5 reasons why solo travel is the worst

We’ve all seen the articles touting the perks of solo travel flood our Facebook feeds.

“Why travelling solo is so important”

“Why you need to experience the freedom of travelling alone”

“How solo travel will change your life forever”

They wax philosophical about how being forced out of your comfort zone means you’ll make new friends, build up your self-confidence, and get to go wherever you want, whenever you want. Oh, and did you hear how it might even make you more employable, so you can earn enough money to eat all of the avocado toast?

I call B.S.

Seriously, have any of these people ever actually tried travelling alone? Because then they’d know it’s the worst, and the only “life-changing” thing about it is that it makes you hold on to your current relationships for dear life so you’ll always have someone willing to head off on an adventure with you. Even travel influencers who make a living off boasting about their solo trips around the globe aren’t usually alone thanks to well-planned meet-ups—just watch their Instagram stories for proof.

That time it looked like I had a Portugeuese palace to myself but there were actually about 450 other tourists right behind me.

I’ve given solo travel the college try, traipsing around spots like Panama, Spain and Belgium when I wanted to extend my trip longer than my travel companions could. Sure there were some bright spots, like the adorbs day trip I took to Zaanse Schans, spotting monkeys near the Panama Canal, and sampling Framboise and mussels in Brussels. But would I say those solitary experiences reshaped my entire outlook on life? Definitely not. Plus let’s be honest: as a female I have to put safety first, which means sometimes I’m more comfortable staying within the confines of my hotel versus wandering around a foreign city, which puts a serious dent in my ability to get to know a place.

Here are just a few of the reasons why I think solo travel is the worst.

(If you’re still brave enough to head out on a solo trip anyway, listen to my tips for successful solo travel below)

1. It’s More Expensive

They’re the two words that make every solo adventurer shudder: “single-supplement.” Charged by the likes of cruise lines, resorts and tours that base their rates on double-occupancy, it means that solo travellers have to pay more for the exact same experience as their paired-up counterparts.

The single-supplement is just one example of how prices can quickly climb when there’s no one to split them with. Taxi rides, hotel rooms and rental cars cost the same regardless of how many people are using them, and are inevitable unless you plan on couch surfing and taking the bus everywhere. Math really sucks sometimes.

Shutterstock.

2. Eating Alone

This is hands-down the most annoying thing about solo travel IMO. I’m usually perfectly fine to check out landmarks and go on day trips alone, but when it comes time for dinner I’m a total wimp. I despise eating by myself, and a sit-down restaurant is typically not one of those places where people will just come up to you and start chatting. So, basically you have to saddle up to the bar and hope there’s a nice bartender to chat with, bring a book/phone to entertain yourself, or simply stare into the distance until your meal arrives you can scarf it down and hightail it out of there.

I avoid all of those options like the plague, so if I have no luck lining up a dining companion ahead of time then I do the next best thing: hotel room service. There’s a reason it exists, and the best part is you can bring your own bottle of wine and no one will judge you. #Winning.

This is an inaccurate representation of what room service looks like when you’re flying solo. Unless you really want to #treatyoself.

3. Doing everything yourself

I consider myself an Independent Woman (cue Destiny’s Child track), but there’s no denying a lot of things about travel are just easier with a partner. Like the airport. How annoying is it when you want to use the washroom, and need to drag all of your bags into the tiny stall with you because you can’t leave them with someone else at the gate? Or in the airport lounge, when you have to try and balance a drink and plate of food in one hand, as you drag your carry-on luggage with the other?

RELATED: The 10 commandments of airport etiquette

And don’t even get me started on taking selfies. It’s one thing to whip out the tripod and self-timer when you’re hiking alone in a national park, but it’s downright embarrassing to attempt Insta-worthy solo shots when there are other tourists around. Multiply that by 10 if you’re also staring off into the distance wearing a floppy hat.

Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Photo snapped by my hubby, which made it slightly less embarrassing to stand on the edge of a cliff hoping my hat didn’t fly into the ocean.

Also, no one is good at everything, which is why travelling in a group is handy for playing off each other’s strengths. For example, I’m a total disaster with maps and directions, so I always leave the navigating to whoever I’m travelling with. But as for actually booking things, watch out! I’m the Queen Bee when it comes to scoring an amazing deal on a luxe hotel room or getting our flights for next-to-nothing with airline points. When you travel solo, you have no one else to depend on for anything, which means there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself literally or figuratively going around in circles at some point (in my experience, typically on the New York City subway line).

