There was a guy a while back who achieved minor Internet fame when he posted forlorn photos of himself traveling alone on a trip to Puerto Rico. Whether snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, enjoying a cocktail, or seeing the sights, he was pouting in every picture because his wife was not able to join him.
Now, I’m sure it sucks to plan (or in this guy’s case, win) a trip with a loved one and then find out that person can’t join you, but his plight also got me thinking about traveling solo, and how wonderful and liberating that experience can be.
Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling with my husband and kids, and we go on plenty of vacations together. But I’ve also had the opportunity to do some travelling by myself, including a bucket list worthy trip to Thailand to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary. While I missed my family during the week I was there, talked to them almost daily, and couldn’t wait to see them upon my return, I relished every minute of my solo adventure and would gladly embark on another one.
Here are some reasons to give solo traveling a try:
- Be in Charge of the Itinerary
This is probably the biggest bonus of solo travel. When it’s only you, you don’t have to compete with anyone else’s interests or “to do” lists. You can shop as long as you want, linger at a café, and wake up as early or as late as you please. And, as with my trip to Thailand, it can be an opportunity to pursue a passion not shared by other members of the family.
- Save Money
This is kind of a no-brainer, but obviously it costs a lot less to buy one plane ticket than two, three, four, or more. The same year I went to Thailand, my husband went to Ireland on a golfing trip. There’s no way we could have paid for our entire family to go on both, but we were able to make it work with just one of us going on each trip. As a solo traveler, you might also be able to take advantage of more economical (and culturally authentic) accommodations, for example, by renting a room at a local guesthouse or a studio apartment through AirBnB.
- Meet the Locals and Make New Friends
There’s nothing that forces you out of your comfort zone more than being alone in a foreign place. Unless you are a true introvert, chances are you’ll want to make connections with others, and when you’re traveling alone, most people – whether they’re fellow travellers or locals – are more than happy to engage in conversation and help you out. When I was in Thailand, I had the pleasure of becoming friends with several fellow volunteers from Australia, one of whom I’ve already seen during his recent trip to San Francisco. If I ever go to Australia, I know he’ll welcome me as well and add valuable local perspective to the trip. Of course, using caution and good judgment goes without saying, especially for female travelers.
- Be a Shutterbug Without Bugging Others
For me, one of the best things about solo travel is that I get to indulge my love of photography, which frankly drives my family crazy. I’ll admit I probably do spend a little too much time behind the lens when I’m on vacation, so at least when I’m by myself, I don’t have to feel so guilty when I stop to capture that perfect shot of the perfect flower. One of the most memorable parts of a solo trip to New Orleans a few years ago was getting up at the crack of dawn to prowl the quiet, post-party streets with my camera.
- Boost Your Confidence
At the end of the day, what you get the most out of solo travel is unbridled confidence in your ability to do anything, overcome any challenge, or start up a conversation with anyone. That’s powerful stuff, and will stay with you well after you’ve unpacked your bags.