Solo travel: Why I didn’t think I could travel alone

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Solo travel can be daunting if you’ve never done it before.

It’s too scary, you’ll be lonely, the details will be overwhelming without a travel partner.

Those fears are too easy to listen to, and they can convince you to stay home and ignore your desire to travel.

I used to have these same fears. I didn’t think I was strong enough to travel alone. But I still wanted to see the world. It took awhile, but eventually, in the battle between my fears and my wanderlust, travel won.

I can’t travel alone

For as long as I can remember, travel has been a big passion of mine. I took several organized trips to Europe when I was a teenager, which sparked my travel addiction. From then on, I was always dreaming of more places I wanted to visit.

When I was 18 and realized I didn’t need to go on an organized tour, I dragged my best friend to Italy for a week.

Two summers later, I studied abroad in Spain, and even though several people from the group traveled on their own after the program was over, it never occurred to me that I could do that too.

Why did I think I couldn't travel alone?

For many years, I didn’t have friends to travel with me. So I spent that time traveling within the US, happily using my vacation time to visit friends and family, but never satisfying that desire to see the world.

I lacked the confidence to try it alone.

I saw one of my closest friends travel alone all the time, but I never considered myself the type of person who could travel solo. After college, when I knew of people setting off to backpack through Europe for three months, I just thought

“I can’t do that” but never asked myself “why not?”

What was I waiting for?

I think I was waiting for a friend to volunteer to go with me or for a boyfriend to appear who wanted to travel. It just didn’t occur to me to plan a trip and go on my own. But when I finally realized that I hadn’t been out of the country in almost eight years, I was determined to make a change.

I finally did ask myself

“why can’t I travel alone?” What was I waiting for?

There was no reason to postpone my dreams simply because I didn’t have a travel partner. My desire to travel overrode my fear of going alone.

Why did I think I couldn't travel alone?

Still scared but taking the leap anyway

I started by planning a 10 day trip to Greece, and I used a travel agent to help me sort out the details. I figured it was a good way to test out solo travel without having to worry about getting overwhelmed with all the planning.

It was my safety net in a way. Letting someone else do the planning meant the only hard part left was for me to just go. When I finally got to Greece, the feeling of satisfaction was more than I ever expected. I wondered again what I had been waiting for.

Of course I can do this!

Why did I think I couldn't travel alone?

Knowing I was fully capable of traveling on my own, I began taking more solo trips. I was no longer holding myself back from traveling. If I wanted to go somewhere, I just saved my money, planned the trip, and off I went. Places like Croatia, Hong Kong, Australia, and Cambodia were no longer out of reach.

Learning to love solo travel

Nothing beats the confidence boost that comes with traveling alone. Without someone else around to share the burden of decision making, I had to rely on myself more than ever before.

While sometimes that meant a little extra pressure, it also meant I didn’t have to compromise. I had the flexibility to do what I wanted, when I wanted. And that was empowering.

Why did I think I couldn't travel alone?

Solo travel was never as lonely as I thought. I always met other travelers along the way, either at a hostel or on a day trip, or even while trying to figure out public transportation. I realized solo travelers are actually much more approachable than people traveling in pairs or a group.

I learned that it was perfectly fine to eat dinner at a restaurant by myself. I figured out how to navigate different transportation systems without knowing the language. Little things that seemed scary became huge triumphs when I found I really was capable of traveling on my own.

Traveling by myself made me realize I’m stronger than I thought I was.

Why did I think I couldn't travel alone?

Traveling alone is within your reach.

If you’ve been thinking of going somewhere, there’s no reason you have to wait for a travel partner. Do some research so you know more about the place you’re going to and make plans for at least your first few days to make yourself feel more comfortable.

I had fears when I took my first solo trip, and sometimes I still do, but I pushed past those fears and went anyway. I have never once regretted traveling alone.

If anything, each solo trip encouraged me to take the next one. Don’t let your fears hold you back. Take that leap and give solo travel a try.

********

Bio: Ali Garland encourages people to travel, shows them how to plan trips, and helps them overcome their travel-related fears on her site Travel Made Simple. She has been traveling for almost 20 years and made it to all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She and her husband are expats in Germany. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Ali writes about her personal travels at Ali’s Adventures.

Your Turn:

Have you done solo travel? How did you overcome your fears?

 

24 thoughts on “Solo travel: Why I didn’t think I could travel alone”

  1. It really is difficult to find someone to tag along on an adventure that is abroad. I have traveled abroad but with educational groups. I plan on traveling abroad alone at some point before I graduate from college. I understand the fear that one may have, but over the time I have realized that one can experience beauty alone and it will still be wonderful.

    Great post,
    Natalie

    1. Thank you Natalie! Traveling while you’re in college is a great time to do it. You’ll definitely meet tons of people your age who are also traveling, so you won’t feel like you’re on your own. I love the flexibility I have traveling on my own, and like you said, you experience some really beautiful things along the way. Happy travels!

  2. I want to thank you for this post. I went solo traveling only once before to Belize. I had an amazing time, saw what I wanted to see and met some lovely people along the way. I don’t know why I’ve let the fears sink in again but, after reading your post I’m very inspired to do it once again. I was hoping my bf would want to do it but, he seems to never come around to doing it with me and no friends are really travel fans. So I guess I’m on my own. The most inspiring thing you reminded me of is the fact that it is very empowering. Glad I came across this today. 🙂

    1. Thanks Jess! I’m so glad I could help. I understand letting those fears creep back in, happens to all of us. But the trick is to also remind yourself of that great solo trip you took to Belize, remind yourself how empowering it was, and plan the next trip. And plenty of people travel without their boyfriends, send him a postcard! I hope you take another solo trip soon and have a wonderful time!

