I have been traveling the world since June of 2016, and it has been the most amazing experience of my entire life – without a doubt! Traveling the world really is an absolute blast! There are so many benefits of solo traveling. The food, the culture, the beautiful scenery, the kind people….I could go on and on.
But as you probably already know, there’s nothing in life that is totally perfect. Like they say, every ‘Rose has its thorn’.
Today we will be discussing the major CONS, or ‘thorns’, of solo travel. Why? Well, I always feel it’s best to learn about the potential pitfalls in advance, so if/when they happen, you will be more prepared to handle the situation.
The Worst Things About Solo Traveling
- Solo Traveling Isn’t Cheap
- Loneliness and Homesickness
- The Language Barrier
- Carrying Your Bags Everywhere
- Lack Of Organization / Time Management
- Cheaters and Scammers Target Solo Travelers
- Safety As A Solo Traveler
- Doing / Planning Everything Yourself
- Disrespectful People While Solo Traveling
- Learning New Cultures Can Be Stressful
- Bank / ATM Problems While Traveling
- Obtaining Travel / Tourist Visas
- Terrible Flight Regulations
- Making Friends And Saying Goodbye
Solo Traveling Isn’t Cheap: Solo Travel CON #1
There’s a misconception about solo traveling being cheaper than traveling with a group. I completely disagree. In my many years of traveling, I have learned that solo traveling is one of the most expensive forms of traveling. Why? Because there’s only one individual who must pay for everything. If you are traveling with two or more people, you can usually split the bill.
Let’s look at a hotel room for example. If you are alone, you must pay the entire bill yourself. But if you have a group of, let’s say 3 people, then you can split the bill 3 separate ways. The amount that you would pay is 33% of the entire bill. That is one hell of a deal, considering hospitality is the most expensive part about traveling. A $100 hotel can now only cost you $33!
The same example can be used when taking a taxi from one location to another. A $20 taxi ride now only costs less than $7, when it’s split 3 ways.
It is also possible to save money on food. If you purchase groceries at the local grocery store, then everybody can split the bill. Everyone helps to prepare, cook, and eat the food when you arrive at your hotel. This, again, allows you to travel at a much cheaper price. If you go to a restaurant, however, this is a bit more difficult because everybody usually pays for their own meal.
But again, when you are a solo traveler, there’s nobody to split the bill with. You must pay the entire bill for every product or service that you purchase.
If you didn’t already know, the 3 most expensive parts of traveling are hospitality, food, and transportation. So if you can reduce the costs of those 3 things by traveling with a few people, then you can travel for a significantly longer period of time, compared to someone who is traveling alone.
But then again, if you are traveling with others, then you probably aren’t solo traveling anymore. Be sure to brush up on the real definition of solo travel.
Loneliness and Homesickness: Solo Travel CON #2
Over the years, I have learned that I am a bit different than most people. I don’t get homesick and I virtually never feel lonely. Except for that one time that I was stuck in a village in southern India during the 2020 pandemic. I was only allowed to go outside to buy food, and when I did walk outside, the police would surround me and ask me 1,000 questions. Such a joy.
And the only other times that I have been homesick was when there were deaths in the family. Unfortunately, this has happened a few times since I have been on the road. At these moments, I really wished that I was back home and could hug my loved ones.
These were the only times that I have ever felt lonely. Normally, I never feel homesick.
However, homesickness and loneliness is a real battle for many solo travelers. Sometimes people miss the feeling of being physically next to their friends and family. Saying hello in a video call simply isn’t enough.
If you are from a developed country, and you plan on traveling to an underdeveloped country for a while, I can promise you that you will start to miss some of the most basic things.
Things like drinking water from the tap, having automatic flushable toilets, not having to worry about getting a foodborne illness, not having to worry about getting hit by unregulated traffic, and also not having to worry about falling into the 20,000 holes in the sidewalk between your hotel and your nearby destination. Some of these holes would lead to broken bones, massive lacerations, or even death. Not joking. In some countries, you really have to look out for yourself.
So to some degree, I suppose this is slight home sickness. There is some level of comfort in knowing that your government takes the time to make things safe for their own people.
I think that the type of solo traveler you are has a lot to do with your level of loneliness. I am an extrovert solo traveler, and my ultimate goal is to interact with as many local people as possible in order to better understand their culture. More often than not, I am with a local person. If I ever become bored, I simply go out and start walking. Within the hour, there is a high probability that I will have made a new friend. But, I suppose everyone is different.
