Travel SOS: the perils and pleasures of travelling alone

From selfie sticks to someone to share your meals we look at the pros and cons of solo travel.

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. Her favourite travel ritual is an afternoon Aperol Spritz, preferably enjoyed pool or beach side.

Some people travel alone because their only other option is to not travel at all, while others set off solo by choice. Today, SJ shares with Louise the pros and cons of travelling alone.


Q. Louise
I’d like to go on a long trip overseas, but I’m not sure if I know anyone who’d make a good travel buddy. I’m trying to figure out whether I can go it alone – can you help me?


A. Whichever way you look at it travelling alone is scary. A new country can be hard enough to handle with your family or best friend by your side, let alone flying solo.

By its very nature solo travel is challenging; it can also be the making of people and one of the few experiences that can change your life and set you off down a very different path. Some people travel alone because the option is to not travel at all and others set off solo by choice. So what are the pros and cons of travelling alone?


Pros:

  • You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Not interested in looking at abstract items considered art? No need to just because your travelling companion is.

  • You can have as much or little downtime as you like. Unless you're leaping out of bed at seven am to seize the day no one else will be dragging you from your dreams.

  • You're more likely to meet people than when you're travelling with a friend or family. Individuals are much less intimidating to approach.

  • You don't have to work around someone else's budget. My mum tells a hilarious story about travelling with a friend who was on a bread roll budget and kept helping herself to her lunches and dinners.

  • You can fly at the times that suit you on the airline that you want to and choose the transfers that work best for you. Ditto if you're going by train/bus etc.

  • You are more open to new experiences and culture as you walk around, eat and drink without having to focus on engaging with your travel companion.

  • In the end it's much more likely you will have a realistic experience of what it's like to live like a local.

looking at paris from afar

Cons:

  • It’s more expensive. Regardless of how you come at it, travelling with a companion or group often means shared accommodation, transport and food costs.

  • There's noone to help put sunscreen on your back. Noone likes ending up with awkward finger marks from where they've tried and failed to reach the middle of their back with the sunscreen.

  • It can be intimidating and downright unsafe at some times, particularly for women in some countries.

  • Catching cabs alone is an expensive exercise which some solo travellers choose as a means of feeling safer, particularly at night.

  • Dining alone can be uncomfortable and some solo travellers may avoid it altogether –thus missing out on one of the main joys of travelling.

  • It can get lonely, particularly if you are in a country where you don't speak the local language and don't have a companion to interact with on a daily basis.

  • There's no one to help carry your bags, or take photos with or for you, meaning you may need to resort to a selfie stick – which is enough to put you off ever travelling alone again!

Having travelled both solo and with my family, friend(s), work colleagues and in a group it's safe to say a combination of both solo and non-solo trips is the best of both worlds and ensures you get the benefits of every type of travel.

What do you think when it comes to the solo travel debate? Are you all for flying solo or do you prefer a partner in crime by your side?


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    COMMENTS

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    MJM
    10th Dec 2016
    6:59am
    I love solo travel.... I have had best friends travel with me and for a week had no sleep due to snoring( in the next room. Another friend was sooo negative about everything from accomodation to natives not wearing deodorant that we are no longer friends... One thing if going with others make plans before and communicate.... I always believe couples should travel together before committing to marriage. Thank hid my daughter did!!! He's gone ha
    MICK
    10th Dec 2016
    9:06am
    Sounds like a definition of 'intolerance'.
    kev888
    10th Dec 2016
    9:47am
    sounds like MJM s travel ideals are born out of a bad relationships .I think travel either solo or with can have benefits.
    Jenny
    10th Dec 2016
    10:21am
    I would love to travel, with or without friends. As you say there are advantages in both ways, and I have done both. Alone, I found great pleasure in pleasing myself on where I went and for how long, eating where and what I felt like. On the other hand, sharing with a good friend is great too, as long as that person shares many of you own interests and desires for experience. I have known people whose holiday has been very poorly affected by a negative travelling companion.
    Radish
    10th Dec 2016
    12:11pm
    I am intrigued by the comment "Having travelled both solo and with my family, friend(s), work colleagues and in a group it's safe to say a combination of both solo and non-solo trips is the best of both worlds and ensures you get the benefits of every type of travel."

