July 4, 2017

7 Things I Learned on My First Ever Solo Trip
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I’m not going to lie. My first ever solo trip was not the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.

So many blogs will tell you that traveling solo is the single best thing you can do. That you’ll have amazing experiences you would never be able to have if you were traveling with companions. That you’ll grow exponentially as a person.

I didn’t experience that.

In fact, there were a lot of realities of solo travel that I just wasn’t alerted to before I experienced them myself.

I have been fortunate enough to have travelled a lot in my life. I visited three continents before I turned 10. But before this spring, I had only ever travelled with companions. There were a few times that I’d been on a plane alone, but I always had someone waiting for me on the other end.

In the spring of 2017, I set out with the sole intention of having the sort of solo adventure that social media fawns over. On the outside, I did everything right: I travelled alone, stayed in hostels, and made spontaneous decisions I wouldn’t have if I was traveling with someone else.

But the entire time, something felt missing. I was exploring beautiful places and experiencing amazing things, but I felt removed and distant from all of that. I felt like an outsider looking in. Like a person in a movie theatre, watching as other people lived their lives. None of it felt real.

Part of what I love about traveling is sharing it with another person. I love having an experience that we will always remember, and I love being able to look back on mistakes we made and laugh. I love annoying other people by constantly bringing up “that one time, in Paris…”

Solo travel isn't always what bloggers will have you believe. Even though it can be incredibly empowering, it can also get really learning. Learn more about the realities of solo travel in this post: 7 things I learned on my first ever solo trip.

Daniel, my favourite travel partner, in Panama.

So no, my solo trip wasn’t the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.

I don’t think I’ll never travel solo again — I’d still like to give it at least a few more tries to figure out what everyone is raving about (in fact, I travelled solo for 3 days in Belgium in May). But I’m also not about to drop all of my travel companions in trade of a year long solo trip around the world. I like sharing moments too much.

I don’t want to discourage people from traveling solo. It’s a really great exercise in learning about yourself (for example, I learned that I may not be cut out for solo travel). And for some people it really can turn out to be the most amazing time of their lives. I just don’t want everyone to go into their first solo trip thinking it will be all sunshine and daisies, as so many solo travelers make it out to be.

So here are a few of the tougher things I learned while on my first ever solo trip. Take note, sunshine and daisies solo travel blogs.

1. You will be lonely

Sure, hostels can be a great environment for meeting people. But you don’t have the same sort of connection with people you’ve just meet as with people you’ve known for a long time. Unlike when you’re traveling with someone else, literally every single person that you will want to tell about your day will be back home. I can’t tell you how many times I just wished that I could be back home with my boyfriend, rather than in absolutely beautiful Switzerland, just because I was feeling lonely.

Even if you do make friends in your hostel, chances are that you’ll find yourself doing things alone more often than not. While this can be fun, it can also feel really isolating. You’re going to feel lonely at least once during your time traveling solo. It’s pretty much unavoidable.

2. You might not meet loads of people

While we’re on the subject of hostels, let me be the first one to tell you that not every hostel is a huge party full of people wanting to meet other people. Sometimes, you’ll find big groups who want to stick to themselves. Other times, you might find people who don’t speak your language. And sometimes, people just aren’t interested in making friends.

When I was in Switzerland, I frequently encountered dorm rooms where none of us would speak to each other. Like, at all. I would say hello and people would look at me like I had stepped over some sort of invisible line. Like I was crazy for just trying to be polite. Not the greatest environment for making friends, to say the least.

That’s not to say that I haven’t encountered really great people in hostels. Quite the opposite of that. But making friends while traveling solo isn’t as easy as some people will make it out to be.

3. You probably won’t have a lot of pictures of yourself

Solo travel isn't always what bloggers will have you believe. Even though it can be incredibly empowering, it can also get really learning. Learn more about the realities of solo travel in this post: 7 things I learned on my first ever solo trip.

One of a total of two pictures I have of myself in Switzerland.

Unless you’re super comfortable with rocking the selfie stick, you’re probably not going to end up with that many pictures of yourself. I literally only have two pictures of myself from one and a half weeks of traveling solo in Switzerland.

And let’s be real, pictures of yourself are some of the best parts of traveling. No one wants to see yet another picture of the Eiffel Tower. But a picture of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower? That’s a memory that you’ll treasure forever – and it’s a lot easier to get if you’re traveling with someone else.

