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.
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?
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).
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?
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!
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??)
Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!