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.
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i’ve only done it once, for one night, for my 29th birthday. it was wonderful, and exactly what i needed.
but i can see how isolating feeling it can be after a time.
Every once in a while I find it thrilling still – I like being in airports and flying somewhere by myself – but it’s gotten more tedious to travel solo the more I’ve done it.
Yes, I totally agree! I had this moment last month while traveling in Brussels alone; I really wished I had someone to share moments, laughs, meals with, and for someone to keep me company while I toured around and saw sights in the rain.
Solo travel can be amazing, but I think for me, I’d much rather have my bf there.
The weather can definitely get you down more easily if you’re by yourself!
I have the best of both. Half the time I travel alone and occasionally miss having a travel buddy and half the time travel with someone and miss my alone time.
Ha – the grass is always greener…
In small doses traveling alone can be liberating. But I agree it can get tiring to be alone all the time. I think the key is to balance out your trips…sometimes in a group, sometimes one other person and sometimes by yourself! The most important thing is to know that you aren’t afraid of traveling alone and you don’t “need” someone else to be there, but to acknowledge that company can have its perks too!
Completely agree, Dalia! I need to work on finding some travel buddies to balance things out 😉
Thanks for writing this! I feel the same. I’ve done 18 months solo previously and tend to take shorter alone trips now. Whilst I love it, it definitely sucks sometimes not having someone special to share everything with 🙂
Wow – 18 months! The longest I traveled on my own at one time was only 5-6 weeks…
I feel you on this. I have had some great solo travel adventures, but I am a very social person, so too much time on my own drives me a little crazy. My upcoming trip to Malaysia and Cambodia will be partly solo and partly with friends, which I think will make it more special. I am getting ready to relocate back to the States from India, and one of the things I am most looking forward to is being able to coordinate trips with friends and explore new places with other people. Sometimes solo travel can be great, but oftentimes I wind up bored with my own company by the end of it.
The Malaysia/Cambodia trip sounds like a good mix! Last year I went to Europe for a month and while I was traveling by myself I was visiting places where I knew people so it was like the best of both worlds.
Yeah, count me in the “I understand completely” category too. Years ago I quit my job and took off for Europe with only a softsided bag and backpack for 10 weeks. I had wanted to go since my college years but never could get friends to commit to it so I finally told myself if it is to be it is up to me and I planned the route (via Rick Steves ETBD) bought my flight and left without reservations or really any solid dates/places I wanted to be/see. I did it all pretty much by the seat of my pants and by September with the weather changing and kids heading back to school I was pretty much over with the solo travel thing at least for that trip.
Single travel is amazing and incredibly freeing but it’s like you say, making ALL the decisions ALL the time can be tiring, especially when things don’t go right. I think all humans are social animals so we all like to share our experiences but some of us don’t like too much input from our important others. I’ve done other solo journeys but only for a week or two at a time so I’ve never reached the point again like my Europe trip where I said enough is enough. I think the good news for you is that you have your readers travelling along with you when you write about your travels so you’re not really completely alone even though the connection to most of us is only via the web. Anyhow, I understand your mindset on travelling solo but also wishing for the companionship of a best friend to share the smiles and tears with. I look forward to reading your next post as much as I valued reading this one – it’s nice to know I’m not alone in my love/hate affair with solo travel.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Mark – appreciate it!
Well, someone else understands… I love traveling and exploring all over. I bring students to Italy every year for a month, but I sure would like to share the experience with someone who is not one of my students. You can’t say much about it because people look at you with some kind of horrified expression. But, yes, there are a lot of wonderful restaurants I’d like to go to, but I’m over sitting in a restaurant by myself.
Ha! It can so easily come across sounding spoiled or unappreciative when you have the opportunity to travel yet wish you could do it differently… particularly if you’re talking to someone who doesn’t travel much. I’m always careful about who I ‘complain’ to 😉
This just has to happen eventually. I have not had a place to call my own since selling my home four years ago. However, in a week I will be moving into an apartment in Chiang Mai and signing a year long lease.
I will still take short trips but no more multi month adventures for a while.
Congrats on starting to stay longterm in Chiang Mai! Have you spent much time here before?
There’s the age old adage “experiences are best when shared” – and though I’ve travelled solo most of my life (more than half my life now), it was always through sharing my experiences with people I met along the way that made them so memorable!
It wasn’t until I started travelling with friends more frequently that I realised the value in having a regular travel companion – someone you could reflect back on all those amazing moments you’ve shared, someone you could rely on especially when you aren’t feeling at your best.
Though it hasn’t (yet) been a life partner I’ve had the fortune of sharing the majority of my travel experiences with yet, there is one good friend in particular that I’ve managed to travel to 6 continents with, and who has become an unofficial sibling in the process 😉
I totally get this – and know the loneliness and/or emptiness that accompanies many solo travel expeditions. Hoping you find your travel companion, Alana! 🙂
Thanks for reading, Ian – My cousin and I have now been on three continents together…six is impressive!
