Why I Don’t Travel Solo

Affordable Croatia: Dubrovnik on a Dime
Preparing for Location Independence: 5 Lessons Learned

Everywhere you turn these days people are talking about solo travel, particularly solo female travel. It’s become the ultimate symbol of empowerment. By traveling solo you’re basically telling the world that you’re self-sufficient, that you’re capable of achieving your dreams, and that you’re not going to let anything hold you back.

Which is great.

This is the ideal...right?

Really, it is. I’m all about expanding your boundaries, and I don’t think that anyone should be dependent on another person when it comes to achieving your dreams.

However.

In a lot of ways, solo travel has been put on this pedestal above all other travel. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes it feels as though there’s this sentiment that you aren’t a real traveler until you travel solo.

Which is ridiculous, of course. There is no right or wrong way to travel (so long as you aren’t being an asshole).

Let me be clear: I admire and respect solo travelers. They have amazing strength and determination, and I’m thrilled to see them inspiring others. In many ways I’m jealous of them, because they have successfully managed to do what so many cannot, all on their own.

That said, I am not a solo traveler.

This partially due to circumstance. While I’m not totally opposed to traveling on my own, I usually have no problem finding people willing to go with me on trips.

But you know what? If I were given the choice, I don’t think I would go it alone — not unless there were absolutely no other options.

Why I don't travel solo

When it comes down to it, I simply prefer to share my experiences. I’m willing to sacrifice the guaranteed independence of solo travel to obtain that. For me, it’s worth it.

Over the years I’ve had travel companions ranging from friends to partners to family members. Just like anything else, you have to find the mix that works for you. I don’t think I’d like solo travel (just watch me put my foot in my mouth later). I know from experience that I don’t like travel with large groups.

But paired travel? With a single travel buddy that I can dedicate time and energy to exploring the world with?

Sign me up.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one. After all, there are a ton of benefits that come along with having someone to share the road with.

The Five Biggest Benefits of a Traveling Companion

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1. Traveling with a friend is cheaper

Starting on a practical note, it’s often much cheaper to have a friend or loved one with whom you can split costs. Apartment rentals in particular are often cheaper if there are two or more travelers. I use Airbnb a lot, and almost every unit I’ve booked has been cheaper with multiple people, even if there’s a per-person surcharge.

Similarly, campgrounds usually charge by the site, rather than by the head. Many outdoor activities, including camping but also hiking, climbing, kayaking, biking, and more, require expensive gear that can sometimes be shared. Other expenses, like car rentals, are more affordable when split.

2. A traveling companion creates a safety net

I know that sometimes there’s a lot to be said for going out there and making your travel dreams come true on your own. But, you know, sometimes it’s nice to have someone to fall back on. Maybe I’m not as adventurous as I pretend to be, but when I’m with someone else I feel safer, more confident, and more motivated.

As an extreme introvert, left to my own devices on a trip it’s very possible that I would come up with excuses to hide inside all day. Being around a trusted friend or loved one helps force me to go out and see the world without the added anxiety that social interaction sometimes brings.

I’m also the sort of person who sometimes acts a little recklessly. I’ve learned that I need to have someone nearby to be the voice of reason sometimes. And, when something does go wrong (like your car breaks down on the side of the road, or you end up in a questionable neighborhood) you have someone there to help see it through.

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3. A travel buddy will push you to your limits, and vice versa

Tara and I do a great job of complementing one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Where social situations make me nervous, her anxieties are almost the exact opposite — including a fear of open spaces. We help one another to pursue those experiences that we wouldn’t on our own.

Tara and I also respect one another enough to know when to back off, or when the stress or anxiety is becoming too much. It’s all about balance, and having a traveling companion that you trust is crucial.

Traveling with someone else will also push you to try new places and activities you may have never considered. When we were in Croatia last summer, Tara really wanted to go on a day trip to Mostar. I didn’t know much about Bosnia, and at first was a little hesitant. It turned out to be one of my favorite experiences on the trip. Without Tara there to suggest it, I never would have gone.

