Travelling Alone – What I’ve Learnt

Upon embarking on my first solo trip in April 2010, I was, admittedly, a bit arrogant. Having travelled around Europe with two accomplices a couple of years earlier, I assumed the identity of the knowing, weathered traveller keenly aware of the woes that accompanied group travel – growing weary of familiar company, the struggle to make new friends, the relentless need for compromise. Don’t get me wrong, there were good aspects too. In times where we got lost with the added pressure of 15kg backpacks, foiled by the debilitating affliction of monolingualism, there was strength in numbers: the presence of familiar faces from home lifted the weight off the challenges of a new country, culture, language, and public transport system.

At the time of course, I didn’t appreciate these things. Rather, I felt like I had taken the easy, safe route; like walking my way through a 5km marathon, or downing a shot of tequila shot in little sips. I was craving to belt out some year ten German in Berlin without an audience, to find my Venetian hostel on my own, and suffer in silence as I attempted to navigate the Colosseum in 40-degree heat. In short, I wanted the struggle.

Suffice to say when the opportunity arose to travel alone, I was excited. I trawled websites using the search terms “travelling alone” and “woman” and developed a flair for seeking out the information I wanted to hear: That solo travel was the best way to travel: liberating, easy, and that you were “never really alone” as you were always meeting similarly-minded awesome people on a bus, train or hostel room. In short, it is the best thing ever, and anyone that says otherwise was just trying to compensate for his or her timidity of spirit. If you’re a prospective solo traveller, I’m not trying to put you off. But avoid over-romanticising solo travel. I know it’s something I’m guilty of. Here I list a few things I wish someone had told me before I headed off on my journey of a lifetime.

Eating a churro in Lisbon

Eating a churro in Lisbon

1. Travelling alone sometimes means travelling alone.

I set off with the expectation of constantly meeting new people, having new experiences, and hitting the dance floor every night: a hypersocial environment where I’d have to consciously carve out some “me” time. Now, unless you’re some sort of hyper-social maniac (and these people do exist, possibly assisted by an amphetamine) this is not going to be the case, all the time. You will meet new people, and you will have amazing new experiences. But don’t forget that there will be quiet days – days in which you will meet no-one.

I distinctly remember having one of those days upon visiting the majestic city that is Granada, Spain . Upon stumbling across my hostel I was suddenly struck by the smell of fresh paint: the hostel was brand new, multi-coloured and harbouring a distinct lack of clientele. Wandering into my 12-bedroom dorm, I realised I may have been the first backpacker that room had seen.

Venturing into the daylight, the relentless grandeur of the city become all the more frustrating in light of having no-one to share it with. I stared enviously at groups of American tourists, taking photos of my own shoes in defiance of the beauty that surrounded me. My previous motives for travelling alone were becoming increasingly unclear.

streets of valparaiso, chile

Streets of Valparaiso, Chile

What I’ve learnt: It is clear that the main source of my frustration during these times was a discrepancy between some deeply unrealistic expectations and the realities of travelling on one’s own. Before setting off on your adventure, it’s important to get comfortable with the fact that you may be spending long stretches of time in foreign countries with only the voices in your head for company.

One solution is to learn how to embrace and enjoy the time you have alone. It’s a good idea to spend some time in your hometown before you leave. Go shopping alone, see a film alone, sit in a café alone, all the while trying to absorb your surroundings and the people around you. You need to embrace the “alone” part of travelling – read lots of books, listen to good music and most importantly, keep a travel journal (a fish out of water breeds great writing!). Remember, when things get social during travel, they get really social – so embrace the crazy times, and relish your downtime. You’ll thank me later.

2. Slow and steady wins the race

As you make your way across the big wide world, you’ll inevitably come across a flurry of ‘speedpackers’ – the type of traveller that takes pride in their ability to cram as many countries into their itinerary as possible , while exploiting every opportunity to keep you informed of their hectic schedule (“DUDE! I’ve been to 3 countries in the last 10 minutes!”).

San Telmo markets - Buenos Aires, Argentina

San Telmo markets – Buenos Aires, Argentina

What I’ve learnt: While the temptation to zip around a compact continent such as Europe is understandable, the costs often outweigh the benefits. For example, getting on a bus, train or plane every few days is expensive. For the price of a bus ticket from Buenos Aires to Santiago for example, you could’ve funded three more days of mate-sipping on Argentinian rooftops. It may not seem like much of a sacrifice, but the costs of crawling from city to city can punch a significant hole in your back account.

If the financial cost isn’t enough to put you off, the emotional cost might be – travelling fast is stressful, especially when you’re wandering alone. I once went to New Zealand for two weeks. Propelled by a desire to see as much of the South Island as possible, I jumped on a bus every couple of days. One morning, pulling myself out of bed at 5am to catch the bus, I started to wonder why my trip felt less like a holiday and more like an bad job. Rather than spending half of your holiday on a bus – linger longer, make some local friends, learn a new language. It’s easier on the wallet, stress levels, and about 100 times more fulfilling. In any case, you’ve got to save something for next time, right?

