Solo travel has a lot of myths and misconceptions. It’s unfortunate because almost concern I’ve heard has never come from anyone who’s gone on a solo trip. Most times, they’re asked by people who don’t even like traveling. I understand some concerns about solo traveling because the unknown is scary for sure. I get that. But all the solo travelers I’ve encountered realize that all the worries they had before they began their journey were silly. This is not to say that the concerns are unfounded. But I think once you do it, you realize how silly all this worrying is. You can’t control the unknown but when it gets to the point that it prevents you from trying anything new, it’s a huge hindrance.
Here are 5 common myths about solo travel
- Solo travel is dangerous
- You’ll get bored being on your own
- Solo travel is only for introverts
- You have to be single to travel solo
- You have to be rich to travel solo
Solo Travel is Dangerous
This is one I hear all the time. Now I won’t deny there is a sense of security when it comes to traveling in a group. That said, that is no guarantee for one’s safety either. You could be on a bus full of people but if you’re in a bad neighborhood, it won’t matter if you’re by yourself or in a bus. If it is dangerous, it’s probably because you haven’t taken the proper precautions before you got yourself into a situation. We’re all responsible for being smart, informed travelers and if we are going to take risks, we need to make sure we can accept any consequences that may occur.
You can’t live in fear and you can’t constantly worry about what might happen. However, that doesn’t mean you take a “no fear” attitude and jump out of a plane without a parachute. All you can do is use common sense and some street smarts to figure out when you should remove yourself from an area or situation. If you’re traipsing around town during a riot, don’t be stupid enough to take out your cell phone and record what’s going on. You might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time to be caught in the middle of the riot but that doesn’t mean you have to remain there. Just get out.
Knowing your limitations and what is an acceptable amount of risk to take is part of solo travel. You don’t have anyone to “watch your back” but the point is to not put yourself in that situation in the beginning. The best piece of advice I can give is that you need to trust your gut. I’m not going to say I’m perfect with this and I’ve certainly had moments where I look back and think “boy that was stupid” even though it worked out and makes for an interesting story now. But as you travel more, you’ll get better at reading a situation and making a clear, informed decision.
Research the bad parts of town before you arrive. The internet is a great resource and a wealth of information. It’s so easy to ask a stranger who is a local to figure out what the good and bad parts of the city are. Many of these places are perfectly fine to visit during the day but become unsafe during the night. So, if you want to visit the area, make sure you do it during the day and leave with plenty of time to ensure you can be back in a safe area before it gets too late.
When I was in Buenos Aires, I wanted to check out the Recoleta area which is a tourist part of town but located in a not so great part of town. Since I was there during the day, I missed my bus stop but I was still comfortably able to walk a few blocks and make it to the main area. However, I would not recommend walking around there at night. Now since I knew before I left that the surrounding area was a little rough around the edges at night, I felt comfortable just walking back (even though I certainly put away by camera and walked quickly).
Look, take risks. But make sure they’re manageable and you understand what you’re getting yourself into. Taking the calculated risk when solo traveling is great because it’ll oftentimes give you a great story to tell afterwards. But make sure you aren’t being stupid and reckless.
You’ll Get Bored Being on Your Own
This one makes me laugh more than anything but I hear it all the time. I can honestly say I’ve never been bored with a city when there are things to do. I have been bored in cities before but that was because I just didn’t find it all that interesting to be there. But that is a reflection on the destination, not the people or solo travel.
I like to visit old temples, ruins, churches, etc. It just find that fascinating and I make it a point to visit any UNESCO sites that are near. I try to jam pack as many sites as I can visit if there are multiple sites nearby because I don’t know when I’ll be back and sometimes these sites can be a bit of a pain to reach. But I really enjoy just seeing them and walking around places that have been around for ages.
My other joy when traveling is food so I’ll go anywhere and try anything. I love trying new foods (especially street foods) so I can happily walk around a town square for hours and just graze on everything I can get my hands on.
I say this because those are the main things that make me happy when I travel. Seeing old sites and trying local foods is a great joy for me so I always have something to do. Do the things that you want to do that make you happy. If that means going to museums, go. Concerts, symphonies, plays, etc? Go to a matinee in the afternoon and a comedy troupe at night. If you enjoy sports, try to coordinate your trip with a local or major sporting event. If you like soccer, go to a game. But if you just want to see what it’s like to go to a sporting event that you’ve never seen, go watch hurling in Ireland, cricket in Australia, sumo in Japan, or kabaddi in India. The options are endless.
This doesn’t mean that you have to have something planned every hour of every day either. The joy of solo travel is that you don’t have to compromise your time. You get to do what you want. If you want to sleep in, order room service, and lounge by the pool enjoying drinks with little umbrellas in them, go right ahead! Just because you don’t have anything to do doesn’t mean you’re bored. Most days when I get home from the office, I just sit on the couch and watch tv. And I’m not bored at all. I’m tired, exhausted, and sometimes hungry…but I’m definitely not bored. So it’s important to understand that you can enjoy your time alone in a million different ways.