If you care to learn more about this particular topic, be sure to read the article Does Solo Travel Get Lonely, to get a much deeper insight.
The Language Barrier: Solo Travel CON #3
Each and every year, more and more people from around the world are learning English as a second language. I predict that within the next 2 or 3 generations, English will be significantly more common than it is already today. Many governments and school systems are pushing their students to learn English as a second language.
This is pretty cool because soon the world will be able to communicate to each other much easier, which will hopefully result in everybody getting along a little bit better. It will be easier for people to communicate their cultural differences and there will be less tension between countries. But that is a totally different story.
As you travel to a new country, where English is not generally spoken, you will find that it can become rather difficult, and frustrating, to communicate with another human being who does not speak the same language as you.
It’s important to note that I don’t, nor should you, expect that people from another country need to speak English. Not at all. That is a rather arrogant expectation. I only expect that people speak their mother tongue, whatever that may be. If I come across someone who does speak English, well then, that’s a plus. But it’s definitely not expected. But that aside, it is a fact that when traveling in a different country, it is difficult to communicate to people who do not speak the same language as you.
There’s nothing quite like walking into a shop to buy something, but you are unable to understand anything that they are telling you. Nor do they understand you.
Imagine you want to rent a room at a hotel, for example. You walk up to the counter and shyly ask for a room. They have no idea what you are asking. To you, it seems pretty obvious what you want. You are standing in a hotel and you simply want to rent a room for a night or two, but they don’t understand.
Then they start to speak to you in their language. You don’t understand. You take out your passport, assuming that is what they want from you. They shake their head ‘no’, and again say something in their language. Now you are completely confused about what it is that they are trying to communicate to you. You look around, but nobody speaks English to help you translate. What would you do? Now you can see how quickly language problems can arise.
But don’t worry, I may have something to save the day. If I’m traveling in a foreign country, I have 2 options. I can either learn the local language before I go, or, I can simply download and learn how to use Google Translate on my cell phone. I choose to use Google Translate.
This allows me to speak into my phone, as long as I have an internet connection, and the app will translate everything into the local language. You can show the translated text to the other person, or, the app can speak the translated text to them in their local language. Pretty cool!
Keep in mind that the translation is not always 100% accurate. The key to increasing accuracy is to speak with simple and basic, and complete, grammar. In addition, do not use slang words.
It is better to use simple phrases like “May I have a cup of coffee?” rather than “A cup of coffee sounds good..”
In English, both of these phrases mean basically the same thing, they are both a request for coffee. But in the second phrase, the translation app may think that you are literally talking about the actual sound of the coffee inside the cup – and the local person may become extremely confused. Choose your words wisely.
I have become quite the expert at using Google Translate to communicate. The problem is, however, when someone tries to speak to me from their native tongue, they do not know that they need to use simple grammar and to avoid slang. So, many times, the translation is not accurate when I receive a reply. Beware of this.
If the incoming translation is not understandable, I inform them to use simple grammar. Sometimes this helps, and sometimes it doesn’t.
I labeled this as a CON of traveling the world because it can become extremely frustrating when you want to convey a message to someone and they don’t understand you, even when you are using Google Translate. And it always seems to happen at the worst times, too!
But on the flip side, this can also be very fun – assuming it’s not at a time-sensitive moment. Sometimes taking a few extra moments to communicate to each other builds a mini friendship with the local person. Especially when the translation actually works correctly (which seems to be about 98% of the time).
Depending on the country that you are traveling in, local people may even be shocked that such an app even exists. I have made countless friendships with people over the course of days, or even weeks, by simply using Google Translate. Neither of us could speak each other’s language, but this app was the bridge that allowed us to become friends. Pretty cool!
Carrying Your Bags Everywhere: Solo Travel CON #4
I don’t know about you, but my idea of a good time is not always carrying heavy bags full of clothing and filming equipment everywhere that I go. Sometimes it can be a real burden. Wait, let me rephrase that…it’s always a burden!
There are three major categories that I think you should know about.
Airport to Hotel
This is the easiest of the three. After you land, you will find your baggage at the carousel, and you simply need to walk to your taxi while carrying your bags. That’s pretty much it. This is something that you can most likely handle without a problem.
Hotel to Hotel
After you have visited a town, village, or city for a while, it is time to move on and go visit a different part of the same country. This requires that you go from one hotel to another. My guess is that a local taxi will not bring you to the new location because it’s too far. You must take a bus or a train.
If you are anything like me, then your bags are completely maxed out and extremely heavy. So, depending on what country you are in, and what class ticket you purchase, this can be one hell of a hassle.
