5 Reasons Solo Travel Sucks

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Okay, so I know that I occasionally publish posts on my blog about how awesome it is to travel solo. And it's true that I've gained a lot of things — mostly related to my development as an independent and confident woman — from traveling on my own.

But you know what?

Solo travel isn't always fun. In fact, sometimes it just downright SUCKS.

5 Reasons Why Solo Travel Sucks

If you got my August newsletter, you'll remember that I struggled early on during this trip to find my “travel groove.” A lot of it was due to my having to adjust back into the solo travel mentality — which took a while. There were some days when I just wanted to scrap my whole trip and go back home to my family and friends.

I've gotten past those first faltering weeks, however. And I'm thankfully back into full-on travel mode. But those tough first weeks reminded me that travel — solo travel or otherwise — is NOT always fun.

Here are 5 things that suck about traveling alone:

Table for One

I'm used to doing things on my own by now, but one thing I may never be 100% comfortable with is eating alone at restaurants. When I'm traveling alone, I try to avoid sit-down dinners out in public as often as possible. I hate the weird looks I get from hostesses and waiters and even other diners — YES, I am eating alone. Please stop staring.

How to make it easier: Since wifi can't always be counted on at restaurants, I never rely just on my phone for distraction when I'm dining solo. I usually try to have my Kindle with me as well. Reading while eating a meal for one makes me feel less self-conscious. Plus, maybe it makes me look more intellectual and like I don't give a shit that I'm alone?

Monteriggioni Italy

Your Own Security Guard

You know when you're in an airport or train station and you really really have to pee because you've just drunk an entire liter of water because it's hot and you just walked half an hour with your life on your back? Yeah, I've been there. And it really sucks when you're alone and have to drag ALL of your bags into the toilet stall with you.

How to make it easier: Not really a whole lot you can do except ask a stranger to watch your biggest bag(s) and take only the valuable stuff with you. I've resorted to this a few times, but at least twice my “guard” has up and disappeared during his/her shift! So annoying.

The Forced Selfie

It may seem like a silly thing, but when you travel solo it's often difficult to get awesome photos of yourself in cool places. You either are forced to take really awkward selfies, or you are at the mercy of complete strangers — most of whom, in my experience, have no business owning/using a camera of any sort.

How to make it easier: I used to use the “find someone with a nice camera and ask them to take my photo” trick. But these days, with almost everyone toting around a DSLR (90% of them probably never taking it off the Auto setting), it doesn't always yield good results. Another option is to get something like a Xshot camera extender to make taking selfies easier (though by no means less awkward).

Florence selfie
Florence selfie

Hello, Extroversion

I am naturally a bit of an introvert. Or maybe I just hate people, I don't know. All I know is that I'm usually not the first person to strike up a conversation (with strangers, friends, doesn't matter). If I AM the first, it's usually because I'm forcing myself to. When I'm traveling solo, then, it's not as easy for me to meet people as I would like it to be. Yes, I still manage, but I'm by no means a social butterfly and often find myself exhausted after a day/night of forced socializing.

How to make it easier: Well, I could just stop being so weird. But, since that probably won't happen, I HAVE found some ways to make things easier on my solo self. I go on walking tours. I book group tours and day trips from time to time. This summer, I've been traveling around Europe with Busabout, which means I see a lot of the same people over and over. Without fail, there is always SOMEone who will talk to me first and pull me out of my shell a bit.

Me, Myself, and I

When you travel solo, you really can only count on yourself — for safety, company, entertainment, self-control. You don't have anyone holding your hand. Usually I find this pretty empowering… but it can also get a bit lonely. I run into lots of couples and sets of best friends traveling together, and I almost envy them. As a solo traveler you DO meet people (even I meet people, despite my sometimes stand-offish ways), but meaningful, long-term relationships (friendships or otherwise) are hard to come by when you are saying goodbye to people every few days.

How to make it easier: Short answer, you can't. Constantly saying goodbye is never going to get easier. In fact, I think it just gets harder and more tiresome the more you do it. Sure, you could completely shut down, tune out, and become an emotional robot. But who wants that?

Cesky Krumlov rafting crew
New Busabout friends

 

So there you have it. The 5 reasons why I personally think solo travel sucks sometimes.

