Solo travel is without a doubt one of the most enriching experiences you can have! You learn so much about the world and grow as a person. I whole-heartedly believe that everybody should experience traveling along at one point in their life.
There are, however, things that nobody tells you about solo travel. But no more! This article is going to highlight ten things no one tells you about solo travel. It will also give you some tips, so you can make the most of your solo travel adventures.
1. You’re Going to Cry at Some Point (Especially if it is Your First Solo Travel Experience)
You read that right. You’re going to cry even if you never ever cry when you’re at home. This is what surprised me the most when I first started solo travel.
The first time I travelled alone I went for three months. Before those three months, I could remember the last time I cried. I cried at least five times in those three months.
Crying just happens when you’re first starting out as a solo traveller and often happens to experienced solo travellers as well. It is normal, and if you ever meet a solo traveller that claims they haven’t cried, either that person is an absolute anomaly or, more likely, lying.
It makes sense that people cry when they travel alone. You are in a new environment, often in a country where you don’t speak a language, and your constantly under stress. Add in the exhaustion that comes with long-term solo travel, and you’re bound to have a good cry session or two. Own it. It’s cathartic, and you’ll feel so much better afterwards.
2. Hostels Don’t Magically Make You Social
You always hear about how people are always making new friends in hostels and that you’re never really travelling alone. Well, the truth is hostels aren’t magic. They don’t magically make you friends and give you new experiences.
You have to put yourself out there and be social when you’re in hostels if you want to meet new people and have new experiences.
I’m a hardcore introvert. I love being alone and find it incredibly difficult to socialize at the best of times and even more difficult when I’m around people I don’t know.
But I read all these articles online about how hostels makes everybody social, so I expected the same when I when on my first solo trip. Well, it didn’t happen because I rarely put myself out there.
You have to engage in hostel events, get to know your dorm mates, and hang out in the common room if you want to have the hostel experience that you read about online. It isn’t easy. It is uncomfortable and awkward at times, but it really is worth it.
I met one of my close friends while staying in a hostel, and it is all because I got to know one of the people in my dorm. It really is worth it to push yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time.
I am by no means telling you to be social all the time. As an introvert, I know that is an unreasonable request, but you should try at least once or twice on your solo travel adventure.
3. Eating Alone Isn’t Scary
Eating is seen as a social even, and a lot of people ask solo travellers how they can possibly handle eating alone. As if eating alone is the most terrifying thing and anybody that manages to do it is a hero.
Well let me tell you that there is nothing weird about eating alone, and people do it all the time.
It can be a bit awkward when you’re not used to it, but you get used to it quickly. I love eating alone, and trying local cuisine has become one of my favourite parts of solo travel.
If you’re nervous about eating alone, here are some tips to help make it less awkward:
- Bring a book to read while you’e waiting for your food
- Ask to sit at the bar, so your back is to the other diners
- Go to a restaurant with wifi, so you can text a friend back home while you’re eating
- Eat at off-peak hours when the restaurant isn’t busy
These tips makes eating out as a solo traveller a less awkward experience. I promise you will get used to it once you’ve done it a few times.
4. You Better be Damn Good at Reading a Map
Or using GoogleMaps because, let’s admit it, that is what we all use nowadays.
You are fully 100% in charge of navigating when you solo travel. You have to figure out how to get from the airport/bus station/train station to where you’re staying, your way to all the tourist sights you want to see, and figure out how to get back on track after you’ve made a wrong turn.
And you with undoubtably make quite a few wrong turns along the way, but that is how you learn!
You need to become familiar with how to use GoogleMaps and how to use it when you’re offline. Being a GoogleMaps expert is part of being a solo traveller. It is an essential skill to learn.
5. Get Used to Small Talk
You participate in a lot of small talk when you solo travel. Whether it is introducing yourself to people in your dorm, going on a free walking tour, or running into people on the bus, train, etc. who are decide to start a conversation, you will be doing a lot of small talking.
The small talk gets tiring really quickly, but it never ends when you’re travelling alone. You can come up with some talking points or questions to ask the other people as a way to change it up. Your fellow travellers will appreciate you asking them an interesting out-of-the-box question when you first meet them rather than the standard where are you from, where are you travelling, how long are you travelling for? Yawn.
You will have a lot better conversations if you’re prepared with an interesting topic to discuss or question to pose. You will also avoid the monotony of small talk that way as well.
6. Your Relationships at Home Will Change
This is one of the sadder parts of travel. You’re gone for a long period of time exploring the world and learning new things while you’re friends and family are back home doing the same thing they always do.
