Ok– traveling solo definitely has its benefits and some unique highs as I laid out in a previous blog.
However, there can also be some serious lows when traveling alone. Many people would not consider traveling solo and feel most comfortable moving about with a partner, a friend, in a group, or on a prearranged tour for a variety of compelling reasons.
Numbers provide safety
One of the primary reasons for traveling with a partner or in a group is because there is safety in numbers. There will be someone to look after your bag when using the bathroom or buying a ticket, and travel companions offer protection from seedy individuals or sticky situations.
When walking down the main street in Caye Caulker, Belize with a male friend, a street vendor said to me, “Miss, would you like some coconut water?” The next day when I was solo the vendor said, “Hey baby, ready for some coconuts?” Different language and behavior are not uncommon when traveling with a partner vs when traveling solo, particularly for a solo woman traveler.
Share travel planning
With a partner, you have someone to bounce ideas off and converse regarding the best way to proceed or what direction to take. A travel buddy can make big decisions feel easier and more secure.
Traveling in groups or prearranged tours takes the fear and stress out of determining what next, where next, and how next.
Guided tours allow you to show up and not worry about details. If traveling with others gets fatiguing you can always break away for a walk and a little solo time.
Don’t feel you have to spend 24/7 with your travel bud or group.
Less costly travel with a companion
When it comes to cost, a companion lessens the expense of accommodations, often a major cost of traveling for an extended period. You can pay almost double for accommodations without a travel buddy (you know that dreaded “single supplement”), a consideration when deciding whether to travel alone or with others and when planning your travel budget.
Cooking or trying the local cuisine with others allows you to savor more flavors and then compare and contrast with fun commentary. I have found that many meals can be split between two people or a group.
When you are ill
The dreaded Montezuma’s revenge will most likely grab you at some unpredictable moment if you are on the road or in a new destination long enough.
It recently took me down for 48 hours in Costa Rica. It sucks the fluid and the energy out of you and can be demoralizing when there is no one to call on for aid – or something simple like ginger ale, chicken noodle soup or more toilet paper.
Solo travel can be lonesome
Traveling solo for an extended time can get lonesome, especially if you are in a country where you do not speak the language.
I often yearn for a good conversation in English or someone to share the days’ adventures.
There are times when I covet a happy hour with my girlfriends or an outing with my hiking or cycling groups.
Some days I miss the familiar comforts of my casita in Tucson and being in a nurturing space and with friends and family.
I have, at times, been overwhelmed by the stunning beauty of a place (photos just don’t capture the moment). Some things and places are meant to be shared.
Honor your alone time
Mastering the art of being alone is one of the most challenging and anxiety-producing situations when traveling solo.
First, realize there is a difference between aloneness and loneliness. While solitude may be essential for introspection, personal growth and creativity, loneliness and isolation can have a negative impact on health and increase the risk for many chronic diseases including heart disease and dementia.
A strategy I use to dodge the creeping sensation of loneliness is to avoid looking lonely. I’ll grab my day pack and set off for an excursion or a walkabout in a new neighborhood, often finding a small café or park to people watch.
Sometimes I rent a bike, swim or snorkel in the ocean, take a yoga class or hike through the local botanical gardens or nature preserve.
I’ve learned to honor my alone time and ward off the lonely feelings that can catch up with you during travel and relocation.
Whatever your travel preference – solo or with others – the most important element is that you are out there, exploring the world with the possibility of new destinations for temporary or permanent relocation.
Are you a solo traveler? We’d love to hear your stories.
by: Gwen Hyatt