Tips For Traveling Alone

Reader Jason left an interesting question on the “Ask Lucky” page of the blog:

Hi Ben…

I love to travel and have been fortunate to accumulate a huge number of miles/points over the past decade. In addition, I’m working in a job that gives me plenty of time to travel. The issue is that I’ve been single for some time (with married friends), and the thought of exploring the world alone doesn’t excite me. I feel like it would be much more satisfying to share these experiences with someone. I know that you travel alone quite a bit, and would be interested in hearing your thoughts. Do you derive more pleasure from traveling with a partner?

I realize you’re not a therapist, but your insight would be valuable.

That’s kind of the story of my life, so I’ll chime in to the best of my ability. It goes without saying I’m far from an expert on relationships, anything having to do with being social, etc., but that won’t stop me from chiming in.

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side

I can totally relate to travel alone not seeming as much fun. Sunsets in Bali are better when shared, and when you arrive in a foreign city and hop in a taxi with a Taylor Swift song playing, it’s easy to think “hmmm, I wish I weren’t alone.”

Bali-Sunset

But I think that’s largely just the grass always being greener on the other side. People traveling as a couple may wish they could travel along instead, people traveling with a family may wish they didn’t have their kids along, etc.

And I’m not judging here one way or another, but are you ever in a foreign city and see a family with young kids bickering and generally looking miserable? Because I see it every single day. I’m not saying that reflects what it’s like to travel with a family, but you certainly see that a lot more with people traveling with someone than with people traveling alone.

Ultimately I do think traveling with others you have more highs and lows, while traveling along it’s a more consistent experience.

Travel can be stressful… and is easier alone

Again, not saying any of this is necessarily the case, but I am trying to look at the positives of traveling alone. For a lot of people, jetlag is a killer. I think as much as we romanticize foreign travel, in reality people are tired, grouchy, hangry (hungry angry), etc.

I find I’m a lot more “productive” with my sightseeing when alone vs. with others. That’s because when you’re traveling with someone everything has to be coordinated. The stresses of travel and jetlag only add to the challenges of that. I’ve had great trips with others, but I’ve also had trips with others where I spend half my time doing things I really don’t want to do, either because I’m tired and they’re not, they’re tired and I’m not, I’m hungry and they’re not, they’re hungry and I’m not, etc.

So I do love being able to do what I want when I want when traveling alone.

A watched pot never boils

With the question I’m not sure if you’re talking about traveling alone as opposed to traveling with a friend, or traveling with a significant other (since you mention you’re single and your friends are married). Perhaps this is more of a general philosophy I have on life than specific to travel, but…

The fact that you have schedule flexibility is a blessing, but at the same time even if you were in a relationship, chances are the other person wouldn’t have nearly as much flexibility as you do. You’d probably still end up traveling alone most of the time, if at all.

And that brings me to “a watched pot never boils.” Your situation is what it is. I feel ya, same here. There’s no recipe for creating someone you can travel with, be it platonic or non-platonic.

You can certainly attend more frequent flyer/travel events and see if there’s someone you can develop a friendship with that has similar schedule flexibility. But if it’s a significant other you’re looking to travel with (like what your friends have), there’s no way to force that. All you can do is make the best of your amazing travel flexibility, have fun, and maybe you’ll meet someone along the way, when you least expect it.

Maybe it’s easier for me as an introvert

We’re all self conscious on some level, and I think it’s natural to feel “weird” going somewhere alone. It’s natural to worry about how other people perceive that. And for a long time it’s something I struggled with.

But once you get over the mental hurdle, I think it’s actually quite easy and enjoyable. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m perfectly happy having lunch or dinner alone in a busy restaurant. And it’s quite enjoyable, since you really get to observe the scene when you’re not caught up in conversation with someone. If you’re not comfortable getting a table alone, sit at a bar, and you might meet some interesting locals.

Are people judging you? Maybe. But I’m sitting there and judging them right back. 😉

A couple of nights ago I was at an Indian restaurant in Reykjavik. There was this young couple seated across from me (it was all a bit puzzling, they were German and looked about 15 and were holding hands, so I don’t know how they ended up in Iceland). They sat down after me, and based on how I was seated I was basically awkwardly positioned directly facing their table. Yes, I admit it, I was judging them. When the server brought water, he poured himself a glass and then poured her a glass. C’mon, that’s not how it’s done! When I’m sitting there judging your smoothness/dating etiquette, you know you got problems!

In turn, there was an older German couple seated in a such a way that they were basically overlooking my table, and yes, they were judging me. They assumed I was American and couldn’t understand them, and were commenting on how it was weird I was eating alone. Lets just my table wasn’t the only one that was awkwardly silent after I turned around and said “Ich kann auch Deutsch sprechen.” 😉

In case you’re really struggling with getting over the mental hurdle of dining or doing touristy things alone, understand it’s not unusual at all. There are plenty of people that do it all the time. You have flight attendants and pilots that eat meals alone all the time, and plenty of business travelers that are in a foreign city and are just exhausted and just want a good meal in silence.