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4. Traveling with someone allows you to really know them

“I have found out that ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” – Mark Twain

Oh, Mark Twain. Have I mentioned how much I love that man? Beyond his delicious rhetoric and amazing satire, he cuts to the truth like no other. Travel is an amazing way to really get to know a person, and where you stand with them.

This can be a double-edged sword, of course. Being in close quarters with someone, dealing with the stress of organizing and executing travel plans, and handling the inevitable mishaps will undeniably lead to strain. But it also is a test of endurance and flexibility, and gives you an opportunity to grow closer than ever.

It also allows you to take super awkward selfies.

5. A traveling companion gives you someone to reminisce with

There have been a few times when I’ve been somewhere truly awe-inspiring on my own and later tried to describe it to another person. My explanations always fall stupendously short.

When witnessing something truly moving, my first inclination is to share that experience with others. It’s part of what makes me a storyteller. To have someone with me in the moment only enhances that.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been somewhere and thought I wish ______ were here. They would really love this. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a moment of solitude, a little secret slice of time between yourself and the universe. But when someone is there to share the moment with you, it allows you to draw in an entirely new perspective. You each bring your own life experiences and thoughts to the table, allowing for a richer experience overall.

Even more importantly, months or years down the road you have someone to reminisce with. Instead of a secret between yourself and the universe, it’s a private secret between the two of you. I’ve found that it’s those moments I rely on when I’m feeling down.

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I mean, there really aren’t words to describe what moments like the one above, on Mount Srd in Croatia, meant.

Remember: There is no such thing as the perfect traveling companion

I think some people are intimidated by the idea of traveling with someone else. It’s easy to feel as if your own plans are going to be usurped and dragged astray by a micro-managing companion, especially if you’re a control freak like me. It’s also reasonable to worry that you might inadvertently destroy a perfectly good friendship by discovering that you don’t travel well together.

The truth is that you can’t prepare for everything. Whether you’re traveling with your partner, friend, or a complete stranger there are going to be challenges. This is where flexibility becomes important. If something isn’t working, all of the involved parties need to be open to communicating about it and adjusting if needed. Compromise and negotiation becomes essential to success and, yeah, sometimes it may seem easier to just call it quits and go solo.

And if it turns out that that’s the right travel style for you, then that’s a lesson well learned.

For me, though, I know that whether I’m at my highest highs or my lowest lows I appreciate the ability to share in that moment with another person.

Do you choose to travel solo, or do you have a travel buddy? Which do you prefer?



Affordable Croatia: Dubrovnik on a Dime
Preparing for Location Independence: 5 Lessons Learned
  • Coconut_Meat

    Solo travel is very intimidating for most people, and they have no desire to do it. For those that go through with it I assume they don’t like it. I understand how people can find it lonely. A person is leaving their support system and exploring a new place on their own. I think that is exciting. I’ve always been a bit of an explorer. I’ve done 5 so far, and I’m looking forward to doing more. I think if it isn’t your thing you aren’t any less of a traveler or even any less of an explorer. You just have a greater need for companionship, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    • I think your last sentence hit the nail on the head. The need for companionship is strong with me, which is interesting because I’m a super introvert. I think I crave familiar faces so much that when I’m traveling solo I feel completely lost and, yeah, lonely.

      That said, if it works for you, then go for it!

  • Interesting post! I’ve never traveled solo because I’ve been lucky enough to always have enthusiastic companions to come along. And the truth is, I LOVE having someone with me. But travelers who’ve done it always talk about how freeing and empowering it is, and I’ll admit, I’m intrigued!

    • I think the thing about solo travel that intrigues me most is the ability to go at my own pace. I tend to feel like I’m either being rushed or not moving fast enough, depending on who my travel partner is. It would be nice to go it my own and time things in a way that works for me. That said, I’m not sure if that advantage outweighs the ability to share the experience with someone!

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Kayt Adamson

    I recently did a solo trip to Sri Lanka for a week and it was incredibly liberating. I was able to go and do whatever I wanted, when I wanted. But, there were so many moments where I kept saying to myself, “_______ would love this!” or “I wish ____________ could be here for this!” And that’s when I realized solo travel was an amazing experience but not something I NEED to do to feel like an accomplished traveler.

