Freedom. Independence. Personal growth.
These are all wonderful life goals. They are also the top three reasons that experienced solo travelers give for loving the way they explore the world.
In my interactions with travelers over many years of moderating the Solo Travel Society on Facebook, I have come to know that those who love solo travel really love it. They are passionate about seeing the world, yes, but specifically about seeing it their way. It’s a delight to be in their company and if you’re not already a part of the group, please come and join us.
I asked the members of our online community what they loved most about solo travel and in more than 250 comments some very clear themes emerged and were repeated over and over.
We Travel Alone for the Independence
Independence is highly valued by solo travelers. Not having to adhere to a schedule, wait for someone else, or worry about keeping another waiting are all aspects of this.
The ability to be completely present and open to the destination, the culture, and the people is important and can be somewhat hindered by having a travel companion. Many people mentioned the ease with which they can meet new people when they are alone, which doesn’t happen in the same way when traveling with others.
Kartini said, “One thing that's very apparent is that I am able to ‘be in the moment' and absorb everything I see much better and much more when I'm alone. All my senses are more awake. The details in the architecture seem to shine more in my eyes, the local ambiance and the sound around me seem to be more beautiful.”
Similarly, Heather shared, “I take more in about the places because there are no distractions. Listening and talking to someone else takes my eyes and ears away from the environment.”
I like the way Bruce characterizes the spontaneity that the independence of solo travel allows. “I feel more connected to the location with absolute flexibility with moment by moment spontaneous decisions. It’s like taking your shoes off to walk through the grass.”
Daphne loves “the ability to make my own decisions and being completely independent. Also, when you’re traveling solo it’s so much easier to meet other solo travelers from all over the world.”
We Seek Personal Growth
Personal growth may be the top reason that I love solo travel. I still remember the feeling of accomplishment I had on my first solo trip to Paris. I had wandered the city all day long, not really paying attention to my route. Literally wandering. When the sun began to go down, I pulled out a paper map and tried to situate myself on it, then plotted a route back to my rental apartment. It took a long time, I took a lot of wrong turns, and I had to pull that map back out multiple times. I was tired and sore by the time I got back. But when I sat down that evening with a bottle of wine, some cheese, and a baguette I’d picked up along the way, I felt very proud of myself for having navigated in a country I’d never visited, a language I barely understood, without the use of a single taxi.
That experience did wonders for my self-confidence and set the stage for many more solo trips. Because of this, I was thrilled that Cal wrote, “I’m a physician, and I actually recommend solo travel to my patients because it is one of the most therapeutic things you can do.”
Janice shared, “I find that I’m my most genuine self when traveling alone – and it’s wonderfully self-affirming! I’m not so-and-so’s friend, or so-and-so’s wife, or so-and-so’s co-worker; I’m simply me with no other affiliation. The best part of solo travel is soaking in everything that a new destination has to offer – culture, history, cuisine, music – as my own personal growth experience, in my own way, at my own pace!”
Various people spoke about solo travel offering the chance for reflection and the opportunity to learn more about themselves as they learn about the destination. Connie said that she likes to “Reflect on my life, people watch, dream, make plans, and commune with God.” Amy mentioned enjoying growing her strengths and challenging her weaknesses. Donald said that he appreciates “Getting to know yourself outside of your regular social structures.”
We Love Solo Travel for the Freedom
Recently, we took a vote among our readers to determine the top reasons they love solo travel. You can see the eight reasons we started with and how we got down to one in The Solo Traveler Showdown: What You Love Most about Solo Travel. Freedom was the clear winner.
The freedom inherent in solo travel is deeply cherished. Being able to do what we want, when we want – and the option to change course at any moment – is exhilarating. In our day-to-day lives we often have many rules, schedules, and responsibilities to follow. We love solo travel because all that gets set aside for a time. Lucy refers to it as “being completely, utterly, shamelessly selfish.”
Says Lisa, “I went to the Dominican Republic alone a few years ago. I am a beach person and can stay all day. I like to sleep in, so I slept in, ordered breakfast, enjoyed my coffee on the patio and took my time, got to the beach at 11:00 and stayed until 6:00. If I had traveled with other people, I wouldn’t have been able to do that, because nobody else wants to stay on the beach for that long. I thoroughly enjoyed myself!”
Rita raised another issue that comes up a lot: not having to worry about the desires or timelines of other people. “I love enjoying what I want and not having to accommodate other’s schedules or preferences. I once got up at sunrise to walk in a city that was waking up, sat in a park below a city skyline on a glorious spring day for over an hour to watch squirrels play, spent only 45 minutes in a famous art museum because I just wasn’t “feeling it,” and changed hotels at the last minute because I liked another one better. All those choices were mine and were not met with questions, rolled eyes, judgment, whining, or tapping a wristwatch.”
While it’s true that it is easy to meet other people when you travel alone, the freedom to choose from day to day or even hour to hour whether you prefer silence or socializing is highly prized. Sometimes I will go for days without speaking to anyone other than in the course of ordering food or buying tickets. Other times, I will have the most interesting interactions with total strangers, like the elderly gentleman who bought me a cup of tea on the train between Dublin and Cork and told me of his dream to visit Canada one day.
I’m giving the final word on why we love solo travel to Victoria.
The luxury of “me, me, me” to whatever, whenever, and wherever I wish. No compromises, negotiations, mediating, or peacekeeping. Silence when needed and utter socializing when desired. Meeting new people and learning about the local culture on one’s own terms. The ability to grow and push beyond one’s comfort zone.
Why do you love solo travel? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.