Bottom line

Don’t get me wrong, married folks. You shouldn’t dump your spouse because it’s that much more fun to travel alone. 😉

But having traveled with family, friends, significant others, etc., there is something about traveling alone that’s incredibly peaceful and enjoyable. And I can’t say for sure that I enjoy it more or less than any other “type” of travel.

Anyone have any tips for Jason, or for traveling along in general? Do you enjoy traveling alone, or is it not for you?

Comments

  1. This idea has always intrigued me (traveling alone verses traveling with loved ones or friends).

    I really think it’s a grass is greener situation. When I’m traveling alone, I wish I was with my wife. When I’m with my wife, I sometimes think “this would be super easy to do alone”…

    No doubt, travel is tougher with 2. But, it’s also more enjoyable to share experiences with others.

    I’m fiercely independent and a huge introvert. That being said, 9/10 times, I want to be sharing an experience with a loved one (usually my wife).

    This dialogue always reminds me of one of my favorite Paul Theroux quotes, “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”

  2. I have travelled alone for many years, with family/kids for many years, and as a couple for many years and nothing beats traveling as a couple with someone who has the same travel style and habits as you. It is important to consider this in compatibility. If you travel well together you will probably be able to live well together.

  3. 95% of my travels have been by myself ranging from domestic to internationals. i am a fan of International because I love long flights and experiencing new places. Traveling alone can be fun because in reality you can manage what you want to do, at the time you want to without depending on anybody. You have the freedom to do build your own agenda at your own pace/liking. What I have found helpful when traveling alone is booking a hotel that is city center because it makes my time at the destination that much better (walking distance to attractions, restaurants, bars, etc). I also like to plan my flights at certain times so I could arrive at my destination at the time I would like to arrive (normally taking the first flight out of LAX). I can go on and on about traveling alone but its been a really enjoyable ride. Wether I am traveling for Business or pleasure, its been fun. Just plan your travel schedule to whats suitable for you and your liking.

  4. I think that if you can be happy by yourself at home, in your own environment, on a day to day basis — then you will also be fine travelling by yourself. If you are the kind of person who never goes out alone to a movie, restaurant, or similar place at home — then you probably will not be happy travelling alone.

    I frequently travel alone, and I love the absolute freedom of doing what I want, when I want. And with social media these days, you can share the trip with all your friends as you go.

    Another sort of half-way option you could consider is signing up as a single on a group tour. I’ve done this a few times when I’ve gone some place that I thought was a bit more exotic/challenging than I wanted to do completely on my own. Then you automatically have a built in set of friends for the duration — and I’ve formed some excellent long term friendships with people I’ve met on trips like this.

  5. I agree with pretty much everything you said there, Ben. I travel “alone” often. Mainly because I have a lot more vacation time than my friends do and I’m the one who collects miles and points. You can’t take them with you so you might as well use them. And since you’re only redeeming for one it’s much easier to get flights. And because you’re not coordinating schedules you have ultimate flexibility.

    I said “alone” above because I do cheat a little bit sometimes. When I am going to places in Asia (especially) where I don’t know the language or my way around, I hire a guide to take me around. It really eases my trip and makes things a lot less stressful. No getting lost. You get to see some off the beaten path things (if you have a good guide that’s willing to go the extra mile) that you might not otherwise know about. They do most of the logistics so you don’t have to.

    I also agree that being an introvert helps. If you like your own company it makes traveling alone great. Of course these days it’s easy to stay in touch with people back home as well if you want to.

  6. Yeah, each has its advantages and disadvantages. Each person may prefer being alone or only w/ someone else. Whereas some people may be able to enjoy both. There’s no one size fits all. Problem solved; next issue?

  7. I travel alone all the time. Doing so right now, in fact. I completely agree with ya Lucky. Its definitely a case of “grass is greener”. I’ll admit while I was roaming the Venice canals solo this past March, it would’ve been great to be “doing the romance thing”, but in all honesty I’d have never had the trip I had if I were with someone else. I do trips occasionally with my folks and it’s nothing but a pain. I feel tied things and places that I have zero interest in

  8. But I will say when you get really sick (as I have on a couple of occasions) it can really suck. Having no one to take care of you can feel a bit lonely.

  9. Since 90% of my job entails dealing with the public, in person or by phone, I’ve come to enjoy traveling alone. It’s an escape for me. I appreciate the articles and tips for lone women travelers and have found many of the suggestions practical and quite useful.

    My spouse is not a traveler so I have to go it alone or not go. The only exceptions are when I join a group scuba diving trip, there are a lot of folks sharing the same interest and most are non-intrusive but pleasant.

