What No One Told Me About Traveling Solo

November 30, 2019

Standing in front of Grand Teton looking at the mountain

So, you want to take a solo trip? Yay! That makes me so happy. I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed traveling solo.

Family travel is great and gives you the chance to bond but there is something very satisfying about solo travel. It’s not just about doing what you want to do when you want to do it. It’s about relying on yourself in a way you might not experience in everyday life and that can be a really good thing.

But there maybe a few things about traveling solo you haven’t thought about. Considering these things ahead of time can make your trip go much smoother and with less surprises.

Here’s a few of the things that no one told me about traveling solo but I’m telling you and I also have solutions for what you might encounter.

No one told me that I’d be married to my bags

Well, I’m traveling solo so it’s a given; I’m responsible my own luggage. Besides, I’m only taking one rolling duffel bag. That’s not bad. And a big purse. And a little cross body. That’s doable. It is doable, if you are only going directly from the airport to the hotel or vice versa. But, there’s a good chance you will be doing more than that.

If you are taking a bus, a train or traveling anywhere in between, you will have to consider your luggage. Who’s going to carry it up the steps and through the stalls at the bus station in Guadalajara? Who’s going to haul all your luggage up three stories of narrow steps in Lisbon? If you by chance go on a tour on a travel day and have your luggage with you, what will you do with it when you can’t take it on the boat?

Solution: Pack light. I know, I know. You’ve heard it before. But I’m serious. Take half of what you think you need. Pack smarter. Use packing cubes so that clothing and weight can be redistributed if need be. Try smaller bags that could be carried one at a time up steps so that one big bad is not so heavy. You will enjoy your trip more with less stuff to worry about.

Also many hotels will store your luggage for you for the day and most hostels have lockers.

No one told me I’d get asked a hundred times a day if I was alone

By nature, humans are curious beings. As you strike up conversations with people on your travels, they will ask you about yourself, your work, your family and the dreaded one: who’s with you? This can catch you off guard.

Solution: Expect to be asked about this and be ready with an answer. I don’t condone lying but safety is the priority. Even if they don’t mean anything by it, it’s best to not give out too much info. So, what can you say? I have told people I was meeting a friend or visiting a friend that lives in-insert the city you are in-and that he or she is working. I’ve said my husband is fishing/working/busy. Let’s face it, this is really none of their business but be prepared because you will be asked this.

Southerner Says: never tell someone where you are staying either. I will usually just give the general neighborhood. Even late at night, I have even given a taxi or Uber a location down the street from where I’m staying. Close enough for me to walk but far enough away if by chance someone came back looking for me or passed info along.

No one told me I would be eating every meal, every day alone

I love to share a good meal with friends but I’m no stranger to eating alone. Traveling solo I expected this one. However, I didn’t expect it to get so boring after awhile. Every meal alone until you might begin to question why you are alone to begin with. That’s not a good thing. And it’s not like you can skip eating.

Solution: Choose restaurants with bars or counters and sit there. This gives you an option to talk to a bartenders or other customers if you choose to. Bartenders are used to talking to customers but they also seem to have a knack of knowing when you don’t want to talk either. And no, you do not have to drink alcohol to sit at a bar.

Another option is to find street food or a food truck. A lot of times this will be near a park or a public area where you can sit and eat and people watch or read. Carry a book with you or at least something to work on. I use this time to catch up on what I’ve been doing on my trip in a notebook I carry around with me.

No one told me I wouldn’t be in any of the photos

You might love landscape photography and you might be totally comfortable taking selfies but occasionally traveling to some beautiful places, you’re going to want a photo of yourself in the scenery.

Solution: Invest in a tripod and get to know your self timer really well. To be honest, I have tried this and my photos were, well, pretty bad but I have been practicing when I find an area with few people they are getting better.Β  Ask someone to take your photo and hope it turns out the way you want it. Learn to live in the moment. Travel shouldn’t be just about getting the perfect shot. Put down your camera or phone and soak it in.

No one told me there would be no one to watch my things when I went to the bathroom

You know that thing you say to your partner right before you go to the bathroom when you are at the airport? “Watch my stuff, I’ll be right back”. Not happening this time. I admit I had not thought about this one. As I’ve already mentioned, where you go, your luggage goes. Not to mention you might have picked the perfect seat somewhere and will have to give it up if you leave and take all your things. The struggle is real.

At bigger modern airports and places, it’s not really that big of a deal. The stalls are usually big enough for all your luggage to go in with you. But other places, like bus stations and smaller airports are not so luggage friendly.

Solution: See #1 and the solution of packing lighter so that there’s less to carry. Also get very comfortable leaving the stall door open some. Ask someone else to watch your things. I’ll admit this makes me very nervous no matter how nice they look.

No one told me I would feel alone

It’s true. You will feel alone at times. How much, depends a lot on you and your personality. Our inclination is to share things with people, so being in a new or exciting place with no one to share it with can be a totally different experience if you aren’t used to it.

Solution: If you think you might have a problem with this one, start small. Take an overnight or weekend trip first to see how you feel before you commit to a longer trip. Go to a place you’ve been before so you feel comfortable. Choose an active resort or a place with group activities that you could easily get involved in if you wanted to. Go solo but book a group tour. Stay in a hostel. There is always someone else traveling solo.

