Over the years, I've taken a number of solo trips abroad and closer to home. While I enjoy the freedom that solo travel provides me, I've arrived at the conclusion that I'd much rather travel with friends or my partner. I think everyone who can travel by themselves at one point in their life should; there's nothing quite like having to rely completely on your own wits day after day. But really, if I'm going to spend the money and time on traveling I'm going to do it in the way I enjoy the most: with my friends and loved ones.
Here's why solo travel just isn't for me anymore (I'm not sure if it ever was):
- I only see the sights I want to see and this limits my experiences. When I travel by myself, the itinerary is up to me. I choose which museums to go to, which restaurants to eat at, which places to stay at, and which tours to take. I do not have to take into account the input of others. I do not have to compromise my desires. While this can be great, it does not open me up to as many new experiences as would being with someone else. Take, for example, our trip to Vietnam two years ago. The one thing my partner requested we do was to go on a boat tour of the Mekong; he wanted to see the floating markets and experience the mighty Mekong. This is not something I would have done on my own since I don't like boats, organized tours, or flat places (the Mekong Delta is very flat). While the Mekong boat trip was my least favorite experience in Vietnam, I'm glad we went for it.
- I'm an introvert who has a difficult time conversing with others. I can spend a considerable amount of time by myself. In fact, I spend almost every day by myself. But when I'm traveling solo, I am on the line for every conversation. I am the only one who can get directions, make reservations, order food, etc. If I want to talk to another person IRL, it has to be a stranger. It gets exhausting for an introvert. If I have a travel companion, they can do some of the necessary communication, and I have someone I already know to talk to.
- My friends/partner are fun to travel with, and I want to share my travel moments with them. Most of my recent trips have been with friends or my partner. On our recent trip to Hawaii, we traveled with our friend Nan (who we've done a number of trips with) and her two friends Bill and Jen. It was a great to meet new people, and we all hit it off. When I travel to Seattle, I hang out with my California expat friends. In Croatia, I traveled with Nan and our friends Maddy and Tyler who live there and were able to share their knowledge of the country with us. I don't think I would have enjoyed these places as much alone.
- I'm no longer interested in staying in hostels, so it's more cost efficient for me to travel with others. The only place I would stay in a hostel again is southeast Asia; the hostels in Vietnam were incredibly comfortable, clean, and quiet. But for the most part, I don't like staying in hostels. I'm a light sleeper, I don't like having to be constantly vigilant about my belongings, the beds are uncomfortable, and they can be incredibly pricey for what you get (sixty dollars for the noisiest bed in Boston!). Nowadays, I want to the comfort and security of a hotel or an AirBnB. It's more cost friendly to stay in hotels and AirBnBs when you're sharing.
- Men are less likely to bother me when I'm with my friends or my partner. Thankfully, I've not encountered much harassment when I've traveled on my own. The one fairly negative experience I had when abroad by myself was in San Juan. These two middle-aged American men decided they needed to butt into my solo dining experience. Unlike many solo travelers, I have no problem dining alone and do it all the time at home. I was in the middle of reading a book and enjoying the beautiful view when one of them decided to tell me to smile. *sigh* Why do I have to smile? I'm reading a book and eating dinner. They then decided to start warning me about my personal safety. Yes, San Juan can be dangerous, but I wasn't planning on going out after dark, drinking on my own, or going into neighborhoods known for crime. I did not feel unsafe until these two men decided to start talking to me. When I'm with friends or my partner, I don't have to worry about strange men approaching me or butting into my experiences.
- I have little desire to make new friends. Okay, I'm going to come across as rude with this one. I already have plenty of friends, and I'm not looking to make more. If I happen to make friends while traveling, then that's cool, but I don't want to put the effort into it. I find it exhausting enough to be in a new place, navigating a new language and customs, without having to put the extra pressure on myself to make new friends.
- I tire of asking strangers to take my photo. I love taking photos while I'm traveling solo or not. I tend to take photos of food, street art, and landscapes. I rarely take selfies or ask people to take photos of me. My camera is expensive, and I can't afford to replace it, so I have to be careful of who I hand it over to. I don't want to have my phone stolen either. Plus, sometimes people will take photos or videos of me on their phone, say they will email it to me, and they never do. So now these complete strangers have videos of me zip-lining in the Puerto Rican rain forest.
- I'm more likely to do adventurous activities with someone else around. Okay, while I was in Puerto Rico (and Costa Rica) I went zip-lining and hiking in the rainforest, and in Costa Rica, I went white water rafting, but I would be more likely to go off the beaten path with another person with me. I think of this experience we had in Croatia where we went driving around the Istrian peninsula trying to find Slap Sopot. This place is not easy to find, and I would have never tried to find it if I was alone.
The major exception to this is my love of being out in nature alone. I don't do solo hiking now that I'm pregnant (too many health concerns), but I used to solo hike all the time.
I have enjoyed traveling solo and here are some of my favorite solo experiences:
- Wandering around the British Museum and spending as much time as I like in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
- Early morning walks and breakfasts in Seattle. No one I've ever traveled with wakes up as early as I do or likes to eat breakfast.
- Climbing atop a boulder at Alabama Hills in the eastern Sierra to watch the sunrise over Mt. Whitney.
How do you feel about solo travel? What makes it work for you? What about it doesn't work for you? If you don't like to travel solo, how do you like to travel?