Because of my line of work (and how much I love it), I spend a lot of time having conversations with anyone who will listen about how I think solo travel is the most amazing gift anyone could possibly give themselves, and why no one should let the challenges that go hand-in-hand with traveling solo hold them back.
Whenever I’m talking to someone with reservations, there are three common myths about traveling solo that tend to come up. I want to share my thoughts about each one individually, and then touch on two topics that are often construed as myths but are actually true…
Myth #1: Traveling solo is dangerous.
It’s important to define what the term danger means to most women in order to have constructive dialogue about it: when most women talk about danger, we’re not referring to shark attacks or plane crashes or natural disasters – there’s nothing a travel companion could do in any of those situations to prevent them from happening and most of us don’t really expect those things to happen to us.
What women are really talking about is the fear of added attention or violence from men.
It’s a viable concern because almost every woman has a story about being harassed, threatened, or assaulted in some way, and those situations were often mitigated (if at all) through the eventual involvement of a third party.
It’s important to remember that negative interactions with men can occur anywhere for any reason – whether or not you’re with a companion – but also that they are statistically more likely to happen in a familiar environment where we feel safe and unguarded, or with someone we know. (Source)
The added benefit of traveling on your own is that you are more attuned to your surroundings as well as being a little more risk averse, so you’re less likely to walk blindly into a bad situation.
*For a list of actionable steps you can take to help stay safe while traveling solo, check out my blog post 10 Safety Tips for Traveling Alone.
Myth #2: Solo travel is lonely.
It’s a logical assumption that traveling alone would feel lonely, but my personal experience has been that when I’m on my own, I pay more attention to the people around me and form alliances with others I probably wouldn’t have even spoken to if I was in the company of a friend.
Eating meals alone can feel intimidating to some, but when you’re a party of one you’ll often be sat in a communal space, and you’d be surprised at how easy it is to strike up a conversation with other guests or bond with the server (who will likely take extra good care of you).
If you know that you’re more comfortable in a group, you can book tours and shared experiences through a tour operator or Airbnb, and these groups often include other solo travelers as well as friendly couples and groups that are dying to find out more about you.
Myth #3: Only single people travel solo.
The idea that people have to be single to solo travel implies that we’re supposed to lose personal agency when we enter into relationships, or that somehow traveling alone is something people only do because they don’t have anyone to go with them.
I’d like to reframe that line of thought and propose that we all have activities we like doing on our own, passions our friends and partners might not share, and personal goals that are worth investing time and energy into.
Pursuing our own dreams and interests shouldn’t be perceived as relationship threatening or pitiable – it’s empowering and self-aware, and our relationships benefit when we take care of ourselves and continue to seek growth.
Now let’s move on from the myths to the truths…
Truth #1: Solo travel is more work!
While it can be nice to share planning responsibilities with a companion, there’s something incredibly satisfying about only making the choices and decisions you want to make – when and how you want to make them.
Sure, it’s more work, but that effort is loads more fulfilling and pays off in a myriad of ways! You’re free from the responsibility to compromise, you don’t have to consider anyone’s preferences but your own, and you can change anything at any time without having to ask or worry about how a companion would feel.
Truth #2: Solo travel takes courage.
A pet peeve for many solo travelers is being repeatedly told “you’re so brave” by friends and strangers alike, so many will argue that bravery is not a requirement for traveling alone.
Well, I disagree! At its heart, bravery requires courage, and courage is the ability to do something that exceeds your comfort level, and showing strength in the face of adversity.
When you’re traveling on your own, you absolutely need to be able to put one foot in front of the other when you’re not sure exactly where you’ll end up, which can be intimidating whether you’re deciding which restaurant to go to or whether you should skydive with a bunch of people you just met.
But the fact of the matter is that just as you get to set your own challenges and boundaries, it’s also up to you how you overcome them. Take each challenge at your own pace, with as many baby steps as you want! Push yourself bit by bit to get out of your comfort zone as much as you can, but give yourself grace – if you don’t get it the first time you can build up to it and try again when you’re ready.