What Solo Travel is REALLY Like (PROS & CONS)


Being someone who has been traveling the world solo for quite a while now, I have been asked many times what it is like to be a Solo Traveler. I usually respond with a brief list of pros and cons. I think that is one of the most efficient ways to shed the light on what it’s like to be a Solo Traveler. Today, I decided to make an article that talks about some of the largest PROS and largest CONS about traveling solo. 

Now before we begin I want you to understand that there are 3 types of Solo Travelers. If you have not read this article already, be sure to do so. Just as a refresher, there are Guided Solo Travelers, Extrovert Solo Travelers, and Introvert Solo Travelers. Each type of Solo Traveler has a different traveling style and each type of traveler will think differently about each scenario as well. If you read the above mentioned article, you will most likely be able to figure out how each PRO/CON affects each type of traveler.

The PROS & CONS of Solo Traveling

PROS of Solo Traveling:

  1. Meet Local People
  2. Amazing Sightseeing
  3. Make Awesome Memories
  4. You Will Have Time Freedom
  5. Learn New Things
  6. Experience New Culture
  7. Learn New Languages
  8. Become Great at Getting Along With Anyone
  9. Privacy / Can Be Alone
  10.  Self Planning, Go Wherever You Want
  11. Learn More About Yourself
  12. Unique Food

CONS of Solo Traveling:

  1. Planning Can Become Stressful
  2. Can Be More Expensive
  3. Confusing Culture
  4. Travelling Alone Can Be a Bit More Dangerous
  5. Becoming Sick Can Be Really Challenging
  6. Language Barrier
  7. Home Sickness
  8. Meeting Cool People and Saying Goodbye
  9. Loneliness
  10. Strange food

Description of Solo Travel PROS

1) Meet people

Personally this is one of my absolute favorite parts about traveling the world. There is nothing more rewarding than meeting a person from a different country who can speak a completely different language, has been raised an entire different way, and has a completely different set of moral values than me. It’s so fun to chat with them and learn about their lifestyle and also what it’s like to live inside their current country, from their perspective.

2) Sightseeing

Obviously when we travel the world solo, we go to many different locations and see many different things. Mountains, wildlife, modern architecture, ancient architecture, castles, temples, churches, mosques, beaches, etc…the list goes on.

Sometimes the whole point of traveling is to experience as many different things as possible. And as solo travelers, we can go anywhere that we want, whenever we want.

Trying on a Lungi in Bangladesh

3) Make awesome memories

Everyone’s idea of a good time is different from each other. My idea of making awesome memories is to meet local people and communicate with them as much as possible. The more different conversations I have, the more I understand culture, customs, mindset, and a whole bunch of other things.

I think it is important to identify what specifically makes you happy while you are solo traveling, and make a plan to do that thing as much as possible. I have become particularly good at meeting people as I travel the world. If meeting people isn’t something that is particularly interesting to you, then avoid it. Find something that does excite you, and plan to do that as much as possible. This is how to enjoy Solo Traveling. Don’t forget your camera!

4) Time freedom

I have learned over the years that the most valuable commodity in the world is time. If I give you $1,000 today I can earn $1,000 tomorrow. But if I give you a few hours of my time, I can never get it back. Never. Time is the most valuable commodity that anyone has.

There is something special about solo traveling. Whether it’s for a year, for a month, or even for a week. The feeling of not needing to be at a desk, answering calls, and reporting to your senior manager is absolute bliss. During your travels, this is you-time. Time to unwind and let go of everything that has been stressing you over the last weeks or months.

5) Learn Things

I don’t know about you, but I am one of the biggest nerds you have probably ever met. Very few people see this side of me, but it exists. I absolutely love learning new things. Some things more than others. However, my desire to learn new things is strong.

When I am traveling in another country and meeting new people, I ask countless questions. And when I meet more people in the same country, I ask the same questions to them again. Why? Because I compare and contrast the responses of each person until I get a generalized idea about how people think and feel in regards to certain topics. I told you, I’m a geek.

But you don’t have to do what I do. I am only giving you an example. Learning can come in many different ways. Maybe you want to travel to a country and learn how to cook local food. Maybe you want to learn how to speak the local language. Maybe you want to learn how people build houses in that country. The list goes on. The reality is that people are different in the country that you will visit and the opportunity to learn something new is everywhere. It’s fun!

6) Experience Culture

Another one of my favorites. Culture is another core to why I travel. I want to understand what people do consistently on a daily basis and also why they do it. This is fundamental to learning about culture. Some cultures are so drastically different than the culture you are used to in your home country.

Sometimes you will see these differences as better than your home country. Sometimes you will see them as worse. Despite the cultural differences, I always reminded myself that I’m only in a country to observe everything around me and not interfere.

If you see a little old lady down by the river washing clothing by beating each article of clothing with a giant mallet, would you run up to her and interfere and tell her that it is incredibly inefficient and she should use a bucket instead? Doubtful. We travel to observe…not to make changes. But I must say, it is incredibly interesting to see how people of other countries do everything.