    How do you have a combination of solo and non-solo! Surely when you take off on your trip it is one or the other? Or am I missing something??

    Personally I would not travel solo in this day and age! It is unsafe for a woman to walk the streets here in Australia on her own after dark (and even in daylight) in some parts of Australia). Jill Meagher and others come to mind.

    At my age I would not do it but I have a girlfriend who has never married and she travels most of the time on her own and she does lots of travel.
    Rae
    10th Dec 2016
    2:27pm
    Having more time and resources than some of my travel buddies I often tack a side trip on and meet up with a companion somewhere through the trip.

    I like both. The pros and cons are well detailed.

    I think if you travel with others you have to be tolerant and compromise but not too much. If for interest you just have to visit a particular attraction but your companion doesn't want to then go alone rather than miss out.

    I find rail travel in America particularly good as a solo traveller. Many others travel alone and the meals are all shared tables so you get to meet Americans holidaying as well.

    Dining alone is no problem in a restaurant either. Take a book or a phone game just in case and enjoy the meal.

    No reason to miss out because you are single as long as you can afford it.

    Cruises are okay alone too.

    I usually book a balcony when with a companion but find the interior stateroom quite okay if travelling alone and the difference in price is not too much that way.
    Ted Wards
    14th Dec 2016
    12:06pm
    Sorry radish but I travel all the time by myself both in Australia and overseas and your assertion it isnt safe is just not true.
    bandy
    10th Dec 2016
    2:39pm
    Just go for it Louise sure you will make some mistakes(part of the adventure)do your homework you will meet many people you will be able to communicate with. Im a solo traveler & wouldn't have it any other way now as you can please yourself when & where you go.
    Pamiea
    10th Dec 2016
    4:13pm
    Much prefer to travel alone. Its exhilarating and I can do what I want when I want. I recently had the holiday from hell with two others in Bali. They were so negative!!

