The Truth About Solo Travel: The Ups, Downs and Everything in Between

 

There’s something intriguing about traveling alone. Hearing stories about spontaneous adventures and serendipitous encounters, one can’t help but have the illusion that traveling solo is always dreamy.

While it can be quite surreal, the truth is, it’s not always as vivid and sweet as it seems to be.

Let me share with you some truths about solo-traveling:

Sometimes, we travel solo not because we wanted to BUT because we needed to.
Taken at Bantay Church Bell Tower, Vigan

It seems impossible to not have at least one person, whether a family or a friend, join you in your trip, right? But the reality is, each of us have different priorities mostly when it comes to spending money and fixing our schedule of availability.

To begin with, none of us want to be alone especially when we’re in a place we’re not familiar of. But, you just have to make a choice:

Either you WAIT for someone to join you in your future adventures

OR

You just GO NOW, travel solo, and see the world.

Having the time and financial capability, I knew I had to go. I had to do it NOW. I couldn’t wait any longer. If not now, when?

Let me point this out:

I didn’t want to travel, so I could be alone. But I needed to leave, even if it means I will leave by myself, so that I could travel the world. 

At this point, I can’t imagine how life could’ve been and how my life is right now if I had waited for someone to join me, if I didn’t have the courage to travel solo from the very start. I don’t want to even think about it.

It is a bit intimidating.
Marrakesh Central Square

From time to time, people who knew of my solo adventures would tell me how brave I am. Some people admire the idea of it, assuming I had overcome something scary. Other people, on the other hand, reject the idea because they think it can get sad or boring.

All of those things are actually true.

Even until now, I always get nervous when I travel solo especially at the very beginning of the trip. The idea of figuring everything out by yourself, of not knowing the language, of not having friends or not making friends can be really intimidating. You just want to experience and enjoy every single detail but you couldn’t help to have a bit of fear that something could go wrong.

This is why I swallow my nerves and try not to overthink. Perhaps it’s the excitement that comes with it. Traveling solo, you just need to take the first step. Just do it. You somehow develop a sense of familiarity with the unfamiliar as you move from different places and meet different people.

But, it is also liberating.

It’s very liberating to see the places as you wish without having to consider someone else’s preferences or approval. At a glance, it’s about having all the freedom in making decisions and all the flexibility in changing them.

It saves you the trouble of having to wait for someone or perhaps going somewhere that you’re not really interested in. No need to micro-manage or be micro-managed. You can wing it or just go with the flow.

It empowers you to be adventurous, even fearless.

Traveling solo somehow empowers you to leave all your emotional baggage and insecurities behind. Once you’ve overcome that feeling of intimidation and have finally embraced liberty, you can be fearless.

Diving in Cenote El Pit, Tulum, Mexico – from being spontaneous to traveling with a purpose

No one knows you, your past, nor your background.

You are not limited by what you’ve always thought of and instead, you can be more adventurous without the fear of being judged.

You allow yourself to try different things, to be more open to the world and its possibilities.

It becomes easier for you to join like-minded people and perhaps do activities even if it’s out of your comfort zone. You trust your instincts more. You trust yourself even more.

However, sometimes, you get lonely.

The downside in traveling solo is that sometimes, you really feel that you’re completely alone and it just gets lonely.

For me, it arises in challenging situations where you feel like all the bad luck happen simultaneously and there’s no one to help you. It’s during those days that you wish you’re with someone. Unfortunately, at some point, the situation gets the best of you. (One situation for me was on my trip to Luxembourg, where I was left by the last train on a cold, rainy night. You can read about it here.)

And there are days when it’s hard for you to meet people.

Perhaps, you’re in the wrong place or maybe you’re with the wrong crowd. There are just some days when it’s really hard to make a connection even if you’re surrounded with a lot of people.

As inevitable as it can be, this is the downside of traveling alone.

And sometimes, you feel tired, or even burned out from traveling.
Once, I decided to stay at one place for a few weeks. I needed it and couldn’t be any happier.

When you move every 3 to 5 days, you just get quite tired from planning your next stop, saying goodbyes, re-integrating yourself to new people, and everything in between.

Facing all of those things alone can get quite exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally.