Checking out all of the Cruise Ships in Cozumel, Mexico.

7) Language

Traveling to another country and listening to people speak a different language is quite interesting. You will understand virtually nothing. Sometimes it just sounds like noise. I’m often asked, when I am traveling, if I speak the local language. Usually I have to say no.

However I have picked up a few common phrases in each country that I have visited. When I repeat these to local people it usually makes them smile from ear-to-ear. In general, people are so happy that I have taken the time to learn basic phrases.

If you are bilingual and are visiting a country in which your second language is the primary language in the country that you are traveling in, you will be in a world full of excitement! You’ll be able to understand firsthand what it is like inside their country. You’ll be able to understand everyone and everything around you! I envy you!

8) Learn to get along with anyone

It’s really interesting to me when I’m in my home country. There is often anger and tension between people over minor differences. It’s rather frustrating. What’s interesting to me is that when I travel, I have learned to get along with virtually everyone – even though I am drastically different from everyone else.

We were both raised differently, we both have different cultures, we went through different schooling systems, we have been exposed to different religious concepts, we speak different languages, and much more. But, somehow we can still be friends.

How? I simply try to immediately find the commonality between both of us, rather than searching for the differences – and then I focus on those during the conversation. This increases the odds of building stronger friendships, more frequently. Learning to make friends while traveling solo may be difficult at first. Be sure to read about my friend-making hacks.

Exploring Hong Kong

9) Alone

Depending on which country you are from, sometimes the feeling of being alone is the best feeling on Earth, it may be built into your culture. Some people want to move away from the city and buy a house in the countryside and stay away from everyone for long periods of time.

For other people, being alone is not something that they look forward to. To each their own. The nice thing about solo traveling is that you will have the flexibility to be able to be around people when you want to, or, be alone when you don’t want to. The choice is always yours. 

10) Planning

A really cool thing about being a Solo Traveler is that you are in complete control of your plans. If you just found an awesome area on the internet while researching, and you want to go there tomorrow, then do it! Simply get on a train, take a taxi, or walk there. There’s nobody to stop you. No one is expecting you to do anything. You are in control.

11) Learn about yourself

This sounds a little bit weird, I know. It ties in to Solo Traveling being good for the soul. But as a Solo Traveler you need to make countless decisions every single day. Where you will eat today, where you will visit today, how long you will stay there, who you will ask for help, where you are going to sleep tonight etc.

Like I said above, you are in complete control of your trip. And because of this, you will make countless decisions every day. After doing this for days or weeks at a time, you will start to learn more about you and your ability to handle yourself in almost any situation. You will start to learn more about yourself.

Maybe you will realize that you are weaker than you thought. Maybe you will realize that you handle things better than you ever could have imagined. When you start to reflect on yourself you can always find ways to improve yourself.

At an old church on a small Island in the Mekong River, in Vietnam

12) Food

In general, I am not a foodie. However, I love trying new foods in every single country. It is so interesting when you take a bite of a meal that you have never had before and the flavors are something totally different than anything you have ever experienced in your life.

I experienced this so many times while traveling in India. After months and months of traveling in this country, there were still times that I took a bite of food and couldn’t believe the flavor. It was something that I have never tasted in my entire life. It’s almost like seeing a color that you have never seen before. It is hard to describe this scenario, but you’ll know the feeling when it happens to you. Trying local food is awesome!

Description of Solo Travel CONS

1) Planning

If you are a Guided Solo Traveler, planning is not much of a problem at all. You purchase a tour package and all of the planning is virtually done for you. But if you are not a Guided Solo Traveler, then planning can definitely be exhausting. Everyday you must know where you are going to go, and how you are going to get there.

Don’t forget you are in a country where the language is totally different as well. In addition you probably don’t know anybody to help you, yet. You’re all alone. Ready, set, begin! This can be daunting at times. Sometimes just going from your hotel to a specific location for a couple hours and then back can be a nightmare. Some countries are definitely easier to plan and get around than others. 

2) Solo traveling is more expensive

What? Yes, it’s true. Don’t forget that the most expensive parts about traveling are hospitality, food, and transportation. Generally, when you are traveling with two or more people, you are able to split the hotel room bill in two or more ways. You can order one big meal and share it. You can hire one taxi and split the cost. But when you are traveling solo, you absorb 100% of these costs. Nobody is there to split it with you. Be sure to learn the absolutely epic ways to save money while solo traveling.

I asked for 1 beer in Norway. The bill came to $22 USD without tip.

3) Culture

It becomes super awkward when you wash your hands in a small bowl and then pour the water into a nearby flower pot to give it something to drink in the hot afternoon sun, and everybody erupts with anger because you just poured dirty water onto a God. The flower is a God? What?!

That’s right, cultures all over the world are completely different from anything you could ever imagine. Just when you think you understand what to do and not to do, you are hit blindsided. Sometimes people get frustrated with you or sometimes you become completely embarrassed because you did something that the locals never do. The reality is that embarrassment every once in a while is unavoidable. Cultures around the world are different. Get used to feeling uncomfortable.