3. The world is a much safer place than we’re otherwise led to believe.

Prior to fleeing my home I spent a lot of time agonising over all the things that could go wrong. Getting attacked in London, mugged in Barcelona, kidnapped in Colombia, the possibilities for diaster were apparently endless. My fear wasn’t helped by trawling a certain internet travel forum (let’s call it ‘Lonely Janet’), at which point I was convinced my drinks would get spiked, and was to end up unconscious in a dingy Parisian alleyway.

At one stage during my travels, I was certain that it was my turn to meet my tragic travel fate. My hostel owner had given me directions to the bank – but warned me to take care. Wandering over to question I started to see why– the stray dogs, the gawking men – I immediately felt unsafe. I quickly snuck into an ATM, withdrew my pesos and hotfoot my way out of there. I wasn’t too far from my hostel when I realised a man had suddenly snuck upon me and tapped me on the shoulder, breathing heavily. I panicked – what did he want? Before I could make a dash for it I noticed a familiar piece of coloured plastic glowing in the man’s hand.

It was my credit card. I had left it in the machine. The man had been chasing after me and trying to catch his breath. I was stunned. “Muchas Gracias!” I managed. He turned and head back in the opposite direction while I stood, astounded, in the middle of the street.

Learning Spanish in Argentina

Learning Spanish in Argentina

What I’ve learnt: While I’m not trying to suggest that the world is free from danger, I do believe that the world is a much safer, more accessible place than we are otherwise led to believe. I was reasonably careless throughout my five months in Europe and South America and was never once kidnapped, robbed, or harassed. I know what you’re thinking – I was just lucky. That’s probably true. But considering most solo travellers are, there’s got to be more to it than that.

Buenos Aires, Argentina tango lessons

Buenos Aires, Argentina tango lessons

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109 Comments

  1. Spaniel on May 24, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Thank you Reena. I’m going travelling alone for a year. I’m a Thirty year old woman and completely petrified. You’ve given me a little faith in the world and some realistic advice that will be useful on my travels xx

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 6:44 am

      I’m so glad you got something out of it 🙂 Have a great trip – I’m jealous!

  2. Spaniel on May 24, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Thank you Reena. I’m going travelling alone for a year. I’m a Thirty year old woman and completely petrified. You’ve given me a little faith in the world and some realistic advice that will be useful on my travels xx

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 7:44 am

      I’m so glad you got something out of it 🙂 Have a great trip – I’m jealous!

  3. Jo Rook on May 24, 2011 at 8:56 am

    The final point is so true. I remember once I had a MASSIVE suitcase (another first time traveller mistake) and a guy offered to help me down some stairs, and I was terrified he was going to steal my stuff. So I blurted out a “Non, merci” and took ten minutes to struggle down myself, while he watched on, bemused.  Now, I laugh at my past self. Occasionally there are conmen (like the man in Rimini train station who carried my bag upstairs for me, then tried to charge me €2 for the ‘service’), but I now have the confidence to tell them where to go, and I’m just generally much more relaxed.

    I also agree with the ‘travelling solo sometimes means being solo’. So many times I’ve gone on trips and people back home have been surprised when I tell them I didn’t meet any new people. Sometimes you’re just there at the wrong time to meet people, so you have to be comfortable in your own company. The only thing I can’t do alone now is go to bars or restaurants, but the rest of the time I’m perfectly happy. Many people can’t understand that, which is a bit sad really.

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 6:50 am

       Yeah, it’s weird how much faith we lose in mankind once we step out of our own country. Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. Jo Rook on May 24, 2011 at 9:56 am

    The final point is so true. I remember once I had a MASSIVE suitcase (another first time traveller mistake) and a guy offered to help me down some stairs, and I was terrified he was going to steal my stuff. So I blurted out a “Non, merci” and took ten minutes to struggle down myself, while he watched on, bemused.  Now, I laugh at my past self. Occasionally there are conmen (like the man in Rimini train station who carried my bag upstairs for me, then tried to charge me €2 for the ‘service’), but I now have the confidence to tell them where to go, and I’m just generally much more relaxed.

    I also agree with the ‘travelling solo sometimes means being solo’. So many times I’ve gone on trips and people back home have been surprised when I tell them I didn’t meet any new people. Sometimes you’re just there at the wrong time to meet people, so you have to be comfortable in your own company. The only thing I can’t do alone now is go to bars or restaurants, but the rest of the time I’m perfectly happy. Many people can’t understand that, which is a bit sad really.

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 7:50 am

       Yeah, it’s weird how much faith we lose in mankind once we step out of our own country. Thanks so much for your comment!

