Solo travel. It’s the latest travel trend and everyone seems to be doing it these days. Social media is plastered with images of smiling young women (and some men) in exotic locations talking about how it’s the best decision they have ever made and how wonderful their life is because of it. While I am all for solo travel and would encourage anyone to try it what doesn’t get put on social media or much talked about is the negative side of solo travel.
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The ugly crying in unknown cities, the sense of hopelessness by not being able to achieve basic everyday tasks, the loneliness, the random posts to strangers on Facebook groups just to feel connected. I don’t want to be a Debby Downer but I see too many people jetting off across the world and then having a horrible time because their adventure wasn’t living up to their expectation.
To better prepare you for what solo travel can be like here are some common situations or emotions –
The loneliness even when you are with people. This doesn’t get talked about that much which is a shame as I know everyone feels it. Sure you meet people while traveling and you make some amazing, life long connections but the sense of loneliness can be increased when with strangers (in my experience anyway). I never feel alone when on top of a mountain by myself or hiking for days on end without seeing another sole but put me on a bus full of strangers and suddenly I want someone by my side, to talk with, to feel comfortable with and most of all to feel connect with.
Stinking out your hotel room with food smells because you are too embarrassed to eat in a restaurant by yourself. While eating on your bed watching TV might be great at the time when you can still smell dinner the next morning or when you come back into the room after a few hours it’s less great. I
If you want to know more about how to eat out alone check out this previous article I wrote – Solo Travel and Dining Alone
There are a thousand examples of this but the most annoying – having to drag all of your luggage into the cubical with you in public washrooms or risk losing it forever. Public toilets aren’t that big to start with so by the time you and your suitcase get in there it can be tricky to close the door and still turn around to complete your business.
Here is an article I wrote previously on ways to stay safe when traveling solo – Solo Travel – Risk versus Reward
Sense of responsibility
There is no one to check with or confirm your understanding of a situation. If you don’t understand the local language or feel you’re being ripped off on prices there is no one to bounce those thoughts and feelings off and confirm whether you are in fact being ripped off. That means everything is on you. Every little decision no matter how big or small is on you with no one to blame. Some people find this empowering and learn to trust themselves with their new found strength and others crumble under the weight of responsibility and wish for someone to just chose a cocktail for them after a long day of touring.
The release of tension
You ugly cry in public. Everyone likes to think they would never cry in public and be the composed, mature adults we are back in our home towns but life alone on the road can be different. There is the everyday frustration of even achieving the little things in a foreign city such as finding a supermarket, ordering food off a menu in another language, finding the train station when in unfamiliar territory etc. What we take for granted and don’t think twice about at home suddenly becomes the whole point of our days when traveling and it can be tough. It’s usually the little things that will break us like stepping on gum after walking for kilometres or in my case in Colombia – that one final steep hill I had to push my bike up after riding for 120kms. Everyone has a limit and unfortunately it’s usually reached in front of people when traveling alone.
These are just a few common situations or emotions that solo travellers will go through. Even after 17 years of travel I still struggle with some of these and every trip will be different so don’t let one bad experience put you off solo travel. As I said above – solo travel is not for everyone but if prepared with what to expect then it can be the rewarding, life changing experience you see and hear people talk about.
Have you ever traveled solo? Did you ever experience some of these emotions or situations? Let me know in the comments below.
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I’m Anna Kernohan, an Adventure Consultant. I use my 17 years of travel experience and my background in Paramedics and Safety to provide professional advice and travel companion services to those wanting to travel but not in a tour group or alone. You’ll never have to worry about being alone in a foreign country again.
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