The general consensus seems to be that traveling solo, especially as a female, is always a stupid and dangerous thing to do. Before I went backpacking through Europe, I received a hefty amount of comments on CulpFiction (me and my husband’s YouTube vlog) asking about the details of the trip, but more specifically, “Why are you going alone?” and “Isn’t it dangerous?” Truth is, most of the time, solo travel is just like walking down your street to the local super market: sure, it has the potential to blow up in your face, but more likely than not, you’ll probably be able to buy a few bananas without incident. Solo travel is the same way. So let’s clear up a few of these misconceptions.
“Why would you even want to go alone?”
Truthfully, solo travel offers an experience that can’t be matched by anything, including the experience of traveling with your favorite people in the entire world. When you’re traveling solo, you have complete control over what you see, where you go, who to interact with, what to eat, and many, many more attributes. When you travel with friends, family, significant others, or even complete strangers, there will always be competing ideas or opinions about how to spend not only money, but something even more valuable: time. This isn’t always a bad thing. For example, you may have a travel buddy who suggests something completely off your radar, and you may have an experience you never thought you’d have. However, sometimes nothing beats the luxury of spending time exactly as you see fit, and solo travel gives you the best opportunity for exactly that.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Isn’t it dangerous?”
As long as you use common sense and trust your instincts, no, solo travel isn’t inherently dangerous. Obviously you don’t want to be wandering down dark alleyways, and you don’t want to leave your drink at the bar unattended, but these are also things that you probably wouldn’t want to do in your home country either. Generally speaking, the same rules apply for international travel as well. If at any point you feel that crushing pang of dread deep in your core, like you’re definitely in a bad situation, get out of that situation as quickly as possible. If somebody gives you the heebie-jeebies, get away from them. If you’re in that awkward situation where you feel like you have to say “yes” to something being purposed but you don’t actually want to, do not ever hesitate to say “no”. I’m a big believer in trusting your gut when you’re in a foreign land, because generally speaking, if there’s something going on that makes you feel extremely uncomfortable, you’re not missing out by sticking around. Not only that, but that ache of dread in the pit of your stomach when something feels wrong translates 100% in all languages. Trust it.
“What will you even do? You’ll be by yourself!”
You make solo travel sound so negative when you put it like that! But I have the best answer: absolutely any and everything. Being by yourself in a foreign land has its perks. Art galleries and museums are a few of my favorite things to do by myself, because then you can ponder any exhibit for as long as you please (until the place closes and they kick you out, of course). You don’t need a date to have a romantic stroll down exquisite walkways with gelato in hand, you can do that all on your own–and then you don’t even have to feel bad when you go back for seconds (or thirds…), because you’re the only one making that decision. If you want to have pizza for dinner five nights in a row in Florence, you can do exactly that. Truth is, there are very few activities in the world that actually require multiple people to have any fun. When you’re by yourself, you get to reflect on what makes you happy, and then you can do all the activities under the sun fulfilling that goal.
“But won’t you get lonely?”
Yeah, but it’s not a big deal! If ever you start to feel lonely, there are so many ways you can get out there, meet people, and have a ball in a group instead of on your own. If you’re feeling lonely on your solo travels, hostels are the hands down best place to be. Hostels are communal by design, and are usually filled with people who want to get out there and meet new people as well (bonus, they’re also cheaper than hotels most of the time). I give myself a rule: each time I’m feeling lonely when I’m traveling solo and I’m staying at a hostel, I introduce myself to every person in the room I’m staying in. Sometimes this is four people, sometimes it’s eight or ten, but no matter how many people are in the room, I introduce myself. A conversation will quickly begin about where we’ve come from, what we’re looking forward to in this city, how long we’ve been there, how long we’re going to be there, and so on and so forth. At the end of this conversation, usually there will be an invitation to grab some food or a beer, in which case, hurray! New travel buddy! In my experience, this method works 90% of the time. Invite people you’ve never met to dinner. Ask to tag along on excursions. Join the guys at the pub for a beer. The worst they could say is no, in which case find somebody else and repeat the process. By the end of the night, you’ll have new friends and your loneliness will be removed from the picture.
“I’m on the fence about solo travel. Should I go?”
YES. It is my humble opinion that solo travel is something that everybody should experience at least once in their life for a couple of reasons. First, it forces you out of your shell in a way that nothing else can. When your plane touches down in a new country and your belly is full of terror and excitement, your palms are clammy and moist, and there are millions of thoughts running through your head, the only person that can sort out your fears is yourself. You become hyper aware of everyone and everything around you, and if you’re ever lost or confused, you have to strong-arm yourself to reach out to somebody for help, which is a huge achievement if it’s something you’ve never truly done before. Second, solo travel allows you to go on a journey not only in another land, but inside yourself as well. Everybody who has solo traveled has had some sort of personal triumph, achievement or other life changing experience that occurred on their adventures abroad that made them grow as a person. You spend a lot of time inside your head when you travel by yourself, and the personal growth one experiences during solo travel makes it worth it all by itself. Lastly, when you travel solo, you see monuments, cultures, art, and people bluntly, without the distraction of travel companions to soften the blow. Seeing a place simply for what it is without outside comments clouding your perspective has the incredible ability to change your mindset, your views, or your opinion, not only about a place or country, but entire cultures and ways of life. Simply put, solo travel is life changing, and it’s something that everybody should experience.
Have you ever traveled solo before? How was your experience?