvious means of escape, these minor irritations can quickly take on plague proportions. The only refuge may be the bathroom!
What about your luggage?
Practicalities of modern travel mean that you cannot leave your luggage unattended anywhere for fear of having it removed and possibly destroyed. For the single traveler, this can cause problems. You have 2 alternatives here: the first is to drag all your belongings with you into the rest rooms and hope that the cubicle door will close with you and your bags inside (and that you can squeeze the door open again afterwards). Alternatively you can approach a suitably safe-looking person and ask that they keep an eye on your things for a minute.
Neither of these options is ideal. The only real solution is to travel with the minimum amount of bags you can get away with. Travelling by yourself can also be a disadvantage if some or all of your luggage goes missing; there is no one to borrow a change of clothes from until you can buy some replacements, and no one to commiserate with you.
Advantages of solo travel
Some people operate better by themselves. For some, the journey is smoother if they do not have to worry about anyone else. If you are hoping to get an upgraded seat on a plane, it is more likely that one will be available. Being by yourself also cuts out the amount of complaining that you are subjected to if things are delayed, lost or broken in transit. You do not feel obliged to stay with a person who is having difficulty with their passport or other documents, or help them find a bathroom or gluten free food option.
The freedoms of travelling alone far outweigh the restrictions. Lone travelers do not have to compromise over the sights they wish to see. Or the route they take to see them. Detours can turn into wonderful opportunities to make new friends. The single traveler goes to bed when they are tired and not when someone else is.
Will you truly be alone?
While many couples on holiday make friends with other couples for the duration of their stay, lone travelers often meet many more and varied people.
Being on your own and being lost, means you have to find a local to ask directions of. Those instances can also lead to finding out gems of information that you would never have known otherwise. Like a great place to eat or the fact that a certain road is closed on Thursdays. These are invaluable nuggets of information easily gleaned by a lone traveler.
Travelling on your own can also mean that you take in more of your surroundings than couples and groups do. You have time to sit quietly and just observe the landscape and the people going about their daily business. While individuals may end up paying more for hotel rooms than couples do, the flexibility to change rooms or even hotels is greater when you are on your own.
Reasons to hit the road on a solo adventure
Your itinerary and schedule are yours to make as you see fit. When you’re solo, nobody else will slow you down or try to get you to see something you might not be too excited about.
Traveling solo forces you to grow and solve problems. By figuring out where to eat, sleep and communicate with foreign people, you’ll gain confidence and the ability to blend in with the locals. You’ll be more at ease with yourself, and likely won’t stand out as a tourist.
Meeting new people on the road is also a joy. Locals are the best well of knowledge to tap into for where to eat, what to do and what you must see at each stop.
Solo travelers are more likely to get invited to hang out with locals than groups of tourists. Don’t underestimate the kindness and generosity of people. You might gain many lifelong friends.
Drawbacks to traveling alone on the open road
As nice as independent travel can be, there will be the need for company sooner or later. When you see something fantastic, like a sunrise over a temple or mountain summit, the flavor of the moment is better when shared. For some, being alone may be liberating at first and then a bit uncomfortable as you get further into the trip.
It can be a little awkward to dine alone constantly. (I always bring a good book or a few magazines to read while dining to avoid staring into space while waiting to be served.) And if you are an introvert, it may be difficult for you to engage with locals to get the most out of your experience in each area.
There are other obvious disadvantages, too. You might run into serious problems and if you’re alone no one will be there to help. You could accidentally take a wrong turn, and end up in a rather inhospitable place. Solo travelers are easier targets for theft and assault. What would you do in that situation? It’s a good question to ask yourself ahead of time.
Going solo? Use these tips!
If you decide to take a solo road trip, it pays to think ahead and make provisions for some worse-case scenarios. Use these tips to start:
- Give your itinerary to your family or a close friend so someone knows the roads you’ll be traveling.
- Set up GPS tracking on your cell phone and give your family or a close friend access to follow along electronically.
- Determine regular “check-in” times or days where you call a loved one to let them know you are safe.
- Keep your cell phone charged at all times.
- Carry a battery-back up in case your car won’t start (to charge the phone) or you get stranded somewhere.
- Check your tires and get a tune-up before you hit the road.
- Fuel up regularly so that you don’t risk running out of gas.
- Consider signing up for a roadside assistance program to help if you have car troubles.
- Don’t carry a lot of cash.
- Stash an extra credit card somewhere in your car or travel gear in case your wallet goes missing.
It’s also prudent to always pay attention to your surroundings and not to intentionally place yourself in precarious situations. For example, rest stops are great features but many are abandoned at night. If you need a bathroom break or a quick rest, consider stopping at a more populated stop like a gas station, shopping center or restaurant.
A little savvy precaution goes a long way towards ensuring your road trip is a safe and successful one.
Should I stay or should I go solo?
It’s up to every traveler to make a careful decision about the pros and cons of solo trips. After trying a solo journey once, you might decide it’s the only way to go as long as you take the right precautions.
Traveling in a group can be challenging at times, but the experiences are shared and you could create long-lasting friendships with somebody who has all the same interests. Consider the pros and cons and if you decide to go solo, do be sure to take smart precautions to ensure your safety and enjoy your trip!
All in all, the advantages of being a lone traveler are great. The disadvantages are not such that they should stop you from experiencing it. With a little pre-planning and safety precautions, solo travel can be a fantastic option for your future journeys!