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. Where are all you people? I’m reading about all these great solo travelers but I feel like I’m not seeing you anywhere. I’ve been traveling for a year but mostly with my girlfriend. Of course we just broke up and I’m readjusting to solo travel (though I’ve done it before). I’ve no problem with most of these points – I love being alone, eating alone, etc., it’s pushing myself to be more extroverted that’s hard. I hate the small talk and answering the same 5 questions everywhere you go (What’s your name, Where are you from, What do you do, Where have you been, Where are you going?). I think the night life is the worst. Eating alone is no prob, try sitting at a bar by yourself for hours! Gulp…

      Haha, well we solo travelers often say couples are the hardest people to try and meet on the road, because they usually keep to themselves! I promise there are lots of solo travelers out there, though!

      Yeah, the idea of sitting at a bar alone does not sound at all appealing to me – mostly because I don’t drink, so it would be extra awkward!

    Great post! What I do is make eating alone look good. I am anonymous when I am traveling so I actually enjoy it. No one knows you so why the embarrassment. I am reading the Hunger Games Trilogy on kindle so I get rapt up reading my book to notice if people stare or not. Stay confident travelers even if you are faking it. Also give it some time to get into the groove. Oh and learn to love meat on a stick and street stalls and night markets. I love traveling southeast Asia solo.

    Taking your money belt in the bathroom is a good habit and I do it even traveling with people I’ve met. I am in the Galapagos and it’s geriatrics and couples but the animals are my friends here. Off to Colombia next. Happy and safe travels to all.

      Taking my Kindle along with me always makes things less awkward!

    being alone sucks very much as it is, and to go traveling alone is even Worse.

      Ah, it doesn’t have to, though! Plenty of people love traveling solo. 🙂

    LOL on the forced selfie! We sometimes struggle with that even when we’re trying as a couple. The double awkward self portraits that always leaves one cut out. LOVE this post. I think I’m inspired to write a ‘reasons why couples travel sucks’ post. 😉 Hope all is well, A!

    I’m not sure if anyone mentioned this (there are so many comments!) but I always put up a guard when I travel alone. I was in Goa alone in January and I was so scared of the random men coming up to talk to me all the time that I ended up putting up this rude barrier and treating every one of them as if they were a rapist when all they wanted to do was say hi.

      That’s one that I don’t think has been mentioned yet, but definitely is a good one to add to this list. I find myself doing the same thing in certain destinations!

    The selfies! they haunt me to no end. I’ve taken some awful ones. I need to buy some kind of crane like tripod that I can operate with one hand! I’m okay eating alone, but the first time I did after breaking up my long term relationship was terrifying. I’d never eaten alone, alone until then. Now that’s easy for me (thank god).. The security guard thing, totally agree with. Sometimes I want to hand someone my bag and say, “Watch this.” Sigh, that will never happen I’m afraid. Great post, girl, brought me back to my first few months. Hugs!

      Haha so funny to have so many people comment on the selfies! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who HATES them!

    Oh god, getting a good picture of yourself!! So glad you mentioned that. Might seem silly but that’s what bums me out the most about solo travel. And you’re so right… even the people with fancy cameras still have NO idea what they’re doing. I always end up getting a picture of just my face and you can’t see anything behind me. Fun.

    Hang in there, remember you always have us to vent to on your down days! 😉

    Happy travels <3

      It does definitely help, having this blog to “vent” to. Plus, I think it’s good to recognize that there are plenty of down days when traveling, too! I don’t want to make it seem like this lifestyle is always fun and amazing (though usually it is!).

    Great read Amanda. I typically wander alone and explore alone at home anyways, so I definitely enjoy the solo travel style. But at the same time it does get extremely lonely at times, awkward at other times, and just straight up boring as well. I remember when I went bungy jumping for the first time in Taupo, and after it was completed all I wanted to do was rave about the feeling with other people…but nobody was there. Nobody so it happen. Nobody ran up to me excited to hear about it when I got back.

    These are great tips to avoid some pitfalls as a solo traveler and make the experience keep upbeat!

      The sharing bit (usually tied to the loneliness part) is definitely the downside that gets to me the most, too.

    Lovely, lovely, LOVELY – I agree wholeheartedly with all of these things Amanda, but particularly the last bit! Eating out alone is so often a source of embarrassment for me, but I hate thinking I’m missing a local food because of it so I usually try to bite the bullet and embrace the moment. Although right now I. Looking forward to hostel-provided dinner, haha!

      Haha, I find myself eating a lot of hostel meals! These days, if a hostel has a restaurant attached, it’s a major bonus!

    I was wondering what do you do with your stuff if you fancy a random swim?

      Have to either just trust your stuff on the shore, or ask a stranger to look after it, unfortunately. I’ve only been to like 1 beach that had lockers where you could lock your stuff up…

        Trying to pluck up some courage for my first solo trip and I love the sea but didnt think of this when I go with my partner to Cornwall we take minimal things and leave them in a beach shelter but have left cameras, phones, car keys before which is risky but we have been fine so far

          Definitely don’t bury it in the sand and hope you’ll find it later – I met a couple who buried their shared wallet, marked by a stone, with a huge amount of cash inside. No prizes for guessing what happened when they came back from their swim…

    AMEN Amanda!!!! There are some incredible upsides to travelling alone and recently the thought of someone coming to Oz with me bugged the hell out of me BUT at the same time, company can be a wonderful medicine for the soul when you’re feeling a bit self-conscious in a restaurant etc. Great post lovely 🙂

      Thanks, Toni! It definitely sounds like we’re on the same page when it comes to solo travel!

    The most I have “traveled” solo is on overnight backpack trips. I found it to be a little TOO quiet. When I have those life changing or memory creating moments by myself it fills me up to the point I just want to explode because the only thing I can do is snap a picture and try to express the power of that moment to someone when I return. To me these moments become so much more real when they are shared.

    That said when you are alone the only person you have to make decisions with is yourself. Should we keep hiking? Is it time for lunch? Do we want to take a dip in that swimming hole? And when I run around up and down the trail for 30 minutes trying to decide on the best campsite option no one is there to see how crazy and obsessed I am.

      Good and bad, for sure. Just like all forms of travel, really.

      I’ll keep traveling alone, though, despite these things about it that I sometimes hate!

    One plus thing about visiting cultural and historic sites when you’re alone: you can take your time exploring!

      That’s definitely true! In fact, traveling alone in general usually means you can spend as much (or as little) time doing things as you want! I DO love that freedom that comes along with solo travel.

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