Getting sick is one thing. But being mentally and emotionally exhausted is another.

Somehow, You get less motivate. It also hinders you from fully appreciating what’s in front of you.

You need a break from all of it, even if you’re actually on a “break.” The best thing is just try to take a breather.

Allow yourself to be still at one place and completely rest.

There are days when you feel homesick.

If happiness can only be understood through the photos and words we update on our social media, then everything would appear to be a field of sunflowers and roses. But, when you’re away from your home for quite a long time, you just can’t help but be susceptible to this emotion: You feel homesick even if your story tells otherwise.

Being with loved ones on special occasions, celebrating milestones together, or just being physically present to stand by someone are things that you miss when you’re not home. And, you just can’t help it.

But the truth is: You’re never really alone even if you think you are.
Vivid memories and friends that I will keep forever.

You probably have read or heard it a lot of times. But it is true: you’re never really alone out there even when you travel by yourself.

There are a lot of travelers in the world and just like you, they took an interest to visit the places that you also intended to visit. You will meet them probably in a walking tour, at the bus stop, in a hostel, or sometimes, online.

The point is, you will definitely be surrounded with like-minded people. It is up to you, however, to take the opportunity to share your interests with and travel together.

Sometimes, you get even get special connections and make long term friends that you can (hopefully) keep forever.

It gives you perspective.

Having said all that (above), traveling alone really gives you perspective.

When you feel alone, sad, or homesick, it makes you appreciate how it is to be with someone and to truly be grateful for the presence of other people whenever possible. You embrace your freedom while at the same time, you treasure being home.

Seeing the world freely, you also get to see how you are as a citizen of the world and as an independent individual. You recognize your weaknesses while at the same time, you see how tough you can also be. You get to be both at the same time.

The way you understand and appreciate things become deeper. You learn to value what you have and learn what really is important. Somehow, you see yourself and the world differently.

I guess this is why most of us say that you should try at least once to travel solo.

It is nothing short of mind-blowing.

When you do it, fully submit to it without inhibitions. Be fearless but be smart and trust your instincts. Allow yourself to leave all your behind your fears and insecurities behind.

If you really want to do something, you don’t have to wait. You will feel it in your heart when the right time comes. Just trust yourself and in the universe that everything will be fine. And it will be worth it.

Me and the Cave Houses in Kandovan, Iran

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8 thoughts on “The Truth About Solo Travel: The Ups, Downs and Everything in Between

  1. Great post Kattrinna. I’m a firm believer that solo travel is so freeing and empowering. But you hit on some of the downsides that we all experience at one time or other. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. ARI

    I couldn’t agree more with a lot of your points. The fear is there, but guess what, we have the power to Overcome it, to take the power away from it. We have all the Power in the Universe to live the life that we want to live, to live our way even if it’s inconvenient for other people (back home judging maybe), to find our truths and meet our challenges. Beautiful that you just went for it! I can certainly relate!

  3. This. I travel solo a lot (as a nurse going on medical missions) and I go through all these emotions – nervous until I take that first step to get on the plane, then empowered and excited, to those moments of feelings lonely and homesick, and then making really treasured friendships with the people I meet. It can be up and down, for sure, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

  4. Jac

    Ups, downs, landslides, chasms and peaks – solo travel is a bit of a rollercoaster ride but I’m glad to be on it no matter what and it looks like you are too 🙂

    Here’s wishing you more awesome travels whether you are solo or not!

  5. Sarah

    Great perspective and great that you’re admitting to the not so awesome stuff. particularly love what you said about being able to be a different person 🙂 I’ve only traveled solo for a day or two at a time, but would love to do more if I have the opportunity.

  6. Love the honesty and perspective in this article! Agree with a lot. Thank you for sharing!

  7. I completely agree on needing to solo travel at times. I have done that myself and while it was not too many times, I still got comments “do know how you can do this, I could never do this, I’d be lonely”. Often people would assume you are lonely and alone for travelling solo 🙁 for me it was the question of wanting to do something and not waiting for everyone else to be there for me or with me.

  8. I completely agree with all your points, thanks for writing them down. People often looked at me weirdly went I traveled around solo through places as India and Iran. But I find it liberating, eye opening and life changing!

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