My Lukewarm Defense of Solo Travel


Badlands Alberta Canada

I have never been accused of being shy. Keeping my tongue or refraining from offering what is (usually) a strong opinion is a talent I am good at, sometimes to my own chagrin. This was absolutely the case a few years ago (feels good to say that) when I wrote a post criticizing solo travel. While I don’t necessarily disagree with my points, I think it’s time to rethink my stance and offer my less than enthusiastic support for this travel style.

Purity of thought

In the past couple of years I’ve had many opportunities to travel by myself, from Cambodia to Canada and many places in between. What I’ve noticed most from these experiences is that due to one’s independence, there is little else to do except be left alone with one’s thoughts. For someone as naturally introspective as I am, this can sometimes have its drawbacks but on the whole I think it’s entirely positive.

It’s no great coincidence that all the great personal revelations I’ve had in my life have occurred while I’ve been deprived of all other stimuli, including other people with whom to converse. I don’t think that this can be achieved at home either, even if you try to force or mimic the experience. There’s just something so naturally philosophical and soul searching about travel, that I think it promotes a certain level of inward thought. Perhaps it’s the myriad new experiences or the foreignness of everything, but it creates a unique spiritual fishbowl effect – a chance to really examine oneself and take stock of our lives. Or you can just go out to a bar, it’s either-or really.

Seriously though, there is a deeper meaning to the travel experience that when kept to oneself, the result must necessarily be great personal revelations and for that I am thankful. That’s also why I think that embarking on a solo trip once in a while, perhaps every couple of years, isn’t just therapeutic, but absolutely necessary to our own personal development.

West Coast Drive New Zealand

More practical

Aside from the metaphysical benefits of solo travel, there are also a lot of very practical ones. While I look forward to my trips with my partner more than any other travel adventure I take, I also can’t deny a certain level of stress involved with them. I’m almost always concerned about his enjoyment and when it comes time to finding a mutually acceptable restaurant, I think that Middle East peace negotiations have gone better. So while it is a joy and thrill to travel with others, sometimes solo travel is just easier.

It may seem like a silly or simple thing, but having the ability to do anything you want, whenever you want is freedom at its best. It’s a luxury that many people around the world don’t enjoy and when I travel alone I take full advantage of it. The best is when the journey is a road trip, like the one I just took in Alberta, Canada. I’ve done this in other parts of the world as well and I think it may be my favorite way of exploring the world. Driving along any route you wish and more importantly, stopping wherever you want is a wonderful luxury.

While driving in New Zealand I stopped at dozens of small, yet intensely scenic sights that I guarantee no tour covers. I turned left when I should have turned right and the trip was made all the richer for it. In fact, I think it was these short stops and moments of being lost that transformed the adventure from something nice into something truly extraordinary. That’s a feat only solo travel can achieve.

Night market Taipei Taiwan


Travel can be intimidating, no matter where you go. And if you haven’t traveled very much, feelings of fear and apprehension are even more prevalent. Like learning how to swim, the only way to assuage these ghouls is to take the plunge into the deep end. While it may be frightening at first, there is perhaps no better way to quickly improve your self-confidence and sense of bravery than to face the wide world alone. Simple things, like learning how to read a train schedule in Europe, or more difficult endeavors, like navigating the chaotic markets of Asia; they both equally not only make us better travelers, but I believe better people.

cafe Croatia

Still some drawbacks

The title of this post is a lukewarm endorsement, and I stand by that. When given the choice, I prefer to travel with others, hopefully my partner. I think the travel experience is so much more fun when you can share it with others. I love seeing moments of wonder and awe reflected on the faces of those around me; it’s a small joy that is true gold. The travel experience is also more interesting with others; you are exposed to places and things you wouldn’t find on your own. Ideally your travel companion(s) have different interests than you do, so that the sights and places you visit are not what you would have selected. Sometimes this fails miserably, but I’ve always enjoyed finding these small spots I wouldn’t have seen alone. Practically, eating alone is frankly depressing and I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read on my iPhone while waiting for dinner to arrive; avoiding the curious stares of those around me. I hate it and will go out of my way to avoid eating at a sit-down restaurant if I’m traveling alone. That’s sad because food is arguably the most important aspect of the travel experience.


