Pros and Cons of Traveling Alone

PROS

  • YOU decide…everything. Want to stay an extra three days somewhere because you really like the effing delicious pastry you had at that café and want to eat it at least five more times? Done. Want to stay in a hostel that requires hauling your bag up a mountain because it sounds kind of rugged and romantic? Do it! Want to walk across an entire island for no reason aside from liking the idea of walking across an entire island? Nobody’s going to whine about how stupid an idea this is! You get to spend the exact amount of money you want to spend, stay exactly where you want to stay, and do exactly what you want to do, with no compromises. It’s not always easy to find truly compatible travel buddies, even among the best of friends.
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Lost while walking alone across Gozo

 

  • Making last-minute reservations isn’t as risky. One person is a lot easier to find room for than two, three, four, five…
  • It’s character and confidence-building. Yeah, corny, but traveling alone requires you to step up to the plate over and over again, to make mistakes, embarrass yourself, figure out how be self-sufficient, develop common sense, and make decisions independently. You eventually learn that being alone in a public place can feel more empowering and relaxing than uncomfortable and nerve-wracking. As someone who is naturally a bit unsure of herself, traveling alone has helped me to become more self-assured and less concerned about what other people think.

One of my all-time favorite solo meals: cheesy, hammy crêpe and hard cider taken at a backyard restaurant overlooking the Gorges du Verdon, after walking half a day through the hills of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

 

  • You can really absorb your surroundings. Friends are distractions. Nice distractions, but distractions all the same. A friend’s perspective might help me process a place in a different way, and their presence might make me a little braver in certain social travel situations, but I also find that friends make my surroundings fade to background. I focus on my companions to the exclusion of other stimuli and find that it creates a little friend-bubble that keeps me floating just at the edge of things. Alone, I can become a part of the scene around me and really notice how it feels to be there.

 

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Inside the palace in Split, I sat on one of those café cushions to the left and had a coffee, watched tourists and locals going here and there, felt the breeze in my hair and the sun on my cheek, and heard the most heavenly a cappella music coming from inside the temple straight ahead. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

 

CONS

  • You foot the whooole bill. Divide accommodation rates by one and forget about group rates for anything, unless you join forces with strangers.
  • The full enjoyment of some experiences is contingent on group make-up (tours, some outdoor activities, classes, interactive events). If you bring your own group, you know you’ll like everybody. If you don’t, you could end up passive-aggressively fighting with a dude who keeps stealing your seat, trying to talk down a lady who’s actually terrified of the activity she’s paid to do, or dodging a seven-year old monster who’s set on pinching your ass. There are also some activities that you’re less likely to enjoy (unless you’re really outgoing) on your own, e.g. (for me at least): most nightlife.
  • There may be more at stake if you don’t stay vigilant. A lone person (especially a woman, though I will defend to the death my right to travel solo and the fact that it is worth it and not a “stupid” idea tantamount to “asking for trouble,” but that’s a rant for another day) is more of a target than a group. It’s scary when you find yourself in an ambiguous or threatening situation without a group to rely on for support. Traveling alone means being on constant low-level alert (which means you’ll also probably be the one to save the next group you travel with from being scammed or robbed or harassed, because this type of vigilance quickly becomes second nature). It also means that you may need more of a back-up plan when heading into remote areas (such as hiking up a mountain on which there is poor cell service, for example), because ideally you don’t want to have to saw off your hand.

 

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Within about fives minutes of taking this picture, the bus driver tried to kick me off the bus in the middle of nowhere, by myself, because I didn’t print out the right fucking ticket confirmation from my email.

 

  • There’s no one to shake and ask, “how lucky are we? can you believe this? do you see that? does your food taste as good as mine does?” No one to reminisce with about “that time…” No one to commiserate with if things go hilariously wrong and you end up screaming and pounding the gate barrier at the airport, demanding release. The experience is just yours, and that can be lonely. Friends are fun!

 

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I distinctly remember the moment before I took this picture (which doesn’t even begin to capture the view). The mountains were so tall that the sun didn’t break over them until just then and I was so awe-struck by their immensity and the beauty of the valley that I practically fell down, and I wanted more than anything to share even the briefest look with another piddling human.

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Hikes that begin with jackets off and end in a snowbank are a lot more fun with company…

SO?

There are obviously plusses and minuses to solo and group travel, and the dynamic completely changes the feel of a trip. I love travel of both kinds, but get the sense that many people can’t imagine enjoying a solo trip as much as a group one, if at all. So in my next post I’ll talk about how to travel alone, if you think the prospect sounds maybe-kind-of-fun-but-mostly-terrifying.

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3 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Traveling Alone

  1. Is the pounding on the gate at the airport thing a real-life anecdote?

    I am now hungry for crepes. I can make crepes at 2am, right?

    Also, AGREED with this whole post. I share these EXACT FEELINGS (except that I don’t want to hike up a mountain that ends in the snow, although it looks like it was a lot of fun.)

    Like

  2. Pingback: 11 TAPIF Must-Dos | Transient Local

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