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15 things no one tells you about travelling solo

Travelling solo is an experience that everyone should have at least once in their life

Solo travel is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in your life. It is challenging yet enriching. Solo travel will help you grow into a stronger more confident person who knows exactly who they are! 

Taking trips by yourself is incredible but there are a number of things that people don't really talk about. In this post, you are going to get a reality check of what it is really like to travel on your own. You will discover what might happen and also how you will change after a heavy dose of intrepid solo travel.

Whether you are a first-time solo female traveller or you are an experienced solo traveller this post has something for you.

travelling solo

1. You will probably cry at some point when travelling solo

First-time solo travel can be a daunting experience, it can be daunting even for experienced solo travellers. Travelling alone can be tough at times, especially if it is your first trip alone somewhere foreign. Things might go awfully wrong and overseas travel can be exhausting. When you have no one to lean on or to help you out, feelings of dread can creep in.

Travelling by yourself in a foreign country will force you out of your comfort zone right from the get-go. If this is your first solo trip, you are the only one that is responsible for yourself. It is up to you and you alone to get yourself from A to B, to organise transport, accommodation and decide what to eat and what to do. This combined with things going pear-shaped can bring on thoughts like: “What the hell was I thinking!”. This is especially true at the start of your trip when the culture shock sets in. You realise that you have no one to fall back on for help or advice.

As time goes on and you become a more experienced solo traveller these feelings of overwhelm will ease. But things can still go wrong! Feelings of loneliness and homesickness can creep in, no matter how experienced you are.

Taking a vacation alone can feel like you are being put through the wringer. You will probably need to shed some tears at some point. Just know what is totally normal and okay to cry. In fact, it’s good to cry and just let all your fears, frustrations and emotions out. You can then can pick yourself up again stronger than before.

2. Solo travel can feel lonely, even when you aren’t alone

Travelling the world alone can feel really lonely, even when lots of people are around you. As a solo traveller, you don’t want to admit that you feel lonely and confirm what others must be thinking. Travelling solo requires a special mix of being happy in your own company and being comfortable getting to know strangers. This combination can be tricky for people to master, making backpacking alone isolating at times. Particularly if you value deep connection with others.

You are more likely to meet incredible lifelong friends when you travel solo. But that doesn’t change the fact you have to continually have to get to know to build connections with strangers. Even when you make new friends, most of the time everyone still does their own thing and goes on their own journey. This means you usually get separated from your travel buddies at some point and have to start again. You also know that you are still fully responsible for yourself. This is liberating but can feel lonely at the same time.

It is relatively easy to form strong bonds with the people you meet while travelling solo. The memories and experiences you share with people you meet on the road are unlike anything else. Remember that you will have friends dotted all over the globe after a solo trip.

travelling solo

3. You might not make friends at every hostel you stay in 

Backpacking solo and staying in hostels is the best way to travel alone. However, how social the hostel usually depends on its location, the type of travellers it markets to and who happens to be there at the time. The people who are staying there at the same time can really make or break a hostel experience for you.

When you think of hostels you might picture a big common room with a TV, card games, a kitchen everyone cooks together in and plenty of nights out together. 

While sometimes this is true, other times hostels can be lacking in common areas and social guests. It can also come down to how social the hostel staff are how much effort they put into creating a social environment.

You may also find that many travellers in hostels tend to keep to themselves and don’t really want to be disturbed. This is usually because they’ve been travelling alone for a long time and just want to do their own thing. Or they are in a couple or group who aren’t as open to meeting new people.

It is important to push yourself to talk with other travellers even if you feel shy or uncomfortable. Sometimes you won’t meet anyone at a hostel and then at another hostel you might make 10 lifelong friends. You never know! And that is all part of the excitement of travelling. Either way, you will still have an epic time either making new friends or just doing your own thing. Also, read hostel reviews to get a good idea of what the vibe is like.

4. You have to be everything to yourself

As a solo traveller, you are your own support system, guardian, planner, navigator and every other role you can think of! Especially if you are into solo adventure travel you could find yourself in sticky situations that you have to get yourself out of.

This will only become apparent when you are in a difficult situation or just want someone else to take care of something for you. Every decision you make and every little thing you do has to be done by you alone! You will learn to absolutely love deciding what you want to do at every minute of the day, but it can be exhausting. This can be a huge adjustment if you are used to always doing things with family, friends or a partner. This usually affects solo female travellers particularly hard.

While this can seem challenging to get used to, it is actually a blessing as it allows you to really figure out who you are, what you like and don’t like. It teaches how you interact with certain situations and people without any outside influence from others affecting how you behave. This is huge because you will intimately learn about yourself and discover aspects of your personality you never even knew about!

travelling solo

5. At times you will wish you had someone to share your incredible experiences with

Like Christopher McCandless from the film Into the Wild says “happiness is only real when shared”, you can feel the pinch of being alone when experiencing something spectacular. 