    Really enjoyed your post and could relate to so many points! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • You’re welcome! I do think that everyone should try solo travel at least once — just to see if it jives with them or not. It didn’t really work for me, but it is liberating in some ways. And just like group travel, couples travel, friend travel, etc. you’ll never know until you try. But yeah, you don’t NEED to travel any one way, except the way that makes you happy. 🙂

  • I’ve never truly traveled solo. Sometimes, the flight will be by myself, but it’s always to meet up with someone on the other end for the actual exploring. As a mum to 3 kids, I now constantly have them and their dad/my hubby as my travel companions. I think my favorite part of it is what you said in #5, the shared reminiscence. It’s also interesting to discover how each of us reacts differently to the same situation. Collectively, we build a multi-faceted story of our travels.

  • I started traveling solo, mostly because I didn’t have anyone willing to go with me. And I will say the experiences have changed my life and I really love the feeling of being totally on my own. That being said, I have started finding more travel companions these days and also see the benefits of traveling with someone, and having someone to share your costs and experiences with. I love the conveniences of having a travel partner, but I also love not having to compromise at all and somehow, I tend to meet more travelers and locals when I am alone. I think for me, a good mix of travel styles works, well maybe not a big organized tour group, but solo, or with a companion or two are both good ways to go!
    Katie

    • I’m glad that you’ve had a chance to experience both and figure out what works for you! I’m a very independent person, so I’m sure that after awhile solo travel would feel more comfortable, but I do love having someone to share things with. I think it’s good to give as many different kinds of travel a try (except maybe big group travel, that scares me, lol) and see what works best for you.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Living abroad alone must have been an amazing experience! And yeah, I totally agree. I have to be selective with who I travel with so we don’t end up annoying one another. There are very few people I can stand for long, uninterrupted periods of time. But I absolutely love traveling with those people!

  • Time Travel Plans

    Such a great post! I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile as well because as you’ve noticed, the internet is full of solo (female) traveler posts. But like you, I also love to travel with others – mainly my hubs or family or friends – for all of the reasons you mentioned. I’m not opposed to trying solo travel but I know myself very well, and I know that as an introvert, I like to travel with others who I can share great moments with followed by some alone/quiet time at the end of the day. Personally, I think it’s so much more rewarding when you can share all of your special encounters on the road with someone else.

    • Definitely! I’m probably going to have the chance to solo travel in the near future, just due to conflicting schedules and whatnot. I’m definitely not going to say no to travel because I can’t find someone to go with, but I have a feeling I won’t necessarily enjoy it as much or in the same way.

  • I like to travel with a partner as well – someone that I trust and know that I can have fun with. I don’t much like traveling in big groups (I just find that you have to cater to too many people’s wants and needs), but I think traveling with a partner is perfect for me. That’s not to say that solo traveling isn’t great, I just like to have someone to share my experiences with – just like you mentioned!

    • Yeah, exactly! I’m definitely a fan of only traveling with one or maybe two other people. Any more than that and I think it begins getting overwhelming. I mentioned in the post that I’m an introvert, and I really get overwhelmed with huge groups of people. But a single person I’m close to? That actually helps me become more comfortable in crowds.

  • Connie Reed

    Thanks for this article, Jessi. I feel much the same as you do. Lately it seems you aren’t a real “traveler” if you don’t travel solo. I mostly travel with my husband, unless I’m on a group press trip. I have thought about whether I’d enjoy travel as much as I do if I had to do it solo. The answer is no. Maybe I’d be forced to be more adventurous, but I know I’d always make sure I was back in my hotel before dark, and I wouldn’t hike or kayak alone or go anywhere that there weren’t groups of people. And I’d be just plain lonesome. Part of the thrill of travel is sharing moments with another person, laughing at blunders, oohing and aahing in awe at the grandeur of nature, I can think of positives to solo travel, like going where you want, when you want without having to get a partner to agree to it. And a lot of people obviously love solo travel. But for me, I’d rather not travel alone.

    • You’re welcome! I do think there’s a lot to be said for solo travel. I know it forces you to push your limits in a totally different way than paired or group travel. That doesn’t mean it’s for everyone, though! 🙂 I’ll take a travel buddy any day.