  10. I’ve been a United 1K for 5 years, earned almost entirely from leisure travel, of which probably 90-95% was alone. I really don’t understand the perceived stigma/misery of solo travel. For me it’s simple: Is it not better to travel alone than to stay at home alone? I think I travel much more *because* I’m alone. It gives me something to do (and not just the travelling itself, but the planning and the broader miles and points hobby/obsession/addiction keeps me occupied, almost too much).

    When I think of the number of experiences I would have missed out on, the amazing places I wouldn’t have seen, were I waiting for a companion to materialize in my life, it’s scary. Hell, I’d probably be almost suicidal if I virtually imprisoned myself at home out of aversion of travelling alone.

    My advice: just do it, and have fun. Don’t worry about what other people think. In reality, your married friends (particularly those with kids) will be jealous of you. Mine sure are.

  11. Like the Jason who sent the question, I face the same dilemma constantly. I’m single, and most of my friends Don’t have the time, the miles or the interest to travel like I do. At this point, I’ve basically decided that if I wait for them, I’ll never see the places I want to see. That being said, I think the alone vs. With friends dilemma always has an “it depends” answer for me. I’ve traveled with friends who went more as a favor to me, and we just ended up arguing the whole time about what to do, where to eat, etc. I would have been better off alone than traveling with a friend that had different travel habits/preferences. At the same time, I’ve traveled places alone where I wished I wasn’t alone. Some of the most beautiful places in the world are also the most romantic. For me, this issue has the same answer as serious question in life: it depends.

    If that’s no help, I have had good experiences staying in hostels. If it has a common area, it’s a great way to meet new people. Often, I’ll meet people, and we’ll decide to go out for drinks or sight see together the next day. Especially in hostels, you’re unlikely to be the only person who’s there alone.

  12. Indian food in Iceland? Did you mean Italian or did you really dine at an Indian restaurant in Iceland?!

  13. Traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone. I’ve made friends on flights, at hostels, etc. it can be the best of both worlds.

  14. I had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling at a young age. I always asked everyone, if they wanted to go, because many times it was free or very low cost. Usually it never worked with other peoples’ schedules, etc. So, one day I had a conversation with my parents, about how I regretted not having someone to travel with…. “Go see the world. Don’t wait for others to make up their minds, as you will regret it later.” It was very good advice. I did things, when it was significantly less costly to travel alone. Now, I can’t afford to do all the things, that I did even 10 years ago. Pack your bags and go! Time waits for no one!

  15. Lucky, What a great post! And there are so many good comments as well. I am fortunate in that I have a spouse, adult children and other family members that I travel with. (Not all at once!) But, I also enjoy traveling alone. I think the comments regarding whether or not you are comfortable doing things alone at home translate to whether or not one is comfortable traveling alone. I am most definitely an introvert, so not having anyone to talk with isn’t a huge problem, although I sometimes find myself talking to “strangers” more than I would if I wasn’t traveling alone.

    This year, I’ve had the good fortune of making 3 trips to Asia with a 4th one planned, and all were alone. It’s been great. Yes, I miss my husband but I can do and see what I like–which is quite different from what he likes to do.

    One thing I have found when traveling alone is that I really enjoy hotel lounge privileges. I am not as inclined to spend the entire evening out of the hotel, and I like having a place to sit with other people around but I can still feel free to read or work on my laptop.

  16. I think the best of both worlds if having friends at your destination to hang out with. I usually plan my trips to destinations where I have friends who I can hang out with or sometimes stay at. It’s great because you have time to explore the city on your own while they’re at work/school, and also being able to get a local’s view on the destination, seeing places which you’ve otherwise never seen as a regular tourist.

    I love traveling alone since it gives me the freedom to do what I want whenever I want. And in some instances when I don’t know anybody at my destination, I usually use couch surfing to meet new people, or simply hit the bars.

  17. I’m in the same boat – single, with most of my friends married, many with children. Beyond them not having the time or the money to travel, I’d say the vast majority of them just aren’t that interested in it. They could go to the same beach year after year and be happy with that. Which is fine! It’s just not what I’d prefer to do with my vacation time, so our interests are always going to be at odds in that sense.

    My opinion is that you’re lucky to have a great opportunity right now, where you have both the time and money to travel. Hopefully that will always be the case, but it might not be, so I think you should take advantage of this while you can, and see some of the places that you’ve always wanted. Maybe take a long weekend trip somewhere by yourself first and see how it feels, then branch out into longer trips that are further away.

    I enjoy traveling alone most of the time – it’s nice to be able to do what I want, when I want. If I want to sleep in, I do. If I want to wake up early, I do. If I want to stay in a museum for 20 minutes, or six hours, I don’t have to worry about what my travel companions want to do. That said, there are times that I wish I wasn’t alone. Dinner especially – I’ll eat alone, and it’s fine, but I’d rather not. Similarly, I love to go out for a few after-dinner drinks, but as a woman traveling alone in a foreign country, I rarely do it. If I’ve found some people to go out with sometimes, I will, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.