Really love! your blog. It was definitely been a point of reference for me before I came to Thailand. My roommate and I really understand the woes of solo travel. But I live in Chiang Rai! So, you should come hang out sometime!
Thank you so much for reading, Kamaria! How long have you lived in Chiang Rai?
I live in Chiang Rai and definitely feel the woes of solo travel. If you are ever in the area or want to explore Chiang Rai more, you should contact me!
I’ve been traveling solo since 2008. I’ve done a small trip or two with a friend or partner and those experiences were unique because we can both recall th shared experience. I’m right there with you on being tired of it. In my last few solo travels in Nicaragua and Cuba I had disaster strike losing a lot of valuables needed for work (cameras and laptops).
I’m about ready to travel again this July and I swear it seems impossible to find friends free to travel (I even offered to pay flights to Cuba for my last trip but no dice) haha
I’m definitively ready for partner and group adventures if only I can find others that love travel as much as I do and are free to pursue that passion
Ah, that sucks about the gear, I’m sorry! And if I was your friend I would jump on a free flight to Cuba 😉 Good luck!
Although many would not admit it, I think it is normal to have to muster courage to face a new city and leave your hotel. (they just tend to leave that off their FB updates!)
If it bothers you, don’t let it. It’s just part of who you are.
I also think visiting familiar countries (even if different parts of them) can make solo travel easier by the very fact that you know somewhat the ins and outs of the place. I tend to visit places more than once now (as long as they still hold interest) and I find it makes the solo travel less daunting. I also don’t pressure myself to be the social butterfly. I’m not in my ‘regular’ life so why pressure myself during solo travel. I find solo travel naturally encourages me to be more outgoing and that’s great.
I do miss having someone with me for some of the restaurant experiences and yes it is nice to share certain events, but I realize it is a trade-off and many things make me happier because I am solo.
Last note, I think your preferences may change with time and age. I fall into cycles. Used to hate solo travel. Now I enjoy it, a lot!
Good luck however you travel!
It’s true about not sharing the uncertainties or hesitancies on Facebook – good to know others do the same!
Thank you so much for this. I just got back from six weeks of backpacking through Europe by myself. It was my first solo trip ever, and I loved it. I loved the freedom to explore and the fact that I could “get to know” myself a little more. But there were so many frustrating times I just wish I had somebody to help out with. The planning stages were especially hard for me.
Thanks for reading, Ashley, and congrats on the trip – that’s huge! I’ve found backpacking in Europe particularly frustrating, especially with dealing with costs on my own. I think it’s much easier to slip into the solo travel scene in Southeast Asia!
This hit me right in the gut! I’m a big fan of solo travel, but trying to explain these downsides to people is often hard.
I Inter-railed Europe earlier this year with a close friend of mine, and he couldn’t quite get his head around how people can do it on their own. In fact, he got so homesick he flew home after 10 days.
I’m still a big fan of travelling Solo – I’m going to tackle the Camino de Santiago on my own in two weeks – but finding people, and embracing moments with them, always makes the journey more memorable.
I think I’ve had enough people come and go in my life that I’m okay with being the solo person in the middle and picking up people along the way, and dropping them off when it’s time. But you never quite get used to that “Shit, am I ever going to meet anyone?” feeling you get when you turn up at a new hostel or city.
I suppose Solo travel is never really solo, you’re there on your own technically, but you’re always in search of these deeper, more meaningful connections along the road.
Great share, this is my first time here, but I’ve added you to my Feedly so I can stay in the loop because this is great 🙂
Thanks for reading and sharing, James – it’s been really interesting for me to hear about other people’s stories and situations. Safe travels!
Great post as usual. I am finishing my year of solo travel around the world. I had many awkward dinner moments and times like you described. People told me before this trip that I’d never be alone and make tons of friends. While I made some, I was still often by myself. I found even at my most beautiful and wonderful moments, I’d wish someone was there to experience it with. I’d often think of the quote from Into the Wild…”Happiness only real when shared.”
I can really relate to your post. It’s been an amazing journey and I’ve learned so much. I’m ready to have a partner to join me on the next trip though.
There have been plenty of times traveling solo where I really was totally alone and not meeting people. On the other hand, it often seemed like when I wanted to meet people I didn’t, and when I was okay on my own and had a plan, then someone great would come along! :/
Yup. I love traveling alone…I don’t mine being alone and it gives me a lot of freedom.
BUT, I’m currently trying to figure out a beach vacation of sorts next weekend, on a whim. Oh, how I would LOVE to have someone else’s in put on where to go and what to do. Just conversation + like-minded opinions would be so incredibly welcome right now!