But, even on the worst days, I still wouldn't trade it for anything!

RELATED: Why Traveling as a Female Rocks (and Why it Sucks)

Do you have anything to add to the list?

 

*Note: Most of this is very snarky, and it's meant to be that way. I by no means hate traveling solo. I just wanted to illustrate that it's not all unicorns and rainbows! (Though, if it was, how AWESOME would that be??)

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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107 Comments on “5 Reasons Solo Travel Sucks

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  1. What I miss the most when I travel solo is the sharing part — share the excitement, the fascination, the happiness of being in a foreign place. It just isn’t as fun to be alone to enjoy those feelings!

      I totally agree! And, once you HAVE been able to share those things with someone, it’s hard to go back to seeing/doing/experiencing it all on your own.

    That’s a pretty good analysis. At first I thought it was impossible to think travel sucks but you make some really good points.

      “Sucks” of course is probably a bit harsh a word to use (honestly, it just made a catchy headline!), but there ARE negative things to traveling – solo or otherwise. Thankfully there are way more positive things, which are usually what I prefer to write about!

    There are more positives than negatives to solo travel. I am a different person when I travel. I find myself more open to people. The hardest part of solo travel is the constant saying goodbye to people.

      Oh yes, definitely more positives than negatives!! I wouldn’t still be doing it otherwise. 🙂

      I agree, too, that the constant goodbyes are probably the hardest part.

    I love solo traveling and am about to embark on my annual solo road trip in a few weeks. The eating alone every night is dreadful – that’s why I usually try to find a restaurant with a bar so I can zone out on the football game to avoid the staring… I don’t even like football but it’s better then fending off onlookers. I tell myself perhaps they are staring because they are too insecure to travel by themselves 🙂

      Eating at the bar is another great tip for when you’re traveling alone – even better if there are TVs you can watch!

    I started my first solo trip in South America 9 days ago and have already experienced all of these! Things I never used to think of before have suddenly become an issue. The other day I realised that I was almost at my stop after a long bus journey and that I had to go to the toilet quickly before we got to the station so that I wouldn’t have to lug my backpack into the bus station loo with me! Also, travelling in the low season makes it much harder to meet people at hostels, it seems.

      Ah yes, low-season travel is even trickier! But you’re only 9 days in – I’m sure you’ll find your travel groove soon and find your own ways to deal with these little annoyances!

    I love how you gave tips on how to make solo travel easier! I always found that Couchsurfing helped me.

      I’ve only Couchsurfed a couple of times. It IS a good way of meeting people. However it sometimes stresses me out, because of the whole being forced to be social with your host part!

    […] couple of travel bloggers actually write posts that are not all sunshine and rainbows: Amanda lists reasons she’s found solo travel to be difficult (I can relate to these!) and Kate gives us a new perspective on what being a “digital […]

    “I am naturally a bit of an introvert. Or maybe I just hate people, I don’t know.” I feel like this almost every day. I totally agree that it gets harder to constantly say goodbye the more you do it; for me it’s got to the point where I’d almost rather avoid getting to know new people so that I don’t have to eventually say goodbye, but since I’m not currently travelling solo (in fact, I’m travelling with an extrovert!), I get roped into new people and new conversations quite often. I’ve found though, that if I’m not the one who has to make the initial effort to start a conversation, I can usually get into it and enjoy the company quite easily.

      I’m the same, Sam – if someone else initiates conversation and gets me talking, I DO usually enjoy a good chat. I just have trouble actually being the instigator!

    Really true! I love traveling, and solo travel is nice in some respects, but I much prefer traveling with a partner!

    Also, I still am not 100% comfortable eating alone. I’ve gotten much better since it’s not seen as weird in Asia, but like you, I often sit there reading because I feel less alone somehow! haha

      I’d like to try traveling slightly longer-term with someone else. At this point in my traveling life, I think I might enjoy that more (assuming it was the right travel buddy!).

    I would have never thought of bringing my Kindle! I always get awkward eating alone even if I’m NOT traveling. You are indeed quite the intellectual! The photos would definitely be a struggle for me. I’ve got big dreams and I just want my photos to match up. Is that too much to ask? 😉 Thanks for giving some insight on more of the negatives of solo travel. I always love to read both sides!