If you take a government bus, usually the cheapest option, they are extremely crowded and usually require that many people stand for hours at a time because all of the seats are taken. In addition, there are no compartments at the bottom of the bus to store luggage. The bags must be carried with you.
There’s nothing quite like standing for two or three hours on a bus full of people that cannot speak your language, and people are getting on and off at every stop while you stand there and let people squish past you every 10 minutes. Ahhh, the joys of cheap traveling.
But if money is not an option, and you want to be as comfortable as possible, you can hire a taxi to pick you up from your hotel and take you to the bus station. When you arrive, there will most likely be a private bus with a private seat as well as storage compartments under the bus. This is a much easier option. But still, you will need to pick up and carry your bags from taxi to bus, from bus to bus, from bus to taxi, and/or from taxi to new hotel. This is still a burden.
Oh, and while on the bus, be extremely cautious about trying to take a nap. Can you imagine waking up and your bags are gone? That would definitely be a horrible experience! The only times I have fallen asleep on a train / bus was when I had my bag of electronics glued to my chest in a giant bear hug. I encourage you to do the same. Never trust the storage compartment under the bus with your ‘expensive’ bag.
Is everyone around you a thief? No. However, it only takes one quick moment for a thief to ruin your entire journey.
Personally, I carry two bags. One contains my clothing and miscellaneous items, while the other bag contains all of my electronics. If you don’t know yet, I’m a Travel YouTuber. When I go for a random walk outside or if I need to go filming somewhere, I must carry all of my equipment with me.
And let me tell you, my bag is not light. There is about $5,000 USD worth of equipment inside, and I guard this bag with my life. I never let it out of sight. This can be, again, quite frustrating.
Need to use the bathroom while you are at a restaurant? You must bring your bag with you.
Want to walk upstairs to see a beautiful view from the rooftop? You have to bring your bag.
“Leave your bag here…” they tell me. “It is safe.” That may be true, but sorry, I don’t want to take the risk. As a solo traveler, it doesn’t matter where you go, or how long the walk is, you must carry your bag at all times.
The only exception to that rule is when I have got to know someone for several days and they have earned my trust, which is not a simple task. I will then feel comfortable leaving my bag with them while I go somewhere else for a few moments.
Lack Of Organization / Time Management: Solo Travel CON #5
In most developed countries, everything around us is usually very organized and efficient. So much so, that we have learned to expect it throughout our daily lives.
But when we start to travel in a country that is less developed, we soon realize that things are less organized or even appear to have no organizational skills whatsoever.
Culturally, some countries do not value time management like we do in most Western countries. If you agree to meet someone at 2:00 at a specific location, and they do not arrive until 2:45, you will probably become quite frustrated. But to them, they have no idea why you would be angry at such a small delay.
From a Western standpoint, if you tell someone that you will be somewhere at a specific time, you’d better be there! If you tell someone that you are going to do something, you will do it. Period. There are no exceptions. Why? Because we respect the time of the other person.
I can remember when I was in India, a man offered to give me a ride to the airport for my domestic flight. I told him that I wanted to leave 3 hours before my flight. This would give us 30 minutes to drive to the airport and 2.5 hours of waiting before my flight.
He laughed at me and told me that there is no need for me to leave so early. I told him that I didn’t care if I waited at the airport for a long time, I couldn’t miss this flight. Sometimes there are unpredicted road problems, so I wanted to leave early.
He convinced me to leave two hours before my flight which was supposed to give me 1.5 hours of free time at the airport.
Immediately after leaving the house on the motorbike, we hit construction. Imagine 1,000 cars all trying to funnel down to one lane. I was becoming increasingly nervous that I was going to be late.
After finally making it through the construction zone, we then hit another traffic jam due to a car accident in front of us. I literally couldn’t believe my luck.
After making it through the 2nd traffic jam, we hit even more construction. I’m not joking. This time it was even worse than before! We had to wait so long that we literally turned off the engine and waited. By this time, I just knew that I was going to miss my flight.
We eventually arrived at the airport, I thanked him and said ‘goodbye’, and then I ran inside. I immediately spoke to the receptionist and she told me that everything would be okay. She gave me a ticket and told me to wait in line. This line had close to 500 people in it and only 2 security officers were checking everyone. I literally can’t make this stuff up.
I could hear the announcements about my flight every few minutes. Departure was getting closer and closer. They even announced the final call, but there was nothing I could do. I still had to wait for another 300 more people to be checked in before me. The line was too long!