Here’s to hoping i don’t jack up my solo beach adventure with just my own opinions! 😉
That’s the catch 22 with planning your own trip! You can do whatever you want…but don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of and don’t know what to do 😉
Sometimes I travel alone and sometimes with friends. It all depends on the reason for the trip. My last few trips (Copenhagen, Riga, Warsaw and Budapest) have been with friends and I have enjoyed planning the trips and sharing experiences with them. Copenhagen would not have been quite so much fun on my own; Riga I know like the back of my hand and I have set a novel there, so it was good to share; Warsaw was a research trip but the two friends who came with me made it less work-orientated than it would usually be. I certainly spent a lot more time sitting around drinking coffee and having breakfast than I ever do on my own. Now, I have to return to Warsaw to do the research I went to do in the first place, Sigh. I went to Lublin, Poland, on my own last year and enjoyed the freedom of going where I wanted but it would have been nice to share the experiences with someone.
Next month I on a research trip to the Czech Republic and Poland alone. I am looking forward to my action-packed days and mad travel schedule.
It is swings and round-abouts. I know some people would love to be coming on my next trip but this is one I have to do alone. Maybe, the next one will be a solo trip as well – Ukraine. I would like to spend some time reflecting while I am there which I don’t think I can do with a bunch of friends around.
There’s a time for being alone in a place and a time for being with companions.
I hear you girl!! Currently packing and reading your blog as I move to Beijing for 6 months from UK (but I’m Australian) .
I have fortunately been able to meet people and they join me on my travels , or whatever.
I love travelling by my self. I love that no one can keep up with my awesomeness. #humble
I love that I can move to Iceland tomorrow (except I can’t, Coz China…) but will any one be as adventurous As me? I wrestle with this a lot. Will anyone want to be with me? Will they want to stay? Or worse- will I want to stay with them? But then I realised , when that person crosses my path, im a story teller, it will be a story; an adventure. They will be my adventure.
I probably won’t “settle down” in the normal sense of the term. But I’ll have another person to make memories with.
Until then, I’ve increased my facetimes with world wide friends. Gotta share my stories and hear theirs, I wanna Stay connected ! (Call it practice for when Prince Charming rides his motorbike / skate board into my life)
On the other hand. Luckily you don’t have some bastard , or regrets about a person you have shared the memories with!!
Love your work!
Have you been to Beijing?
How cool – what will you be doing in Beijing? Never been to China although I’m just a few hours away…
I’ve been travelling by myself for years, even though you’re often not really alone, and had one 2 months experience with two friends.
I do prefer travelling by myself, I like the freedom. But it’s also interesting to travel with one or two persons (not more) as you don’t do the same things. For instance I almost never go out at night when alone, or just a beer in a bar to observe people. With friends, some crazyness can happen. If you travel with the good people (the ones who say yes at everything). I will be travelling alone for the next 2-4 years but I also hope I’ll meet good companions.
I just had good friends visiting and going around Bangkok and Chiang Mai with them was so fun – it makes the dull parts of travel like waiting for your flight, etc. more entertaining for sure…but yes, I’d rather go solo than with poor travel companions 😉
I wish I knew this lady, because I have felt exactly how she feels! I love travelling, it would be nice to find a flexible travel partner.
Unfortunately, I have too many friends who stay in their comfort zone.
I have started to check out couchsurfing events whenever I go to a new city.
Nice article, at 44 its nearly impossible to find a travel partner since everyone has strong commitments at this age, so i have no choice, like you said sometimes is hard to find the energy to go out and do things but i think thats my biggest challenge so far. I dont want to start travelling at 65 walking with a cane, sunglases that cover half your face and crazy shoes😅😅😅cheers!!!
It would be more difficult to find people to travel when/where you want as you get a little older, but I’ve also been (pleasantly) surprised by how many people I’ve met over the past several years who certainly don’t fit into the gap year or young backpacker traveler!
At 30yo I left Australia for London, I had no idea what to expect, how long I would be here for. I spent the first 2 years after arriving in London doing exciting and happy solo trips around Europe, I loved this phase in my life. It opened me up and allowed me to do things I wanted to do finally. But, in the last 18 months I have noticed a shift in me. I feel more and more lonely on these trips, new cities, but different feelings. I long for people to travel with, friends mostly, as my ability to meet and hangout with random fellow travellers no longer interests me.
There will come a time in your life you long solitude and independence but the moment it starts to fade, think then what you are missing in life…
Now onto my next journey. Travelling less and rediscovering my hobbies 😉
i know this post is a few years old but i’m 3 weeks in to a 4 week solo trip in central america and i just got so bored of myself today. thanks for being honest about this and not having to always hold up the brave strong solo female traveler image! it’s hard sometimes, even if it is a huge privilege.
You’ll have good days and bad days…but then look back and think everything was great 😉
46 Comments on The truth about traveling solo…I’m over it.