  3. Thanks Caz & Craig! I appreciate you letting me share my solo travel experiences. It’s such a wonderful thing to try at least once, and not so scary once you take the leap. So glad I finally tried traveling alone!

  4. The only times I traveles solo were to meet someone abroad. So that doesn’t really count:)
    I’m not afraid of all the planning – I LOVE to plan -, I’m more afraid that I won’t be able to talk to someone whenever I feel like it. I don’t appreciate things I see and experience as much when I’m alone.
    I know that you don’t need to be alone when you travel solo. It’s easy enough to mee people abroad. But still. Those people are on their own travels, have their own sights-to-see and their own planning (or not :))…
    Mind you, I’m NOT, definitely NOT, writing against solo travel! Just explaining why it hasn’t appealed to me yet…

    1. Thanks Sofie! Some people truly don’t enjoy solo travel. I love traveling with my husband now, but traveling on my own is a completely different experience. If you’re on your own and you meet another solo traveler, chances are they’re up for a little company too, even if it’s just for an hour to grab a meal. The nice thing about being on your own is you can decide at the last minute if you want to change your plans to hang out with someone else. Or you can decide, nope, this is something I really want to do, I’m not changing my mind for anyone. It’s wonderful flexibility. As far as appreciating things, I think you just experience it differently if you’re solo instead of with someone else. You end up appreciating the fact that you had the courage to go on your own.

  5. I think it’s great you moved through this fear gradually – first locally, then abroad with the planning help of an agent, then on your own. Something else people can do is practice things like sitting alone at a restaurant or going to the movies or going on a walk alone before they even travel.

    Also, one can always make sure in advance they know how and where to call if they need help – have their hostel/hotel’s info, the embassy’s info, numbers back home….

    Solo travel is as fun and empowering as you wrote – and it’s definitely worth exploring despite fear.

    1. Thanks Ayelet! Starting slow and doing lots of planning definitely helped me out. Great tips about having the contact info for where you’re staying and your embassy, always important to have!

  6. I can totally relate to this. I’d always travelled with my boyfriend of 6 years until we broke up 6 months ago. I was literally the other side of the world from my family and knew no-one. But I think I cracked on quite spectacularly – met some friends, got a job, tried to move on and did some solo travel (and some travel with friends too which I’ve actually found is SO much more fun that with the ex!) and I think I’m kinda getting there! Well done Ali, love your story 🙂

    1. Thanks Beverley! Definitely sounds like you bounced back from your break up quite well! Solo travel is great for getting over a guy too, reminds you of how strong you are on your own. I’m glad you made some new friends and you’re having a good time!

  7. i have traveled solo out of necessity after the last trip with ‘steve’, but everyone has a steve story.
    now after more than 20 years and a blog for Italian Americans, i will begn a new chapter: http://www.solomaturetravel.om
    hope you will all share your ideas on where to staywhen you rebeyond te all night train or the hotstel, best solo places to eat, etc.
    I am working with yltours in Italy to create solo friendly events that a traveler can participate in. stay tuned.

    Lee Laurino

  8. I have always been comfortable doing things alone in my home country. I eased into long-term solo international travel during a trip with friends to Buenos Aires. I stayed longer and went to Mendoza on my own and even stayed in a hostel dorm for the first time. This helped me build my confidence enough to take the next big leap.

    1. That sounds like a great way to ease yourself into solo travel! That could easily work for someone who isn’t traveling long term too by starting a trip with a friend and then spending a few days apart, or doing half the trip together and the other half solo.

  9. I’ve done solo travel a few times, but generally I only do it for a few weeks at a time. I am not extremely social and have a hard time approaching people so I tend to get lonely on longer trips. Luckily, my husband loves travel as much as I do so he is usually eager to come along.

    1. I’m not the most social person either, and it is the first solo trip was a bit tough from that perspective. But I’ve found over time that I need that social interaction, even if I am more of an introvert, and I just push myself a little harder to talk to people. I’m glad your husband loves to travel too, that’s always a great set up! Thanks Jade!

  10. A really nice post . I’m a Hotel owner in Greece and the last few years we have more and more solo travelers . We are a family run resort and us with also with other guests we try to make them feel as a part of our family . Just i wanted to say anywhere you travel don’t be afraid , everybody will come in touch , the only think you have to do is smiling and be always positive . Nobody bother why you are single when are you on Holidays just everybody wants to have a nice time .

  11. What an inspiring post. Thank you for sharing. I took the plunge and travelled alone and to be honest, it’s the best way to experience a country. At times it can get lonely, but at other times you will have the chance to meet and spend time with so many likeminded travellers, that you will then start to long to be alone again!

    1. Thanks Charles! I’m so glad you took a chance on solo travel and enjoyed it. It does give you more flexibility to be alone if you want to, or to reach out to other travelers and make new friends if you want some company.

  12. here’s my problem. I don’t know how to use google maps. If I know how to use google maps I will travel much more.
    Anyone please tell me how to use google maps?

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