After seven solo international trips, I decided to spill my guts on what it’s like to travel solo.
As an introvert, I rarely mind being alone. I’m also fiercely independent, good with navigation, and a cross between MacGyver and Nancy Drew when it comes to figuring stuff out on the go. Basically, I was born for solo travel.
While I’m married now and love traveling with my husband, that time of my life is something I’d never trade for anything!
I LOVED that sweet solo freedom. The ability to follow my own agenda—or deviate from it completely—without feeling even a smidge selfish. I also LOVED the challenge of planning and executing each trip on my own to prove to myself that I can. (What’d I tell ya? Fiercely independent.) And I seriously LOVED every single solo trip I’ve taken, with no regrets for going it alone.
I’d be lying if I told you that I never felt lonely on my own. Or, that I was always as confident as I appeared to passersby. Or that I wanted to travel solo for the rest of my life. The sappy truth? During all my solo travels, I hoped to one day my travels with a guy whose passion for adventure rivals mine. (Guess what? My husband’s does!)
But fiercely independent me who wanted to see the world didn’t waiting for someday. I decide to go. And live. And grow. Yes, grow! My 3 years of solo trips taught me more about myself than I think I learned in the previous 30+ years of my life. Sounds exaggerated, but I believe it’s true.
Solo travel absolutely works for me. I’m not here to (completely) sugar coat it, though. So here’s what it’s really like to travel alone:
Solo Travel Itinerary
It’s no secret that I’m a total itinerary nerd. Traveling solo allowed me to create the perfect one for ME—to maximize my time doing everything I wanted to do with zero compromise. And if I veered from the plan (which I definitely did!) that was okay, too. Like when I decided to sleep in an extra hour. Or skip museums to save time and money. I’ve also spent 30 minutes people watching on a random bench, and 2 hours browsing vintage stores without buying anything. In Paris, I even made a spontaneous decision to head back to the Eiffel Tower with suitcase in tow instead going straight to the airport—because my need to see it one last time trumped the risk of missing my plane. These were totally my decisions to make, with no one else to consult, offend, annoy, or inconvenience.
I know that sounds SO selfish, but I’m just being honest. And in that same spirit of honesty, I already admitted that I did get lonely at times. Creating the perfect itinerary may lead to lots of lovely moments, but I know they would’ve been even more special shared with someone else. Unreal views. Funny stories. They just aren’t the same shared secondhand.
Still, the sheer joy of travel and thrill of adventure drove me to go, go, go whenever I had the opportunity.
Solo Travel and Eating Alone
Eating could fall under ITINERARY, sure. But it needs a separate mention.
When I traveled alone, eating was uncomplicated. I ate whenever and wherever I wanted. For breakfast and lunch, I typically bought food from local supermarkets. Being a frugal non-foodie, I was fine eating out for only one—maybe two—meals a day. And when I did splurge on a restaurant meal, requesting a table for one feels pretty darn empowering.
It was also the only time I felt acutely aware of being solo—along with everyone else in the restaurants. I really didn’t mind the stares. I mean, a girl eating dinner alone at an upscale restaurant does beg the question: “What’s her story?” (And to that I’d say, read Why I Adventure part one and two.) But no doubt, mealtimes are more enjoyable when shared with others.
Taking Photos While Traveling Solo
When I travel with others, I try to be more conscious of their time and agenda, and inevitably stop less for photo ops. But when I traveled alone, I sometimes took 50 shots in the span of a city block, or made regular photo pit stops on a hike. It was freeing to know that my sporadic and spontaneous photo-taking wasn’t annoying anyone.
But when I wanted a photo of myself, that became a challenge as the options weren’t ideal. Selfies. Selfie sticks. Setting up a tripod. Or, asking a stranger who may completely botch the shot. And, while I did want photos of myself to forever capture the moments, I knew very well that my most treasured photographs were the ones of me with other people.
So let’s recap.
I traveled solo because, at that time of my life, I could. I sorta skipped the 20-something, independent stage, so this was that time for me. Time to figure out who I was. Test my strengths and weaknesses. Pursue my life-long passion for travel and adventure with a fervor. I stopped saying someday because that was someday to 20-something me—a girl who really didn’t know herself OR believe she’d ever see as much of the world as I saw in those 3 years of solo travel.
In a way, I traveled solo for that girl. The younger me. Not to make up for lost time, but to know that someday me would look back with no regrets—and instead be thankful for the life experience and self-assessment, AND practical application of the two.
And if you wanna know whether solo travel is right for you, take my 7 question quiz.