I’ve had numerous opportunities to explore the world both for work and for pleasure – 5 continents, 21 countries, and 52 cities to be exact. And in at least a third of them, I was a solo traveler. If my memory serves me right, I was only 24 when I went on my first business trip alone. At first, it was kind of overwhelming to navigate large airports and go through security checks and immigration , and somewhat terrifying to be in a totally new place with no one by your side to help you. After a few more of this experience, though, I became more comfortable and began to actually enjoy my newfound independence and freedom. Of course, there are always two sides to it, and I’m here to share with you the pros and cons of traveling by yourself, especially to an overseas destination.
- The first upside of traveling alone is that preparation becomes much easier. Planning for a solo trip is a lot less complicated compared to when you are part of a group. You only have to worry about your own flight details; no need to wait for others’ confirmation if they’re okay with the proposed flight, airline, seat location, etc. Choosing your accommodation is also less stressful as you don’t have to debate with anyone on whether you should stay at a hotel or try Airbnb. As for your itinerary, it doesn’t get easier when you’re traveling alone. You have a free hand on what tourist attractions to go to, restaurants to try, and activities to do. No need to consider everyone’s interests, special conditions, dietary restrictions, and other personal preferences. Imagine that! 🙂
- Packing is also a breeze as you have full control over what’s going to be inside your checked-in luggage and carry-on bags. That means there’s no need to fret about squeezing in some items at the last minute to help your travel buddy get rid of his / her excess baggage. You usually pack light and end up with one or two bags only (depending on the length of your trip) as opposed to when you’re flying with your kids (in which case you have to bring a whole lot of other kiddie stuff). And because you packed your bags yourself, you don’t scramble to look for your things as you know exactly where you placed them.
- When you have nobody traveling with you, a simple but decent look will do. In cases where you travel with your boss or even colleagues, you naturally would want to dress smarter and more business-like, wear some make-up, and do your hair. However, when you’re on your own, you can sport your more natural style and even go makeup-less if you want.
- Inside the airplane, traveling solo makes for a worry-free experience. For one, it’s more comfortable to move about and do your business without being bothered or noticed by anyone. This is especially true when you want to sleep or try out the latest offering in the in-flight entertainment deck. It also won’t be too big of a deal, for example, when you make a mess of your meal. 🙂
- You’ll have the hotel room and its amenities all to yourself. Nice, right? You can take a shower (or not 🙂 ) and use the bathroom whenever you please, and leave your shoes and used clothes unkept for all you want and no one will complain. And since you’re in full monopoly of the remote control, you can choose whatever movie, TV series (binge-watching, anyone?) or music to watch and listen to. Getting up and ready for the day is also more laid-back since you don’t have anyone to take turns with.
- You tend to spend less when you travel alone unless, of course, you’re really bent on splurging. When you’re by yourself, for instance, you settle for simple meals and prefer to stay in your room to relax rather than go on a night out with your travel buddies. And this is a good thing if you want to keep within a tight budget while on a trip.
- Waiting in the airport for your flight can be tough, especially in a long layover. Sure, I don’t mind staying for hours at Changi (Singapore) or Schiphol (Amsterdam), but in smaller airports where there’s nothing much to do, time seems to pass so slowly when you’re on your own. You also have to be awake and alert as much as you can to avoid becoming a victim of petty airport crimes such as pickpocketing and luggage theft.
- For a lady traveler, it’s sometimes difficult to fly solo and carry all your heavy bags with you. Imagine running from one end of the airport to the other, or taking the train or bus to get to your next terminal with all your luggage. If you’re traveling to the United States, in particular, you’d have to retrieve your luggage at your port of entry and check them in again before you go on to your final destination. Now that’s a major hassle for solo travelers, isn’t it? And don’t get me started on how difficult it is to go to the ladies’ room or do some duty-free shopping with all your bags! 🙂
- Eating at the airport or at the hotel restaurant can be pretty lonely when you have the table all to yourself with no small talks in between bites. I’ve gotten used to this already, but I remember the first few times I had to do this. It was really uncomfortable and I felt like I was totally out of place, especially when I was seated beside a group or a family enjoying their meal together. And did I mention it’s hard to find a table when you don’t have a companion to reserve it for you while you go and order your food?
- Traveling solo also means you have to know every detail there is since you don’t have anyone to ask it from. You should be aware of your flight, seat, airport and terminal details, your hotel address, the name and contact information of the transportation company’s representative who will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel, and other pertinent information.
- Exploring a city by, say, going on a package tour with a group can likewise be less fun as you feel like a loner in the midst of couples, families or friends who are all taking wacky pictures and jump shots in almost every place you stop over in. Times like this, be sure to take your selfie stick with you. It will be your best friend, I promise! 🙂 More importantly, though, you are unable to share with anyone the special moment of seeing a world-renowned landmark for the first time or just experiencing what it’s like being a local in a new place.
- Perhaps the biggest challenge in traveling alone is that nobody will be able to help you, at least immediately, if you run into a emergency. I’ve never had this problem before (thankfully), but I can imagine how big a nightmare it would be if you were on your own in a foreign land and you fell seriously ill, for example.