    Still, I’d rather see some of the world and maybe have a few moments of loneliness, as opposed to sitting at home. Bottom line, I think you should give it a try. If it still doesn’t excite you, then by all means don’t force yourself to do something you aren’t enjoying, but I think you’ll be surprised.

  18. I mainly travel alone, but not alone! It’s easier to meet and connect with locals when alone and I use couchsurfing.org to meet people for dinner or drinks. Many use it for low cost places to stay, but I’m fine getting a hotel room or hostel. But it’s great when you want to find that hidden, locals only restaurant in Mongolia, the underground nightclub in Bangkok, or order food from the Russian only menu in Kyrgyzstan.

  19. what a great post. for the past ten years of my life, solo travel has been my obsession. now, in my early 30s and in a serious relationship, i find roaming the world alone less exciting without my significant other there. yes, there is the benefit of getting to do whatever i like, whenever i like (for example, i took a five hour nap today, just because… i mean, it’s vacation!). but there’s also that feeling that these moments should be explored. i remember walking through hong kong or standing on the beach in san francisco and watching the sunset and feeling very sad that i didn’t have anyone with me to share those moments with.

    that said, travel with someone else is a double-edged sword. you’re at the mercy of someone else’s wants and needs but you might also find yourself doing things you previously wouldn’t have. i went to NZ with a friend five years ago and did some extreme sports stuff i would NEVER have done in my life. it was amazing. but, yeah, at the end of 3 weeks, we were so sick of each other, we haven’t really spoken much since.

    anyways, my tips for the solo traveler:

    – the absolute best and most fun method to meet people on the road is a cooking class. every city in the world you visit will have some, so sign up for one that looks good and just go do it.

    – alcohol is, sadly, the great social lubricant. but try to do some research and find bars with a funkier, off the beaten path vibe. i find that most every large city has a place that is known for bringing strangers together. just avoid the meat market clubs which will make you depressed.

    – don’t be afraid to just strike up random conversations. i know this is easier said than done but its found me some great friends in my travels over the years. tell people (when safe, of course) that you’re from far away and this is your first time here. of course, do this when it feels right. so many people in the world share the travel bug and are down to help others have a great time in their cities.

    – whether you’re in a hostel or a hotel, don’t be afraid to ask the concierge or staff if there are some group events going on with other travelers. maybe there’s a great walking tour, or a pub crawl, or something else that’s put together on a weekly basis that you can get in on. hotels are like bars in a sense that they want people to have a good time because it raises the value of their product. you’d be surprised what a good concierge can tip you off on.

    anyways, keep on traveling and just be open. when you give a little, you get a lot back. go with what feels right.

  20. I also think that travelling alone or together means two very different types of travel. I like travelling alone because I like to have a fast pace on a site and I can usually cover the main attractions in a day or two. It’s also easier to redeem miles on premium products.
    When I travel with wife and/or kids, I have to stay longer or see few attractions. It’s also less flexible to eat, as you have to find a place that will please everybody. But it’s nice because you have shared memories of the travel and things that you wouldn’t even notice alone may become a highlight.
    I agree that it depends on how you do alone at home, but also how you like to travel.

  21. Travelling alone is OK as long as you keep out of big cities. I’ve been to Hawaii, Alaska and many other states, CA for death Valley, UT for all NPs, AZ for Grand Canyon etc.. It’s fun enough… But I felt unhappy when alone in LA or Seattle.

  22. I have this same problem. Middle-aged, not married, lots of miles, enough money and think it’s better to have someone along. I tend to meet college grads between school and work, or even people between semesters , and take at least 2 people with me. It may be generous to buy them tickets and a hotel room, but it’s more fun for me to hang out with younger people…that is until one of them brings 6 different girls to his hotel room in 7 nights and the other gets mad because he’s brought a girl back and their room is “occupied”.–almost resulting in coming to, er, blows.
    That’s also when I start wishing I was 25 again.
    For the most part I go to sleep earlier and they stay out all night. It’s fine they do plenty of stuff I don’t because people my age traveling would be talking about who’s sick, dying, dead, what specialists they are seeing, and their drug addicted kid–and still go to bed when I do.
    That’s my philosophy, and I’ve bought a lot of miles just to have 1 or more companions. I never saw it as being “used.” When they get established with a career we still travel and they pay their own way.

    Here’s sort of the ultimate awkward travel situation: I went to The Park Hyatt Maldives with my 20 year old nephew. We had a great time, but which is more awkward a) the guy we saw alone there or b) us being asked if we wanted the “couples massage?” (I said “sure’ just to embarrass him). That’s the only time I’ve shared a room too.

  23. We are social animals and it’s natural to want company. One way of blending solo travel with being with others is going somewhere to do volunteer work. There are groups that invite volunteers to help out for a week or two at a time, or even longer, e.g. teaching English at an orphanage overseas. Intensive language classes are another way of blending the two. You have a community of people in your language class or school, and often they also organize programs such as visits to museums etc. as part of your language practice. I have found that these kinds of travel also allow me to stay in a place for a week or longer, and go beyond what tourists experience and give me a chance to get to know people from another culture up close.

