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I wouldn’t call myself “outgoing” or “the life of a party”.
As personable as I might have seemed to others growing up, there was always an intrinsically quiet and shy person inside, who longed to be a social butterfly, but felt like a failure at it. Always awkward at parties, my inability to connect with small talk chit-chat, weather, politics, business, verbal jousting (all totally not my thing)… all enhanced my flailing confidence. Those pinches of social loneliness haunted me into my adult years.
But then that all changed, when I began traveling alone. Solo travel boosted my social life!
Table of Contents: Is solo travel lonely? 6 surprising reasons why it isn’t.
Is solo travel lonely?
For a while, I believed this myth about solo travel being lonely. The mere thought of it reminded me of the pain of my social awkwardness. As a result, I put off solo travel for a long time. We assume that “Solo” equals “Alone” and “Alone” must mean “Lonely”.
There are a handful of challenges solo travelers face but loneliness is very low on the totem. Having been a solo traveler for over six years, I find traveling alone is actually seldom lonely. It’s actually quite opposite. This was something my first solo trip to India revealed to me and has continued since. Traveling alone made me realize I am quite social, well-adjusted to meeting people, adaptable to changing cultures and conversational. If you can travel the world and converse with people from all corners of the globe, but can’t do so in a party at home,… then what gauge will you trust?
No, I’m not broken. Traveling alone, I’ve learned that… I’m just fine.
Why travelers choose traveling alone
Solo travel isn’t always a traveler’s first choice. In fact, travelers are often driven to it out of necessity. The most common reasons tend to be:
– Difficulty aligning travel plans with friends.
– No one is interested in the countries you’re interested in.
– You can’t find friends with the same travel style or budget as you…
– And you’re tired of waiting on other people to start your dream to travel.
– Freedom to do as you please
These were all of my reasons when I first started. But likewise I had many fears and self-doubts too, such as “Will I be able to get around by myself?” “Will I have to eat alone? “”What if I get into a bad situation and have no one to help me out?”
6 Surprising reasons why solo travel is not lonely
These days, I meet more and more women traveling alone. I also meet many first-timers and when I ask them if they feel lonely, a majority of them deny the myth of loneliness. Many tend to say the same thing– I feel I’m almost never alone.
Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule. Admittedly, I have my winces of loneliness, but they’re nowhere near the loneliness of being at a party among people I had no shared interests with or I’m traveling with someone, whose travel style is not a good match. Solo travel has opened me to a larger and more vibrant social life. It’s better and more active than my social life at home. How can this be?
1. Solo travel enables you to make friends with more people.
Alone, I have the potential to meet more people than I do when I’m traveling with a partner. Alone, I’m forced to chat with others and make friends. If you’re shy you might feel like this doesn’t pertain to you, but the truth is living in society, being a wallflower at a party or the quiet one amongst co-workers is different from being on the open road. On the road, travelers are living in the moment and excited to share, meet, explore the adventure around them… which is travel. Travel is the conversational piece that binds and you’ll share trip itinerary ideas, tips on getting around, cultural insights, etc.. You won’t find much small talk or struggling to find things to talk about here ~ you’ll be helping travelers by sharing your experiences and they’ll be helping you back.
2. Being alone makes you approachable.
Locals and travelers are more inclined to offer you aid when you look lost, if you’re alone. Being alone makes you less intimidating. Of course, it can also make you more approachable to undesirable people. Read my Safety Tips for Solo Travelers and How to deal with touts, scams, beggars.
3. People feel protective towards women traveling alone.
I always find people soften towards me because I am a woman and then because i’m alone. Fellow travelers, local mothers, men.. many have offered protective shelter at some point and have been watchful eyes looking out for my safety. I’ve gotten this type of help a lot in India where female safety is a concern for families. I’ve had local families offer assistance or take me under their wing to tell me what to watch out for, if they see danger headed in my direction.
4. You adapt to your environment quicker
Travelers often carry a little fear or reluctance, when entering “foreign” environments. It’s natural to be cautious when you’re stepping outside your comfort zone. As I don’t have a partner to buffer my fear, I have to be-friend my foreign surroundings quickly and find resource in it. I have to seek trustworthy locals for friendship or advice for getting around or finding great local restaurants. Like moving into a new apartment, I have to adapt and blend quickly in order to make “foreign” feel like home.
5. Survival instinct forces you to be direct and outgoing.
If you’re shy, solo travel is a perfect cure to break you out of your shell. Based on the innate will to survive and the fact I’ll need help to get around, I’m forced to talk to strangers to get crucial information. On my first solo trip to Nepal, night had fallen fast when on a country bus returning to my guesthouse and I couldn’t see my bus stop (sometimes, I go by visual direction). I pretty much went down the aisle asking strangers if they knew where my stop was. This is something my embarrassment keeps me from doing, but it was dire. Some locals banded together to figure it out and let the bus attendant know where to stop. The greater your need, the less self-conscious you feel asking for it and the success will make you more confident. Developing solo travel confidence is like learning to ride a bike~ the more you do it, the more natural it will feel.
6. With solo travel, you have the power to create your travel experience.
Solo travel freedom can empower your travels and life. It shows me that the world is a buffet and I can pick and choose my experiences and who I want to travel with, dine with, share a ride with, etc… Being on the road makes me open-minded to experiencing new things. Many travelers I meet are open to making friends and in activities; thus, for me, being alone is a choice.
Read the Top Challenges of Solo Travel
Ever experienced solo travel? What are your fears and concerns? What did you discover when you traveled alone? Was your solo travel lonely?
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