Finding a good travel partner can be a daunting task. Your partner can make or break a trip, which is why you have to choose so carefully. I’ve had some great travel partners and some not-so-great travel partners, and through those experiences I’ve learned that sometimes traveling alone is a better way to go. To help you decide if solo travel is for you, here are a few advantages and disadvantages I’ve learned along the way.
Advantages to solo travel:
1. You’re free to create your own schedule and make decisions.
Want to skip a meal in favor of saving money for skydiving? That’s up to you. Feel like renting a bike instead of taking the subway? Up to you. Want to explore the city for an extra hour instead of taking an earlier train to the next place? Do it. There’s no one to say, “I’m hungry,” or “I have to pee right this second.” You’re on your own terms and whatever you say goes.
2. You learn a lot about yourself.
There’s no one to rely on but you. You learn to trust yourself and the people around you. You learn that once you’ve navigated multiple subway systems in multiple languages you can pretty do anything with a little bit of savvy; and savvy can be learned.
3. You will challenge yourself to try new things.
When you’re alone, there might not be anyone to talk you into things, but there’s no one to talk you out of them either. There’s no one to say, “It’s okay if you don’t want to it. Maybe next time.” You just have yourself and your own need to push yourself past your limits. You realize that trying new foods, meeting new people, and maybe even going paragliding on a whim is the only way to make this experience everything you imagined it could be. And it’s only up to you to do it.
4. You don’t have to worry about fulfilling someone else’s needs.
You don’t have to worry about a partner who is homesick and wants to get back to the hostel/hotel to call home when you’re still enjoying the view and want to check out the bar down the street for a drink or two. If you’re homesick and want to call home, you don’t have to worry about upsetting your partner. You make the rules and you don’t have to worry about anyone but yourself.
5. You will learn how to navigate, ask questions, talk to more people, and be more outgoing and friendly.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve gotten terribly lost and had to rely on the kindness of others to help me. I talk to way fewer people when I’m traveling with a partner because we can use each other for help and conversation. But when you do have to rely on strangers, you realize there’s way more kindness and goodness in the world than you knew.
While solo travel has perks, there are definitely a few disadvantages to consider:
1. There’s no one to share the experiences and the stories with.
Yes, it’s awesome to be able to make your own decisions and do whatever you want. But when you get off the train in Interlaken and it’s so beautiful, you let out an audible, “holy s**t,” and there’s no one to hear you. Some days, you realize it would be cool to have someone with whom to share new experiences.
2. Sometimes it’s hard to meet new people when other travelers are with their own groups.
For anyone else who’s an introvert like me, it’s hard to pull yourself out of your shell when you’re on your own. You see people in pairs or in groups and it can be difficult to force yourself to start a conversation, especially when you only know a little bit of the language. You have to force yourself to be extroverted in order to make new friends.
3. The road can get lonely.
It’s inevitable that you will feel a little homesick; it’s totally normal and natural. It’s a lot easier when you have a familiar face with you telling you it’s okay and that you’re there for a reason.
4. You have to push yourself.
This is an advantage and a disadvantage. In the long run, it ends up being more of an advantage than a disadvantage, but in the moment, there’s nothing harder. There’s no one there to say, “Just do it.” You have to do it yourself. You are in charge of your own experience. It’s a lot harder to force yourself into things than it is when someone is there with you, not taking no for an answer. If you do push yourself though, you’ll be better for it.
5. You will get really, really, really lost.
With or without a partner. But with a partner (assuming they’re better with a map than you) you have a better chance of getting back to your hostel before dark. Especially with a language barrier, it’s hard to communicate and find where you’re going. You will get there eventually; it might just take all day. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…)
Regardless of going with a partner or alone, traveling is always a life changing and remarkable experience. You learn more about yourself and the world than during any other time in your life. Don’t let not being able to find a partner hold you back. Pick your partner carefully, or just go alone!