The Down Side of Solo Travel

The Down Side of Solo Travel

Last month, I took my first ever solo trip. I flew to Paris by myself, stayed in an Airbnb by myself, saw the sights by myself, and flew home by myself. In some ways it was an ideal trip. After all, I only saw the things that I wanted to see, spent as much time in each location as I wanted to, and made 100% of the decisions 100% my way. However, there were a few things that I didn’t like about traveling alone. And it doesn’t seem like anyone ever talks about the down side of solo travel. So here’s the ugly truth. Or at least, my ugly truth. Your mileage may vary.

1. You may spend a lot of time feeling self-conscious.

1a. Selfies

I have posted a selfie on the TravelAsMuch Instagram account exactly three times in as many years. There are several reasons for that, not the least of which is I feel very conspicuous when I’m trying to take a selfie.

For millennials and those who are even younger, sticking that phone/camera up in the air as far as your arm will stretch is almost second nature. For me… not so much. I want to hurry up and get it over with before anyone catches me doing it. I hover somewhere between embarrassment that someone will think I’m vain and worry about inconveniencing others who want a photo without me in it.

1b. Restaurants

If you cringe at the thought of having to sit in a restaurant at a table for one, welcome to my world. Guess who ended up not eating a fabulous meal in a city known as one of the best in the world for great cuisine? This girl!

I just couldn’t bear the thought of eating a sit down meal by myself. I went to two restaurants to get dinner by myself on that trip, and while I managed to survive the ordeal, I definitely did not enjoy it. For the remainder of my meals in Paris, I went to Chez McDonalds (Lame, I know!) or bought groceries and fixed my own meals.

1c. Romantic Places

I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower by myself. Everywhere I turned, couples were kissing and taking their own pictures from that oh-so-romantic vantage point above the city. They even had a poster proclaiming it as the “Place to Kiss” with a special hashtag, #eiffellove.

And there was I, without Hubs, missing him dearly, and unable to express my love. I did, however, take a selfie and sent it to him later when I had access to Wifi.

The down side of solo travel: taking a selfie in a romantic place can be daunting.
Selfies in romantic places are just one reason why solo travel can be less than glamorous.

2. If you are an introvert, you will struggle.

I am an introvert. Which is not to say that I can’t talk to people I don’t know… just that it doesn’t come naturally. When I host women’s activities at my church, I think I do a god job of greeting everyone and being a good mistress of ceremonies. But being outgoing & friendly without an agenda takes so much energy out of me and causes me so much anxiety that I tend to avoid it if possible. If you are the type of person who never met a stranger, please know that I am in absolute awe of you. How I wish I could just strike up a casual conversation without feeling like a total dork!

So if, like me, you’re an introvert (with or without shyness), solo travel might be really hard for you. And doubly so if you go to a destination where you don’t speak the language well enough to have a conversation. As a non-French speaking introvert, I felt incredibly isolated on my Paris trip.

Sure, the first few days alone in Paris were great (well, once I finally got my luggage and recovered from the jet lag!), but after that… I didn’t feel like an independent woman on a spectacular journey of self-discovery and adventure. I just felt… dare I say it?… lonely.

I’ve considered whether I might have met more people if I had stayed at a hotel rather than in an Airbnb. Probably, but I absolutely loved the place I stayed. It offered amazing sunset views of the Eiffel Tower and Saint Sulpice church:

(Click here for a link that will get you up to $55 off when booking on Airbnb!)

3. If you’re indecisive, you will struggle.

I didn’t realize until I went on this trip how much I rely on the preferences, advice, and opinions of others. From the mundane to the monumental, I find it difficult to make a decision without consulting someone else.

The down side of solo travel includes not having someone to help you make up your mind.
Decisions, decisions…

Traveling alone means you have to make all of the decisions yourself. Without help or feedback from anyone.

In situations that are not clear cut, I can seldom make a decision without verbalizing the pros and cons of each side, running through possible scenarios, and checking in with others to make sure I’m not the only one who has considered these things. I like to use other people as a sounding board because:

  • Sometimes I overlook important details (like the fact that the subway will be closed when we get out of a particular venue and we will have to get an Uber instead)
  • I unwittingly let external factors influence my mood & decisions (hungry, angry, frustrated, tired – I make all of my worst decisions when I am in one of these states)
  • Sometimes I don’t think things all the way through to the end (yes, Julie, that wall mirror that’s 3.5 feet across is a perfect gift for Aunt Marjorie… but how are you going to get it home?)
  • And then there are occasions when I just don’t have a preference. I can’t decide because there isn’t any factor to sway me one way or the other. In those instances, I really just want someone else to choose for me.

So, while calling all the shots has a certain appeal, you might find it a little unsettling after a while. I really missed being able to get other people’s opinions.

4. You may worry about your safety.

I want to start off by saying that I did not once feel like I was in imminent danger when I went to Paris.

However! I do believe that the only reason I didn’t feel like I was in danger was because I was almost constantly fretting over it. As a woman traveling alone in a city with which I am not at all familiar, I had to think about my personal safety in all sorts of situations. Situations that, if I had been with other people, would not have given me a moment’s hesitation. Some of the precautions I took included:

  • Taking Uber instead of the subway at night. I didn’t think it would be in my best interest to be walking home alone from the subway station after dark, no matter how well-lit the streets were.
  • Making sure the Uber car’s license plate matched what the app said it would be. And even then, still asking the driver who he was there to pick up.
  • Not looking like a clueless tourist. In all honesty, I probably didn’t nail this one, but I did at least try. Rather than constantly referring to a map, I used my phone’s Google Maps app for directions.
  • Not using headphones in both ears. When I was using my earbuds, I only inserted one so that I could still hear what was going on around me. I did not want to be caught off guard or otherwise endanger myself.

So, Is Solo Travel Worth It?

There is a definite down side of solo travel, as I’ve outlined here. But as with most experiences, you are more apt to enjoy it if you don’t have unrealistically high expectations from the outset. Regardless of whether you travel by yourself or with others, you will maximize your satisfaction with the experience by doing adequate planning and preparation before hand.

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Summary
The Down Side of Solo Travel
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The Down Side of Solo Travel
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Contrary to what you may read on the Internet, solo travel is not necessarily a blissful, idyllic journey for everyone. Here is the down side of solo travel.
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Travel As Much
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2 Replies to “The Down Side of Solo Travel”

  1. I loved this article. I love to travel and I plan my trips to the last detail but I have yet to take a solo trip. I to am an introvert and I worry about what it would be like to travel alone. Do you think you will take another solo trip?

    1. I’m glad you liked it Vicki! I definitely would do a solo trip again, probably in 3-5 years, but I would choose a destination where I could easily converse with locals (i.e., no language barrier). That will be the real litmus test for me. I would probably also do a shorter trip of about 5 or 6 days. I was in Paris for eight and a half days and in all honesty, it was a little too long for me to be on my own.

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