4. Safety

There’s a reason they say there’s safety in numbers. Safety is always the top consideration when deciding whether or not to embark on a solo trip, and even more important if you’re a woman. There are usually a few things that men don’t have to worry about which women do, such as falling victim to unwanted advances or being constantly propositioned (which happened to me in such alarming frequency while I was simply trying to read a book in a park in Madrid, that I quickly gave up and went back to my hostel). In places like Caye Caulker, Belize, the men are known to catcall female travellers, which sure puts a damper on the “laid-back island” vibe. Both of those situations could likely be avoided by not travelling alone, particularly for women who also happen to be travelling with a male companion.

Unfortunately no one is immune to theft, which is a bad situation no matter what but even worse if you’re flyin’ solo. I know someone who had all his money stolen in Spain, but managed to salvage the rest of the trip because his pals covered his expenses along the way. If you’re travelling solo, it can be tough to get your hands on cash from afar (especially if you happen to be in a third-world country at the time), and it’s a whole other ballgame if you have the misfortune of being injured on the road and there’s no one to ensure you get the care you need.

Tip: Keep a piece of paper on you at all times with a scan of your passport, as well as important numbers like emergency contact information and embassy numbers.

5. Having no one to share your memories with

Finally, one of my favourite things about travel is that you get to share all of those crazy experiences with someone else, and laugh about them endlessly years later. Unfortunately, inside jokes aren’t quite as funny when you were the only one there. And really at the end of the day, isn’t travel all about creating memorable experiences?

Do you hate solo travel as much as I do, or actually (gasp!) love it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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45 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Yeah, I agree I have to travel solo myself, on occasion, and as a man not as scary but boring. No one to talk to, or share anything. Plus as a single traveler I always get the worst hotel rooms, very old and the size of a postage stamp as far back in the hotel as possible as I assume that they think I am going to get some “company” for the evening.

  2. Interesting findings 🙂
    I usually travel with my wife, hence not much first hand solo experiences.
    I definitely agree with you on one thing – it is better when you have someone to share your memories. I meet a lot solo travelers on the road (mostly in hostels), and those are the people who always want to start a conversation or join for a tour or bar/dinner with somebody. That can be good and bad thing depending from the point of view 🙂

  3. Sreekar says:

    I go both ways about solo travel. My greatest fear is having no one to share the amazing stories. Imagine seeing or experiencing something beautiful and then keeping all to yourself:)

  4. You’re missing all the fun of swiping right on the road. Seriously though, we’re a married couple and we couldn’t agree more with you about a couple of points. It’s so much more fun to eat together. We get to try twice the food with half of the guilt since we share plates. We also share the memories. It’s great having someone to reminisce with.

  5. Kirstie says:

    Haha! I love this post. This is so true!
    Also: “as a female I have to put safety first, which means sometimes I’m more comfortable staying within the confines of my hotel versus wandering around a foreign city, which puts a serious dent in my ability to get to know a place.”

    I share the same sentiments. Also, who would take me awesome profile photos? And yes, it’s cheaper to travel with someone who can split expenses with you. One travel buddy who matches your personality will be great!

  6. Skye Class says:

    Funny, I just wrote an article similar to this recently, but with a different twist. I gave the 10 benefits of Solo travel, and then said how I was tired of all 10. These are the flipside, and oh so true!!! After 3 years of solo travel, I’m so done with eating at fancy restaurants by myself, missing out on 2 for 1 specials, doing all the work and not having anyone special to share the moments and memories with. Safety is also a really important factor, although I might be lending the other side of it as a former security guard.

  7. Vicki Louise says:

    I’m not the biggest fan of solo travel, for all the reason you mentioned – but I can see the value of it if you’re trying to work stuff out or just need some space. I have traveling with my partner for the past 9 years and following our split 3 months ago I went away on my own and enjoyed it. But I did know people in the area I went to so i could chose when I spent time with people and when I wanted to be alone. I guess it all depends on your situation at the time.

  8. Indrani says:

    Finally a post on hating solo travel!
    I agree on all points and the most is on eating alone. I dread that. Then having memories of loneliness. So painful.
    Other factors can still be done carefully.

  9. I do enjoy having my partner along with me on trips but don’t mind doing short journeys by my lonesome. It also helps to be a boomer – I’m practically invisible to the opposite sex unless it’s as an easy mark for theft. But that’s never been a problem as I’m experienced and trust my gut. I love feeling independent enough to go to far flung places by myself but flexible enough to play well with others. Either way – aren’t we lucky to even have the conversation?!