  24. My husband and I make both solo and joint trips. And even when we go on trips together, we designate at least one day where we go off on our own. I can only look at so many cathedrals, and he can only visit so many botanical gardens before we feel that we’ve had our fill.

    For those who feel uncomfortable taking solo trips, I would recommend (as another commenter did) hiring a guide, signing up for group tours, connecting with groups that are affiliated with a group you belong to at home (Toastmasters, professional groups, Rotary, church etc.) or signing up for language classes. Traveling alone is a lot more fun if you let go of the notion that you’re supposed to be traveling with somebody.

  25. I am in the same boat, single and most friends married. I am lucky to have a friend who can travel some but he has to space out travel due to financial issues. So I started with overnight trips to NYC, then I went to Montreal on my own for a long weekend,and I am finally starting to plan a longer international trip on my own to Dublin and then I will go on to visit friends in Bosnia. My suggestion would be start with a weekend trip and build up to a longer trip. I am not a huge foodie so I tend to do take out for dinner at least one nights. And I have my kindle/or a true book to read when I do go out to dinner by myself.

  26. Traveling solo right now in DC. Have met up with friends several times. When I have an obligation to meet up with someone I tend to do a lot more. I’m in DC and just don’t seem to have the energy to hop on the metro and see all the sites. I think part of the reason is that I am on the outskirts of the capital and I just get tired more easily from schlepping everywhere. So if you’re traveling solo make sure you’re in a good neighborhood easy to get to and easy to get around.

  27. My husband and I have been married for 6 years, together for 8. We have done our fair share of couples trips, solo-trips and friend trips. This summer, I went to New Zealand by myself and he went to Jamaica alone. The entire time I was in NZ, I kept wishing my husband was there with me to share this amazing experience. He said something similar upon returning from Jamaica. Wanting to share the beauty of travel with a loved one is more than just a fleeting thought for some and it’s more enjoyable than not for me. For people who don’t have the privilege to travel constantly, traveling to a new destination is an occasion that is treasured. For me, sharing a once-in-a-lifetime experience with someone you love is more important than the inconveniences of traveling with a companion. Even if you do get to travel a lot and you feel in your heart (not just because you envy others) that you wish you could have someone to share it with, I don’t think you should try to rationalize why it’s better to travel alone in order to justify remaining single. Some people do crave companionship and there’s nothing wrong with that, just like there’s nothing wrong with people who want to be alone. We’re all different. There’s nothing wrong with any of us. Traveling with someone you truly love is more than having someone to sit with in a restaurant. It’s about experiencing a new world together, making memories and strengthening a sincere bond.

  28. Traveling alone is the best of both worlds.
    Flexibility to do what you want, how you want, when you want, but also the opportunity to do things with others the times that you want to. Couchsurfing has been great to meet locals and get friends across the globe. It’s great to see a new place through locals eyes and hang out with new people with similar interests, but then you get to go off and do the lone thing again.
    While I mostly travel alone I can’t think of a trip where I haven’t met up with people and done parts in a group at least once.

  29. Been doing the solo show for a few years now and in my mid-20s. I’m somewhere in between being an extrovert and introvert, and for the most part I’ve made meaningful connections with others by staying in hostels or couchsurfing. I love being able to either do whatever I like and have the flexibility to connect with someone who shares the same mindset as me for that day (or if we really hit it off, for weeks even!)

  30. I’ve traveled both alone and with family as well. I think it all comes down to your personality. I’m totally fine being alone–I like the term independent introvert someone else used. When I went to London by myself during the Olympics, my family thought it was a little strange. But, I had an amazing time. I had no problem being alone where I know my dad would have a terrible time.

    It all comes down to keeping yourself busy and not acting like (and being confident that) being alone doesn’t bother you. It’s just like being a tourist on the subway. If you don’t act like a tourist, you’ll totally blend in. People eat/sleep/go places alone wherever you’re going, why can’t you?

  31. Just do what interests you, alone or with others. If you’re traveling and enjoying it, then chances are that you’ll either meet like-minded souls or you’ll find that some of your current acquaintances are more interested in travel than you had thought. Travel brings about conversation, and folks want to know:
    “How do you do that? How do you find good airfare? A good place to stay? Ooh, that sounds like a lot of work… Any chance I could come along some time????”
    I’m about to need a scheduler to keep track of all the requests I have now to be my travel companion to some destination to another. Some folks are probably one-timers, and others may become occasional long term travel companions. And I’ll need to keep scheduling time for my solo travels, too!

  32. If you find it strange to eat alone in your hometown, or can’t imagine living without roommates/a significant other, then you not enjoy traveling solo. If you want lots of beach and nightclub time, you also might not enjoy it.

