Paul has been a passionate traveler for over 35 years, and has visited many places and countries in North America, Europe, and elsewhere.
I've traveled widely over the past 35 years, both with others and unaccompanied. While there's definitely a freedom and flexibility in traveling solo that you don't typically get when journeying with one or more companions, there are also a number of downsides. This article lists and looks at 10 of those negatives.
10 Negatives of Solo Traveling
Here are 10 disadvantages of traveling unaccompanied.
- Safety is a Bigger Issue
- Nobody to Share the Experiences With
- Language Problems
- Falling Sick
- Eating Alone
- Photograph Difficulties
- More Expensive
- Limited Skills
I go into more detail regarding each downside below.
1. Safety is a Bigger Issue
There's no doubt that traveling alone increases your vulnerability to problems like crime, and other unwanted attention or behavior, particularly if you are female. I don't believe that these issues are insurmountable, but you need to be more aware of them. Extra care has to be taken by solo travelers not to get lost, or stray into unsafe neighborhoods. Doing some additional research on the place that you're visiting can be a great help. It goes without saying that getting drunk is generally a bad idea for a solo visitor.
2. Nobody to Share Experiences With
Human beings are social animals by nature. Experiences that happen when you're on your own can almost feel like they never really happened. We sometimes want somebody else there who we can share our emotions and excitement with. It makes undergoing an experience more real and intensifies it. When alone, it can sometimes just feel a little underwhelming to be stood in front of a famous building, say, and not have someone else there with you.
3. Language Problems
There's no doubt that if you go to a country where they speak another language, it helps if there's at least one person in your group who is fluent in the local lingo. It can help things to run more smoothly and prevent a lot of practical problems from occurring. Language problems can be social too. It's usually relatively easy to make yourself understood enough to buy some food or a railway ticket, but being unable to have any conversations of any substance or depth can become alienating when experienced over an extended period of time.
4. Falling Sick
Becoming ill when traveling is never a good thing, but when you are alone it can feel like a disaster. Even if the sickness is just a bad cold, or upset stomach, you still have to do everyday things such as feeding yourself and showering. You may also have travel or work commitments that are difficult to postpone or cancel. If your problems are more serious, you will need to seek medical treatment, or even hospitalization - for that reason, I would always make you always take out travel insurance before going anyway.
Even if you are generally comfortable spending time on your own like me, there will still be times when you can feel isolated when traveling solo. We tend to take it for granted when we have friends and family on hand to talk to and hang out with in our regular lives, put us in a situation where we are surrounded by only strangers, and it's human nature to experience a degree of loneliness.
6. Eating Alone
If you travel solo, you should be prepared to eat alone. I personally cope with this by taking along my laptop or a good book, but I can still sometime feel a little uncomfortable in certain situations, especially if I'm the only solo dining. There's also quite a bit of general social stigma attached to eating alone. Of course, you may make some friends along the way and will be able to eat with them, but you should be prepared to eat alone at some point.
7. Photograph Difficulties
It sound trivial to some, but it's one of my major peeves. Sometimes you can find yourself in either a great situation, or at a stunning location where it would be great to have a companion who can take a photo of you. Yes, you can take a selfie, and yes, you can ask a complete stranger to snap you with your phone, but the results rarely work out as well as having someone you know taking the picture.
8. More Expensive
When journeying alone, you can often end up paying out more for expenses such as travel and accommodation because you aren't splitting the cost with others. Taxis, for instance, can charge a similar amounts whether they are taking one passenger, or a group. The same can go for rooms in hotels and other places to stay, you end up paying relatively more than you would with a companion, or group.
Boredom can be a bigger problem when you are on your own. Reading a book, or surfing the internet can become tiresome over the course of a long journey. Having no one around who is fluent in your language, or shares your interests can also get tiresome. Grey, rainy days when you are confined indoors can also be challenging. Having a familiar person around is sometimes all that you need to make things interesting and fun.
10. Limited Skills
Being self-reliant certainly sounds very appealing as a concept, but in reality there are times when it's useful to have someone else with you, especially if they have certain skills that you lack. This might be fluency in another language, it might be navigational abilities, cookery or camping skills, or it may also just be having more experience of a destination, culture, or country.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Paul Goodman