  10. Nancy says:

    I have travelled solo so much that I’ve adapted. But I hear you, squeezing into a stall with your carry-on is an art. And for me, a big part of travel is sharing the experience with others. When I’m solo, I often wish I could share the my experiences with my friends or family. The upside is that I often meet new people. I’m grateful for how travel enriches my life either way.

  11. I just read my book at restaurants or eat at the bar. I have met some amazing people by eating alone at bars.

    I have gotten over the embarrassment of getting my tripod out. I actually carry some of my travel blog business cards and have handed them out after people stop to ask what I am doing.

  12. Elena says:

    Though I see your point when it comes to most things on this list, I disagree. Eating alone doesn’t always have to be a burden (once you get used to it, it can actually be pretty great!), if you use common sense safety is usually not a huge issue in most places and on the road you meet so many people you’ll share memories with. And yes, sometimes being on your own does suck and shitty things do happen. But I think that’s when you learn how to deal with stuff yourself. I know that solo travel might not be for everyone, but still I think most of these points don’t have to be so negative if you shift your perspective a little. Interesting read, though.

    • Thanks Elena, I know not everyone agrees with me, and frankly I’m pretty jealous of those who don’t because I wish I enjoyed solo travel! 🙂 If it wasn’t for the whole eating thing, I think I might actually be OK with it.

  13. Damian says:

    Just in my second week of my five week trip to asia. Was really looking forward to it.
    Although I’ve seen really nice places and spoken to some nice people, it hasn’t been quite as nice as I expected.

    I’ve been alone most of the time and I haven’t enjoyed that really much. I try to meet people but it hasn’t worked out that great yet.

    But I have still 4 weeks to go so maybe it will become better.

    Anyway, it was nice to read that I am not the only one feeling this way haha.

  14. Claire Lee says:

    I am not sure if I agree to this article. I do get your point but, traveling alone do makes a difference in your life from since you get to think more, be creative and see the world differently than when you are with someone.

  15. Destiny says:

    This is what I have been thinking. I thought I would love traveling by myself because I can do whatever I want. The first couple of days were okay. However, as I travel more on my own, I found myself constantly thinking oh how this person would’ve enjoyed this and we would have so much fun and hahaha we would both be dyring from laughter right now. I am currently in Korea and I have about 6 months left. While I treasure all the memories I have made from traveling on my own, I will never do this again.

    • Hi Destiny, thanks for the note and I want to give you kudos for continuing on with your trip! You’re so brave to be doing such a long trip by yourself, and it sounds like you’ll have quite a few adventures!

  16. Ejiro says:

    Well I don’t feed off people’s energy so travelling works for me. I like to do things when and how I want it. Also I don’t like people disturbing me to take pictures every second to update on the gram it’s just exhausting for me. This year I’m planning to make my trips alone. Maybe when I have a partner but my current friends naaa I’d rather go alone

    • Frank E says:

      Hahahaha…Ejiro !

    • Kunjan patel says:

      Same! I just wrapped up my first solo travel and it was incredible. I got sick on my first day and all my plans got thrown off track, which was great because I roll with the punches so I did whatever i wanted, whenever i wanted. Stepped out of my comfort zone, talked to some locals, ate good food. Bonus was no people living the vacation through the snapchat/gram lenses and filters.

  17. Peter says:

    Interesting post. I’m a single gay man and have been really wanting to travel, but the thought of dining alone, not sharing the memories, and conversing with people mostly to ask directions or order food sounds bloody depressing. Also one of the pleasures of travel is when someone you’re with discovers something unexpected. I was thinking of traveling in a way that wouldn’t include those things—so not being focused on food etc—but it sounds pretty pared down.

    • Chris says:

      True. I’ve been traveling for 3 months and the worst thing of solo travel is asking for a direction when you have zero clue and the language become a barrier as well. But, in my opinion as a gay man, solo travel kinda relieves me from people judgements. With traveling, it kinda lighten the weight of the world given to me, as you know it’s hard being “gay”. Plus, eating alone in a restaurants isn’t as bad as you think 🙂 If you’re considering on solo-travel, i hope you’ll have a great one.

  18. Jean says:

    I travel alone for work often and recently travelled on my own across the world for two months.

    Travelling alone isn’t easy. It’s difficult to feel comfortable being on your own. But it feels difficult because humans are typically social creatures and it feels unfamiliar (how often in life are we forced to be alone for months ? Rarely … ).

    Initially when I started travelling alone for work, I hated it. But after a year of hating it, I decided that this mindset only made me miserable for the reasons you outlined above- so I told myself that I would enjoy it. I will make my trips worthwhile. And that’s when everything changed. When I didn’t wanna sit on my own for dinner, I sat in front of the kitchen or the bar and talked to the cooks, bartenders, or people sitting close by on their own. I discovered the ability to make conversation with anyone and everyone I matter where I went. So no longer did I feel alone, even though I was actually travelling alone.