Luckily one of the members of the airline approached the giant line of people and screamed my name and I raised my hand (totally awkward). They escorted me, personally, to the security officer and he checked my ticket. Everyone was staring at me while I skipped to the front of the line.
Now I needed to go through the x-ray machine with my carry-on bag. My bag was obviously full of filming equipment and so I was immediately stopped. I needed to take every single item out of my bag…they looked through everything – piece by piece.
I told them that I needed to catch my flight and that they just announced the final call 5 minutes ago. He didn’t seem to care at all.
I made eye contact with the woman who called my name and she came over and became frustrated with the security man who was taking so long. He also became angry at her, and at me, and then simply told me that I could go. I then needed to pack my entire bag again which usually takes 10 minutes. I stuffed everything inside as fast as possible, hoping that nothing would break.
I followed the lady to the door and she opened the door with a special keycard that led to the parked planes. She communicated on her radio that she had the final passenger. Just then, the door to the plane opened up just for me, as we were both running out to the plane.
After I walked up the steps, I could see that I was greeted with frustrated eyes from the other passengers (sorry). I found my seat, sat down, and soon later, we took off and we were on our way to the next destination.
This was obviously so frustrating. But do you want to know something crazy? This is just one example of literally hundreds of frustrating time-related examples that I have experienced throughout my traveling journey. It is literally impossible to remember and share them all with you. But this flight example was a particularly crazy one.
The point that I am making is that not everyone has the ability to plan ahead and/or think outside of the box and prepare for a potential problem – such as traffic jams and/or construction. This includes the people who you entrust to help you complete a task.
Instead of blaming themselves for lack of preparation, most people just usually blame everything else – for example, the construction site. There is very little self-accountability. And if you try to point this out and inform them about their lack of preparation, they will become extremely offended. So be careful with this.
But this isn’t just limited to individuals. Don’t even get me started with how many businesses also lack preparational skills for the easiest of tasks. You literally wouldn’t even believe some of my stories. I’ll save that for a different time…
While you are traveling, especially in underdeveloped countries, be sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete a task. In fact, schedule more time for yourself to complete a task then you would in your home country. The task may sound simple to you, but there are so many variables. Most of these variables are things that you would never expect…not even in a million years.
Don’t believe me? Once you start traveling, you’ll soon see what I mean.
Cheaters and Scammers Target Solo Travelers: Solo Travel CON #6
As a foreigner who looks different, wears different clothing, speaks a different language, has a different body language, and doesn’t know the area very well, you are automatically an easy target. It doesn’t matter what country that you visit, I can almost guarantee you that someone will try to take advantage of you. Cheaters and scammers are in every country – especially near the tourist areas.
Sometimes the Scam or Cheating is Small
For example, you go to a small shop to buy simple items. The bill should be $2, but the local person charges you $3 or $4. Why? Because they don’t think that you will know the difference. It’s a quick and easy way to make extra money.
If this happens, and you catch them in the act, always take out your phone and take their photo or video. This usually scares the hell out of them. If you report them to the police, they will usually get in a lot of trouble. That is completely up to you, however.
Keep in mind that if you go to the police in a foreign country, there is probably going to be a lot of paperwork and it will take a huge amount of your time. Not to mention the language barrier.
Sometimes the Scam or Cheating is Big
Some of the craziest stories I have ever heard are from people traveling to expensive resorts. These people have paid a lot of money to stay for a week or so in a foreign country.
When they go down to the bar to get their first alcoholic drink of the night, the employees spike it. Within minutes, the individual passes out and is unconscious. They are then taken to a hospital nearby. When they wake up, they are told that they must have had too much to drink. Obviously that can’t be true since they only had one drink.
Regardless, they are hit with a giant bill for staying at the hospital for only a few hours. I am talking like $10,000 or $20,000. They are told that they are not allowed to leave the hospital until the individual pays the full bill.
This usually requires that they call friends and family in their home country and beg for money. For every extra day that the individual stays at the ‘hospital’ to come up with the money, they must pay an additional $1,000.
Does it sound like something out of a horror movie? Yes, it absolutely does. Stuff like this can, and does, happen throughout the world. Is it rare? Yes, I’m sure it is.
By the way, to finish the story, once the person pays the bill and leaves they usually go to the police. But, the police in the local country cannot do anything because there aren’t any laws that prevent ‘hospitals’ or ‘doctors’ from charging massive amounts of money.
Even when the foreigner returns to their home country and complains, there is nothing that can be done. The home country has no jurisdiction in the foreign country. Unfortunately, the individual has lost a lot of money in a very complex scam. Scary, indeed.