    On the other hand, if you are even somewhat introverted and independent, you will have no trouble traveling alone. I’ve traveled to over 100 countries solo – I don’t think I have ever been made to feel uncomfortable eating in a restaurant alone or similar. Indeed, there are benefits. When you travel solo, and don’t dress in the fannypack/huge backpack tourist style, people often assume that you are an expat, and hence treat you better/hassle you less. This is especially true if you can speak even a little of the local language. Obviously you will have much more independence in planning – eat when you’re hungry, walk where you want, move on whenever you’re ready.

    If you are worried about “being alone”, though, it turns out that it is very very easy to meet people traveling, whether you try to or not. If you do things like cooking classes, farmstays with communal meals, and similar, you will meet other travelers even easier. In “obscure” countries, everyone tends to chat over the hotel/hostel breakfasts; in more popular tourist destinations, you could always stay at a nice hostel (I often get private rooms at a hostel, which is a nice compromise).

    As for traveling with friends or a significant other: I would say that, minimum, if you wouldn’t live with somebody, I would hesitate to travel with them. On the road, you are not only living in the same place, but you are spending essentially all day together as well. I have many dear friends (and indeed, have dated wonderful girls) who I would never want to travel with – our styles are so different that we would be at each other’s throat. Many travel problems come down to money – is this hotel or this meal too expensive, should we take a taxi, etc. Make sure you are on the same page here before you leave! Otherwise, you will wind up like this spot on send-up of the NYT “36 hours” series: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2013/04/memo-to-the-new-york-times-what-actually-happens-during-36-hours-in-a-foreign-country

  33. I think you should do both. Find a friend that is passionate about a place you want to go for some trips, then go solo on others. It is fun to share experiences with someone. Although doing what you want, when you want is nice too. You can have the best of both worlds. Enjoy it. You only have to pay for yourself
    .

  34. I think that most of the readers of the blog that are long-time travellers are also folks that like to travel alone. Often it is related to work, and our personalities must be compatible with it, or we would have found another job by now that didn’t require so much solo travel time.

    Like others, I have a lot of good memories about traveling alone. There are definitely advantages to it.

    But I think Lucky made a good point that the kind of travel activities you do are fundamentally different when you travel with others vs. traveling alone. I think the secret is knowing what makes for good solo travel, and what makes for good pair/group travel.

    Traveling with others can help you find gems that you never would have thought of / stumbled across on your own. I’m thinking of a particular restaurant in Paris that my wife brought me to when we were first dating. It looks like a nothing hole-in-the-wall, but the restaurant was great, and some of the best memories of my life were return visits to that restaurant, sometimes with friends, sometimes just with her, in that wouldn’t-give-it-a-second-glance restaurant.

    Similarly, there are these tiny tiny towns in Mexico that I would never had heard of, would never have seen on a map, except for the fact that my wife introduced me to them. Her solo adventures when she was younger resulted in several fave locations that she shared with me. I have several fave locations that I’ve shared with her. We plan to retire in one of these hidden gems there in the near future – that would never have happened travelling solo.

    Sunsets on a beach are fundamentally different, when you watch them alone vs. watch them while holding hands with someone. Everyone should have both experiences.

    The original question posed by Ben was “Do you derive more pleasure from traveling with a partner?”, and my $0,02 is that “it’s a different kind of pleasure.”

  35. I find my sweet spot to be traveling with somebody who can happily break off and do their own thing while I do mine. That way you’re not stuck in situations that interest you little or not at all, but at the end of the day you have somebody to meet up with and share experiences and meals and still enjoy the company of.

  36. Great comments! I’ve been traveling solo for over 20 years and it started after a (former) friend abandoned me in Paris after two days as she didn’t like it. I stayed and realized that going solo I’m only accountable to me and my expectations – it was freedom! It was absolute torture to go with her to Planet Hollywood for chicken fingers and french fries rather than a Parisian cafe for authentic French foods. There were so many compromises with her that I wasn’t authentic to what I wanted to do/see/etc.

    I’m also in the same boat (married non-travel friends with kids with not enough time, money, points, yen to travel) and can’t wait around – there is a big world to explore. I started my blog to share my solo travels/dining experiences hoping to let others know that it’s possible to travel solo and have great experiences. The key to me is to know who you are – if you want to travel solo start small in your hometown – go to dinner alone (who cares what people think you are hungry, they are hungry, we all need to eat, for all they know you are on business trip), go to the movies, go to a museum or other activity that you would do on the road. I do all of those now at home so on the road isn’t much of a change for me. If you can be comfortable with each of those then dip your toe in to an easy city to explore based on what you want to do.

    I’ve met amazing travelers along the way (would be more if I stayed in a hostel but I’m a SPG hotel points girl), booked local guides and local bike, street art tours to meet other travelers. I’ve been adopted by the old folks on cruises in Europe and the Baltics (they buy nice wine and share it!). I continue to get “why are you not married”, “why does your husband allow this” or “why does your father allow you to travel alone”. Everyone seems to project their fears/judgments/expectations on you.

