Is it weird to travel solo? As an avid solo traveler, this is a question I seem to get a lot…
Why I Solo Travel
While I’m not opposed to travelling in groups, the truth is that I haven’t had many opportunities to travel with more than 1-2 other people. Most of my trips abroad have been solo trips, and I’m completely fine with that.
Given the flexibility of my work, I can travel at any time of the year, and for indefinite periods of time. For this reason alone, it’s difficult to find other people to tag along with me on my journeys. 99% of working people are tied down to a particular place and schedule, so they aren’t able to travel during the year.
To add to the difficulty of finding travel companions, I’ve frequently scheduled trips without booking a return ticket. In these situations, it’s nearly impossible to invite other people to join me in my travels, since I have no idea whether my two-week vacation to St. Petersburg might turn into a two-month stint in Siberia.
Then there’s the financial aspect of travel. Because I prioritize travel, I do my best to scrimp and save throughout the year so that I can keep seeing new parts of the world. Not everyone views travel as a priority, however. Many of my friends and family aren’t able to plop down a couple-thousand dollars on a random trip to the far reaches of Europe.
Given the relative unavailability of other people, I often find myself taking the decision to travel to new places all on my own.
Since I am a natural introvert, I have found solo travel to be an extremely rewarding experience. Solo travel forces you out of your head and into your surroundings. It’s like a long form of meditation. Being all alone in an unfamiliar country comes with challenges, but these challenges add to the thrill of your experience.
Nothing compares to the feeling of accomplishment you get when you’ve made your way around a new city only by relying on locals, old ladies, and broken English. Solo travel has opened my eyes to the world in ways not possible when traveling in a group.
Reactions to Solo Travel
Of course, the whole world isn’t made up of globe-trotting, remotely-employed, part-time travel bloggers. While I’ve found solo travel enriching and rewarding, it seems there is a lingering stigma around traveling on your own.
Many times, when I tell people that I am an avid solo traveler, I’m met with extreme surprise. To be frank, people think it’s weird.
Here are some of the comments I’ve received when discussing my solo travels with others:
- “Wait, you went there all by yourself!? What did you do by yourself?”
- “Aren’t you afraid to travel alone?”
- “Isn’t it lonely traveling by yourself?”
- “Don’t you feel weird traveling by yourself?”
While some of these questions make sense, others are based on fear and other people’s insecurities. In this article, I’ll get to the heart of the “weird” question. While this is based on my own experiences, you may find my thoughts useful if you are thinking of planning a solo trip.
Overcoming the Fear of Solo Travel
To begin, let’s return to the list of comments I get when discussing my solo travels with others. I’d like to dissect each comment/opinion and talk about the origins of each sentiment.
What do you do by Yourself?!
The first and most common question I get when discussing my solo travels is, “Wait, you went there all by yourself!? What did you do by yourself?” This question is the most laughable to me, because the answer seems so obvious.
When you travel solo, you tend to do the same things you would do if you had traveled with others (major surprise). For example, if you are traveling to Paris then you’ll probably check out the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre—you know, literally the same exact thing you would do if you were travelling with a friend or a significant other.
Where does this question come from, then? Typically, this question is asked by very traditional people who don’t do much on their own. These are the type of people would feel uncomfortable going out to lunch or a movie on their own. It’s easy to understand why the thought of solo travel to the other side of the world makes their head explode.
If you know that you enjoy doing things on your own, then don’t let traditional naysayers discourage you. While they might struggle to find things to do while traveling solo, you’ll likely have no problem coming up with a rich itinerary.
If you’re not sure how you would fare on your own, you should test the waters by trying a few things on your own before you commit to solo travel. You could go out for lunch by yourself, for example.
If you find it daunting to hang out with yourself for a while, then solo travel certainly isn’t for you. While you will certainly make friends and meet people on your solo adventures, you will also take many bus rides, dinner dates, and tours all by your (awesome) lonesome.