  5. Isabella Brookes on May 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

    you’ve romanticised travelling solo even more for me! I love my independence and being alone. I regularly spend my days off work alone and enjoy my own company immensely. I have no problem eating out alone (my  mother owned a restaurant – so I used to eat alone at the restaurant every night). I’ve been to the cinema alone. I don’t mind cracking open a book in public and finding myself surrounded by strangers. I actually love all those things. 

    Also, I always wanted to know why people think that you’re going to be robbed/raped/murdered if you decide to travel alone…after all, a majority of people aren’t robbed/raped/murdered in whatever country you’re going to. I think that if you look clueless and act clueless, you  make yourself vulnerable for victimisation (if I was a thief, I’d pick the nervous traveller over someone who looks like a local). Act like you know what you’re doing and you’ll be fine. Just don’t take risks you wouldn’t take back home. 

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 7:00 am

      That’s great that you are so comfortable alone. And yeah, it’s crazy how paranoid everyone is about safety when going overseas. I guess we associate the ‘unknown’ with ‘danger’. I don’t know. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Isabella Brookes on May 24, 2011 at 10:15 am

    you’ve romanticised travelling solo even more for me! I love my independence and being alone. I regularly spend my days off work alone and enjoy my own company immensely. I have no problem eating out alone (my  mother owned a restaurant – so I used to eat alone at the restaurant every night). I’ve been to the cinema alone. I don’t mind cracking open a book in public and finding myself surrounded by strangers. I actually love all those things. 

    Also, I always wanted to know why people think that you’re going to be robbed/raped/murdered if you decide to travel alone…after all, a majority of people aren’t robbed/raped/murdered in whatever country you’re going to. I think that if you look clueless and act clueless, you  make yourself vulnerable for victimisation (if I was a thief, I’d pick the nervous traveller over someone who looks like a local). Act like you know what you’re doing and you’ll be fine. Just don’t take risks you wouldn’t take back home. 

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 8:00 am

      That’s great that you are so comfortable alone. And yeah, it’s crazy how paranoid everyone is about safety when going overseas. I guess we associate the ‘unknown’ with ‘danger’. I don’t know. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Leanne on May 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Great post!

    I’m traveling Europe solo this summer, so thanks for this!

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 6:51 am

       Thanks Leanne! Lucky you you’re going to have a great time 🙂 Enjoy!

  8. Leanne on May 24, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Great post!

    I’m traveling Europe solo this summer, so thanks for this!

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 7:51 am

       Thanks Leanne! Lucky you you’re going to have a great time 🙂 Enjoy!

  9. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) on May 24, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Interesting post! I agree with your third point– before I traveled around the world, I thought certain places on my itinerary would be sketchy. I was actually hesitant to go. After visiting these destinations, I realized a lot of safety concerns are baseless or over-exaggerated. Thanks for sharing your experience with us 🙂

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 6:52 am

      Yeah, I actually went to South America rather than Central America because of safety concerns! I think I’m ready for Central America now…thanks for reading! 🙂

  10. Leslie (Downtown Traveler) on May 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Interesting post! I agree with your third point– before I traveled around the world, I thought certain places on my itinerary would be sketchy. I was actually hesitant to go. After visiting these destinations, I realized a lot of safety concerns are baseless or over-exaggerated. Thanks for sharing your experience with us 🙂

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 7:52 am

      Yeah, I actually went to South America rather than Central America because of safety concerns! I think I’m ready for Central America now…thanks for reading! 🙂

  11. TravelnLass on May 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    All great points Reena (though #2 and 3 would seem to apply to ALL travelers, not just those who choose to travel solo.)  And of course yes, if you embark on a solo adventure, you surely can’t expect that there won’t be at least SOME amount of time you’ll be alone to wander, explore, sample the local cuisine, etc. (and in my mind, that’s a GOOD thing.)

    But as a life-long solo “TravelnLass” (w/ 30+ years of traveling all over the globe), I can assure all that the notion of “long stretches of time…with only the voices in your head for company.” is the exception, rather than the rule – and only then if that’s what you CHOOSE for yourself.

    Trust that most anywhere you might go, there’s always plenty of folks to meet and spend time with.  No fellow backpackers in your hostel?  Great (indeed, a blessing in disguise) – what better opportunity to strike up a “conversation” (albeit mostly laughable pantomime, but still…) with a local or three?  Sure, it might seem a bit daunting at first, but after all, isn’t that a big part of why we head off to some distant land in the first place?  And in my experience, doing so can often lead to the very best serendipity travel experiences.

    Likewise should you feel a need for more familiar folk companionship, there’s always guided tours to join most everywhere (for an afternoon, or an overnight or more), else easily meet another backpacker (on a bus, or yes, most hostels) to hook up with a few days/weeks.