So what can we do to protect ourselves from scenarios like this? To be honest, there’s not a whole lot that we can do besides learn about the common scams in that particular country. It is best to do research prior to leaving/arriving. Type in the name of the country and the word ‘scams’ on Google.
There are people who have posted countless stories online and it will give you an idea about the different ways that people generally scam tourists in that particular country.
But sometimes doing research simply is not enough. Sometimes there is no way that we can prepare ourselves for the most effective type of scams. These type of scams are when people break our trust. We would have never thought that the bartender inside an expensive resort, the people that we trusted would keep us safe, would spike our drink. They were in on the scam also.
I know, it’s very difficult to trust anyone after you read stories like this.
Safety As A Solo Traveler: Solo Travel CON #7
Traveling in groups is always a safer option. Traveling alone is a thief’s dream come true. A thief has a much greater chance of success when his victim is traveling by themselves.
But are thieves everywhere? No, not really. You may travel for months or even years without encountering a single thief who tries to rob you. But on the other hand, it is entirely possible that you are one of the unlucky travelers and are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Keep Your Items Safe
I must say, it is incredibly frustrating when I want to go and do something but I can’t because I have a bag with me. An example of this would be swimming at the beach. Why can’t I go swimming? Because I have a bag full of filming equipment. Sure, I could just leave it on the beach nearby and go swimming for a few minutes while I keep my eyes on my bag. It’s possible, yes.
However, some thieves are expecting that you do this. They might be in a nearby car and specifically waiting for someone to leave their bag on the beach. They can quickly run up and snatch your bag, enter the car again, and drive away before you can even get out of the water.
Is this rare? Yes. But if it happens, then you still have to deal with this enormous financial loss as well as the burden of replacing every item that you just lost. Be sure to dive in deep and learn about all of my safety tips while solo traveling.
Keep Your Body Safe
Keeping your body safe requires a certain degree of precaution as well as knowing what to do after the fact.
Becoming sick while traveling is definitely not something that you want to happen. Can you imagine going to a hospital in a country where nobody speaks English? Can you imagine receiving treatment from someone and you don’t even know how well they’ve been trained?
I can guarantee you will have many thoughts running through your mind if this particular scenario were to happen. Frightening, indeed.
Sickness can arise from something as simple as a mosquito, walking past someone who has a respiratory infection, or eating food that was not prepared properly which causes food poisoning.
It’s always a good idea to keep a few over-the-counter medications with you. You can usually buy them at a local pharmacy for cheap when you arrive in a new country. Or you can bring some from your home country. Just keep in mind, the airlines may confiscate them. If you bring them, be sure to keep everything in the original labeled container. That will increase your odds of getting past security with them.
Injuries are probably the worst form of disasters while traveling. What could be worse than getting a very large cut on your body, or breaking a bone, or getting in a serious car crash? And to top it all off, you are in a foreign country – which means that because of the language barrier, you do not understand the people around you. This is definitely not something that you want to experience.
It is always a good idea to know where the local hospitals are when you are staying in a foreign country. Find it on Google Maps, and save a pinpointed location for easy access later. That’s always a good start.
But obviously we cannot control destiny (if you believe in such a thing). These illnesses and injuries always arise when we least expect them. And when they do, you’d better hope that you are prepared. Be sure to take a moment and read why you should never travel without Travel Insurance.
When you are traveling alone, the only person who will take care of you, is you. Whether you like it or not, you must constantly be aware of everything that’s going on around you…and be ready for the worst. And sometimes, well, even that isn’t enough…
Doing / Planning Everything Yourself: Solo Travel CON #8
Now don’t get me wrong, having the freedom to go anywhere that I want to and whenever I want to, is pretty cool. I mean really, who else gets to live such a cool lifestyle? Not many people. I do feel fortunate.
But after you do this for a while, there are certain things that become redundant, time consuming, and often very frustrating. One of them is planning.
Personally, I don’t travel to many tourist areas. It’s just not my thing. I enjoy staying far away from them. So therefore, there is usually very limited information online about the location, or the activity, that I want to experience.
Before leaving, I must figure out how I’m going to get there (and back), how long I will be there, what I can do while I am there, where each specific location is that I want to visit while I am there, what prices I should expect to pay, determine if there are any scams that are common in the area, and a whole list of other questions. Not to mention I also have to plan for the video that I will make when I get there.
Sometimes this process takes a couple of hours because I cannot find enough information online and so then I must ask local people – usually through translation (like mentioned above).
