Here at Sunshine and Gin, we are big advocates for travelling alone. It is just about the best self-education you can have; being independent, making your own choices, having to deal with tough situations without a safety net.
However, there are some serious downsides to travelling alone.
1. There is no safety net
There is no one to watch your back should things go bad or to stop you from making stupid decisions. Granted, sometimes friends are more likely to tag along on the stupid-decision-ride than stop you. But travelling alone, as terrific as it is, means you really are alone. You will make friends, sometimes life-long friends, but you haven’t got the guarantee of someone looking out for you on your journey through strange lands.
Upside: Sure it’s scary but it’s exhilarating and you really learn to look after yourself.
2. No one to push you to step out of your comfort zone.
When you travel with someone else, you can’t have everything your own way, your trip is a mix of what you want to do, what you both want to do and what they want to do. As long as you have chosen your travel companion well, this just makes the travel experience even better as it pushes each of you to try something you would otherwise have avoided. Perhaps your companion wants to visit a certain town or sight, try a food or take a detour and you have to step our of your groove and go along with them.
Travelling in Kuala Lumpur last year, I just assumed that Husband and I would eat street food – KL has some of the best in the world, in fact why you’d eat in a restaurant is a bit mystifying. However, he had never eaten street food before and while he didn’t utter a word of objection, he told me afterwards that he never would have tried it if I hadn’t suggested first. Fortunately, he loved it! So when we reached Bangkok, we selected breakfast lunch and dinners off carts, vans and peddle-bikes and he loved it!
Upside: You get to challenge yourself, OR you make friends with people doing something crazy and go along with it.
3. No one to hold you bags while you go to the toilet.
Scoff all you like, but this is the thing that bugs me most about travelling alone. In an airport or cafe there is no one to watch over your bags for the few minutes you need to go to the toilet, order at the bar, anything. You become that person who pulls a trolley into the disabled cubicle muttering ‘sorry’. Worth travelling as two just so you can use the toilet comfortably.
Upside: Let me know if you think of one.
4. No one to look after you when you get sick.
Ok, so mostly you can just toughen up and take care of yourself – Deal With It! But sometimes it is nice to have someone to give you TLC when you’re in a strange place and sick. This becomes more important if you are seriously unwell and unable to look after yourself properly or deal with the demands of travel. Then travelling alone can become a problem.
Upside: If you need to change your schedule to work around illness, you can, without worrying about anyone else’s enjoyment.
5. No one with whom to share plane space.
Not that there is a lot of space on a plane anyway, but travelling with a friend in the seat next to you means you can share the arm rest, foot space and pillows as you wait out the worst part of international travel.
Upside: There is no upside to plane travel unless you get an upgrade.
6. No one to take photos of you.
On my big solo back-packing trip, the first 2 months I was pretty much by myself. I met up with friends and I made new travel-buddies, but for a lot of the travel I was alone. So I have almost no photos of myself in Germany, London, Stockholm, the Baltics or Prague. And I was having such good hair days for a lot of that time too!
Upside: You can meet fellow travellers and charming locals when you have to ask people to take a photo of you.
7. No one to reminisce
This is the big bummer about travelling alone. You have no one to reminisce over strange happenings and unplanned excursions, spontaneous parties and ‘that guy who said that thing and then you did that’. Shared travel stories are joyeous and travelling with another person is an incredible bonding experience. It can be a shame when no one else remembers that night in Riga. *wink
Upside: No one to remember the stories you’d rather forget, or correct your outlandish solo-travel stories by pointing out the that didn’t really happen.