4. It’s harder to get caught up in the moment

There’s really something to be said about laughing so much that you’re peeing because you and someone else saw something really funny happen. When you’re traveling alone, you might see something really funny, but you’ll be far less inclined to laugh. And in general, it’s a lot harder to get caught up in the moment when you’re mostly just stuck in your own head – as you will be most of the time while traveling alone.

5. People will look at you weird

Unfortunately, going to restaurants alone isn’t quite socially acceptable yet. Showing up to a walking tour alone doesn’t seem to be super common either. Traveling solo allows you to blend in easier when you’re walking on the street, sure, but people will look at you weird when you show up at a restaurant alone. You kind of just have to get used to that one.

Solo travel isn't always what bloggers will have you believe. Even though it can be incredibly empowering, it can also get really learning. Learn more about the realities of solo travel in this post: 7 things I learned on my first ever solo trip.

Getting something at a cafe is less weird than eating dinner alone.

6. You might not always feel safe

Even in Switzerland – an extremely safe country – it took me more than a week to even consider going out after dark. As a woman, I just didn’t feel comfortable walking alone at night. Which meant that I missed out on a lot of really cool experiences, just because I didn’t feel safe.

Even if it’s completely, 100% safe where you are, you might not ever feel totally safe while you’re traveling solo. Simply because you’re traveling alone, and oftentimes walking alone at night simply doesn’t feel safe.

7. Spontaneous decisions don’t always go to plan

Solo travel isn't always what bloggers will have you believe. Even though it can be incredibly empowering, it can also get really learning. Learn more about the realities of solo travel in this post: 7 things I learned on my first ever solo trip.

Heidelberg – the destination of my spontaneous travel decision.

One of the most common arguments for why people should travel solo is that they have the power to make spontaneous decisions that they wouldn’t make if they were traveling with a partner. But when I randomly decided to go to Heidelberg, I ended up nearly having a panic attack in my hostel dorm because I had changed my plans. So yeah, sometimes spontaneous decisions aren’t actually all that great.

Also: you can totally make spontaneous decisions while you’re traveling with other people! When my boyfriend and I were in Panama, for example, we decided the night before we were supposed to leave Boquete to stay an extra two nights and completely skip Santa Catalina (that time our spontaneous decision worked out great, no panic attacks). I don’t know why everyone is acting like you can only make spontaneous decisions while traveling alone. That’s just not true.

So there you have it. 7 things I learned on my first ever solo trip.

Hopefully this post has enlightened you, at least a little bit, about what solo travel is actually like. I don’t want to bash solo travel too much, but it’s important to realize that solo travel can be a lot more lonely and difficult than many solo travelers make it out to be. And while solo travel can be great, you shouldn’t go into it thinking that it will be super easy and amazing right off the bat. Like anything that’s worth doing, it’s going to take some work. Hopefully I’m up for the challenge.

Have you ever travelled solo? What did you think? Do you think that solo travel blogs often skim over the bad parts and laud how amazing it is to travel solo? Let’s have a discussion in the comments down below!

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Solo travel isn't always what bloggers will have you believe. Even though it can be incredibly empowering, it can also get really learning. Learn more about the realities of solo travel in this post: 7 things I learned on my first ever solo trip.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]
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The comments +

  1. Juliette | Snorkels to Snow

    July 5th, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Yes, yes and YES to all of this! This is exactly how I felt on my first trip! I was left…longing for someone to share it with and reminisce over. I’m the only one who can talk about my trip. No one was there. I felt exceptionally lonely – I expected so much more. I expected it to be what everyone else was telling me it was going to be like. And it wasn’t! And I haven’t done any more solo trips since (5 years ago). Now, I am about to try again in October. Leaving hubby behind and off on my own adventure once more. I am older and wiser now. I have fewer expectations, or perhaps more realistic expectations. I know what I want from it. #WanderfulWednesday

  2. Addie

    July 5th, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    I’m glad to know there’s someone else out there that feels the same way! For a while I thought I was doing something wrong, but I think I did everything I could with what I was given. I’m definitely going to keep trying, and I hope that things turn out better next time, but I really wanted to make sure that some of the downsides to solo travel are out there too, so that no one else goes into it with unrealistic expectations.