Doing this once or twice is kind of fun and interesting. But doing this every couple of days for weeks, months, or even years, can get a little bit tiring. When we plan by ourselves, we must accept full responsibility for our planning. I have once got on the wrong bus which took me to a completely different part of the island that I was on. The island was huge. I had to stay a couple nights in a completely different town. Oops.
As you may know, I try to meet with as many local people as possible. That is the fastest way to learn a culture (which is one of my missions). Sometimes the local people invite me to hang out with them for a day, or maybe even go to an interesting location together. I usually jump at the invitation.
Why? Not only is it fun to interact with a local person from a different country, but I also get to enjoy traveling to a new location without having to worry about pre planning and organization. I simply go with the local person and let them do all of the thinking. This may sound like something small, but I can assure you, sometimes this is a much needed relief!
If constant planning isn’t something that you look forward to doing every other day, I suggest looking into organized tours. Through this type of traveling, almost every aspect of your journey is completely preorganized – all you need to do is show up and enjoy!
Disrespectful People While Solo Traveling: Solo Travel CON #9
I would be lying if I told you that every aspect of solo traveling is amazing and 100% enjoyable. I will say that 99% of the time, everything is great. But, there is that 1%, in fact, I would probably say less than 1%, that sometimes leads to frustration. This can be due to one of many reasons.
Since 2016, when I started to travel the world, I have been: shouted at, laughed at, mocked, cheated, stole from, denied access to, slapped, grabbed, pushed, pulled, spat on, had sand thrown in my eyes, hit with mud, hit with rocks, and been chased by a man with a butcher’s knife. Some of these things have even happened multiple times.
I know, this sounds terrible. And, well, it is. But please keep in mind that these things are very rare. Almost all of these bad things have happened to me while traveling in underdeveloped countries, where legal accountability is still a problem. I mean really, who the hell throws mud and stones at another person just for ‘fun’? Crazy.
Some people just don’t have a high level of respect towards other human beings.
In general, the higher the level of overall education and legal accountability within the country, the less the chance of people behaving in such a negative manner. I’ve noticed that there is a connection between legal accountability in a country and the overall education level. It’s frustrating to see that in certain places, the local people can do almost anything and not be punished for it.
After you travel in underdeveloped countries for a while, you will be able to observe this and connect the dots, also. It’s hard to explain this to a westerner, as we don’t really have a massive problem with education – which would then lead to a whole list of problems. But this is a whole different story that I don’t want to get in to here.
Anyway, so what can you do to avoid situations like this from happening to you? In general, stick to the areas that are a bit more civilized, and you will rarely experience the things that I mentioned above. Generally, there are normal neighborhoods, and there are areas that are stricken with poverty and struggle. Try to stay in the areas that don’t show many signs of poverty. That will help dramatically.
Keep in mind that I specifically travel to locations within a country that are very far from the tourist areas. Why? Because I enjoy experiencing all types of culture. When inside a tourist area, often the real culture is dramatically distorted because they are trying to make it more foreigner-friendly. And personally, I find that to be rather boring. So, I like to venture out…usually really far!
The chances of meeting these ‘disrespectful’ people is much higher for me than the average tourist who only sticks to the tourist areas. I like to dive into the local culture head first! And unfortunately, this sometimes results in experiencing some of the bad behavior of the locals.
It is important to note that most people, in every country, have been super kind, respectful, helpful, and friendly. Like 99.9% of people – including the undereducated people. Bad scenarios, like mentioned above, are super rare – but they can indeed happen.
Learning New Cultures Can Be Stressful: Solo Travel CON #10
The moment the plane touches down and you walk outside of the airport for the first time, you will be instantly thrown into a completely different culture. Depending on the location, the culture can be dramatically different from your own.
I absolutely love learning new cultures. But I must say, for the first two weeks, this can be a stressful task – especially if the culture is vastly different from your own. I always feel like I’m walking on eggshells because I don’t want to offend someone based on what I say or what I do.
Sometimes local people will behave in a certain way that you would never do in your home country, and you may become offended. But keep in mind, in their country, this may not be considered bad behavior at all. You must always focus on intent. Did the local intend to offend you by their actions? Usually not. But, it was your own interpretation of their situation that led to your frustration. Cultural differences.
Sometimes it is difficult to know the intention of the local person when the culture and body language is so dramatically different from your own. That’s OK. This takes time to learn and understand. And this can be a stressful learning curve.
I’ll never forget the moment when I was in a small village, in the middle of nowhere, in Bihar, India. I had just met another foreigner a couple of days ago, and we were both invited to the home of a local family for lunch. We went to the rooftop where they provided a large meal for us. They gave us water to wash our hands.
