Why People Don’t Travel, Part 1: Fear of Going Solo

Don’t let excuses hold back your travel dreams. Though many Kaleidoscopic Wandering readers are familiar with the travel industry, many others are not. As part of the Why People Don’t Travel series, I’m taking a hard look at five different things that keep people from traveling. In this series, I hope to provide solutions and additional resources for people who would like to travel more.

Today’s travel concern: “I don’t like to travel alone.”

Liberation signHappy couples walk along the beach in the Caribbean. Families with young children line up for the rides at Disney World. Fathers hike the trails in the national parks with their sons. Mothers and daughters step away for spa retreats.

So what about everyone out there who doesn’t have a travel partner? Can you travel solo?

The short answer is absolutely.

I usually travel with another person, but the few times I have traveled on my own have been personally gratifying, fun and liberating. One of my first solo experiences was a summer on my own in Washington, D.C., where I discovered the only thing standing between me and what I wanted to do for the day was a single ride on the subway. This past summer I ventured to Burning Man alone. Upon arriving, I felt frustrated and irritated about being at one of the world’s biggest festivals by myself. At the sake of sounding a bit cheesy, I can safely say that by the end of the week, I had grown into an entirely different person.

Lots of people travel by themselves … and many people prefer it that way. There are pros and cons of traveling solo, but some of the most popular reasons why people choose to go it alone include:

  • Having complete control over your travels. When you are on your own, you get to decide where you’re going to go, what you’re going to do and how long you want to stay someplace before moving on.
  • Meeting other people. Solo travelers often report that it’s easier to meet other travelers than it is when traveling with a partner. If you’re backpacking, there are frequently others hanging out solo at the hostel who would be more than happy to hit the town with you.
  • Trying things you wouldn’t have otherwise. Instead of feeling confined by what your travel partner wants to do, you make all the choices. Perhaps you have the urge to bungee jump in New Zealand when you’d normally keep your feet on the ground. No need to ask your travel buddy … the only person who has to approve is you.
  • Traveling spontaneously. Tired of your present destination? Then pick up and go. There’s nothing stopping you.
  • Personal growth. People said you couldn’t do it. Maybe you didn’t even know if you could do it. But one thing is for sure … when you return from your first venture on your own, you will be a changed person, and most likely for the better.

dancing in Wings at Burning ManStill not convinced? If you want to travel and you have no choice but to do it alone, there are other options that ensure you don’t really have go solo. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Join a tour group. There are travel groups designed with all kinds of interests in mind. There are tour groups designed for women, students and specifically for solo travelers. Toss a few words about what you’re looking for into Google, and you’re sure to find the ideal group for your travel needs. The start of any travel tour can be a bit awkward as people get to know each other, but you’ll warm up to each other fast enough, and chances are you’ll leave with some new life-long friends.
  • Volunteer. Sign up for a volunteer vacation and you’ll not only experience a new place and culture but you’ll make a difference too. These types of vacations last anywhere from a week to a couple years and range from working with children to grooming hiking trails. On these trips, you’ll be working side by side with other passionate people—both fellow travelers and locals from the area.
  • Couchsurf. Explore the world by staying in people’s homes along the way. Though I’ve never personally couchsurfed, I know plenty of people who have, very few have walked away with a negative experience and most will tell you that couchsurfing is not just about sleeping on someone’s couch. Many hosts are excited to show their travelers around the city, and some travelers even get to attend family gatherings and local festivities with their host—experiences they wouldn’t have had if they’d stayed elsewhere.

And if you’re ready to give solo travel a go, I recommend you check out the websites and blogs below. If there’s one thing for certain, you certainly aren’t alone in your desire to travel …

Resources for the Solo Traveler:

  • Solo Traveler – This comprehensive site is rich in ideas and tips compiled by solo travelers of all ages across the world. It consists of tips on how to travel alone as well as inspiring stories of people who have traveled solo. Check out the post about 50 safety tips for solo travelers for some creative tips on staying on your toes. And for another great read, check out Janice’s eBook, “Glad You’re Not Here: A Solo Traveler’s Manifesto.” 
  • Solo Friendly – Gray is primarily a U.S. traveler, and she writes extensively about traveling solo at Walt Disney World and in Las Vegas. Her blog is a personal account of traveling on her own, and she frequently notes how solo patrons are treated by wait staff in restaurants and whether certain places are friendly and affordable for people traveling alone.
  • Journeywoman – Evelyn has created this website specifically for women travelers, but she has a whole section dedicated to women traveling on their own.
  • TripAdvisor Solo Travel Forum – Find a travel companion. Ask questions about your intended destination. Get travel ideas from others like you who are out to see the world on their own. This forum space is visited and commented upon frequently and is a great place to find others who have traveled solo as well as those who would like to.

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23 Responses to “Why People Don’t Travel, Part 1: Fear of Going Solo”

  1. Sabina

    I strongly agree with all five of the benefits you listed for going it alone. I have found all to be true.

    Another option for people leery of 100 percent doing it on their own is going to their destinations alone, then joining a day tour every once in a while to meet people and not feel so alone.