    At the end of the day, you need to not care about what others think and do what you want – be selfish and think about yourself for a change – it’s ok. You’ll learn so much more about yourself along the way. No doubt I’ve had meltdowns along the way or wished x could do/see/experience this but that’s not their journey. We are each on our own journey – good luck with yours

  37. I love this post. I started traveling alone over 10 years ago when studying abroad and almost exclusively do this now, from a long weekend to 2 weeks. I love being able to do what I want when I want (if I want to see 6 churches in a day, or spend 4 hours at that museum, etc.). I also find traveling alone really helps me to think, appreciate the world and my place in it, help me gain in self confidence and efficacy, and just let me recharge and get the quiet time I need as an introvert. I think this is an experience everyone should have at least once.

  38. I read this article sitting alone at a sushi bar not in my home city on a work trip (not by myself…just eating alone). I used to be so scared to go into any social setting alone…bars, clubs, restaurants and the like. I went into a bar alone for the first time a year ago (at 26 years old), and have found the experience to be what I feared most, but actually enjoyable.

    I feared…being alone…sitting awkwardly on my phone (heh…) and looking like a “loser.” The reality is I get to sit and check things out. Actually experiencing the environment as opposed to just existing in it with companions can be nice. And, I’m sitting here with a chain collar on (…because I don’t have the key to the lock…) and people are staring and I’m totally comfortable. Growth, I guess.

    Anyway, just my two cents. Back to soaking it all in 😉

  39. I think it depends where you go. If you go to a honeymoon-type place like Tahiti, Maldives, Seychelles, Hawaii, etc. you’ll see a lot of honeymooners around you that if you were single, the thought of “I wish I was here with a special someone right now” would be a natural thought to have.

  40. Lucky, what a well put insightful answer! Having traveled alone, with someone and as a family, I find each scenario brings something uniquely different and wonderful. The glass is half full on both sides.

  41. Travelling alone or with a company really depends on life situation and preferences. I’m travel intra Europe with LCC’s mostly alone, just for fun. I’m in my early 20s and really enjoy that situation, do what your want, see what your want. At my pace. For me, 1, 2 or 3 days for a city is more than enough. I often argue with friends and parents about this, they say in 2 days you see nothing but I think I can see what I’m interested in, the main sights or other places.

    Generally, I have introvert personality and what is good about travelling alone in my situation, is that I have to force myself to speak locals and sometimes these are really good experiences.

    It could be fun when you travel with a partner. But first you have to find the correct one. I have dates behind me, once when I told the girl I often do 1 or 2 day trips in Europe I got weird looks, asking why do you fly just for 1 day to a different country. She say, It makes no sense. But this is my lifestyle, I love doing this. I couldn’t find someone so far who has the same thinking like me.

    But I think if I had a decent partner, who are as interested in short trips as me, I would definitely go with her. Because, eating alone is a crucial point for me. The worst part. I couldn’t feel comfortable when sitting in a restaurant alone while it’s running with full house. Couples, families
    everywhere. And I’m alone. Thus, I prefer eating local fast food ( like in Turkey kebab etc.). Ok, you can save some money,too :)) But at the same time you have better chances to meet locals then in a famous hotel chain restaurant.

    I can imagine I will travel less when I will have family but until then i would fly as much as I can.

  42. I’m female, early 30’s, single and most of my travel trips have been alone. I recently went to to Reykjavik earlier this year alone and popped on to Couchsurfing to see if anyone was in town and wanted to do things together. I then found myself with three other people driving to the other side of Iceland to go to Jökulsárlón (Glacial Lagoon). It was quite fun! And I could plan my itinerary and follow it – or not. No worries either way.

    Yeah, sometimes traveling alone sucks but that’s when I have to make a conscious effort to go out to meet other people whether it be through online forums, hostels, bar, clubs, coffeeshops, or even on tours I go on alone. You are usually not the only person on a tour alone and/or you can be the new person to talk to (esp. when someone wants a break from their travel partner, haha).

  43. I’ve travelled a lot solo also. I’m quite introverted as well but many a times I manage to meet people and new friends. Sometimes it’s through tours or at a hostel (I haven’t stayed in one in a few years now) or pension or on couchsurfing where there are many events or you can propose events of your own. I organized a hike in Hong Kong a few years ago. Sometimes, it is just on the street. This past December after being asked to take a photo of a brother and sister in Kyoto, I spent the rest of the day touring the city with them and then went with them and their friends to a local laughing festival, to Christmas lunch at her place, and to drink mulled wine at the market a few days later. Even though you may arrive alone, it doesn’t always stay that way, especially with technology.

  44. I find it quite easy to be gay and travel alone. I think in general, gay guys are much more outgoing and easy to strike up a conversation with/get invited places with/hang out with, and Grindr/Scruff/whatever makes it super easy to just meet up with anyone.

