The explosion of travel blogs in recent years has helped to take away a lot of the stigma of travelling solo, especially female solo travel. People have become empowered to travel in a way that they might never have before, and it’s amazing.
It’s no secret that solo travel has its benefits; being able to do what you want, when you want, not having to wait for someone to travel with, but going out on your own and facing your fears. Solo travel can help you to become more independent, to find out more about yourself, push you out of your comfort zone and help you decide your direction in life.
Sometimes, solo travel sucks.
Sometimes it’s not the having-the-time-of-your-life-finding-yourself experience that we read about so often. Dare I say it, sometimes solo travel is overrated. For a few reasons…
It sucks when things go wrong and you’re left to handle them on your own
Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself to be pretty strong and independent, and I can handle the hurdles that come my way. Much in part thanks to travel. But sometimes it’d be nice to turn to someone else and say “what shall we do now?”, or to reminisce about how you got out of one scrape or another with somebody who was there and gets it.
It sucks when you don’t feel like being social
I’ve come to realise that having no one to travel with should never be a reason to stay home because the truth is that solo travel is rarely solo. There are so many opportunities to meet people when you travel and make friends on the road, from the good old-fashioned face-to-face way or through websites and apps like Couchsurfing and Meetup.
I’m more introvert than extrovert, and I’m not the only traveler who is. Travelling can be an assault on the senses and sometimes I need to be on my own and recoup. There are times when I don’t feel like being social and meeting new people, but then I don’t always want to be on my own either. When you travel solo you often make your friends on the road, but it can take effort making those friends over and over again, and it’s an effort that sometimes I just don’t have.
I have to be in the mood for social solo travel, which almost sounds like it shouldn’t exist, but it does. If I’m headed away somewhere for a long weekend by myself I want to see a lot in a short time and I rarely want to compromise with people I’ve just met. In that case, I’m completely fine going about by myself and not meeting anyone, but sometimes at the end of the day when I’m back at my accommodation, I find myself feeling a little lonely. If I’m backpacking or
Backpacking or travelling long term makes it much easier to meet people, because of the luxury of time. I don’t need to worry that spending time hanging out with people and getting to know them will mean that I miss out on something else I really wanted to do. Plus, usually I’ve gotten into the groove of meeting people everywhere I go and it’s much easier to start up a conversation!
It sucks when you want to be social but it’s not happening
Sometimes the hostel you’re staying at sucks. Maybe it’s off season and there’s no one around, or no one seems approachable. One of the most difficult things I find about solo travel is when I want to meet people to do things with or go out with in the evening and something about the situation prevents that from happening. That’s when solo travel can really feel lonely. As much as I and many other travel bloggers will tell you that solo travel doesn’t have to be solo, sometimes it just is.
It sucks when you don’t feel like making all the decisions on your own
Sure it’s nice to have the freedom that solo travel can bring but sometimes it’s nice to bounce ideas off someone else and have them help with the decision making, or even make suggestions of what to see and do. If you choose your travel partner wisely they might even enhance your trip by having you do things that you normally wouldn’t. Travel is all about stepping out of your comfort zone, but sometimes when you travel solo it’s easier to stay within it.
It sucks when you’re homesick
People ask me if I miss New Zealand all the time. What I do miss is the people. I miss my friends I’ve known for years, and my family I grew up with. And when some big event is happening in their lives and I can’t go because I can’t afford to get to the other side of the world and back? Then yes, I get homesick. And if I’m travelling solo at the time then it can make it worse. Even if I’m in some beautiful place, I’ll have a twinge of sadness and a speck of guilt that I’m missing yet another milestone in the life of someone I care about.
It sucks when you wish that a certain someone was by your side
When I first started travelling solo I was single, and I definitely found it easier. Sure I’d miss my friends and family but I was happy exploring new places and having all these amazing new experiences on my own.
Until I met someone. Now when I travel solo I often find myself wishing they were there with me, and I’m constantly talking about us visiting places I’ve already been to so that I can show him what I love about them.
Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you can’t travel solo, and sometimes it’s actually a great idea to get out on your own. But it’s when you find yourself travelling alone because they can’t come for whatever reason and you just wish they were there that travelling solo isn’t so much fun. It doesn’t mean the experience isn’t enjoyable, but there’s a little something (or someone) on your mind!
But I didn’t write this article to be all “woe is me, I’m so lucky to travel and yet I’m complaining about it”. The point is that travel is an amazing adventure, but just like anything in life, it can have it’s up and down moments. If you’re living your travel dreams but you find yourself getting a little lonely and just wishing you could have found someone to travel with, don’t give up.
So what do you do when you’re not enjoying travelling solo?
If you’re struggling to meet people when you’re travelling solo, don’t let it make you stop travelling. There are plenty of things you can do to overcome loneliness when you’re travelling solo.
Put yourself in social situations
Try to give yourself the best possible opportunities to meet people. Stay in a social hostel, or join a tour that’s aimed at your age group so that you can meet other solo travellers. Use something like Meetup or Couchsurfing to meet people while you’re travelling.
If you’re not in the mood to be social, but you know that you’ll feel lonely if you’re not, then push yourself out of your comfort zone and speak with people anyway. Once you get past the inital stage of having to start a conversation you’ll find you relax more and you’ll be thankful for it later!
Find things that you enjoy doing alone
If you really don’t feel like meeting people or it’s seriously not working, then do little things to make yourself comfortable being alone. If there are things you enjoy doing but don’t have time for at home then now is a great time to do it. Read a book, laze at the beach or sit in the park and enjoy your lunch while people watching. Have a coffee in a cafe where other people are dining solo too, so you don’t feel alone. Wander through a museum at the exact pace you want to, without having to worry if you’re moving too fast or too quickly for your travel mates.
Read a book, laze at the beach or sit in the park and enjoy your lunch while people watching. Have a coffee in a cafe where other people are dining solo too, so you don’t feel alone. Wander through a museum at the exact pace you want to, without having to worry if you’re moving too fast or too quickly for your travel mates.
Call friends or family
Sometimes a quick Skype or FaceTime with family or friends can boost you up for a day of sightseeing or relaxing on your own, or help you to unload about something that went wrong in with your travels. It can help you to feel less lonely and remind you why you’re embarking on this solo travel adventure. It can sometimes be hard to admit you’re not having the time of your life like everything thinks or expects you are. After all, doesn’t everyone tell us that if we quit our jobs and travel the world we’ll be happy?
Plan your next adventure
It might sound weird to be planning your next adventure while you’re in the middle of another one, but when I’ve been missing a certain someone on my travels in the past it’s helped me to be able to think and say, “next time we’re going to go to ___ together”, or “enjoy doing whatever you want on this solo trip and next time you’ll be with ___”.
I strongly believe that solo travel is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself, but it’d be dishonest of me to say it’s great all the time. However, that’s why travel is amazing, it teaches us how to deal with all sorts of different situations and a lot about ourselves. When solo travel is hard, that’s when it’s the most rewarding.
Have you ever experienced loneliness as a solo traveller, or found a trip less enjoyable because you were alone?
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