At first, traveling alone wasn’t really my scene. I was staying in Amsterdam, my first stop on a three-month trip to Europe.
“Maybe I hate this city because of its inherent melancholy, flowing through the pipes of the old houses, lining the underbelly of the dark-watered canals,” I wrote in a very dramatic journal entry.
I basically wandered around the narrow streets in the drizzle, cold, jet-lagged and lonely. Sartre would have been proud.
A few years later, I now love traveling alone more than I ever thought I would. You don’t have to get sick of someone else, you can go wherever you want and most importantly, you meet infinitely more people.
When traveling by yourself, one will often hear the question, “Are you traveling alone?”
Followed by other questions such as:
“Come by the pub tonight.”
“Stop by tomorrow for coffee, on the house.”
“My friend’s having a party Wednesday, did you want to come?”
So far I have made solo trips to Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Dublin, Scotland and twice to the west coast of Ireland.
This summer in Dingle, Ireland, I started chatting with an American family outside a pub. They invited me inside for a Guinness and then took me out for a multi-course dinner at the best seafood restaurant in town. We happily shared stories about our travels in Ireland over fish chowder and brown bread.
From personal experience, this probably would never have happened if I would’ve been traveling with someone else. When you’re alone people have a tendency to want to take you under their wing and make sure that you have a good time. Plus, it’s always easier to make room for one more person than two or three.
Other travelers often ask,
“But don’t you get lonely?”
No, not really. For me it’s the perfect combination of socializing and solitude. I can explore all day, often with a newly acquired friend, have a few hours to shower, read and relax, and then go out for a night of fun. Solo travel has led me to opportunities I would never have experienced before; couchsurfing with a delightful Greek girl in Corfu for almost a week, taking a train up to the stunning Scottish highlands and road-tripping across the Dingle Peninsula with Irish guy I just met.
The view from the train in the Scottish Highlands.
So honestly, if you love being surprised and having random acts of kindness bestowed upon you, give solo travel a try. I know it seems scary but it will probably work out. And just send me a note if you’re feeling melancholy.
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12 thoughts on “The Many Benefits of Solo Travel”
Lovely article Ashley. I’m on my solo travels and will be (re) discovering myself over the next year or two! All the best.
Thank you, Karthik! I agree, solo travel ultimately leads to self-discovery, along with seeing the world around you in a new light.
Ashley, I really enjoyed this post! It’s heartening to hear about the positives of solo travel. :)
Hi Andrea, thanks for stopping by! I just watched your first ‘vlog’ and I think you’re going to have a great time in Europe traveling as a single female traveler… I’ve had great experiences and it is especially safe in Europe. Let me know if you ever make it to Paris while you’re on your trip!
Agreed. Most of my memorable experiences came about through chance encounters. For myself what I miss from home is some of that spontaneous energy I had when people were more open to me as a traveler. I wish I could approach strangers and go off on mini-adventures anytime in life. Part of it is creating that aura around you and finding like-minded people, it easier said than done.
As an aside I did have some experience with scammers in Turkey who preyed on the openness of travelers and this gave me a glimpse of what its like for the more cautious amongst us, what women may have to contend with etc…
But the positive experiences will have you chasing that feeling again.
I cannot even begin to describe how much I am with you on this one. Solo travel is so rewarding for all the reasons you named. Also, it has taught me so much about myself. I have very intense memories of moments when I was in a place alone (NOT lonely, just alone) – sometimes when someone’s there with me I remember the company beter than the place, and I love really really being in a place, just me, no contaminations of my very own thought. A lot of people don’t understand that, but it’s beautiful.
It just surprised me in so many ways; I had figured I would feel alone a lot, but on the contrary I met more people- often when you travel with someone else or a group you spend the majority of your time only talking to them. I also know what you mean about being alone with your own thoughts- it’s amazing!
Love your blog, especially your story about your budget yoga retreat in Ubud. I am trying to gather the courage to make a solo trip to Indonesia this summer, but I keep getting held back by my mother’s worries that I won’t be safe, in addition to my own doubts about being able to break free of my introvert nature and find people to explore with along the way. Any tips for beginner solo travellers in that region?
Hi Lisa, I was in Bali and Gili Trawangan for a month by myself and I felt completely safe! I’d say your best bet is to stay in hostels when you can to meet more people, be careful going out at night by yourself and just try to be as a friendly as possible- start chatting to people eating nearby you at restaurants and things like that. 99 percent of the time they´ll be interested in having a conversation! Happy travels :)
I´d just stay in hostels if possible so you can meet more people and try to be as friendly as possible! Also hanging out with other solo travelers is always a safe bet! :)
I am so glad I found your blog! I have this immense passion for travel, writing, food and reading your post gave me the hope I needed that someday I could pursue a job that I actually love instead of what everyone expects me to do. I’m 16 years old and I’ll be graduating high school in 2 years which is kind of stressful when teachers expect you to have a clear idea of what you want to do with your life. To be honest, the only thing I want to do is travel the world, meet new people, try exotic food and not have a boring job that I am going to hate for the rest of my life. I already know travelling for me is hard because on top of having celiac disease, I have so many other allergies, peanuts/ nuts/ soy/ legumes/ egg/ rice/ corn just to name a few. I understand that becoming a successful travel blogger is hard work, and it doesn’t happen overnight. I was just wondering if you had any advice for an aspiring young traveller like me, so that I can actually turn my dream into a reality?
Check out youngadventuress.com for more on traveling with allergies and nomadicmatt.com to get started on your own blog. My advice would be to maybe take a gap year after high school (and save up before then) and maybe work as an au pair or backpack somewhere cheap (like Southeast Asia!). This would help you both get a taste of the world as well as figure out more of what you want to do in life! Good luck in whatever you decide :)
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