Instead of pouring the water over our hands and letting the water land on the rooftop where everybody was walking and sitting, she decided to walk over to a flower pot and wash her hands over the plant. This would also give the plant something to drink instead of wasting the water and also making the floor wet.
Within 2 seconds of her washing her hands over the flower pot, the locals shouted in anger and fear. They were all talking amongst themselves in their local language and we could see that they were not very happy. After translating, we learned that the locals saw this action as pouring dirty water onto the Flower God.
The mother of the household walked over to the plant and did some type of small seance / prayer next to the flower and tried to apologise to the Flower God for this bad behavior.
See what I mean? This is just one example of hundreds and hundreds that I could give you. Culture around this world is so drastically different from anything you could ever imagine.
Just try your best to show kindness and politeness towards everyone, and everything will (usually) be okay. Smile and say thank you (in the local language) as much as possible. This is the one universal indication of kindness. People are more prone to help you and return the kindness if you initiate friendliness first.
Bank / ATM Problems While Traveling: Solo Travel CON #11
Have you ever been in a foreign country and you have been denied access to your own money when visiting the ATM? I have. Multiple times, actually. And let me tell you…this is definitely not fun. Sometimes frightening.
The first time it happened, I was in a small town in the Philippines. I went to five different ATMs and I was rejected each time. When I approached the hotel counter to explain my situation they said that if I cannot pay in advance, then I cannot stay another night. Pretty cold. But, I guess that they have a policy that they must abide by.
They were the only hotel in the entire town (believe me, I asked many people). I didn’t have much of a choice.
I went back multiple times to each ATM, about every two hours. After spending half of the day going from ATM to ATM, I went back again and luckily one finally started working. Later, I found out that there was a network issue in the local neighborhood.
Both while traveling in Bangladesh and in India, I was denied access to my funds at the ATM, as well. No matter which ATM I went to, I had the same issue. I had to call my bank back in the United States and speak to the customer service department.
I called one bank account, and it was a rather simple problem to fix. They asked me some questions to verify it was me and then they unlocked my account. They told me that they did not know I was traveling, so they locked my account for safety purposes.
But the other bank account, I wasn’t so lucky. They asked me a series of questions to verify it was me. One of the questions that they asked was “what month and year was my bank account created?” Like are you joking? What kind of question is that? They even gave me multiple choice options but the dates were all in close proximity to each other. It was impossible for me to know.
The moment I told him that ‘I literally have no idea which year and month it was’, they said “sorry sir, I am no longer able to speak to you” and they literally hung up the phone. I was beyond furious.
I called my bank back and explained the situation to a different representative and they told me that the only way I can unlock my account is if I walk into my bank account in the United States and show them my birth certificate! Obviously that was a bit difficult because I was in India at the moment.
I asked them if one of my family members could go into an office and verify my account and my identity by bringing the document. They said that this would be possible, thank God.
After several days, my mother brought in my birth certificate to verify my identity and then my account was unlocked.
Always make sure that you have the option to call internationally, after you are traveling inside of a foreign country. Personally, I have a Google number and I can simply call through an internet connection. Just make sure you have some type of option to do so. If you are stuck in another country, it will most likely be impossible to call with a local SIM card and cell phone.
And in today’s world, it is almost impossible to find a phone that will call internationally. If you do find one, I’m sure you would be charged a lot of money for each minute – and my guess is that this phone call will not be a quick one. So, make sure you are prepared in advance.
Obtaining Travel / Tourist Visas: Solo Travel CON #12
One of the worst parts about solo traveling is worrying about visas. For some countries, I can get a visa that will last 10 years. Other countries, I’m only allowed a 30-day visa. Some countries will charge me $165 for a 10-year visa. Some countries will charge me $165 for only a 30-day visa. And there are all types of variations in between.
Every country has different rules, regulations, and prices. In addition, all of this varies based on which country you are from (the passport you are holding).
But honestly, the cost and the length of the visa is not the most frustrating part. The most frustrating part is filling out the mountains of paperwork to simply get the visa.
In addition to the amount of paperwork that needs to be done, sometimes the questions on the forms are incredibly confusing to understand. Sometimes they are written by a non-native English speaker and the document itself doesn’t make much sense. Dead serious.
One time it took me about 12 hours of effort to complete the documents to get a visa. I had so many questions while filling out the forms and so I had to call the helpline multiple times to get them answered. After finishing the forms and submitting them online, their government website timed out.
