Some of my most memorable moments in life have come about while traveling solo around the world. While it may sound cliché, solo travel really is empowering and liberating.
It can really help you learn who you are as a person and what you want out of life. However, as with anything, there are challenges with traveling by yourself.
There are many reasons why people find themselves traveling solo. Some people genuinely love being independent while others who may be in a relationship/married find that their partners aren’t as enthusiastic about traveling as they are.
There are then those times when you plan on traveling with someone who then bails at the last minute leaving you to travel alone; the point is that there are many times when you may really want to travel and find that your only option is to go it alone.
As with anything in life, challenges are easier to overcome if you’re prepared for them. So if you’re worried about your next solo experience, prepare yourself with the knowledge of these most common challenges.
Common Challenges of Traveling Solo
How Common is Solo Travel?
Recent stats show that as many as 20% of travelers regularly travel solo and over 75% of people have experienced a solo trip at least once in their life.
While the thought of traveling solo for many people may bring about a bit of apprehension or stress, it really is something everyone should experience to see just how much it can help you grow as a person.
My passion for wanting to motivate people to travel solo, just as I have done for many years, has led me to co-lead one of the first global communities of solo traveling women which has now grown to over 130,000 members from more than 100 countries around the world.
But as I said, there are a number of challenges associated with solo travel which is why I thought I would highlight some of the most common (for both males and females) so you’re well prepared in the hope that they won’t be so challenging.
Travel Planning Stress
One of the biggest factors that often prevent people from pursuing solo travel is that they feel planning a trip by themselves will be too stressful or simply don’t feel confident in making big decisions.
While I must admit that the planning stage of a trip is made easier when I travel with my husband since it splits the responsibility of booking flights, accommodation, etc, I can and have planned solo trips by myself on many occasions without too much hassle.
I think you’ll find most if not all solo travelers will admit to having made poor travel planning decisions from time to time, but it’s all about not being afraid to maybe not get the best rate on a hotel or realizing you forgot to incorporate a big attraction into your itinerary.
As a solo traveler, you will be forced to wear many hats in terms of being the route planner, accountant that manages the travel budget, and secretary that arranges and follows up with hotel reservations, tour companies and other travel-related bookings.
Your options may also be more limited when traveling solo in terms of what you can afford. Having a travel companion means sharing the costs of accommodation for one thing, meaning you may be able to enjoy nicer hotel room when traveling with another but be forced into a hostel room when traveling solo.
It’s important to keep in mind that while traveling with another person does reduce the amount of planning work you have to do and can help you better avoid mistakes by having two minds at work, traveling with another person can also work against you as it often forces you to make compromises and may force you into actually spending more than you normally would if they happen to have a greater fondness for more luxurious travel.
Need for Self-Reliance
In addition to having to do all the traveling planning alone, solo travel also forces you to largely be self-reliant throughout your trip.
It definitely helps to be a confident person when traveling solo and those with severe anxiety often have difficulties navigating the world of solo travel until they learn to better manage their stress and anxiety and believe they can make important decisions while traveling.
While traveling solo may present some serious difficulties for certain people who may have social anxiety or another disability which forces them to be reliant on others for assistance, difficulties for most solo travelers are more like minor inconveniences.
These inconveniences include things like not having someone to look after your bags when you need to visit the restroom, forcing you to haul everything in with you to sometimes unkempt and cramped toilets. It also forces you to be more mindful about your belongings, like when trying to get some sleep in an airport.
It’s solely up to you to set alarms and make it to the airport on time, you often don’t have anyone to assist you with your bags, you can’t steal extra space in a partner’s bag for that extra pair of shoes you need to take or that souvenir you had to buy, and you are forced to do all the driving and navigating instead of sharing the burden when taking self-drive road trips.
Some helpful solutions include traveling lightly with fewer belongings, having a flexible itinerary, and not being afraid to ask strangers for help.
Whether you’re addicted to alcohol, food, or gambling at casinos and slots online in the hotel room, traveling solo can potentially enhance your addictions. This often happens for solo travelers who experience loneliness while traveling solo.
It’s important to understand the difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Some people who travel solo actually find they can better manage their addictions and vices due to removing themselves from the stresses of daily life back home or escaping peer pressure from friends/family that may engage in similar addictions.
Solo travelers with a history of addiction who feel lonely while traveling can be a much different story. Loneliness can often lead those with addictions to turn to negative behaviors in order to cope with their feeling of being alone.