You change when you travel, and you will have new perspectives. Sometimes that means the friendships you built before you left are different when you come back. Not all friendships change, but some do.
You don’t think when you leave to travel that life at home will change. It kind of feels like you’re putting life at home on pause and doing something else, but the people you know at home are still living their lives and growing just like you are on the road.
Technology definitely helps keep relationships strong while on the road. It is so easy to send a quick text to a friend to check in and see how they are doing.
It is so easy to get caught up in the joy of solo travel that it is easy to forget to check in on what is going on at home. But it is important to do so.
Even if you come home and find that your relationships have changed, that doesn’t mean they haven’t changed for the better. While some friendships may not be as strong as they were, others will be stronger.
7. You Will Get Homesick
Just like crying, it is inevitable that you will get homesick at some point in your solo travel journey. You will long for your bed, your friends and family, and how easy everything is at home.
And that’s completely normal.
I still get homesick and miss the comforts and convenience of being at home when I’m on the road- especially on days where things aren’t going my way. It would be so easy to give up my travel lifestyle, go home, and life a typical life.
But that’s not solo travel junkies are made for! The feeling passes, and you’ll be back in love with traveling quickly.
Here are a few tips to help you when you’re feeling home sick:
- Schedule a Skype call with someone back home
- Book a nice hotel or Airbnb that makes you feel like you’re at home in your own bed
- Go on an epic adventure that you would never be able to do at home
8. You Will Have a Bond with the People You Meet While You Travel Solo
Travellers understand other travellers. There is an unseen bond between them. This is especially true for people who travel solo. It takes a certain type of person to be addicted to solo travel.
You will automatically understand another traveller and their experiences when you meet them, and you will have a unique bond or friendship with them even if you don’t know each other that well.
I still consider someone I met for 48 hours in Kotor a friend even though we only had a few conversations and shared a dorm room for a few nights. It is a weird thing travellers do.
Embrace being understood by a stranger and connecting about something you both love.
9. The Photograph Conundrum
One of the advantages of travelling with another person is that you always have someone to snap the perfect picture of you wherever you are.
You don’t have that luxury as a solo traveller, so you have to figure out a way around it. Selfies are the most obvious workaround, but sometimes you want a proper photograph of yourself.
You either have to get comfortable asking a stranger to take your photograph for you or live without getting that photograph.
I personally don’t care for selfies, so I have very few photographs of me in different places I’ve been to. It would be nice to have more, but it is one of the sacrifices I have made to travel solo.
It is super easy to ask someone to take your photograph, and they are always willing to help you out! And it does get easier to ask the more you do it. You may feel a bit weird at first, but if the picture is important enough to you, you will ask.
10. You Will Get Bored
Yup., you read that right. You will get bored while travelling alone- especially if you’re travelling for a long period of time.
Not every city you visit will captivate you, and sometimes you will be bored and be itching to move on. Sometimes you may even be bored with travel in general. It happens.
You will soon enough find yourself in a new city that ignites your passion for travel, and you’ll wonder how you could have ever been bored.
The evenings, in particular, tend to be when people who solo travel tend to get bored. The after-dinner evenings can seem to drag on and never end, and it can be a bit awkward to explore the local nightlife on your own.
I have spent many a night in a hotel room watching Netflix just waiting for an appropriate time to go to bed. Having spare time is just something that comes along with travel, and when you don’t have a travel companion, the time can drag on.
How to Combat Boredom in the Evenings When You Travel Solo
- Get tickets to a local play or ballet
- Go on a free walking tour in the evening
- Take a ghost bus tour or a haunted tour
- Hang out in the common area of your hostel or hotel
Watch the Video!
Solo travel is incredibly enriching and one of the best experiences a person can have. There are, however, some things that no one tells you about solo travel. People tend to gloss over some of the less pretty details of solo travel and make it sound exciting and exhilarating.
Which it is!
But it is only fair to know everything that comes with solo travel before you embark on your first solo travel adventure. You will be better able to prepare for your trip when you know exactly what to expect.
You will also be better able to handle some of the situations that come up when you know that they can happen before you leave.
If you thought hostels would make you automatically social, you can come prepared and have a deck of cards for the common room to break the ice. Or you can have a game plan on how to get the perfect photograph of yourself at a destination you’ve been dreaming of visiting your entire life.
Knowledge is power, and now you know all the insider secrets about solo travel. It isn’t as glamorous as it can seem, but it is well worth it. I have never met another traveller who regrets their time on the road. It can be difficult to travel for an extended period of time- especially alone!-, but it is worth it. Every. Single. Time.
Don’t let the fear of travelling alone stop you from going on an epic adventure.