Over the last two years, I have solo travelled through nearly 15 countries. It wasn’t always ideal. I had plenty of mishaps that reminded me of getting lost in Amsterdam three years ago. But with those issues, there was freedom!
This post is part of a collaboration with Emilio Marcos Sierra of 3TravelBug. Our different travel styles inspired us to share the pros and cons of solo travel and group travel with you.
When I began solo travelling, I was 16 and only joined group tours. There was no planning to do, but that also meant I wasn’t really controlling my solo experience.
I wanted the flexibility that came with designing your own trip and the independence of doing it alone. That’s why I decided to spend 8 months in Europe on my own last year.
Solo travel has its own pros and cons, but the cons can be mastered.
Now, I’m sharing my top 5 pros and cons of solo travel.
Top 5 Pros of Solo Travel
1. Flexible Schedule
Solo travel means you only have one schedule to worry about: your own. When do you need to get back to work? When do you need a rest day? When do you feel up to hiking that mountain?
Everyone is different and needs different things for them to enjoy their holiday. For me, I need a rest day before I do something big like swimming with dolphins. Other people may need a break right in the middle of the trip.
Instead of having to plan around other people, your schedule is entirely your own.
When you’re travelling, there are specific things you want to see and do. If you are travelling with others, they may want to do something different.
There are no compromises with solo travel.
This also adds more flexibility. If you change your mind about visiting a museum or going on a tour, that’s ok. There’s no one else’s plans to worry about.
Solo travel ensures that you can go where you want, when you want.
3. New Friends
There’s a misconception that solo travel means always being alone. While there are some truly solo times, solo travel is often done with other people.
Staying in hostels or joining organized tours can result in many new travel buddies. In hostels, being alone often forces you to talk to other people. Sometimes couples or groups can seem like an impenetrable unit. Solo travellers seem to invite other people to start chatting!
On organized tours, many people are originally solo travellers. You may even start to travel with them after the tour. However, being a solo traveler means you can also break off from the group when you need/want to do your own thing.
4. Builds Independence and Maturity
As a solo traveller, you learn to handle problems by yourself. There’s no one else with you to handle them for you. When I got lost in Amsterdam or got sick in New Zealand, it was on me to solve those problems.
It’s never fun to have something go awry, but learning to handle the issues really develops character.
Solo travel helps you mature and realize your own inner strength. You learn what you can accomplish in challenging moments that you have to face alone.
5. “Me” Time
As an introvert, I tend to need a lot of “me” time.
When you travel with a group, it’s hard to get that. From shared rooms to group excursions, you’re never alone.
I get stressed if I spend too much time with people, even if I’m enjoying that time. Every seven days on my tour of New Zealand, I made sure to have a few hours where I was totally alone.
Travelling with a group, as a couple or with kids make it hard to find “me” time. How do you just leave them alone for hours to do your own thing? If you’re on your own, you don’t have to worry about that. You get to take the time you need for your own wellbeing.
Being alone also helps you get to know yourself. Eating dinner or hiking alone put you in touch with your own thoughts.
Solo travel means you can have more “me” time.
Top 5 Cons of Solo Travel
Being alone doesn’t mean feeling lonely all the time, but sometimes you do get lonely.
This was a big struggle for me last year. I stayed in Airbnbs alone, ate by myself and did my own activities. For the most part, I didn’t try to meet other people.
That can be a huge challenge, especially when you want to share things with someone. When I was at my first German Christmas market, I desperately wanted to point out the interesting candies to someone, but there was no one there.
To combat loneliness, stay in hostels or go on day trips to be around other people. It’s much more fun to share things in the moment than to save the photos to share until you get home.
Unless you are staying in a hostel, where they charge by the bed, accommodation will cost more. Airbnbs charge the same for a room whether two people or one person is staying there. Renting a whole house on Airbnb can be cheaper than a room when divided amongst people.
I regret not caring about this last year and spending a fortune on a double bed in Switzerland.
Food can also cost more. Cooking for one often means ten days of the same meal or vegetables going bad before you can finish them. Cooking with friends and splitting the cost can be a great way to save some money without eating ramen every day.
Solo travellers often miss out on discounts offered by companies. Travel companies often discount second or third tickets. If you’re on your own, you have to pay the standard fare.
3. Potential Safety Issues
Safety is one of the concerns most often raised for solo travellers. While there are some activities (like hiking advanced paths) that require group travel, everyday travel is usually no problem.
Some countries are said to be unsafe for solo travelers, especially for women. In Marrakech, I did get more attention from vendors when I was alone, but I never felt unsafe.
Actually, group travel can be more dangerous as you stand out as being “tourists.” When I was in Italy, group travellers were pickpocketed more than solo travellers.
As long as you are a reasonable and responsible traveller, you will be ok. Do some research, ask at your accommodation for tips. Be aware of your surroundings.
4. Worries Family
Worrying my family was a pretty big con of solo travel, since they never fail to tell me how worried they are. It takes extra work to contact my family more often to assure them that I am safe and happy.
Group travel has a sense of security with it. It is assumed that you are taken care of by your tour guide, so you must be safe.
The most cared for I’ve ever felt on a trip is when I got sick as a solo traveller in Turkey. The hotel checked up on me and offered to get my prescription filled at the pharmacy, without me asking.
When I got sick in Barcelona on a group tour, my tour guide shoved me in a cab to go to a Spanish hospital alone and left me with no way to get back to the hotel.
People back home may not understand solo travel, which will make them worry more about you. Finding ways to calm them down without hindering your trip is important. Honestly, it can be kind of nice to have someone checking in on you.
5. Photo Challenges
Getting pictures of yourself is one of the most annoying things for a solo traveller.
I hate asking people I don’t know to take photos of me. Often times the person doesn’t take a great photo and you’re too embarrassed to ask them for another one.
That’s why almost all of the photos of me from my trip last year are selfies. I got very good at straining my arm and shoving my head into the corner of the screen to avoid asking others to take my picture.
Group travel has the benefit of friends to take your photos. I definitely get better photos when I know people!
Going on day trips with a guide or staying in a hostel help you meet people who can take photos of you.
There are positives and negatives to every kind of travel. You have to find ways to work with the negatives, as I have done.
For a look at 5 pros and cons of group travel, check out 3TravelBug’s post on The Pros and Cons of Group Travel. Check out 3TravelBug for some awesome articles that cover Emilio’s group travel adventures around the world!
Do you prefer solo travel or group travel?