Solo Travel is Only for Introverts
I think this is absurd. Introverts might enjoy being alone but being a solo traveler means you can dictate how you want to travel. Extroverts and introverts alike can enjoy solo travel. I think solo travel just gives you an opportunity to recharge the batteries when you need to. A quick reset if you will. If you want to go out and explore the city and meet new people, you can. But if you feel like you just need a quiet night alone, you can have it.
One of the biggest concerns for would be solo travelers is how they could meet people. An extrovert really wouldn’t have that problem because they should be able to meet people at bars, tours, cafes, etc. Introverts might have that problem but to me, that just means an extrovert would have an easier time adjusting to solo travel. Of course, you can’t just sit in your hotel or your Airbnb by yourself and expect to meet people. But that rule applies to everyone. An introverted person may not mind being alone but an extrovert, if you’re really an extrovert, should enjoy going out to meet new people.
That said, even the most ardent extrovert has to admit that even they need some time to unwind. That doesn’t mean you suddenly change from an extrovert to an introvert. It just means you need some time for yourself. Everyone needs this. For example, if you come from a large family and you’re constantly used to having your siblings around, don’t you enjoy, even for a little bit, some time where you can be all alone and not be bothered?
Personally, I enjoy my alone time. I live alone (except with my beagle) and I like it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy spending time with people either. I wouldn’t categorize myself as an introvert but I wouldn’t consider myself an extrovert either. I enjoy the company of others but I also enjoy having quiet nights alone where I can just do what I want. Solo travel allows you do that regardless of your personality type. Solo travel isn’t just for introverts much like it isn’t just for extroverts. It’s for people who enjoy traveling and want to explore on their own terms.
You Have to be Single to Travel Solo
For those who are married and say “well I can’t travel alone because I’m married,” I have one question. How did you ever do anything before you were married or in a relationship? You weren’t always in a relationship. So when you were single, did you just not do anything? At what point in your life did “my life” become “our lives” in every aspect? Now that you’re in a relationship, does this mean people should look at you and your spouse as only a single entity?
If you enjoy traveling but your spouse doesn’t, does that mean you can never travel again? No! That just means you have different likes. Obviously you love and care for each other. But that doesn’t mean everything you do has to be done with your spouse in mind. You’re both allowed to have fun and enjoy the things that make you happy.
Another reason to consider solo travel while in a relationship is because it’s important to realize that you both have relationships with others as well. Maybe you want to travel with just the girls or just the boys. That’s perfectly fine. I’m sure we’ve all been dragged to an event where we didn’t want to go but felt obligated to attend because our significant other wanted us to go. Well solo traveling gives you a free pass to do what you want. Solo travel without your spouse allows you to experience things differently as well as gives you an opportunity for personal growth as well.
You Have to be Rich to Travel Solo
Look, money will always make things easier to travel. It’s certainly easier to just book a ticket and stay wherever you want when you don’t have to worry about cost. When you look at the cost of travel and how solo travel doesn’t allow you to split expenses, it can be a bi overwhelming. Add in the cost of single supplements, and it’s easy to see why there’s this misconception that you need to be rich to travel solo. However, with enough planning and a little ingenuity, you can travel for much less.
There are a number of different ways to keep costs down but the one I utilize the most is to travel shoulder or off season. Sure, the weather might be terrible and you might be caught in a few rainstorms, but you’ll certainly save on the hotel and airfare (which is usually the two big ticket items of a trip). Since tourism is typically down during these seasons, hotel prices are lower and airfare is cheaper. You can check out other tips and suggestions on my post on how to keep costs down HERE.
Another way to travel cheaply is to use airline and hotel points and miles to get reduced airfare and hotels. There are plenty of credit cards you can sign up for accumulate these points and with sign up bonuses, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can earn your way to flights and hotels. However, this comes with a huge caveat. If you aren’t able to keep tight control of your finances, you can certainly end up paying much more for that “discounted” airline ticket than you would have spent just paying full price.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding solo travel and unfortunately they’re all asked by people who have never been solo traveling before. It drives me bonkers when people bring up arguments against solo travel when they’ve never done it before. I think they should at least have the guts to do something before they have an opinion on it. I’ve traveled all around the globe to dozens of countries and it’s a learning process that gets easier with every trip. If you’re apprehensive about going on your first solo trip, I get it. It’s the unknown that’s scary. But don’t believe all the negativity, the misconceptions, and the scare mongering. It’s good to be cautious but don’t let it stop you from going on your first trip. Once you go, I bet you’ll be planning your next trip on the plane ride back home.