Solo travel is a surprisingly divisive way to vacation: it’s something people either love or loathe. I have a strong love/hate relationship with solo travel—there are some aspects that I treasure (being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want) and others I dread (feeling lonely). I’ve found though, that the things I hate most about solo travel have actually helped me become a happier and more confident explorer. Here are my least favorite things about solo travel, and the reasons why they will make you a better traveler.
Worst Things About Solo Travel (That Are Actually Good for You)
No matter how confident you are, the words “table for one please” can be tough to utter, especially in a foreign country. But eating out alone helps boost confidence (once you’ve done it a few times, it gets easier), and often times leads to meeting new people, especially if you opt to sit at the bar to dine instead of at a table. This can be particularly great if you utilize your solo travel status to meet locals while you’re eating—you can get some amazing tips about your destination this way.
The Single Supplement
The single supplement— the premium charge that many vacation companies or cruise lines levy upon solo travelers for having the audacity to take up a room all to themselves—can feel like a penalty tax for traveling alone.
However, if you research, you can find plenty of cruise providers and tours that are designed to work with single travelers (and have special, smaller rooms that don’t incur a solo supplement, or will waive the surcharge if you agree to be matched up with a roommate). Here is a good round-up of solo-friendly travel companies. Bonus: solo-friendly companies tend to be great at helping people traveling alone meet others.
Not Having Anyone to Watch your Stuff
We’ve all been there—that epic struggle to squeeze yourself and your suitcase into a tiny bathroom stall because you don’t have anyone you trust to watch your bag. After you’ve done that dance once or twice, you’ll learn how to pack light quickly, which can increase your sense of self-reliance and resourcefulness.
Having to Rely on Yourself
When I travel with other people, it’s easy to let others compensate for my weaknesses. For example, if I’m traveling with someone who speaks the local language, I’ll just sit back and let my companion do all the talking on a trip. When I’m on a solo travel journey, I have no other choice but to solve all of my own problems as they arise—which can mean getting better at languages, navigation, currency converting, and everything else that comes with the new territory.
Not Having Anyone to Take Your Picture
Solo travel means fewer cliched travel photos—because you don’t have a built-in photographer by your side. Rather than mourn the fact that you’re missing out on great Instagram shots, focus on the positive—you’re much more likely to be present and enjoy the moment than you would if you were worrying about getting the perfect pose. Either that, or you’ll perfect your selfie skills, both of which are causes for celebration.
There’s No Safety in the Number One
There’s a sense of safety in numbers, and traveling alone can be scary—and feel limiting. You may be less likely to go for a walk at night, might not want to explore the local nightlife, or decide to pass on tasting the signature cocktail at your destination. And that can be a good thing, because you force yourself to try other activities for entertainment that you might not have considered if you were traveling in a group.
Not Having Anyone to Talk To
When you’ve just experienced something amazing and you don’t have anyone to share the moment with, solo travel can feel lonely. But, solo travel also means that you don’t have anyone to distract you—so you can take time to journal your thoughts about an experience uninterrupted, or meditate/reflect peacefully without having to make small talk.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 11 Reasons Why You Should Travel Alone at Least Once
- 6 Things to Pack When Traveling Alone
- Single Travel: Essential Tips for Going Solo