I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple days about what I like better: solo travel or traveling with someone. I still haven’t decided so stay tuned for my answer in like a year when I decide. I get asked that question all the time and I honestly don’t have an answer yet.
Anyways since I’ve been meditating on this question, I made a list weighing some of the pros and cons of solo travel and I thought I would share it with you.
You can do whatever you want. Whatever you want. You want to wake up at 6 am and get an early start to the day? Sure thing. Don’t want to sit through a botanical gardens tour? You don’t have to. Dying to go to the beach? Done. You can pack as much or as little into a day as you want. You have no one to try and keep up with or to hold you back. Personally, I like to do a lot in a day’s time, especially when traveling. If I am going to spend the time and money to go somewhere, I want the full experience. The best thing about solo travel in my opinion is that I can do everything I want to do and nothing that I don’t want to do on my trips.
It can be a bit cheaper. Sometimes. Depending on your style of travel. Every other travel blog I read argues this and says its more expensive to go alone but I have found that when you don’t need to reserve multiple seats on a flight or a hotel room with multiple beds, you can often times get a pretty good deal. On my most recent solo adventure to Toronto, I booked my flights and hotel as a package deal for around $700. As in flights there and back and 5 nights in a hotel in a decent part of town for $700 altogether. The kicker, of course was that my hotel room was tiny. Very small room. But for just me, it was perfect. After all, a room (for me) is just for sleeping and storing the stuff I don’t want to carry all day. Often times when I travel with others, the room ends up being a place we go back to multiple times during the day for breaks and to hang out in. My companions care about having amenities such as a pool or gym. To me, that is just wasted time I could be spending on an experience. I know many solo travelers stay in hostels for this reason and I am sure I will have that experience sooner or later also. Especially when I venture over to Europe in the next few years. I don’t spend a fortune on food because I don’t need a nice restaurant meal for every meal. I also consume less alcohol alone, thus saving money. The people I travel with tend to want more of a luxury vacation than a travel experience so in my situation, it can be way cheaper alone. I also don’t have to spend money on things I don’t want to spend money on such as admission to a museum I don’t really want to go to or a show I don’t care to see. Yes, in many situations splitting costs with friends can make things a bit cheaper, for me more often than not I get more bang for my buck when I’m alone.
Less wait time. Most times by myself, I have noticed that if I want to do some kind of excursion or go to a busy restaurant, I don’t have to wait for very long. It is easy to squeeze one person in as opposed to a group. I almost never have to wait for anything.
You become your own best friend. I have learned so much about myself from my solo adventures. One of the first real “I did this!!” moments I ever had was booking my first solo adventure to Sioux Falls in 2016. I put my mind to it and I did it. A couple years later, I got myself to Toronto thanks to my blog and then again for a second year this year. When you don’t have anyone to talk to and alter your perspective on the experience, you learn a lot about the way you think and feel about certain things. I can confidently say that I like myself a lot more since I started traveling by myself. Solo travel has helped my confidence, my ability to make decisions and my desire to try new things.
Awkward/ lonely in group situations. It can sometimes be awkward or lonely being by yourself in group situations. When I used to travel for running, I often felt lonely at races when everyone seemed to have friends and family cheering them on when I was there alone. I felt the same way at a charity event I traveled for not long ago. It can also be kind of weird when you are just one person so they squeeze you in a car or a boat with a group of people who all know each other and having to explain why you are by yourself and feeling like a third wheel.
Safety. Being a solo traveler, you automatically become more of a target than you would be if you were in a group. You have to be on alert at all times (although you really should be anyway). It can be hard to “walk with a purpose” and “acting like a local” when you are lost. But it is possible to blend in and I have never had an issue with safety on any of my travels so far. Plus, you would think that an obvious tourist group would be way more of a target than one person who appears to know what they are doing.
Explaining yourself at customs. It has never not been difficult for me to explain myself as a solo traveler going through customs. Even going back to 10 years ago when I would go on mission trips, it was weird explaining that none of the people I was with were my parents and why I was with them. I haven’t done a ton of international solo travel but the few trips I’ve done, I have always dreaded explaining why I was alone. No matter what, they treat you like you are doing something horribly wrong and unusual. I know it is their job and they probably see tons of solo travelers and I am literally doing nothing wrong, but it is still a rather anxious experience.
You aren’t in any of your pictures. Unless you want a camera roll full of selfies. Whenever I show off my travel pictures, I always get “where are the pictures of you?” Well… I was taking them. This doesn’t really bother me too much because I don’t like being in from of the camera but it would be nice to be in a few of my pictures.