4) Safety

If you are a hardcore traveler like me, sometimes you will end up traveling to areas that appear to be a bit sketchy. Sometimes you need to look over your shoulder every couple of minutes. There are basic traveling safety skills that you need to be aware of before you start traveling the world.

People may try to pickpocket you, people may try to scam you, people may try to steal from you, etc. Be aware that bad things can happen and they can happen quickly. Educating yourself about local scams before you arrive will help prevent something bad from unfolding.

Police with a sawed-off shotgun escorted me to a hotel at 1am in Dhaka, Bangladesh

5) Sick/Injury

One of the last things that anybody would ever want is to fall ill or get injured while they are traveling. Especially if they’re traveling in a country where the medical system is not up to par. It is important that you have fun while traveling, but it is also important that you constantly think about your safety. Be aware of the potential outcome if you don’t take your safety seriously.

The outcome of losing lots of blood in a first world country will be different than losing lots of blood in a 3rd world country. It is important to know what your options are if in fact a problem does arise. Are you traveling without travel insurance? What number will you call for help? Where do you go? Are you ready to communicate the problem to someone who does not speak your language? Be prepared.

6) Language Barrier

There’s nothing quite like getting off the plane, walking out of the airport for the first time, and virtually nobody understands English. It is important to understand that I never expect people of another country to speak my native tongue, however, it does pose some challenges. Big challenges.

Are you really ready to embark on this type of adventure? What will you do if someone approaches you and starts to speak in a language that you don’t understand…and then say something again…and then they say something the third time but with a louder voice. Will you start to become scared? Angry? Frustrated? These scenarios do happen. Prepare yourself.

7) Homesickness

Will you miss your family and friends in your home country easily? Well, then this traveling solo thing may be a bit challenging for you… Especially if you plan on traveling long-term. One of the best ways to help with this, is to simply have video chats with people back home every once in a while.

A man in Gujarat, India asked me to take his photo.

8) Meeting people and saying goodbye

As you have read above, meeting people is one of my favorite things about traveling the world. But one major thing that I have gotten completely tired of, is making an amazing friend and then being forced to say goodbye and continue traveling…and at the same time, knowing that there’s a good chance I will never see that person ever again for the rest of my life.

This scenario has happened so many times and in so many countries. It has started to get under my skin. Recently, I feel like there’s sometimes an invisible wall that I put  up between me and a person who approaches me and starts to talk. Sometimes I prevent the conversation from getting too deep…this way our friendship doesn’t become too close, and the goodbye won’t be as bad.

This action has PROS and CONS. Maybe this isn’t a good thing. Maybe I shouldn’t do this. But, building a deep friendship only to watch it be torn down is not my idea of fun. This is the only way I have found to help.

After volunteering at her school in rural India for over a month, she broke in to tears as we said goodbye.

9) Loneliness

So how lonely is Solo Traveling? Well, there have been plenty of times where I am alone at my hotel with nobody to talk to. There have been plenty of times when I went out looking to meet new people and have a conversation with someone, only to find that nobody was interested in talking to me. Sometimes you do feel alone in another country and there’s not much that you can do about it.

I asked for Beef in Bangladesh. This is how they served it..

10) Food

Have you ever had a meal that was absolutely awful? Imagine visiting a country in which every time you eat, you dislike the food. Even if you ask for food that you are used to in your home country, the flavor is terrible. What will you do if you are in a situation where the food is disgusting and unbearable? Welcome to the uncertain world of solo traveling!

PROS And CONS to Everything

Did you notice that some of the same headings were in both the PROS and the CONS? Of course you did. It is important to remember that there are PROS and CONS in every part of life. How you choose to react to each of them is up to you. 

Examples: You could try the local food, not like it very much, and then get angry or frustrated. Or, you could look at that situation and think to yourself “Awesome I just tried a new dish in a foreign country. It wasn’t very good but it was interesting and fun to try!”  

You could also get frustrated because it is incredibly difficult to plan an activity all by yourself and have to coordinate taxis to and from a location in a foreign language, and it took significantly longer than what it would in your home country. Or, you could just treat each day as a unique journey in a foreign country and take everything at face-value and stop comparing everything to your home country. Simply don’t let little things bother you.

The CONS May Stop You From Traveling Alone

No! Don’t let the small negativities prevent you from starting your solo traveling journey. I have been doing this for a long time and I can tell you that I have learned to let the small CONS roll off me like water off a Duck’s back.

During times that are potentially negative along my travels, I simply look at the positive side of things. I can honestly tell you that since I have started to travel the world, I have become one of the happiest people you have ever met. There’s always a positive side to every negative. Positivity is a choice. Don’t forget that.

Brock

Hey - I'm Brock. I grew up in the USA, and I have been a full-time Solo Traveler since June of 2016. I am also a Travel Vlogger on YouTube where my primary focus is to simply hang out with local people around the world. My full story is here: About Me

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