Frequently Asked Questions
As an anxious traveler, I always get a lot of questions about how I manage alone on solo trips. The long and short of it is this: solo travel does not have to be lonely, scary, impenetrable, or awkward. I’ll do my best to answer some of the most common questions I get about my solo trips. I want people to know that it’s always scary to book a solo trip before you go, but when you actually get out there and do it, you realize just how easy and rewarding it is.
1. Were you lonely?
This is, by far, the biggest misconception that people have about solo travel, probably because the word “solo” is in the name itself. Solo travel does not have to be a solo endeavor. When I say “solo travel,” I don’t mean that I’m going to spend an entire two months by myself in a foreign country; I mean that I’m not going with anyone from home. Along the way, I've met dozens of people from hostels, buses, city tours, and hikes who I spent the entire trip keeping in touch with. All in all, during my 62 day trip to South America, I spent maybe one day by myself.
2. Weren't you scared?
Of course I was scared! Almost everything about solo travel can seem scary. Not knowing the language, not knowing the local customs- who knows what could happen to me? I could get kidnapped and sold for drugs! But the biggest difference I noticed during my trip was the difference between the anticipation and the reality. Before my trip, I was terrified, turning around all the “what if’s” in my head on repeat. But when I finally got there and got into a groove, it quickly became second nature. I say it all the time, and I really mean it: you’d be surprised at your own ability to adapt to new surroundings if you have no choice but to adapt.
3. How do you manage getting around?
Getting around solo is almost identical to getting around in a group. Buses, planes and trains all operate exactly the same whether you’re on it alone or with a group of people. Is it slightly more intimidating taking night buses on your own? Sure it is. But in actuality, it’s really no different from doing it with a group. You still book it from a hostel or a bus station, and you still get to where you’re going, just as you would if you were traveling with friends.
4. Is it more expensive?
So this is a bit of a misnomer. Solo travel isn’t inherently more expensive than traveling with a group. In fact, it may even be cheaper because you don’t have to take others into consideration when booking cheap, budget hostels. However, the biggest financial cost of solo travel is that you don’t have an automatic group to split costs with. Cabs, meals, and buses may all be more expensive without a set group to divide the costs. Some tours, even, will give you a group discount if you have enough people booking with you. However, all that is easily remedied if you make friends with a few other travelers. The only major difference is that you have to work a little harder to get a group together than if you already came with one.
5. Is it hard to meet people?
No, no, no. It can be so easy to meet people while traveling. Hostels, backpacker buses and tours are inherently designed to foster a warm and welcoming environment for solo travelers and groups alike. Is it awkward sometimes? Sure. But generally, I've found, people want to talk. No one really wants to do things entirely by themselves, especially in a foreign country. Strike up a conversation with someone at the bar or the pool. Or stick around for your hostels breakfast or chat up someone in your room. All it takes is one ice-breaker to make a potential friend for weeks. You may be surprised to find how much others want company.
6. Why do you do it?
This is the most frequent question I get about solo travel, and there are a few reasons why I occasionally opt for it.
First, traveling solo gives me the option of being alone without the necessity of being alone. As I mentioned, it’s not difficult to meet other backpackers and wind up traveling together. But the amazing thing about solo travel is that you’re not bound to anyone. When you travel with a set group, you’re obligated to do everything together, even if you don’t necessarily have an interest in some of the activities. When you travel solo, you can meet others and part ways whenever you want. They want to go to a museum and you want to go on a hike? Cool, you’ll meet up for dinner later. It’s that simple.
Secondly, as an anxious and occasionally socially awkward person, I find solo travel to be an incredibly convenient way to challenge my social skills. I grew up with the same 6 best friends my whole life, so I haven’t had to make new friends in quite a long time. When I travel, though, I’m somewhat forced out of my comfort zone. And the reason is works is very simple: solo travelers have nothing in common but everything to talk about. Where we’ve been, where we’re from, what we’ve done on our trips so far - the ice breakers already exist. It's really convenient and really rewarding to see how your shared experiences can foster international friendships despite having nothing in common otherwise. And none of it would have been possible if you kept to yourself.
Finally, solo travel to me such a big accomplishment. Think about it. You’re quite literally picking up and going to a completely strange and foreign place on your own without so much as a crutch to lean on. It’s an incredibly daunting thought, and that’s why so many people opt not to do it. But I’ve found that even though the “what if’s” don’t go away, the weight of them progressively dissipates as you meet others, talk to locals, and occupy your mind with the challenges of the day to day.To figure out that you can not only do it, but also thrive in it, is such a rewarding and elevating feeling.