Whether it is a memorable interaction with a local or a sunset that simply takes your breath away, it can be so special to share those memories with someone who you can reminisce on with later in life.

Sharing special moments like this creates a bond between people and encapsulates a once in a lifetime experience into both of your minds. This makes creating memories in foreign countries so profound. 

You can share special moments with anyone whether it is a partner, friend, family, colleague or someone you just met the other day in a cafe!

This feeling of wanting someone by your side will usually happen when you are experiencing something completely on your own, which is why it is nice to form friendships with people you meet along the way.

6. You will come away with a lifetime of invaluable lessons

When we are going with the motions of everyday life at home we become distracted, comfortable and complacent with the society we are brought up to accept as normal. When you go travelling alone all of this gets completely turned upside down.

As you step out of your ‘normal’ life, all of the conditioning and distractions get stripped bare. There is no family, friends, routines and media to distract you anymore. Suddenly you are faced with the reality of what your life is. This gives you the opportunity to contemplate who you are, what you want to do and the type of reality you want to create. It gives you space and time to face aspects of yourself and your life that you usually distract yourself from such as fears, insecurities, desires, trauma, hopes and dreams.

Travelling solo can open your whole world up to limitless possibilities. You may realise that truly anything is possible and maybe the life you have at home, in fact, isn’t the life you want to lead. You will be influenced by people you meet who have a different way of thinking and living which may have seemed impossible to you.

Solo travel may give you the confidence to quit your corporate job, to move out of the city or to a new country. It might give you the clarity and drive to discover and pursue your dreams and find purpose in your life. There is nothing like experiencing foreign countries where people have absolutely nothing yet are the happiest in the world to really put your life into perspective.

Travelling solo will also teach you valuable lessons about yourself like what you value, how you cope with stress, how you communicate, your preferred climates and the type of people and places you really ‘vibe’ with. 

7. Eating alone feels really uncomfortable at first

Travelling solo means eating in restaurants alone at times. If you aren’t used to eating alone, it can feel awful at first. You might become really self-conscious and worry that people are looking at you and wondering why you are by yourself. It can also be difficult to know what to do with yourself! Solo female travellers can feel particularly vulnerable doing things alone like eating, going to bars or wandering streets.

Once you have done it a few times you will discover the bliss that can be found in the quiet moments alone enjoying delicious food and your own company. It is also the best way to people watch, something that is a must when travelling!

Here are some things you can do to feel more comfortable eating alone:

  • Bring a book to read or a journal to write in
  • Have your back to the other diners
  • Visit during off-peak hours
  • Bring your phone so you can use the time to catch up with friends at home

Doing other things alone can be much easier than something as social as eating out. Exploring towns and cities, tourist attractions, museums and going for hikes alone can be an incredible and therapeutic experience. You can go at your own pace and get fully immersed (or lost!) without having to worry about anyone else. If you like something you can stay for longer if it’s not your cup of tea you can leave!

travelling solo

8. It can be more expensive and inconvenient travelling solo

Unfortunately, the world isn’t really set up for people travelling solo. This means it can be more expensive to travel alone as you don’t have anyone to split costs with such as transport, food and accommodation.

This can feel really frustrating at first, like the ‘single person’ excess you need to pay for group trips. The luxury of your own private room can be double the price! Sometimes attractions are cheaper per person the more people you have like Safaris in Sri Lankaor the Island Hopping boat trips in the Philippines

The ways to get around this are to get out of your comfort zone and try and find people to split the cost of things with you, stay in dorms or find ways to get cheaper private rooms. Learn the art of negotiating room prices for longer stays or take advantage of volunteering with Workaway to save a ton of money and meet more people while travelling.

9. You will change after solo travel

When you go on a big solo adventure you will change so much, when you return home you will feel like a complete alien. Everything at home will have remained the same but you will have changed so much and seen so many new things. It can be difficult to reconcile who you were before and who you are now!

You will have made so many new connections and friends who couldn’t be more different from your friends and family at home. All these different people, places and perspectives have a huge influence on you and how you feel when you return home.

You might come home with a completely different look, different values and a completely different way you want to live your life. City bars may have once been your thing but when you come home you may just be craving sitting on the side of the road drinking a chai or exploring expansive mountains. 

This can have an impact on your relationships at home as you may find you just can’t relate to the same people as you could before. You may find yourself searching for new circles of friends who are into the same things as you, this is totally fine and is part of your own personal growth and development as a result of travelling solo.