    Fast forward approx 6 months, I booked my flight across the world and travelled to a country across the world from home for two months on sabbatical. It was the first time I was on my own for pleasure, instead of work. And I loved it. Granted I wasn’t always alone – I stayed in hostels, so I could easily meet other travellers, but I loved the ability to go anywhere I pleased, eat whatever I wanted, do whatever I want without negotiating or discussing my plans with another person. It was pure freedom. And when I wanted to socialize – I could. If I didn’t feel like it, I wouldn’t have to.

    So was I completely alone? No. I was enjoying the company of myself on some days… and on other days, I enjoyed the exchange of conversation with other strangers for 1 minute, 5 minutes, hours or a couple days before going off to another destination on my own.

    And that’s how I learned to love travelling by myself : if I want to be lonely and miserable, then I will. If I don’t, then change something about your circumstances or your perspective and everything else will follow.

    • Hi Jean,
      So true! Where did you end up travelling on sabbatical?
      I agree with your tip about sitting at the bar in restaurants- that’s what I’ve started doing as well when eating alone, and it makes a big difference.

      • Jean says:

        I went to New Zealand and Australia 🙂 I’m from Canada. As a woman like you, safety is my first priority, so countries I considered had to have good and easy access to healthcare, civilized government, sanitary conditions, as well as good weather :p .

        Admittedly safety was still a concern even travelling there alone. I was always aware of where I was, who I was with, and refused to allow myself to become intoxicated and unaware. But it’s also responsible being anywhere, even alone in my own city. Despite that , I loved the experience and plan on traveling alone every year for personal holiday.

        If you haven’t been there, I hope you have a chance to go. It is backpacker paradise!

  19. JojoInMontreal says:

    I’ve been traveling solo since my late teens up to now in my happy years of retirement (that’s 50 years of travel!). My husband does not enjoy air travel, so when I get wanderlust, I simply book a ticket and off I go! I have been to every continent with the exception of Antarctica and it’s far from boring or unsafe. Of course you have to be smart and research beforehand. And yes, there will be mishaps. That’s where you discover self reliance, improvisation and smarts. If you find yourself bored or confined to your hotel out of fear, well that says a lot about you and perhaps you are simply not meant to travel solo.
    I have been all over the world and have met such interesting people, made friends I still have today, seen such breathtaking and amazing places and enjoyed simple things like sun rise on Mount Kilimanjaro, after reaching Uhuru peak to staying up all night and watching the aurora borealis in northern Finland and seeing the 7 wonders of the world and ticking off my bucket list some of the most wonderful Unesco World Heritage sites!
    Unglue yourself from your damn phones and see the world! Architecture, history, cultures, the arts, sports, shopping, volunteering or just plain taking in nature or local culture.

    P.S. And no, I am in no way a paid traveller or blogger. Just a lady, rebel, kid at heart and a happily retired paramedic and 9-1-1 supervisor. Namaste!

  20. Me says:

    Also, injuries can happen. I fell on a sharp rock and broke my ankle while travelling alone. No. Fun. Some kind people got me to the hospital and from there I was on my own, relying on hotel employees, cab drivers and airport personnel as I was in a wheelchair. So glad to get home and have my family meet me. Yes, injury can happen but it could have been worse. I could have been in a third world country or hiking or something.

    Before that I liked it for some places. In fact when traveling with others I often long to get away by myself for awhile but I agree that eating is the worst. I would just find a nice bakery and buy something for the hotel room.

    Some places are great for solo travel though, like cities where you want to do museums or shopping are great. Get a hotel room in the city and leave your stuff and you can wander around the city and museums. But the Caribbean or multiple destinations with island hopping or hiking? No.

  21. Vino says:

    Solo travel is different from travelling alone.
    Solitude is very different from loneliness

  22. Sheng says:

    I definitely agree with your article. I traveled so once to Korea and Japan for a week (after departing from some friends in Thailand) and I was so lonely. No one to talk to or to experience things with! And I dreaded eating alone too, so I resorted to cheap but delicious street food. And whenever I got really tired because of constantly going all the time, I just went back to my hotel. That usually happened around mid afternoon… And then it was so hard to make myself go back out in the evening.
    I was thinking again of doing another solo trip but to Europe this time because none of my friends can go with me. But maybe not!

  1. September 11, 2017

    […] 5 reasons why solo travel is the worst […]

  2. April 7, 2018

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