    It’s not a matter of whether solo or nay is “better” – the choice is purely a personal druther.  And as for me, I’d much rather travel unfettered by – yes the ” the relentless need for compromise.” in favor of instead, savoring the few times I might find myself temporarily alone, and CHOOSING when/where I might fancy some company.

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 6:56 am

       Thanks for your comment! Wow, 30 years of travelling – that’s amazing. You’ve got about 29.5 years on me.

      Yeah, meeting locals is something I need to work on, it’s easy to get stuck in a backpacker bubble. Good advice for next time! Thanks again.

  12. TravelnLass on May 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    All great points Reena (though #2 and 3 would seem to apply to ALL travelers, not just those who choose to travel solo.)  And of course yes, if you embark on a solo adventure, you surely can’t expect that there won’t be at least SOME amount of time you’ll be alone to wander, explore, sample the local cuisine, etc. (and in my mind, that’s a GOOD thing.)

    But as a life-long solo “TravelnLass” (w/ 30+ years of traveling all over the globe), I can assure all that the notion of “long stretches of time…with only the voices in your head for company.” is the exception, rather than the rule – and only then if that’s what you CHOOSE for yourself.

    Trust that most anywhere you might go, there’s always plenty of folks to meet and spend time with.  No fellow backpackers in your hostel?  Great (indeed, a blessing in disguise) – what better opportunity to strike up a “conversation” (albeit mostly laughable pantomime, but still…) with a local or three?  Sure, it might seem a bit daunting at first, but after all, isn’t that a big part of why we head off to some distant land in the first place?  And in my experience, doing so can often lead to the very best serendipity travel experiences.

    Likewise should you feel a need for more familiar folk companionship, there’s always guided tours to join most everywhere (for an afternoon, or an overnight or more), else easily meet another backpacker (on a bus, or yes, most hostels) to hook up with a few days/weeks.

    It’s not a matter of whether solo or nay is “better” – the choice is purely a personal druther.  And as for me, I’d much rather travel unfettered by – yes the ” the relentless need for compromise.” in favor of instead, savoring the few times I might find myself temporarily alone, and CHOOSING when/where I might fancy some company.

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 7:56 am

       Thanks for your comment! Wow, 30 years of travelling – that’s amazing. You’ve got about 29.5 years on me.

      Yeah, meeting locals is something I need to work on, it’s easy to get stuck in a backpacker bubble. Good advice for next time! Thanks again.

  13. goteresago on May 24, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Excellent motivational article! I am fully aware of many travel diasters, but it shouldn’t deter anyone. (BTW That churro in Lisbon looks absolutely delicious!)

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 7:04 am

       Thanks so much! And yes, it was amazing. So much chocolate.

  14. Transcendental Gypsy on May 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Excellent motivational article! I am fully aware of many travel diasters, but it shouldn’t deter anyone. (BTW That churro in Lisbon looks absolutely delicious!)

    • Reena Gupta on May 25, 2011 at 8:04 am

       Thanks so much! And yes, it was amazing. So much chocolate.

  15. Jasmine Stephenson on May 25, 2011 at 8:40 am

    One of the parts I like about traveling alone is BEING alone.  It would be very hard for me to deal with the constant stimulation and compromises that come with traveling in packs. Nice wrap up of some of the highlights of solo travel.

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm

      Yeah definitely, I like being alone too but I don’t think I expected to be alone – and that threw me off a bit. Thanks for commenting!

  16. Jasmine Stephenson on May 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

    One of the parts I like about traveling alone is BEING alone.  It would be very hard for me to deal with the constant stimulation and compromises that come with traveling in packs. Nice wrap up of some of the highlights of solo travel.

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 10:33 pm

      Yeah definitely, I like being alone too but I don’t think I expected to be alone – and that threw me off a bit. Thanks for commenting!

  17. Ian [EagerExistence] on May 26, 2011 at 6:28 am

    I’ve been travelling alone for a month now, and I agree 100%. I went to the extreme of living alone for a year in my home town to see if I could handle my own company. I also picked a city back home I knew no one in, and had never been to, and moved there for a month to see if I could make friends. It worked, I did fine.

    • Michael on May 30, 2011 at 7:46 pm

      Good to hear you made some friends.

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 9:30 pm

      Wow that is serious preparation! Very cool. Thanks for your comment!

  18. Ian [EagerExistence] on May 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

    I’ve been travelling alone for a month now, and I agree 100%. I went to the extreme of living alone for a year in my home town to see if I could handle my own company. I also picked a city back home I knew no one in, and had never been to, and moved there for a month to see if I could make friends. It worked, I did fine.

    • Michael on May 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm

      Good to hear you made some friends.

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      Wow that is serious preparation! Very cool. Thanks for your comment!

  19. Jessie on May 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Loved this post! The story about the credit card gave me a good laugh! It’s an excellent lesson too. Plus your photos are beautiful.

