After traveling the world for almost four years, I had to think a bit about what makes a Solo Traveler, a Solo Traveler. At first glance you would probably think that it just means someone who is traveling alone. Well, you are partially correct. It’s a little more technical than that. I will explain below.
3 General Categories of Solo Traveling
- Guided Solo Traveler – Someone who explores via organized tour, but doesn’t know anyone in the group prior to arriving. This includes travelers who hire a private 1-on-1 tour guide.
- Extrovert Solo Traveler – Someone who may explore with one or even multiple local people who are not guides. Enjoys interacting with local people and may even focus their entire travel on that interaction.
- Introvert Solo Traveler – Someone who explores with no one. Enjoys time alone in peace and quiet – and doesn’t make interacting with local people a goal.
What is a Guided Solo Traveler?
These are travelers who spend the majority of their time traveling within an organized tour guide/group. Generally, these travelers pay for the tour in advance and then fly to their destination, meet their tour guide, and follow the tour guide/group everywhere.
So how is this considered ‘solo travel’ since the traveler is with a group surrounded by other people?
Well, be sure to read What is a Solo Traveler as this goes into extensive detail. But in general, if a person is on a group tour, they are still considered to be Solo Travelers in the following examples:
When traveling to a foreign country and joining a tour group with a bunch of local people. To me, this is still solo traveling (I label it as Guided Solo Traveling). You do not know anybody in the group and they are all from the country that you are currently traveling in.
What about if I travel to a foreign country and join a tour group full of other tourists from your native country? This is still Guided Solo Traveling, as long as you did not know any of the people prior to joining the group. You entered the group as a solo individual who did not know anybody before joining. Imagine for a moment that throughout this tour, nobody else talked to you. Not even once. Would you feel alone? Yep, most likely. If, however, you knew the people before joining the group, then this would be considered a travel partner and I would not consider it as solo traveling.
Imagine if you left your house alone, took a taxi to the airport alone, flew to another country alone, took a taxi from the airport to your hotel alone, stayed in your hotel for the first night alone, and the next morning you got in a taxi to the meeting location for your tour group, alone. You did not know anyone before joining this tour group.
You go through the entire day with this group of people that you do not know, and you do not say anything to anyone. This is still considered to be solo traveling, I label it as Guided Solo Traveling. Again, I encourage you to click the link above and learn about some of the technicalities to better understand this. Don’t worry, you can still talk to people within your tour group! 🙂
What is an Extrovert Solo Traveler?
Extrovert Solo Traveler is an individual who travels without another foreigner by their side (this includes foreigners who are from their native country, or not). But you would still be considered a Solo Traveler if you were to meet a local person and hang out with them. Meeting local people is part of traveling.
In addition, Extrovert Solo Travelers really love diving into the local culture and meeting local people. Speaking to local people is a highlight to their day and often these individuals actually seek out opportunities to communicate with local people. The tourist areas are cool, but understanding the culture and hanging out with local people is cooler!
John takes a trip to another country, and every day he walks outside to explore the streets. He has breakfast and tries his best to order food in the local language. He invites a local person to sit next to him and chat with him. He accepts invitations from local people to visit their house and meet their family. He walks through local parks to watch the local people and possibly interact with some of them. When a local person tries to start a conversation, the traveler asks questions and gives responses that will lead to a longer conversation…
What is an Introvert Solo Traveler?
Generally an Introvert Solo Traveler is a person who enjoys traveling the world but doesn’t necessarily enjoy interacting with local people. They sometimes try to avoid interaction with local people. These people sometimes are shy or feel a bit awkward when they are around other people, both inside and outside of their native country. Usually Introvert Solo Travelers enjoy spending time in tourist areas and show more interest in the beautiful scenery rather than trying to communicate with local people.
John often likes to sit at a hotel and read a book. Sometimes they will walk alone on the beach. If they are traveling in a public place they may try to avoid eye contact with local people to prevent a potential conversation from starting. If someone starts to talk to them, they usually respond with brief and concise sentences to prevent the conversation from going deep, which would likely make this individual feel uncomfortable.
Type of Solo Traveler – Flowchart:
Determine which type of Solo Traveler you are by using this flowchart. Start at the top where it says “Are you traveling away from your hometown?” Follow the lines which will lead to a 2-option split. Eventually, you will determine which type of solo traveler you are, or want to be!
The Most Common Type of Solo Traveling
Can you guess the most common type of solo traveling? If you guess Guided Solo Traveler, you’d be correct. Most people choose structure over mystery.
Remember, most people take time off of work for a week or two at the most. They have very limited time to enjoy themselves before they must return back to their home country to start working again. Everyone wants to go to as many places and see as many things as possible before they have to return. The most efficient way to travel is definitely through an organized tour.
Once you land at the airport, everything is basically taken care of. Your transportation, hotel, meals, and your tours throughout the country. Everything is pre-organized. Many people like this because they do not have to worry about any of the logistics. They pay money upfront, and everything is taken care of.
If an individual were to take their first non-guided solo trip and they only had a small time window before needing to return to work, I can guarantee that the individual would be considerably overwhelmed and stressed. There is definitely a large learning curve to become comfortable at non-guided solo traveling in general. In addition, there is a learning curve for each individual country. Some are more extreme than others.
There Is No Right Or Wrong Type of Solo Traveler
If you are interested in solo traveling for the first time, you should probably read more about When To Start Solo Traveling. But to be honest, there isn’t one form of solo traveling that is ‘better’ than the other. Each form of solo traveling is a perfect fit for a specific type of individual.
Everybody has different personalities. For one person, guided solo traveling would make them incredibly happy. To another person, guided solo traveling would be incredibly boring. To one person, extrovert solo traveling would be a dream come true, and to someone else, this type of traveling would be incredibly stressful and possibly even scary.
There is no right or wrong. There is no good or bad. It is important to simply choose what makes you feel the most comfortable, feel the most relaxed, and gives you the happiest experience. You should not care what other people think about your travel choices. Be you. Be free.