Reasons to travel alone now plus safety tips and resources
by Jennifer Mitchell
Solo travel has been on the rise over the last several years. According to a Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, 24% percent of people polled said they traveled on their own in 2015. And roughly one in four people surveyed by the marketing firm MMGY Global said they planned to travel alone in 2018. Google searches for “solo travel” and “solo female travel” have been on a marked upswing during recent years as well. And it’s no surprise why. There are many benefits to traveling alone, including personal development, increased creativity and the ability to travel wherever you want whenever you want. Best of all, solo travel is perfect for anyone, whether single, in a relationship, extroverted or introverted.
So if you’re having trouble nailing down a travel companion or if you’re looking for some serious “me time,” consider booking a solo trip. And if you’re on the fence about globetrotting alone, here are four reasons why solo travel can be a life-changing experience.
1. Do what you want – no compromises.
Traveling with a group or partner means constant compromises, starting with where you’re traveling, when you’re traveling and how you’ll get there. When traveling alone, you can choose your destination and daily activities without worrying about a travel companion. You can also go with the flow and book last-minute adventures while on your trip based on how you’re feeling each day. If you wake up and need more sleep, go for it; if you’re wide awake and feel like going for a hike, there’s no one there to hold you back.
2. Gain confidence.
Traveling alone will naturally put you out of your comfort zone. We spend so much time surrounded by family, peers and co-workers that extended alone time can feel a bit strange—especially when you’re in a foreign destination. But as your trip progresses, you’ll become more independent and confident in your ability to care for yourself.
Because you won’t be distracted by a travel buddy, your senses will become heightened and you’ll literally have to figure out how to survive. It’s entirely up to you to decide whom to trust, how to get around and where to go. You’re responsible for every decision made on the trip, which will help you assume full responsibility for decisions in your life once you’re back home.
3. Become more self-aware.
When traveling alone, you’ll have exorbitant amounts of time for reflection. While this might sound daunting, the activities and exploration of your trip will help guide your reflections and you’ll start to gain a better understanding of yourself. You’ll come to know the things you like and dislike, and you may discover strengths and weaknesses you never knew you had. By putting yourself outside your comfort zone, you’ll find out how you react to different situations you might never have encountered in your daily life. These new introductions to yourself will help you become more self-aware.
4. Meet new people and expand your creativity.
Just because you’ve decided to embark on an adventure alone doesn’t mean you need to spend every waking hour in solitude. In fact, solo travel—more so than traveling with a group—opens you up to meeting new people. By sitting alone at a restaurant or bar, you’re much more approachable. There are also a number of travel groups that plan outings specifically for solo travelers.
Meeting new people, especially those from other parts of the world will sharpen your interpersonal and communication skills. These unique experiences will also broaden your knowledge and perspective, enhancing your creativity.
Safety tips for traveling alone
Solo travel is common and generally considered to be safe. But much like any other type of travel, there are safety considerations to keep in mind. Here are a few precautions to take when traveling alone.
- Tourists are natural targets for pickpockets and other criminals and being alone makes you even more vulnerable. Whenever possible travel in populated, well-lit areas—especially at night. And walk with confidence from place to place. If you’re walking to a new destination, map out your route and check bus or train schedules before leaving your hotel, hostel or Airbnb.
- If you’re planning a hazardous excursion or traveling to a destination that is considered dangerous, consider taking a group tour for the day or duration of your trip. You can still gain many of the benefits of traveling solo but will have peace of mind getting around in a group.
- When booking a hotel, hostel or Airbnb, be sure to check multiple reviews and websites to make sure you’re staying in a safe place. You’ll probably also want to avoid any place with a single supplement, which would require you to pay extra or bunk up with another solo traveler.
- Be sure to leave a copy of your accommodations and itinerary with friends and family back home. Include addresses and phone numbers for where you’re staying and any group tours you plan to take. Check in with a chosen family member or friend periodically throughout your trip, even if just sending a message to say all is well.
- Carry your phone, ID, emergency contact information and any applicable allergies or medication information with you at all times. It’s also wise to keep these documents in a hidden pocket or money belt.
Resources for solo travelers
Want more information about solo travel before taking the dive? Check out Solo Traveler, a website dedicated to those who enjoy taking trips for one. The website offers tips, the best destinations to travel alone and stories from the road. For more inspiration on where to travel, check out this list of the best places to travel alone.
Tours that cater to a party of one
Thinking about taking a solo trip, but wouldn’t mind some guidance? G Adventures plans great small group trips and they’re solo traveler friendly, meaning they won’t charge single supplements. Intrepid also plans wonderful trips that are specifically designed for solo travelers. In fact, more than half the people using Intrepid are going solo. For more companies that plan group vacations or day trips for single riders, peruse the Travel Channel’s recommendations for sensational tours for solo travelers.
Books to inspire you to take the leap
If you were inspired by “Eat Pray Love” or “Wild,” consider picking up another one of our favorite solo travel books like, “Wander Love: Lessons, Tips & Inspiration from a Solo Traveller“ or "The Happiness of Pursuit.” YourStory also has some great recommendations of must-read books for solo travel, and our female travelers will love this list from Bustle of 11 books every solo female traveler needs to read.
Apps you need when traveling solo
What would we do without our apps? It’s hard to imagine getting through the day without them and that’s only heightened when traveling. While there are dozens of apps out there that will make solo travel easier, safer and more fun, these are our six favorites.
- Roammate connects solo travelers when they’re in the same location and looking for a travel buddy. You can search by destination, activity type and interests, and see referrals. You can also share your experiences or itinerary and connect with a like-minded community through the app.
- Peek connects you with other travelers and provides suggested tours, activities, restaurants and tips for a select number of cities. The app is primarily available for U.S. cities, London, Paris and cities in Mexico.
- Google Translate needs no introduction. If you’re traveling to a location where you don’t speak the language, the Google Translate app will be a lifesaver.
- WhatsApp is key for keeping in touch via WiFi for travel meet-ups, with loved ones back home and with new friends when you return to your home countries.
- EatWith allows travelers to enjoy a meal with the locals. The app helps you find and book a seat at dinner parties around the world, hosted in locals’ homes.
- RedZone Map shows you the safest—rather than most direct—route from point A to point B based on crime and social data. When traveling alone, the safest route is always a good idea.
Are you considering solo travel? Or do you have tips from previous solo trips? Share your experiences—or your concerns—in the comments below or on social media with the hashtag #NoSmallPlan. Once you’ve planned your solo trip, commemorate your journey with customized shirts and bags from No Small Plan.
Jennifer Mitchell is a blogger, comedian, freelance copywriter and travel enthusiast.