6 Things No One Told Me About Traveling Solo
Sure, you see a lot of stuff these days all about men and women who quit their day jobs to become travel bloggers, writers, influencers, what have you. Their lives look so incredibly glamorous, filled with infinity pools and jungle safaris, room service laden with exotic fruits and croissants, Instagram stories all about their fun-filled itinerary. And while a lot of their lives are as glamorous as they appear, I feel like, for an average person like myself… traveling by yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Here are a few things I realized shortly after I started my journey as a “solo traveler.”
Last night marked one week since I came to NYC for my month-long visit, and it’s been an eye-opening experience to say the least. One of the most insane things to me is just how alone you can feel in a city filled with 8.5 million people. Endless possibilities for conversation, for connection with another human. Yet everyone chooses to plug their ears and listen to anything other than the people surrounding them. So far, the only place where I’ve held a conversation with a stranger has been at church. The problem is that most of the members are families, which means exploring the city on a whim with a girl they just met doesn’t exactly fit into their lifestyle.
I’m a very extroverted person. It’s not that I don’t have the confidence to say, see a show by myself or eat lunch alone. It’s that one of the best parts of any activity is sharing it with someone else. I want to be able to turn to the person next to me and start a conversation about what we just saw or ate or heard. What we experienced together. I’m not saying you can’t make memories by yourself. But memories, to me, are so much sweeter when shared with another soul.
Pictures are hard.
Is it just me, or does it seem like every single travel blogger has a personal photographer that just follows them from continent to continent?? I have had luck ONE time so far asking a stranger to take my picture. Yesterday’s experience was so terrible that I got up this morning and went straight to B&H to purchase a tripod (I settled on this one, by the way – and I love it!). I just want perfect pictures of me doing fun things, is that too much to ask??
Sometimes the most popular way of doing things isn’t the smartest.
Yes, hotels are a lot of fun. Especially when they’re fancy and have rooftop pools and endless amenities and king sized beds and amazing room service! BUT unless you have a lot more funds than me (and I mean a lot), staying in a nice hotel all of the time is going to significantly decrease the amount of money you get to spend on other things! For example, I’m subletting my friend’s NYC apartment for the month. Yes, it’s a small apartment and yes, it takes me about a half hour to get to Times Square, but WOW is it so worth it! I’m paying for an entire month what I’d pay for four nights at a halfway decent hotel in the city. AND I have a kitchen with a full-size fridge! Helloooooo to saving money on food! While you may not have a friend who happens to be subletting their home everywhere you visit, my point is that the lodging is way less important than the place you’re visiting as a whole. It’s about the experience, not the bed you sleep in at night.
Confidence is key.
Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. Especially for women traveling alone. There are people in this world who are seeking out those who are unsure of themselves or their surroundings. They are willing and ready to take advantage of you, should you give them the opportunity. If you at least appear to know what you’re doing, they’re more likely to think you’re a local, which makes you a less easy target. That’s why it’s so important to plan in advance, knowing exactly where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Which leads me to my next point…
Planning is absolutely necessary.
When I first got here, my mom asked me what I was going to do the next day. And I realized I hadn’t even thought about it! Sure, I had some things that I wanted to do or see during my month here, but they were all very broad ideas. I’m learning that vague plans lead to vague days, where nothing really gets accomplished! And that’s not cool, especially when you don’t have an unlimited amount of time. Now, every night before bed I plan out what I’m doing the next day. Where I’m going, what I want to see, restaurant options, which train I need to take, etc. Since I can’t rely on anyone else for spur-of-the-moment suggestions or ideas, I find it’s much easier to come up with my own ideas the night before. This doesn’t mean I don’t ever do anything spontaneous or alter my day a little to experience something I hadn’t planned on, though! After all, isn’t that what traveling is all about?
The freedom is exhilarating.
Have you ever traveled with someone who guilted or talked you into doing something you didn’t want to do? It’s not a pleasant feeling. But that’s what is so wonderful about traveling by yourself – you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do! Literally every decision is made and signed off on by YOU. No one else’s opinions or feelings matter! Who cares if none of your friends like Greek food? Or if you’re the only musical theatre lover in your whole family? When you only have yourself to worry about, you can make any choice your heart desires, with zero complaining from anyone else. And it. is. awesome.
I’m not entirely sure that the life of a solo traveler is what I want. I truly do enjoy sharing my experiences with others, which is one reason why I love blogging so much! It’s like telling a story to a friend that couldn’t make it this time. But sharing my adventures with a friend as they happen… that’s what I crave the most. But who knows? I may grow to love solo travel more as time goes on! For now, I only hope I could provide a little bit of insight to those who are as curious as I once was. Happy travels!
With all its downsides, travelling solo has so many upsides! You gain so much from it. I also found that you gain so much more confidence from solo travel. Great article
You’re absolutely right about that! By the end of my solo month, I couldn’t believe how much more confident I was! I wouldn’t trade that month for anything. Thanks for stopping by!
Hey girls, I know its an older post but everything said in there is still true. What I felt in my first trip is that I was bored of being alone but also bored of small talk . Its nice to build a friendship and pass the point of small talk with someone and connect on a deeper level. What i want to try to counter this loneliness effect is to travel but try and stay for a longer period of time to actually make friends and not just aquaintances.
Best of travels !!
Yes!! I find myself wanting to stay longer everywhere I go. It’s nice to get a taste of somewhere, but I’d love to stay long enough to actually form relationships! Thanks for dropping in!!
I know this post is a bit older, but I still want to share my thoughts 🙂
I can relate to your post, I started solo travelling about 3 years ago, and I experienced all of these feelings during all these years.
Solo travelling for the majority is not the glamorous instagram lifestyle, but dealing with challenges, having fun in the weirdest places and sometimes questioning why you decided to go alone. Still I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
What I learned is that you really need to go to Hostels if you want to have company. On the planning stage I usually look at the price (because I’m still a broke student), location and comments about the community there. I met so many nice people and rarely had to spend the evening alone if I didn’t want to. My fellow travellers usually got it that each of us needs company or wants to spend their time on their own or want to mix both. Connecting with complete strangers requires confidence, but in this setting it’s so easy! I’m completely different when it comes to talk to strangers at home, but in my experience in a hostel people are easy to approach (because we are all in the same boat).
When I stay alone in hotels and crave some company then I search for local meetup groups (for expats for example), like that it’s easy to connect to locals, have a fun night out and learn about the city/region your in 🙂
I love this!! I’ve only ever stayed in hostels while traveling with a group, but I’m definitely going to consider it when flying solo! Thank you so much for the advice!
Lovely article. I do a lot of solo travelling myself and can relate to some of your points.
It is lonely…. for me, it is “less bad” since i am mostly an introvert and i am okay with being by myself. However, it can be annoying, if you are going away for a few days and not stay in a hostel, you might not talk to anyone that weekend, except for the restaurant staff and store people LOLz.
But i do love the freedom i have 🙂
This was one of the realest reads I’ve read in a long time!!! Fellow (wanna be) solo traveler here and I gotta say, I agree with it all! Hardest part for me is always the pictures (because why can’t I be in pictures too?) and the evening when having dinner.
Thanks for this, makes me feel better, as if I’m not the only one.
Loved this! I’ve often wondered what it would be like to just go wherever you want without having to talk someone into going along! I may give it a try – just a short solo trip to start with, of course! 🙂
Hi there loved your insight to traveling a lone it was very good made me feel how you felt and or are feeling while traveling
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and life experiences good luck
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you so much!