  45. I’ve been super reluctant to travel alone, though I’ll be doing so for the first time in a couple months. I’m afraid of the prospect of not having anyone to talk to and of looking weird when I’m eating/doing things by myself. I’m not good at striking up a conversation with strangers.

    We gays do have Grindr and stuff, but most people on there aren’t usually looking to show a new stranger around more than just a single room (sometimes two rooms if you have a lot of stamina). There’s also couchsurfing, but it seems a little odd to just ask someone on there to meet up for coffee (though I know this is a thing people do, and I’ve been considering it myself). There are also hostels, as many have mentioned, but since I’m basically qualified at this point to provide princess training to the Royal Family itself, I don’t think I could see myself staying at one.

    Anyway, moral of the story: I’m going to bite the bullet and deal with solo travel in a couple months, and if it works out, maybe I’ll do it some more. I love when Lucky posts about solo travel, because it makes me feel less uncomfortable doing it.

  46. Well that’s the story of my life… I travel a lot every month but always alone. I went to Santorini last month and I was missing a travel companion there… So sometimes I miss a company to travel around the world but nobody can handle my life style or my mileage spending… Sometimes I enjoy by my own but certainly I hope to find a travel buddy whom can join me in an airport 😛

  47. Travel alone? Yes, please! Perhaps the only thing better: travel with someone you know really well where you know you both will want time apart to do what you want that the other isn’t interested in while sharing other time together.

    Or … go somewhere alone and make friends there. I’ve never paid for a hotel room in Paris … ever! My next trip is probably Berlin–I’ll use couchsurfing to find people who might be friendly and worth spending time with, and will visit other attractions on my own. Can’t imagine using Growlr while there (indeed, I hate using it at home).

  48. Certain uber-romantic locations are certainly better experienced with a partner but generally I don’t see what’s the big deal about traveling alone… or eating out alone (think there was a post about this awhile back also). Like others, I suggest booking some group tours (or a private tour will a guide). I suppose taking photos is less convenient when traveling by youself but you can always ask someone else or many cameras now have flip-up displays.

    @ Philatravelgirl — there are so many nice cruises I’d love to try but the whole double occupancy (I.e. single supplement) thing is a bummer. What’s your solution to get around paying x 2?

  49. @ Ivan Y

    Cruises are quite tricky the best starting point is to find a travel agent that is a cruise specialist. I met one on a cruise and she emails me whenever there are deals under the 200% as you won’t find the deals online. Next, I book less than three months out when the inventory is priced lower and the 200% isn’t a big deal (I’m still angry about it but don’t want to roommate roulette and get stuck with a snoring stranger just to save some money). Azamara has cruises with discounted solo pricing 125%, Norwegian has the solo rooms but I’ve not tried them yet as the boat at 5k people is too big for me. Not sure of your age, but Viking River cruises has waived single supplement on some sailings (their demographic is still retirees, pensioners but is coming down). Repositioning cruises are always discounted and I don’t mind the 200% – I did Venice to Lisbon this way. Ports like Venice, Rome, Miami always have space last minute but airfare costs are an issue. I’m looking at Galapogos and the travel agent found a sailing with no single supplement in November. G Adventures will roommate match you if you are ok to share – their demographic is younger. So hopefully this helps, DM if you need more info – cruises are super fun, I’m really surprised how much I’ve enjoyed them and hope you get to go soon.

  50. @ philatravelgirl – thank you for your advice! I subscribe to Vacations To Go newsletter but a cruise-specialist TA is a great idea. I am a little older than Lucky so taking a Viking River cruise would probably result in me being asked the same questions you get 😀

  51. Being alone is the easiest way to meet locals, in various settings like train rides people will approach whereas that rarely happens with a group. Good thing if you want to meet locals.

    I love travel alone, at most I wish I had someone to watch my stuff when I want to stop in the restroom.

    That said, showing someone I care about a place I love is also satisfying.

  52. People who have never traveled alone often describe their first solo trip as an almost religious experience. To take in new surroundings unfiltered by the prejudices, tastes or preferences of a traveling companion can be heady stuff. Traveling alone gives you the chance to indulge yourself fully. Some nice points raised by Lucky. I would like to add few more points. Firstly, trust everyone and no one. One of the best reasons to travel alone is to meet new people, but this also makes you more vulnerable. It’s okay to hang out, travel and share with new friends, but you might not want to ask them to hold your money. Scam artists can often be the most charming companions you’ll find; you want to be open-minded, but keep your guard up enough to ensure your safety. Secondly, Don’t get too ambitious at the beginning or end of a trip. A lesson I have learned after many years of travel is to reel in my ambitions on the first and last nights of my trips. At these times, you need things to go well; you are at your most vulnerable when you are just arriving in a place (and most laden down with luggage and stuff), and at your most stressed when you are trying to get on a plane or train on time. On these nights, take it easy on yourself; you might stay near the airport or train station, or splurge on a well-known hotel, or take a cab when you might otherwise save money by taking public transit.

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