Me: Just had one of the most lovely and uncomfortable meals of my life…staying at a beautiful boutique resort to promote – again by myself – and had a reserved table in the empty onsite restaurant then had the staff standing by my table the whole time as I ate by myself…
Luckily there’s no fruit platter this time for me to feel guilty about not finishing off.
Them: This is the shit you should be posting.
Me: I really should…also just found out I’m staying in the honeymoon suite.
Them: Wow.. Kicking you while you’re down…
While I haven’t really pushed the ‘solo female traveler‘ image, the majority of my traveling and living abroad has been alone. I moved to Thailand alone, backpacked through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos alone, visited numerous places throughout Thailand alone, and traveled to Italy, Spain, Greece, London, Malaysia, Indonesia (and Laos and Cambodia again) alone. I’ve been to Venice alone and had the incredible opportunity to visit Angkor Wat not once, but twice. Alone.
Even when I was coupled up, I still traveled solo since my partner couldn’t easily leave his business. In the past few months almost all my travel has been solo and a lot of it has included staying in some incredible places. By myself.
When I first left home people asked me if I was going with anyone which I thought was a ridiculous question – no, I hadn’t convinced anyone I knew to also quit their job and move with me halfway around the world for an indefinite amount of time. I didn’t even try because who would do that. But I wasn’t not going to go just because I didn’t have anyone to go with.
I was full steam ahead with the solo travel thing – I’d rather go somewhere and do what I want by myself rather than not go at all. And I do still think that way…but it’s waning.
Of course, I have to rewind and preface all this by saying: I know I’m incredibly fortunate to see these places and have these experiences, and I would like to continue having them with or without a travel companion. But, if I have a choice, I really don’t want to stay in another beautiful place by myself.
I’ve had amazing experiences traveling by myself. When you’re on your own you meet and connect with others more easily. You tend to have more spontaneous experiences and serendipitous moments or encounters seem to be more common.
You can do whatever you want – whether that be spending a long lunch in Florence reading and drinking red wine or choosing to splurge on a tour or hotel room you would have had to convince others into. You can go wherever you want, whenever you want.
On the other hand, you can do whatever you want…but you also are in charge of everything by yourself. Organizing accommodation and transportation, figuring out a new city or culture, trying to make the best of a situation when plans go awry. To be honest, instead of arriving in a new destination, throwing my bags down and racing out the door to explore, when I’m on my own I tend to putter around my room trying to figure out a plan and mustering up the courage/energy to go out on my own. I’ve never had any negative or scary experiences traveling alone, but it still takes more energy and confidence to go out by myself and tackle a new place than it does with someone else.
When you’re with someone and come to a kink in your travels, it’s a ‘good story’. When you’re by yourself, it’s more frustrating, disheartening and usually costs more money to fix. (Accommodation and transportation are more expensive on your own – you have no one to share costs with.)
Solo travel can be a thrill and it can be equally exhausting.
And the more I’ve done it, the more exhausting it’s become, particularly when it comes to sponsored stays or travels. On one hand I feel so lucky to be able to work with some interesting companies and brands, and of course experience things I may not have otherwise, but I’m very aware that I’m experiencing them alone. Staying in a cool hotel is not so cool if you’re by yourself – you want someone to take advantage of it with you. And then you feel doubly bad that you’re experiencing something others would love to do (and for free) and not enjoying it to the fullest.
Naturally, everyone says they’ll join me. But in actuality, whether they’re just friends or something more, the chances that someone will be available to drop everything and go when I need to be somewhere are pretty slim.
I don’t want all this to sound like I’m complaining. I’m not. It’s my choice to travel on my own and I’ll continue to do it – gladly. That’s said, this feeling of becoming more tired and bored of solo travel has been hitting me more heavily over the past 5-6 months and I want to show that in if someone gets a free stay in a room, it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be. While I always tell the truth in my posts about sponsored stays or experiences, there are some things I can’t really share while I’m experiencing them, like being embarrassed by the amount of attention I got as a solo diner at a gorgeous stay at a hotel I loved. The property, staff and experience were wonderful, it was my personal take on the situation however that left it a little tainted but would have been totally different if I had had someone with me (you can’t say that staying in the honeymoon suite by yourself isn’t just a little depressing!).
What’s your take on it? Do you love solo travel? Are you tired of it?
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
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