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks so much! I’m so glad you like the photos!

  20. Jessie on May 29, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    Loved this post! The story about the credit card gave me a good laugh! It’s an excellent lesson too. Plus your photos are beautiful.

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 10:25 pm

      Thanks so much! I’m so glad you like the photos!

  21. leafchild on May 30, 2011 at 6:02 am

    I find so many similarities between you and me! I’ve lived and traveled in a lot of countries around the world and now that I just moved to Singapore for work, I am checking out all of SEA. Last weekend I made the mistake of assuming that everyone enjoys staying at a hostel and meeting new people. I was COMPLETELY wrong… so now my upcoming 5 day holiday I’m thinking of giving a solo travel a shot! (I actually had to do a solo travel “accidentally” 2 years ago in Eastern Europe, and literally about 20 hours into it, my entire huge red suitcase got stolen, so I guess this is technically my second try). Anyway, I’m also thinking of doing 3 months in Argentina next year so I’m very interested in hearing your stories..!

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 9:28 pm

      Thank for commenting! Oh my god, sorry to hear about your entire suitcase getting stolen – must’ve been a nightmare! I’m glad you want to hear more about Argentina, feel free to email me, though I’m no expert! Suffice to say it’s awesome (especially Buenos Aires!).

  22. leafchild on May 30, 2011 at 7:02 am

    I find so many similarities between you and me! I’ve lived and traveled in a lot of countries around the world and now that I just moved to Singapore for work, I am checking out all of SEA. Last weekend I made the mistake of assuming that everyone enjoys staying at a hostel and meeting new people. I was COMPLETELY wrong… so now my upcoming 5 day holiday I’m thinking of giving a solo travel a shot! (I actually had to do a solo travel “accidentally” 2 years ago in Eastern Europe, and literally about 20 hours into it, my entire huge red suitcase got stolen, so I guess this is technically my second try). Anyway, I’m also thinking of doing 3 months in Argentina next year so I’m very interested in hearing your stories..!

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      Thank for commenting! Oh my god, sorry to hear about your entire suitcase getting stolen – must’ve been a nightmare! I’m glad you want to hear more about Argentina, feel free to email me, though I’m no expert! Suffice to say it’s awesome (especially Buenos Aires!).

  23. Michael on May 30, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    This is definitely one of my favorite articles on AOB. Thanks for contributing Reena!
    #1: I like to be alone sometimes but it can get really lonely. There were days at the hostel that were empty and boring. My mouth sometimes didn’t open for days. But then suddenly I’d meet a wonderful group of people and end up traveling with them for weeks.
    #2: I started with zipping around but I quickly got tired of it and started going much slower.
    #3: That’s a really funny story and a great example. When I first started traveling, I was nervous about everyone stealing from me. I quickly learned to be more relaxed but still have some a common sense guard up.

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks so much Michael! Thanks for publishing it! 

  24. Michael on May 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    This is definitely one of my favorite articles on AOB. Thanks for contributing Reena!
    #1: I like to be alone sometimes but it can get really lonely. There were days at the hostel that were empty and boring. My mouth sometimes didn’t open for days. But then suddenly I’d meet a wonderful group of people and end up traveling with them for weeks.
    #2: I started with zipping around but I quickly got tired of it and started going much slower.
    #3: That’s a really funny story and a great example. When I first started traveling, I was nervous about everyone stealing from me. I quickly learned to be more relaxed but still have some a common sense guard up.

    • Reena Gupta on May 31, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      Thanks so much Michael! Thanks for publishing it! 

  25. Chanel Currey on August 23, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Liked  your article, but wanted to give some positive insight for travelers considering backpacking alone! I just went to China & SEA for 2 months this summer and had a fabulous time. This was my first time traveling alone, and through my amazing experiences it definitely won’t be my last. I had one day of all 2 months where I didn’t meet anyone and it was 107 degrees and I really wasn’t up to being uber social. My suggestion is that if you are an independent social butterfly than traveling alone isn’t painful but more of a liberation! I really did love the “me” time but I mostly loved meeting new people and traveling with people from completely different places! 🙂

    • Michael on August 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks for the advice!

  26. whatamidoing on August 24, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Liked  your article, but wanted to give some positive insight for travelers considering backpacking alone! I just went to China & SEA for 2 months this summer and had a fabulous time. This was my first time traveling alone, and through my amazing experiences it definitely won’t be my last. I had one day of all 2 months where I didn’t meet anyone and it was 107 degrees and I really wasn’t up to being uber social. My suggestion is that if you are an independent social butterfly than traveling alone isn’t painful but more of a liberation! I really did love the “me” time but I mostly loved meeting new people and traveling with people from completely different places! 🙂

    • Michael on August 28, 2011 at 5:15 pm

      Thanks for the advice!