  2. AirTreks Nico

    I know from experience (personally and professionally) one of the major reasons people don’t indulge in life-affirming travel is because they have no one to go with. The internal debate on whether to go usually ends there.

    This is a great article because it gives people a reason to think twice about that argument. And give resources to back up the inspiration to go.

    Thanks, JoAnna! Hopefully this will help people to rethink their solo travel hesitations.

  3. Candice

    I was so proud of myself for travelling alone in France, I’m not sure if I would have attempted doing so if I weren’t sent by my work . Sweet tips!

  4. Abbie

    The tips are great and the resources are great! I always go back and forth with solo travel… I love traveling solo because (like you said) you can do whatever you want and you can really grow as a person. BUT once you get home it can be really hard to describe your experiences to people who want to “hear all about the trip.” Then again, that’s actually part of the reason I write, so maybe it’s not so bad 😉

  5. Alouise

    I like traveling with friends, but I love traveling alone. I did a whirlwind tour of Europe on my own and met tons of great people. But I also really enjoyed the 3 days I spent in London by myself before the tour. When you add too many people in the mix traveling can get stressful. One person wants to see the tourist attraction, another person wants to go shopping, the other wants to drink at the bar all day. Some friends of mine have had some bad tiffs over traveling, they say you don’t really know what a person is like until you’ve traveled with them. When you’re by yourself there’s no one to impress, keep up with or worry about. And even when your alone there’s always ways to meet new people (if you want to).

  6. Janice

    Hi JoAnna,

    As always, you’ve offer us an insightful, well written travel piece. I appreciate being included and especially like the fact that you recognize all the others who share their stories on Solo Traveler. Thanks for highlighting what I consider to be an important travel issue.


  7. Heidi Ahrens

    I have traveled alone a few times but I don’t like it that much. I find that I can’t re live my experience with others.

    But, the part that I like is that I can truly travel and be on vacation because I follow what i want to do and go at my pace.

    Traveling is so different for each individual.

    Heidi http://outdoorbaby.net

  8. Evelyn Hannon

    JoAnna, what a nice gift to find journeywoman.com in your list of resources for solo women travellers. This is an excellent article.

    I view solo travel as a rite of passage for both women and men. Everybody at some point needs to leave their ‘safe place’ and venture out into the world – all alone and carrying only a small pack and the things they’ve learned along the way. It’s a fabulous test and guaranteed you’ll have a different , stronger sense of self once you’ve achieved it. Whether your 18 or 80 – I think there’s nothing like it. Go for it!

  9. brian | No Debt World Travel

    I think is especially true for women, who feel a little more vulnerable in every day life. So to ask them to hit the road by themselves is like asking them to complete an impossible task.

    Vast majority of women female travelers seem to have a fantastic time and come back refreshed and more self-confident in themselves. It could be the best gift someone gives themselves, man or woman. Don’t shortchange yourself on the experience of a lifetime by waiting on someone else!

  10. DTravelsRound

    I cannot imagine NOT traveling solo. It opens you up to such amazing experiences, let’s you do whatever your heart desires … I travel mostly solo and am preparing for my solo RTW adventure.

  11. Anny at BikeHike Adventures

    I love travelling solo especially for points 1, 2 and 4 that you mentioned.

    Here’s a tip for travellers who want to travel solo and meet new cool solo adventurers: BikeHike Adventures (http://bikehike.com) doesn’t charge single supplement fees and will match you with another female / male to share accommodation and save on travel costs. 😉

  12. Pola

    What a great read, JoAnna! If I already didn’t mind traveling solo, I think your tips and list of resources would convince me. 🙂

  13. Mikeachim

    Nice work. And spot on.

    I find traveling alone a very *different* experience to traveling with others. I notice different things. I act differently. I *am* different – as you note, there’s more room for spontaneous behaviour, making it up as you go, and it’s also easier to shoulder discomfort when you know it’s only you that’s suffering. 🙂

    To be honest, being on my own? Maybe not always a better experience – but it makes for better writing and better photography.

    • JoAnna

      I agree with you. Traveling on my own results in a very different experience. It’s not necessarily better, but it is a different – and much appreciated – experience. Plus, I like knowing that I am able to travel on my own.

  14. Lauren at Northwest Cheapsleeps

    When I travel solo, it forces me into a place of independence that is so welcome and quite rare for me, especially now that I am a Mom. I love it. I cherish the few trips I have taken solo.

  15. singles trips maniac

    Nothing like get away singles trips to meet people and have fun. I’m sick of dating around here. Sometimes its just nice to get away and be alone.

  16. Travelleray

    Very interesting read indeed!
    I found a great way of connecting with co-travelers through http://www.mingletrips.com/ It would be a lot of fun connecting with them and venturing into newer destinations with them!

    Do check it out soon!

    • JoAnna

      Thanks for the tip!

  17. axel g

    Nice post!

    Like you said, there are numerous benefits of setting out on your own.

    What makes traveling beautiful is that there are no rules.

    Everyone can find a way that suits them…

    • JoAnna

      I agree completely. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to traveling.



  1.  Ten reasons to travel alone | velvet escape's blog
  2.  Recommended Reads, January 24, 2010 | SoloFriendly.com

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