Traveling solo also gives some people an excuse to let loose and engage in activities or behaviors they normally wouldn’t do back home where they are kept in check by routines, family, friends, employers, etc.
Engaging in risky/ illegal behavior or using prohibited substances can of course lead to serious trouble with local authorities wherever you are traveling, along with having impacts to your health and safety.
The key is to recognize common signs you are feeling lonely and to stay connected to your normal support group of family and friends while traveling solo. This is thankfully easy to do in today’s digital world.
Everyone who experiences addiction has specific triggers and it’s about avoiding your triggers while traveling solo. If you like to overindulge when it comes to eating and have been advised you need to watch your weight, then don’t book into a resort with all-you-can-eat buffets.
If you are addicted to gambling, don’t plan a trip to Vegas. If you are a sex addict, avoid Amsterdam’s red-light district. If you are an alcoholic, choose a destination where bars and clubs aren’t present.
To further ensure your addictions don’t interfere with your solo travel, try to stick with the things that seem to help you manage your addictions and bad habits whether it’s yoga, meditation, jogging, or spending time in nature.
Loneliness can affect any traveler. Sharing your special travel moments with another person is often one of the most enjoyable aspects of seeing the world, something that solo travelers often feel they are missing out on.
Thankfully, you don’t necessarily have to travel with someone to be able to share your travel experiences. Those with a supportive group of family and friends back home can provide regular updates about their travels and be rewarded with their reactions and involvement in what you’re doing and seeing.
There is then the ability to create a travel blog as I started well over a decade ago. A blog, along with social media profiles, will allow you to share your travel stories and advice while interacting with an audience.
Because the digital world is global, you will also find that someone is always leaving comments 24/7 or is available to chat with you about your travels or wanting to ask you questions about your solo experiences.
Traveling solo may mean having to eat more meals alone or settling for selfies. If you are prone to loneliness, book into a shared room at a hostel, spend time at local hangouts, join a city walking tour, and simply be open to talking to others.
You’ll quickly realize while traveling solo that there are many others who are in the same boat and are just as keen to make new friends while traveling the world.
While solo travel is generally quite safe, it’s always wise to maybe think through your travel plans a little more carefully when going it alone.
Sadly, the truth is that solo female travelers are advised to think about their safety more than men, but still it’s quite rare for even young women traveling solo to encounter serious problems if they have their wits about them and carefully plan their travel.
The truth is that in an ideal world you shouldn’t have to alter what is normal behavior or actions for most people simply out of fear you may face repercussions for doing something simply because of your sex, race, nationality, or religious beliefs.
When it comes to ensuring your safety while traveling solo, it starts with choosing generally safe travel destinations. Avoiding cities where crime rates are high or where other threats may be currently present is a good start.
It’s then about knowing your strengths and weakness in order to create an itinerary that avoids putting yourself in potential situations you may not know how to deal with or get yourself out of.
There are then common sense ways to avoid potential problems like not getting intoxicated, avoiding seedy parts of town, not walking around late at night in low-traffic areas, and not carrying around or flashing expensive belongings like jewelry.
Theft can happen to anyone, male or female, but you may be a bigger target as a solo traveler as opposed to when you are traveling with someone else by your side. Carry belongings in an antitheft bag or backpack and lock valuables in your hotel safe.
Research and read reviews on hotels to make sure you choose one in a safe location, and maybe ask for a room on an upper floor for added protection. Traveling without insurance is never a wise decision, as it really can rescue you financially in many instances.
Of course traveling solo doesn’t just potentially make you a larger target to unscrupulous people looking to harm or steal from you, it also means you are more vulnerable in other emergencies as well.
Having a medical episode, vehicle accident on a remote road, experiencing an injury or getting lost while hiking, and other unfortunate situations can all happen while traveling solo.
This is why it’s always important to keep your family informed of your itinerary and maybe even advise hotel, airline, tour, or cruise staff of any serious medical issues you may have that could trigger an episode so they can be proactive with treatment should it be needed.
Traveling solo doesn’t have to be a scary thought. It’s more than possible with careful preparation, keeping in contact with a support network back home, and having self-confidence that you too can join the millions of travelers who regularly experience the world as a solo traveler every day.
It’s important to remember that being a solo traveler doesn’t mean you’re alone. There are countless others just like you out there, many of whom you are likely to bump into while traveling on your next solo adventure.