In addition, after I re-submitted the form, I made a mistake and needed to redo the whole online document. I was just about ready to pull my hair out because of frustration.
The good news is that there are ways that we can avoid all of this frustration. There are online travel visa agencies that can do the majority of the legwork for us, for a very small fee. I highly recommend these services.
Terrible Flight Regulations: Solo Travel CON #13
Some of the regulations that you will come across while flying are absolutely insane and sometimes the inconsistency is extremely frustrating.
If you fly with this airline, your carry-on bag can weigh up to 15 kg. But if you fly on that airline, your carry-on can weigh only up to 12 kg.
If you fly on this airline, you are allowed to use your laptop in flight. If you fly on that airline, they will yell at you and possibly penalize you with a fine.
If you fly on this airline you can check in using your phone or at the front desk. But if you fly on that airline, you must check in by downloading and using their app or you will pay a penalty before you get on the flight.
With this airline, your batteries must be inside the corresponding electronic device to prove that the device is real. Other airline companies require that the battery be stored in a separate compartment, and not inside the actual device.
I have also read crazy regulations that require you to put your camera batteries only in your carry-on bag. If you put them in your checked-in luggage, they will be removed and thrown away. And then in certain countries, the rules are exactly opposite. Your batteries must be kept in your checked-in bag. If they are inside your carry-on upon arrival, they will throw the batteries in the garbage.
So then how are tourists supposed to travel with cameras and gear to and from some of these locations? I literally have no idea.
Are you starting to see how and why flight regulations can become time consuming, tedious, and frustrating?
There are countless examples of different rules and regulations throughout each airline and country. It is nearly impossible to keep up with them all. But, we must if we want to avoid being strip-searched or something.
However, I recommend that you read some of them carefully before showing up for your next flight.
Making Friends And Saying Goodbye: Solo Travel CON #14
When I first started solo traveling, I met a ton of people who I connected with on a pretty deep level. They would help me with minor issues as a tourist, they would take me to unique locations that only locals know about, we would hang out for hours and talk about culture from both of our countries, and we would share stories throughout our life that made us laugh or cry. Over the course of many days, our connection became very deep.
At that time, I was apparently oblivious to the fact that I would soon need to say goodbye to my new friend. I allowed our friendship to grow stronger and stronger.
Soon the final moment came when we needed to say goodbye to each other. We both knew that we were probably never going to see each other again, and the pain was almost too much to bear. I soon learned that saying goodbye to amazing people is not an easy task.
In the beginning, this situation happened more frequently than I care to admit. It took me a few times to realize that I could not continue traveling if it was going to be this emotionally difficult.
Then, I developed a strategy. ‘The wall’. I now have an invisible wall that is around me at all times. This wall protects people from learning too much personal information about me. When the questions start going too deep, this wall magically appears and I limit the depth of information that I share with them. I prevent people from building a strong relationship with me.
You might be thinking ‘well, that’s terrible!’ yeah, maybe you’re right. I’m not sure. But in my mind, I have 2 options;
I can either a) build very strong bonds with many people within every city of every country that I visit, and have my heart be ripped out of my chest every time I need to say goodbye.
Or, option b) build good and long lasting friendships with people but prevent the relationship and the bond from becoming too deep.
I choose the second option.
While using the second option, ‘the wall’, I have made countless friends within so many different countries. Not superficial friends, but real friends with real bonds. Many of these friends would go way out of their way to help me if I needed help, and I would also do the same for them.
I intentionally prevented the final layer of the onion from being peeled back, specifically so our goodbye wouldn’t be so difficult.
Which option will be the best for you? I have no idea. Only you can decide that.
So Many Traveling CONS, Is Solo Travel Actually Worth It?
My God, yes! Solo traveling is absolutely worth it! Again, more than 99% of my solo traveling journey has been nothing shy of amazing! This particular article only focuses on the negative, less than 1%, of my travels. I am simply zooming in on the less than 1%. The amount, and quality, of the PROS of solo traveling far outweighs the CONS.
I challenge everyone to go solo traveling at least once in their life. In my opinion, the longer the better.
If you are fortunate enough to have the time and money to go for a long solo traveling journey, like maybe a few months or even years, then do it! And even if you only have the time to do it for a couple of weeks in a foreign country, you should still do it! I can almost guarantee that you will have the time of your life!
My biggest regret in life is that I wish I would have started sooner. Hindsight is 20/20. If you are seriously interested in solo traveling, don’t make the same mistake that I did and wait. Start as soon as possible!