  27. Cat on September 1, 2011 at 5:15 am

    Travelling alone is fantastic. Thanks for reminding me why i do it solo.
    Not only do you learn how to make new friends but you also learn how to cut yourself off from relying on people. Get away from that safety bubble of superficial “friends” such as workmates and discover your own personality.  Ive found that i dont get those wild nights every night (not so bad if you want to actually see the country!) and on the rare occasion i didnt met someone fun, ive learnt how to hit the pub and drink a relaxing beer all alone. 

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm

       thanks for the comment cat!

  28. Cat on September 1, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Travelling alone is fantastic. Thanks for reminding me why i do it solo.
    Not only do you learn how to make new friends but you also learn how to cut yourself off from relying on people. Get away from that safety bubble of superficial “friends” such as workmates and discover your own personality.  Ive found that i dont get those wild nights every night (not so bad if you want to actually see the country!) and on the rare occasion i didnt met someone fun, ive learnt how to hit the pub and drink a relaxing beer all alone. 

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 5:27 pm

       thanks for the comment cat!

  29. Richard on September 30, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Good Article, just like to add my thoughts. Solo travel isnt easy over a long time, a laptop with lots of films on it can be a lifesaver plus a good book of course. On the danger thing I agree it less dangerous than everyone makes out. But never break the rules, Ive just spent 3 months in Africa in which I was careful but not over cautious. Then went to the Philppines and in Manila had my phone pickpocketed within 10 minutes as i left it in an outer pocket in my bag. This was my fault, just gave them the oppunitunity. My point being travelling alone mean you have to  be cautiou,s the first time you leave your bag on the bus it will be gone!!! lol
    As for speedpackers, ive seen quite a few countries all over the world and i cant say ‘done’ any of them even spending 3-4 on average in each!! So spending 3 days there just doesnt cut it.

    • Michael on October 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm

      Good advice. When I had my iPod stolen in Cambodia, it was due to a stupid mistake and pretty much giving them the opportunity to steal it. Live and learn!

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm

       Thanks for your comment 🙂

  30. Richard on September 30, 2011 at 3:15 am

    Good Article, just like to add my thoughts. Solo travel isnt easy over a long time, a laptop with lots of films on it can be a lifesaver plus a good book of course. On the danger thing I agree it less dangerous than everyone makes out. But never break the rules, Ive just spent 3 months in Africa in which I was careful but not over cautious. Then went to the Philppines and in Manila had my phone pickpocketed within 10 minutes as i left it in an outer pocket in my bag. This was my fault, just gave them the oppunitunity. My point being travelling alone mean you have to  be cautiou,s the first time you leave your bag on the bus it will be gone!!! lol
    As for speedpackers, ive seen quite a few countries all over the world and i cant say ‘done’ any of them even spending 3-4 on average in each!! So spending 3 days there just doesnt cut it.

    • Michael on October 11, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      Good advice. When I had my iPod stolen in Cambodia, it was due to a stupid mistake and pretty much giving them the opportunity to steal it. Live and learn!

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm

       Thanks for your comment 🙂

  31. Eric on October 23, 2011 at 2:11 am

    Thank you for the article Reena. I’m nearly finished with six months of solo travel in Africa and all I can say is ditto to what you wrote as well as all the comments. I was petrified when planning this trip and thought all the same things but those fears faded long ago. They are renewed (slightly) with each new country traveled to, mostly for not knowing the surroundings and ultimately feeling vulnerable, but I quickly adjust.

    I’ve met some really wonderful people along the way (locals, expats, fellow travelers) and other times not so much and I find myself wondering WTF? However, I love photography and I’ve noticed when I’m alone my work tends to be so much better (in my opinion anyway.) With the social clutter/ interaction, I can’t concentrate. Folks aren’t interested in waiting for me to get that perfect shot and I start to feel guilty making them stop. I’ve yet to find the perfect balance but I try to take each day as it comes, without expectations, watch it unfold.

    I’m somewhat sad my current trip is coming to an end because I’ve done only a fraction of what I’d hoped….but I also feel the adventure is just beginning….

    • Michael on October 25, 2011 at 9:28 pm

      This is a great comment. I take far better pictures when I’m alone than when I’m with other people. I feel more relaxed and to take my time on my own.

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 4:25 pm

      I am definitely familiar with that WTF feeling. I’m also familiar with the ‘Nooooo’ feeling that accompanies the final leg of a journey – all of my trips thus far have felt like reconnaissance missions!

  32. Eric on October 23, 2011 at 3:11 am

    Thank you for the article Reena. I’m nearly finished with six months of solo travel in Africa and all I can say is ditto to what you wrote as well as all the comments. I was petrified when planning this trip and thought all the same things but those fears faded long ago. They are renewed (slightly) with each new country traveled to, mostly for not knowing the surroundings and ultimately feeling vulnerable, but I quickly adjust.