  3. Bryna | Dotted Line Travels

    July 5th, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Solo travel might not be cut out for everyone, but at least now you can say you tried it – and learned a lot in the process! Thanks for an honest post. I do enjoy reading people’s un-sugar coated, real thoughts!

  4. Addie

    July 5th, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    I definitely learned a lot! I would say that’s one of the pluses to solo travel 🙂

  5. Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad

    July 6th, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    I love your honesty! Thank you for sharing your perspective. I have to say, I haven’t really done solo travel (I have done like, 3 days by myself tacked on the end of a trip with friends for example, or business travel, but I don’t think that counts) so I appreciate the insight. Whilst I’ve been quite happy on those few days I’ve spent by myself, I totally get what you mean with feeling like you’re on the outside looking in. That’s exactly it! And I think if I’d have spent any longer by myself I’d have gotten totally weirded out by it. I think, for me, a few days is fine, more than that is not good. Also I am not the kind of person to just march up to people and introduce myself, so unless I stumble across some very friendly people I’m likely to just never speak to anyone else. Not good at all!

  6. Addie

    July 6th, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    I think that was mostly my problem as well! I’m terrible at striking up conversation, so that definitely contributed to my loneliness.

  7. Vanessa Brune

    July 8th, 2017 at 4:23 am

    I guess solo travel is always about attitudes. I’ve been on some amazing trips all on my own and had so much fun while there were also destinations I’d rather had visited with someone else. In the end, it’s up to you how awkward and self-conscious you feel cause I’m pretty sure that people don’t actually care whether you eat alone in a restaurant or not 😉 Also, bring a tripod and a remote control to take pictures of yourself. I do it all the time cause I find selfie sticks so weird… 😀

  8. Addie

    July 8th, 2017 at 10:20 am

    I’m definitely going to try solo travel again. I’ve heard so many great things about it that I can’t help but think I just had a bad experience. Maybe Switzerland just isn’t the place for solo travel.

  9. Sarah

    July 8th, 2017 at 6:11 am

    This was a super interesting read, Addie! I have never *truly* traveled on my own, just a couple days here and there in between meeting up with people, never a whole trip. The safety one is huuuge though. When I was in Madrid on my own, I felt SO pressured to get everything done before nightfall because I wasn’t staying in a touristy neighborhood and didn’t want to be out in the dark on my own. And since I was staying in an Airbnb, I didn’t meet anyone else to walk around with. Not that I usually do in hostels either, aha. I love traveling with friends and family, too, but I do hope I get a chance to travel solo again!

  10. Addie

    July 8th, 2017 at 10:21 am

    I definitely agree about the safety thing! It really sucks not feeling like you can go out at night, as sometimes the night time is my favourite part of a city!

  11. Courtney Minor

    July 23rd, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    This is such a great post! I pretty much only travel solo, just because that’s the kind of person I am…I like to spend time alone. I’m naturally inclined to solo travel haha.

    I think it’s great for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s great for everyone or that it’s the “best way to travel”. There are so many blog posts out there that kind of get up on a high horse about solo travel, which is not cool. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to travel.

    This post definitely shows the other side of solo travel. It can get lonely, it can be uncomfortable to do certain things alone, and it’s not always easy to make new friends. I’m glad you tried it out, but if it’s not your thing, keep traveling the way you want to, with friends or your boyfriend, or whoever!

  12. Addie

    July 25th, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks so much for this comment, it really means a lot! I definitely like to spend time alone – I’m an introvert, after all – but for some reason not having the option to go hang out with someone made it so that I suddenly felt lonely by spending all my time alone. Don’t know why that is! Either way, I’m glad that you agree that solo travel isn’t for everyone. Everyone should be able to travel the way that they want to and not feel bad about it!

  13. Belgium on a Budget // What I Spent in Four Days in Belgium • Addie Abroad

    August 29th, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    […] not having the greatest time in hostels in Switzerland, I was a little bit wary about staying solo in a hostel again. But I went for it because it was the […]

  14. How to Kick A** at Weekend Trips While You're Studying Abroad

    August 4th, 2019 at 3:20 am

    […] Who you travel with is arguably even more important that where you travel to. Will you go with a group of study abroad students from your own college? With a tour company geared towards study abroad students? Or will you make your own path and travel solo? […]

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