So while I do acknowledge the many drawbacks of solo travel, I also believe it is an important experience for everyone to try at least once, and hopefully many more times, in their lives. There is a certain intangible benefit to this style of travel that only those who have done it can properly elucidate or understand, and they all are probably agreeing with me enthusiastically as they read this.

Have you traveled solo? What’s your take on the experience?


By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

7 thoughts on “My Lukewarm Defense of Solo Travel”

  1. My favourite sentence in your article is “I turned left when I should have turned right and the trip was made all the richer for it.” When travelling solo, I find myself with the freedom to do as I please regardless of how far it is from logic. As much as I like to travel with my partner, this is not something I can do with him. When I’m solo, I’m just walking in the direction I ‘feel like’ as opposed to trying to get somewhere.
    Oh and I’m agreeing very enthusiastically!

  2. A lot of my travel is solo. I am a fan. I agree with you in regards to great personal revelations. I’ve come up with some of my best ideas when on the road. I also find it to be the best place to think and reflect about everything going on in my life. At the same, I love traveling with my wife, seeing her eyes light up when she sees or experiences something new. It’s scary sometimes doing things out of my comfort zone that she likes, but afterwards I’m so glad I did.

  3. I certainly agree with your views but i have the following advice to share.
    Going solo is very refreshing albeit somewhat challenging if you are globe trotting for the first year. I just think you shouldn’t go solo if you are a greenhorn. Gaining some experience traveling with a group or family or even friends will give you the courage to go to say Beijing all by yourself.

    Nevertheless, the benefits are very refreshing.It makes you get an authentic experience of the peoples culture as you can take certain risks if you mingle with the locals.
    It also builds your self-worth.

    But there is this drawback. Just as you would relish in every opportunity that comes your way, you are certain to face challenges and trials alone.Imagine you catch a strange disease when you are in a far away land and you really don’t have any trusted person to support and care for you!
    But that’s not to say those who want to take up that challenge should throw in the towel.

    They shouldn’t because there is really nothing to fear when you are alone. We have to get rid of fear that constantly holds us back and decide to give it a try and i am sure the experience would be just unforgettable!

  4. Forgot to add this very important note.If you are still afraid to go solo you can explore some certain parts of your own country alone before you venture to the unknown!

  5. Great post, Matt! As someone who travels solo the vast majority of the time, I can appreciate that it is not for everyone – it can be a tough road to take. However, as you said, there are definitely character building benefits of undertaking an occasional solo trip.

    The biggest advantage of solo travel is that it is the best way to immerse yourself in a destination – nothing else comes close. When I’m travelling solo I have far more conversations with local people, be invited to more meals, more homes, and more celebrations. I can walk down a street with my travel partner, and then walk down the same street solo a few days later and the number of interactions I have with people when walking alone increases significantly.

    I suppose it comes down to what people want from the travel experience. For me it is to learn and immersion provides me with the most complete learning experience – and that is best achieved solo. However, there are times I don’t want to immerse – and when this happens, having someone with me is something I truly treasure.

  6. I’ve traveled solo twice after traveling with friends and I’m not that big of a fan. I wanted to travel solo to give myself that experience and I’m glad I did it because I liked being able to take my time and see and do the things I wanted to do rather than rush from one tourist attraction to another but overall I would much rather be able to share a trip with someone and I agree that dining alone is the hardest part for me especially since I love food so much and love sharing meals with others!

  7. As someone who is struggling to maintain enthusiasm for a solo trip right now, I agree wholeheartedly with this. There are some great benefits. I love picking Thai restaurants for dinner three nights in a row (not in Thailand) and going to bed at 9 without anyone knowing about it. But there are plenty of moments that I wish there was someone around to share the special moments with. At the end of the day, I like what I’m accomplishing, both personally and professionally, by traveling on my own. And I’m going to keep telling myself that it’s worth it! :) Everyone should definitely give solo a travel a try, at least once!

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