Isn’t Solo Travel Dangerous?!
The next question I get is a legit one, “aren’t you afraid to travel alone?” Before I answer this question, I want to clarify that I am a 6’4”, kind-of-large male. I am not afraid of traveling alone. While I typically have felt very safe on my solo trips, I think it is wise to take extra precautions if you are traveling alone as a woman.
Thankfully, doing your due diligence about a destination before you arrive is a great way to ensure your trip will be a safe one.
Research the internet for safety guides about the area you’ll be staying in. Try to stay in upscale and peaceful parts of town. Avoid going anywhere late at night and always stay in touch with a relative or friend so that someone will be alerted if you encounter trouble.
One of my best friends, who is a woman, has solo-traveled much of Latin America without ordeal. If you plan your trips wisely and take the necessary precautions, traveling alone can be just as safe as travelling in a group.
(For more tips on traveling the world as a woman, check out this guide that the Canadian government issued on this exact topic.)
Is Solo Travel Lonely?
The third question, “Isn’t it lonely traveling by yourself?” is closely related to the first one. In my opinion, the answer to this question will depend on your personality and the things you personally enjoy.
As I mentioned previously, I’ve always enjoyed doing activities by myself.
While I enjoy the company of other people, doing things on my own allows me to immerse myself in my activities and brings me a sense of accomplishment.
However, the corollary of this is that if you enjoy sharing experiences with other people, then you may dread solo travel.
I have a friend who planned an amazing trip to Florence with her friend, only to get into an argument with her halfway through their trip. For the remaining 5 days of their trip, they did their own thing, only seeing each other at the Airbnb each night to sleep.
Since she is someone who enjoys the company of others, she found the remainder of the trip depressing and anxiety-provoking. She couldn’t help but think how everyone in the city was sharing their travel experience with others, while she was walking around and experiencing things alone. She seriously considered buying a last-minute ticket back home, because she found the experience so unbearable.
Is Solo Travel Weird?
Finally, many people have asked me, “Don’t you feel weird traveling by yourself?” To understand this question, we must think about what it means to “feel weird.” Generally, other people consider something “weird” when they don’t understand it, or when they haven’t seen other people do it before.
You put ketchup on your Pizza? Don’t you feel weird? You don’t use social media? Don’t you feel weird? You walk funny? Don’t you feel weird? Hey Galileo, you believe the earth is round? Don’t you feel weird? Columbus, you’re sailing into the middle of the Atlantic? Don’t you feel weird??!!
In my experience, people are quick to label anything out of the ordinary as “weird.” If you don’t behave in a way that is expected of you, then be prepared to have the “w” word thrown at you.
Solo travel is weird. It’s weird because few people can do it because few people can stand being by themselves.
But if you get down with your bad self, if bae is the one who stares right back at you in the mirror each morning, if going to the movies by yourself is your idea of a weeknight done right, then don’t think twice about whether your solo trip to Antarctica will cause people to think you are a weirdo.
Do it because you want to do it. Because that’s all that matters.
Conclusion: In Defense of Weirdness
Let me take this opportunity to say a bit more on the topic of weirdos and being weird.
People have called me weird my whole life. The bottom line is that the word “weird” is designed to make you feel bad about breaking the mold and doing something you’re passionate about. It’s designed to hurt your feelings, because you stepped outside of a box that lives in someone else’s head.
Imagine how lame and pathetic life would be if you never did anything weird; if you only did the things other people expected of you. And for what? All so that nobody will call you weird behind your back or think it in their brain?
Kanye West is weird. Steve Jobs was weird. Einstein was weird as crap. Yet the world is a better place for their weirdness.
The truth is that doing the things you love involves getting weird. So if you’re serious about traveling the world on your own, but you’re afraid people will think it’s weird, then take it as a positive signal that you’re doing something authentic and rarely done. Solo travel is weird, but you shouldn’t let the “w” word come between you and the time of your life.