10. It’s awkward to get photos taken when travelling alone

If you like documenting your travels in pictures, it can be tough capturing yourself in photos when you are travelling solo. Especially if you aren’t comfortable asking strangers for photos! If you like to take good quality pictures it can also be hard to get amazing photos when you just ask anyone to capture a moment.

There are a few ways around this. You can get a GoPro and a selfie stick to take pictures of yourself. If that isn’t your thing you can get a tripod for your phone or camera to set up your own photoshoots. 

You can also push yourself out of your comfort zone and practice asking strangers for pictures. Just always offer to take a picture for them as well, most people are more than happy with this exchange!

Another strategy is to befriend people at your hostel and take them with you. Then you can take epic photos for each other!

travelling solo

11. You will get sick and bored of travelling solo

Travelling solo is a 24/7 gig and you will, at times, just get over it and want to go home and do ‘normal’ things again. It is normal to feel like this and it’s important to know that these feelings will definitely pass.

Usually, when you feel like this you are exhausted and just not really vibing with the people or place that you are staying. Not every place you visit is going to captivate you and you might find yourself itching to leave much sooner than planned.

Plus when you are alone you have to fill your day with things to do, you don’t have a job or anything to keep you busy. This can lead to feelings of boredom and being unproductive.

The best part about travelling alone though is that you are free to move on when you please. These feelings of boredom and just being over it give you an opportunity to explore and discover different things you want to do to keep you occupied and happy. You will discover new hobbies and interests you never had before like making jewellery or slacklining, maybe you will take up table tennis or hula hooping.

The evenings tend to be the most boring times for a solo traveller. They tend to drag on and you might find yourself waiting for an appropriate time to go to sleep. It might be awkward or even unsafe to explore the nightlife on your own!

To combat boredom make sure you have books and a laptop for when you are chilling in your room. Think of extra hobbies or interests you could explore like starting a travel blog or learning a new skill like macrame. Be proactive and book tickets to a show or go along to an evening walking tour. Participate in the hostel social events if they have them or just hang out in the common area.

12. You will realise most people are kind and generous when travelling solo

One thing that travelling alone can do is restore your faith in humanity! Solo travellers tend to rely heavily on the kindness of strangers at various times. There will probably be times where you will need to reach out for help or find yourself totally alone. Most locals and travellers will be willing to bend over backwards to help you and to make you feel welcome.

You will probably experience outstanding hospitality and people willing to help you buy tickets, carry your bags, give directions or even make phone calls for you in their language. 

Most people in the world are good. They genuinely want to help you without stealing from you, hurting you or ripping you off (which many of us are led to believe when we want to solo travel!).

13. You always have to take care of your own luggage when travelling solo

This is one of the most annoying things about travelling alone that no one really talks about. You might not even realise this until you have to take all your bags into a public toilet cubicle! 

Travelling solo means you have to have all your belongings on you at all times. This can be frustrating when you are going to the bathroom or trying things on in a shop. It can also make you hyper-aware of how heavy your bags are when you have to carry everything by yourself! This is especially true if you are backpacking and have to walk some distance to get to your accommodation.

Keep in mind the weight of your bag when you are packing. Pack as light as possible (knowing you will accumulate stuff on the way). If you are obviously struggling with your bags, particularly for women travellers, someone will more than likely offer to help. 

14. Feeling disappointed with a destination when travelling solo

It is totally normal to feel disappointed and depressed at a destination when you are travelling alone. This usually always happens on the first day or two when you arrive somewhere new. Maybe it’s not what you expected or you just take some time getting used to a new place.

When you have high expectations of what a destination should be, it can be really disappointing when you are faced with its reality. Or maybe you just aren’t feeling a place and the people. Having bad weather can also seriously affect how you feel about a destination!

When you are travelling solo these feelings of disappointment can be much worse. Especially if you have just left a place and people you absolutely loved!

To combat this assure yourself that you can leave at any time, and go back to the places you loved (a huge advantage of solo travel!). Also, research the places you are going. Make sure you visit during a season that is preferable to you as this affects the weather and the atmosphere.

15. Travelling with friends will become a challenge

After you have been travelling solo for a while, travelling with people again can seem like a big ask. You develop habits and get used to just doing your own thing and going where you want when you want.

When you go back to travelling with others suddenly you have to compromise and take other people into account. The longer you solo travel for the harder it can be to start travelling with others again. 

An easy way to overcome this is to only plan trips with 1 or 2 people. You could also allow your friends to tag along for a section of your solo trips.

There you have 15 things no one tells you about travelling solo! 

Going on holiday alone takes a lot of courage. A solo getaway will transform your life for the better. But before you embark on a solo adventure it’s good to have your expectations set and understand what might happen and also how you might change yourself (for the better!).