    10th Dec 2016
    10:51pm
    I've travelled half the world alone, highly recommend it, good and bad experiences but all good for a laugh in retrospect and no regrets. Only missed having someone else around to elbow in the ribs was when I saw something stunning! Take your brain.
    Johnny
    12th Dec 2016
    9:26am
    When dining write postcards to youreslf. Just cover up parts of the card to let others know you're not a traveller. When you get home you have a good old fasihoned ready made diary of your trip and good pictures to boot. Also. when leaving the Aussie airport gra a bunch of fridge magnets. Palm them off to hotel staff and you'll be assured of much nicer service. They love this.
    Ted Wards
    14th Dec 2016
    12:03pm
    I've traveled solo since 2010. Im just booking long trip over next xmas and new year in europe for five weeks traveling by myself and Ive not done such a long trip by myself to Europe. Its exhilarating traveling on your own. I sit and watch the married couples ignore each other, or both on their phones or reading the paper and I thank the universe I dont feel ignored by a partner. I also dont miss traveling with people who say you can do your own thing then get upset when you do.
    Its freedom at its best and you meet so many people its not funny.
    Hessiann
    7th Apr 2018
    7:54am
    I have travelled extensively with others and alone. All things considered, and many of them already mentioned, I prefer to travel alone. I have been disappointed travelling with friends on a number of fronts, and while being on your own can be scary occasionally, I have found it the most rewarding. I make sure I have a lot of safeguards such as taking a mobile phone, planning thoroughly so that I avoid staying in dodgy areas, make sure I stay within walking distance of night time activities/restaurants etc, having back up money and travel card locked in luggage, leaving an extensive itinerary with a responsible family member or friend, scanning documents and saving on a stick or emailed to me. You can combine solo travel with doing a short segment of the trip with someone else and this has worked well with me on several occasions. Sometimes I have had different people doing different segments of a trip with me and then travelling solo in between. I think it depends on your personality type as I am an introvert and love being on my own but extroverts who love to be surrounded by friends seem to struggle more travelling on their own. There is no right or wrong way of travelling but I would suggest trialling a short trip on your own first.
    renya
    7th Apr 2018
    3:13pm
    I love travelling on my own. I am currently in London visiting two of my children who live in Surbiton and Hackney respectively, with their partners, and one small granddaughter. I was a bit apprehensive about spending a week in Germany and France on the way to London, and organising train travel between Frankfurt and Mannheim, where I stayed for three nights as I was to have attended a Dadid Garrett concert which was unfortunately cancelled. Then, organised and paid for a train ticket to Strasbourg where I stayed two nights. In Strasbourg I had arranged to meet one of my Facebook friends who is a cousin of my ex husband. She is a doctor and lives there with her husband a neuro surgeon. I’d only met her onceway back in 1975. Unfortunately I had a very bad fall within an hour of arriving in the delightful Hotel Suisse in Strasbourg, and the helpful hotel staff immediately called a doctor ( I could not stand or move and pain was excruciating.) The doctor checked me over and shortly after, 6 strapping paramedics arrived to further assist, then after a while, an ambulance. I was carefully lifted onto a stretcher, then transported to hospital where I spent the entire day, being xrayed for broken bones, MRI taken as well, to exclude brain haemorrhage as I’d also banged my head rather badly. Around lunchtime the hotel owner, a lovely woman around 50 years old, came to visit me in hospital with a bag of pastries made by her amours pastry-chef partner. She was most concerned for me. The cynical amongst you might say she was worried about being sued as I had stumbled on a step I didn’t notice. But I’ve stumbled and fallen several times in the past two years without too much damage thankfully and know this is an issue with my eyesight/vigilance rather than anything else. Anyway, a taxi took me back around dinner time and a meal was offered to me. The only paperwork I’d provided to the hospital was a letter from my doctor about medical history and medications. There was no bill. I paid nothing for any of it, and the hotel owner got my pain killer script filled at no cost to me. The next day I was able to join cooking class where her partner demonstrated some patisserie recipe. I was given one of his cookbooks which has also been translated into English. The cousin and her husband arrived the next day and after coffee and cake, took me for a tour of their beautiful city in their comfortable Mercedes. From then on, I travelled to Paris and was assisted getting on and off trains, and spent a night at the apartments managed by ex-husband and child-bride. It was rather interesting staying there and Meeting the current wife and two little offspring who were very sweet. However, though very hospitable, I was still glad the ex was ex, LOL. What a pity I couldn’t walk as the apartment was right in the middle of Paris. Soon I was on my way on the Eurostar where once again, assistance was given boarding and getting off the train. My daughter in law met me at the other end and I spent a week with her, my son and little granddaughter. Another trip to Homerton hospital- a day spent having more tests and the most wonderful medical care to deal with the effects of Tramadol on my system. Once again, totally free. It had been impossible to get an appointment at local surgery. I was able to get there myself and back on buses which stopped right outside the hospital and right outside son’s home. A lovely Easter “lunch” ( well, it was 3pm before we ate) to which als came delightful friends and daughter and her man, who took me home with them. Daughter got a free wheelchair off social media to wheel me around. Buses very wheelchair friendly and we’ve taken Uber a few times. Macbeth at Esher theatre, pool and spa a couple of times, a walk along the Queen’s Promenade, a day at Kew Gardens - wonderful). Starting to feel more mobile and in a couple of days will re-join son and his family for a week in Devon. My daughter and her partner will be travelling to south of France in the meantime. The next test of my travelling alone will be a train journey to Florence and Rome, from where I will fly back to Australia. Nothing is booked yet, LOL. I will be in Italy on my own for about 12 days. I am looking forward to it but a bit apprehensive too. However I have to trust that I did OK in Germany and France, so should be fine in Italy as well.
    SuziJ
    4th Nov 2018
    4:19pm
    How come I can't see the pros & cons in the text? Is there any where else that I can see this article other than on this website?


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