    I’ve met some really wonderful people along the way (locals, expats, fellow travelers) and other times not so much and I find myself wondering WTF? However, I love photography and I’ve noticed when I’m alone my work tends to be so much better (in my opinion anyway.) With the social clutter/ interaction, I can’t concentrate. Folks aren’t interested in waiting for me to get that perfect shot and I start to feel guilty making them stop. I’ve yet to find the perfect balance but I try to take each day as it comes, without expectations, watch it unfold.

    I’m somewhat sad my current trip is coming to an end because I’ve done only a fraction of what I’d hoped….but I also feel the adventure is just beginning….

    • Michael on October 25, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      This is a great comment. I take far better pictures when I’m alone than when I’m with other people. I feel more relaxed and to take my time on my own.

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm

      I am definitely familiar with that WTF feeling. I’m also familiar with the ‘Nooooo’ feeling that accompanies the final leg of a journey – all of my trips thus far have felt like reconnaissance missions!

  33. Robert T on October 28, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. You have a great style of writing, so great in fact that I went on to read your blog. 🙂 Thank you.

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm

      Thanks so much!

  34. Robert T on October 28, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. You have a great style of writing, so great in fact that I went on to read your blog. 🙂 Thank you.

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks so much!

  35. SCH618 on October 30, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Great article, but I hope you were talking about getting kidnapped in the capital of the US state of South Carolina.
    If you meant the South American country, you should know its correct spelling is Colombia, with an O, instead of a U. It’s a pet peeve shared among the 40-odd million of us who were born there.

    • Michael on October 30, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      Hey. Thanks for spotting that! I get annoyed at that too. I should have noticed when reviewing the article. Just fixed it. /editor

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      Oh whoops sorry. I hate spelling mistakes too.

  36. SCH618 on October 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Great article, but I hope you were talking about getting kidnapped in the capital of the US state of South Carolina.
    If you meant the South American country, you should know its correct spelling is Colombia, with an O, instead of a U. It’s a pet peeve shared among the 40-odd million of us who were born there.

    • Michael on October 30, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      Hey. Thanks for spotting that! I get annoyed at that too. I should have noticed when reviewing the article. Just fixed it. /editor

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm

      Oh whoops sorry. I hate spelling mistakes too.

  37. Shelby_hale on November 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I am the type of person who needs that one last push to travel. I have been planning and wanting to travel for years now and I plan to leave once I graduate. But the one thing that is holding me back is the fear of traveling alone. I am afraid something bad will happen to me. I am a small women and feel like it could be dangerous to be alone in a foreign country. 

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      I know, the fear can be overwhelming but honestly once you get out there you’ll be fine! I’m a small woooman myself, turns out it can come in handy eg. tiny dorm beds, fitting into argentinian clothing, more space in your backpack…..

    • Michael on November 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      Don’t fear! There’s plenty of information on here to tell you the truth behind traveling alone and all throughout the internet. You’ll soon realize once you’re on the road that you’re not the only one traveling alone and in reality, you’ll never be alone as you start to meet people as you travel.

  38. Shelby_hale on November 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I am the type of person who needs that one last push to travel. I have been planning and wanting to travel for years now and I plan to leave once I graduate. But the one thing that is holding me back is the fear of traveling alone. I am afraid something bad will happen to me. I am a small women and feel like it could be dangerous to be alone in a foreign country. 

    • Reena Gupta on November 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      I know, the fear can be overwhelming but honestly once you get out there you’ll be fine! I’m a small woooman myself, turns out it can come in handy eg. tiny dorm beds, fitting into argentinian clothing, more space in your backpack…..

    • Michael on November 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm

      Don’t fear! There’s plenty of information on here to tell you the truth behind traveling alone and all throughout the internet. You’ll soon realize once you’re on the road that you’re not the only one traveling alone and in reality, you’ll never be alone as you start to meet people as you travel.

  39. Pedro Carmo Oliveira on June 20, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Question: when travelling alone how do you manage the “where to sleep” situation ? I took a backpacking by myself trip when i was 21 and sometimes i ended up sleeping on the train station or smthing. Would love to hear other people’s experiences about this..

  40. Pedro Carmo Oliveira on June 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Question: when travelling alone how do you manage the “where to sleep” situation ? I took a backpacking by myself trip when i was 21 and sometimes i ended up sleeping on the train station or smthing. Would love to hear other people’s experiences about this..

  41. Nancie McKinnon on July 25, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Being a woman who travels solo about 90% of the time, I think you have hit on some excellent points here. Solo travelers really need to like themselves, and being alone (quite often). When I traveled to Spain this past winter the first thing I was told was to watch my bag, and same thing when I was leaving for Prague a few weeks ago. Honestly, people were not waiting to rip my bag off my arm, or rob me at the ATM. It’s important to use your common sense when traveling, but getting mugged at every second corner is highly unlikely. 