      Haha, I’m with you on the photos! I actually JUST had this conundrum again yesterday in Pisa. I wanted to get a really awesome shot of me leaning against the tower, or trying to kick it over. I had 3 different people take photos of me, and I’m not in love with any of them! Ugh!

    oh, this, all of this! I’ve been travelling mostly solo for over 10 years now and while I really love it and enjoy it most of the things mentioned by you bother me as well. by now I’m used to eating on my own but when I see weird looks of people around me it discouraged me big time… and selfies? I so hate them yet keep taking such pictures 😉

    another downside for me is that I’m not all that brave to discover the city’s nightlife on my own. I’m not talking about going to the wild party and getting drunk as I don’t really do that when I travel (big waste of time and money for me;) but simple going for a walk and see the city’s lights can be a challenge. the weird thing is I feel so much safer in Eastern Europe or post Soviet countries and I had no problem with walking alone in the night in places like Yerevan, Tbilisi or Kiev yet I kind of freak out in let’s say London…

      I didn’t really consider the nightlife bit, but I’m definitely the same. I don’t really drink, so I would never dream of wandering into a bar alone in a strange city!

      I do often force myself out at night to see a city lit up, though.

    I find the toughest thing is when you are remembering your travels, there is no one to turn to and say “Hey, remember that time in ……………………”. I’ve been struggling a lot recently with travelling alone and the implications when I return, At the moment, I’m technically not travelling but living abroad and I feel like I’m drifting away from my friends. If someone had traveled with me, I feel like I would still have some connection with those people who, at one point, knew everything going on in my life.

    The eating alone thing has never bothered me, and I quite like some of my selfies, but most of the time I’ve gone to seen the iconic sights with someone I have met in the hostel. The one notable exception being Iguazu falls.

    At the end of the day, I love traveling solo, I love meeting new people,. even if I do have to put myself out there a lot more than I normally would.

      That not having anyone to share with… yes, I totally understand and agree with that. The more I travel, the more amazing experiences I have, the more I ache for someone to share them with. And no, Facebook doesn’t count!

    Seems I’ve been traveling solo for decades with occasionally throwing in a (short-term) partner. The hardest for me was eating in a restaurant alone. My solution, look for another solo and ask if I can join them. Has made for some interesting meets.

    The airport pee problem really sucks. Could stalls be made any smaller so you can’t even turn around. I’ve learned to pack smaller.

    Seems I have very few photos of self, especially that don’t cut off some part of my body in an unusual way. Not good at selfies.

    I’m friendly, so have to be a little careful with that.

    What I miss the most about solo travel is sharing an inspirational view, in real time.

    Best of all, I make All my own decisions.

      There are definitely both positives and negatives. And, usually, more positives, thankfully!

    Totally agree with you! The top of the list for me is not able to take nice photo of myself, especially when I arrived at some iconic landmark, I just need to have a photo with myself inside it. It is kinda like a prove that says that I have been there! It is either taking selfie with the big head and the tiny iconic landmark behind or blocking it completely with the big head. In my recent solo trip, I also came to realise that not everyone with a good professional looking camera are good photographers (but the chances are better!). It is a hit and miss, so what I do is to get different people to take a photo for me if I am not satisfied, of course I will wait a while before getting the next person in case I offend the previous person. Sometimes, they will include some tourists behind or at the edge of my photo in those not crowded area which can kind of irritate me that my photo is spoiled. You know, I can go on and on about the selfie part. 😛

    When you practice eating out alone in public can be pretty daunting but after a while you will realise that nobody really care or notice you. I guess it is just about being comfortable and it is not as though they are going to talk all day about the girl who sat down for a meal all by herself, who are they to judge anyway. 🙂

    I think being able to make the decision and have your awareness heighten at all times can also be either a pro or a con at times. You feel the empowerment of making decisions but there are times you just want to rest the brain and let others take over.

    In anyway, no combination be it solo or with travel partner(s) is perfect. It has its own good and bad. =)

      Haha I’m the same way with photos! If I finally see something really cool or iconic, of course I want a photo with or in front of it to prove that I was really there!

    We hope that this post is a asset for solo travellers.:)

      I hope so too! I mean, I still would definitely recommend solo travel. But I don’t want to fool people into thinking that it’s always amazing!

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