No one told me my family and friends would think something was wrong with me

The first time I went out out of the country alone, I didn’t tell my mom until the day I left because I knew she would worry. Her first words-“what’s wrong”? Even though I had traveled alone for work for years, now that I wanted to do it for fun, suddenly something must be wrong. In fact, a lot of people kept asking me was I okay, what was wrong, are you working, where’s your husband, etc.

Solution: Tell the truth or not. Again, it’s no one’s business why you do what you do.

No one told me strangers would try to fix me up

It’s funny because on some trips it’s almost like if something happens once then it keeps happening. Everyone wanted to get me a date on a recent trip. From the Uber driver to a server in a restaurant to a woman I met on the beach who asked me over and over was I really alone.

Southerner Says: I had felt safe enough telling her I was by myself because she was only there for the day with her husband and small children.

Why does everyone think you have to be with someone to have a good time or that you are ultimately searching for someone? Uber driver: “well maybe you will meet someone here”. I’m rolling my eyes if you can’t tell.

Solution: See number 2 and use those lines or just say you are married/in a relationship/going through a divorce or all of the above. Or you can always just laugh.

No one told me random men would say or do random things

This also seemed to be a theme on another recent trip. I’ve had stuff happen before but never as many times as on this one trip. I guess because I’m woman and I’m alone, I’m a good target? Whatever the case, it didn’t even all happen in the same area so I don’t know what was going on.

The first time that it happened on this trip, I was sitting on a bench in a park waiting for a bus and this man runs over, sits down beside me and says will you do me a favor. I immediately said no. He said but you don’t even know what it is. He was right. I didn’t know but I also didn’t care. It really make me uncomfortable that a random man would just come right up, sit down close, like he knows me, and ask me to do him a favor. Plus I’d rather just say no immediately than even engage and eventually say no anyways. He finally got the message and walked away, calling me a nasty name in Spanish as he left.

Solution: I think this depends on the situation. This guy wasn’t hurt. He wasn’t dying. I was not obligated to do anything for him so I just ignored him. I didn’t let my niceness kick in, which is hard sometime. If he truly had needed a favor he could have asked a man or one the many policeman that were in the park. You can also pretend you don’t speak whatever language you were addressed in.

I had a couple of other similar things happen that same trip but never felt unsafe. I just ignored them. However, one of them was pretty funny because the guy kept talking and I finally asked what he wanted. He didn’t like me asking and started telling me to go back home to Trump. If he only knew.

No one told me I would be in asked to work

I suppose when you are vacation and alone so people assume you’re bored and need something to do? I not sure but I’ve had several situations where I was asked to do a task because I was the solo person in the group. Fill out papers or keep up with something. I even had a woman on a bus ask me to help her take care of her daughter that was sitting next to me. I found it a bit presumptuous at the time but it turned out okay and I ended up making a friend.

Solution: While your first inclination might be to say no, you can choose to help or not. Again, it’s not your responsibility but sometimes it’s easier to just say yes and it does kind of make you feel helpful. You might make a friend too.

No one told me it would be more expensive

It’s true. It doesn’t matter that one person is easier to take care of or easier to clean up after, most places will charge more for a solo traveler of a single room. Sometimes they will just go ahead and charge you for a double anyway.

Solution: Ask for a discount. Some hotels even have smaller rooms for solo travelers.A neat and clean traveler doesn’t need much. Honestly, you probably won’t get anything in return but it never hurts to ask.

No one told me people would pity me

You going about your business having a good time and surprise; someone feels sorry for you today. I’ll admit I was totally surprised by this one. Pity on faces of strangers; the hostess, the server, the tour guide, the beach attendant was not what I wanted to see. Although it’s infrequent, it does happen.

Solution: Ignore it or work it. You might just get something for free. On one of my last trips near a wine route, I sensed that not a lot of people come there alone. I was at a restaurant had a small bar where the staff poured drinks but it also had barstools. Even though there was no one else seated there, I asked if I could change seats to see the guy singing (to my credit, I had been around a corner and couldn’t see him). Anyway I could tell the woman at the bar felt bad for me. She started talking to me and once she knew I was there to go on wine tour she started making recommendations. She then preceded to let me try about five different wines. Not a bad night.

No one told me I would doubt myself

I can’t tell you how many times while traveling solo that I made a decision about where to go, where to stay, where to eat, what to do and doubted my decision. And honestly, I have had some mess ups. Like jumping on a bus to an unknown city and hating it. Then having to backtrack hours the same way because I couldn’t continue on my planned route because of bus scheduling. It happens.

But you know what? If something happens you are only disappointing yourself and most things are fixable. In the above example, I stayed one night and left. Anyone can do one night somewhere.

Solution: The more you get used to traveling solo, the more comfortable you will get. Make quick decisions when it can be undone and changed fairly easily. Many more of the things I doubted turned out okay than turned out to be bad decisions.

No one told me it would be so much fun

Even though it might appear from all these issues that traveling solo could be a negative experience, I promise the positives far outweigh the bad. Traveling solo is fun. There is just such an ease about it. There are no expectations to be somewhere at a certain time. Not one disagreement about where to eat. No trying to please anyone but yourself. In my opinion, it’s one of the most positive experiences a traveler can have.

Solution: Just do it already!

Southerner Says logo