  42. Nancie McKinnon on July 25, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Being a woman who travels solo about 90% of the time, I think you have hit on some excellent points here. Solo travelers really need to like themselves, and being alone (quite often). When I traveled to Spain this past winter the first thing I was told was to watch my bag, and same thing when I was leaving for Prague a few weeks ago. Honestly, people were not waiting to rip my bag off my arm, or rob me at the ATM. It’s important to use your common sense when traveling, but getting mugged at every second corner is highly unlikely. 

  43. Bouncymctigger on July 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Reena,

    Great lesons those are. Thank you for sharing. Sure make me feel a bit better about my fears of going back to South America and finally take the back packing trip I always (secretely) wanted to take. I see your picture from tango lessons in Argentina. In your experience, are they easy to find?and are they (hopefully) not as harsh on the pocket? Lol.

    Thanks for sharing. Very much enjoyed your style of writing.

    Signed, a soon to be traveler- bouncy mc tigger

  44. Bouncymctigger on July 27, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Reena,

    Great lesons those are. Thank you for sharing. Sure make me feel a bit better about my fears of going back to South America and finally take the back packing trip I always (secretely) wanted to take. I see your picture from tango lessons in Argentina. In your experience, are they easy to find?and are they (hopefully) not as harsh on the pocket? Lol.

    Thanks for sharing. Very much enjoyed your style of writing.

    Signed, a soon to be traveler- bouncy mc tigger

  45. Kelly on July 31, 2012 at 1:11 am

    It is true about the safety aspect. I think you should be on guard, however its also important to relax and enjoy it and leave yourself open to new experiences. 

  46. Kelly on July 31, 2012 at 2:11 am

    It is true about the safety aspect. I think you should be on guard, however its also important to relax and enjoy it and leave yourself open to new experiences. 

  47. Jordan J. Caron on August 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks for this post Reena. I’ve been thinking about going to Buenos Aires alone for a few months. Not once has the thought of travelling alone worried me. But I kept to myself the last few years so I don’t mind being alone.

  48. Jordan J. Caron on August 6, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Thanks for this post Reena. I’ve been thinking about going to Buenos Aires alone for a few months. Not once has the thought of travelling alone worried me. But I kept to myself the last few years so I don’t mind being alone.

  49. Ava Apollo on October 25, 2012 at 3:57 am

    I’m finishing up my first month of solo travel and for the first time, I’m in a guest house where there are zero other travelers, so your first point is ringing true! But look at this, I’m finding the time to finally read blogs and make comments. It ain’t so bad. 

  50. Kristin Addis on October 25, 2012 at 4:57 am

    I’m finishing up my first month of solo travel and for the first time, I’m in a guest house where there are zero other travelers, so your first point is ringing true! But look at this, I’m finding the time to finally read blogs and make comments. It ain’t so bad. 

  51. Shoebox on November 4, 2012 at 1:47 am

     Minor correction: the title should read “… What I’ve Learned” not “What I’ve learnt.”

    • Reena Rani on November 4, 2012 at 1:44 am

      Hmm I’m pretty sure it’s “learnt”. Let’s see waht the editor says…

      • Steph on November 4, 2012 at 11:36 am

        Both a correct. In American English we say learned, but in the UK learnt is more common.

  52. Shoebox on November 4, 2012 at 1:47 am

     Minor correction: the title should read “… What I’ve Learned” not “What I’ve learnt.”

    • Reena Rani on November 4, 2012 at 1:44 am

      Hmm I’m pretty sure it’s “learnt”. Let’s see waht the editor says…

      • Steph on November 4, 2012 at 10:36 am

        Both a correct. In American English we say learned, but in the UK learnt is more common.

  53. Kathi Sirignano on March 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Reena,

    Love your blog. This is great and so informational. I am planning my first solo trip in a few months to Western Asia. I have no fears of traveling solo and your blog has fueled my solo travel even more.

  54. Kathi Sirignano on March 26, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Reena,

    Love your blog. This is great and so informational. I am planning my first solo trip in a few months to Western Asia. I have no fears of traveling solo and your blog has fueled my solo travel even more.

  55. Adam on November 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  56. issac maw on March 11, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    The loneliness is the hardest part of travelling alone. Arriving in any city the first struggle is too find you hostel. Carrying a 15kg Bag around and being tired/hungover just makes life difficult especially if you don’t have the directions written down. I don’t know how many times you would find me looking for a Starbucks/Maccas just to use the free wifi. But as long as you plan the next move carefully you do just fine

  57. Escape Hunter on May 25, 2014 at 3:23 am

    There is something in traveling alone… there are so many sides to it that I simply adore.
    But it’s always great meeting friendly new people and sharing experiences.

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