Is Traveling Solo the Best Way to Travel

Is traveling solo the best way to travel? Or even the only true way to travel? Think about it for a minute second. Certainly I can’t be the only one to see the ridiculousness of such a statement – to think that somehow solo travelers are superior to everyone else? That is, that those who travel with a significant other, friend(s), children, or group, are inferior to solo travelers. Yet that was the stance of a recent CNNGo article, in which the writer states in the title, and throughout the article, that “traveling alone is the only way to travel,” advocating for the “serendipitous and non-judgmental moments of solo travel.” Non-judgmental being an interesting term to use considering the blanket statement that he uses in the title. The article raised a lot of questions and considerations, as I, a predominantly solo traveler, ponder my past travels and my current big trip this summer to Europe.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have travel as a significant part of my life since I was a child. I flew on an airplane for the first time when I was five and for the first time by myself when I was seven. My life is a string of different travel experiences, from road trips across America with my mom and dad to a romantic escape to the Caribbean to traveling abroad with a group of college students to traveling by myself around North America for 9 months. I can unequivocally say that amidst all of the different travel experiences I’ve had, traveling solo for nine months last year was the best decision of my life. It formed and changed me like no other experience in my life. Yet it’s because of the loneliness and disconnect from a sense of community that I stopped traveling when I did.

I’m an introvert; not anti-social, but an introvert. So when my travel blogging friend Annie proposed taking a road trip down the California coast last summer with her and her boyfriend, I had my initial doubts. Yet it was just months since I had returned from my solo trip and had begun to think about breaking away from my solo traveler M.O. Armed with a couple pounds of jelly beans, an extra large pack of red vines, and some California-ish tunes, we enthusiastically hit the road for a one-week trip from San Francisco to San Diego. Thousands of pieces of candy, hundred of songs, 8 days, 3 people, and one car. Oh, and did I mention that I had never met Annie and her boyfriend, but only knew them online?

If I could’ve closed my eyes, I certainly would’ve, as this was just one of those tranquil travel moments, driving through the rolling hills and backcountry of Santa Barbara County. It was so serene; the peaks looking out toward the Pacific Ocean, the calm ponds situated in the meadows, and the vineyards dotting the hills. What’s ironic is that this tranquil moment, which may have seemed to be reserved for a solo traveler experience, wasn’t solo at all. Annie and Lorenzo were there with me, windows rolled down and taking the moment in as well. I realized in that moment that while each style of travel has its benefits, those benefits aren’t exclusive to that style of travel. Those serene moments of travel I love so much about solo travel, I was experiencing while traveling with others.

I now avoid companions and fellow tourists the way Belgians avoid closed-toed shoes and adequately sized shorts.

Those were the words penned by the CNNGo writer about how he travels. This type of traveling he continues to reference is that of traveling with groups, such as a group tour. The fact is that there are many different ways to travel and even more different types of personalities. Who am I to say that one type of travel is better than the other? However, if this is how you approach traveling with others, then maybe you should just stick to that M.O., because if you’re not getting anything from traveling with others, then they aren’t likely getting anything from traveling with you.

I’m on month one of a four-month trip this summer. This first month is the only “slow travel” part of the trip, which involves house-sitting in Northern California wine country for a month. From here, it’s on to Vegas, an Alaskan cruise, and then Europe for two months. While it has been all solo travel so far, I’m opening myself up more than ever to traveling with others if the right situation presents itself. I haven’t asked anyone, but between my use of Twitter and the people I’ll meet along the way, it wouldn’t surprise me if I find myself traveling with others this summer. There’s nothing like those tranquil moments of travel where it’s just me and my thoughts amidst the experiences of a new place; yet there’s something satisfying about having a like-minded person there with me to enjoy the thrills, laughs, and stories of a trip that can’t quite measure up if by myself. But what I do know is that if this trip is half as good as my big trip in 2010/2011, I’ll come back a much better person than when I left. And for that reason, solo or not, I continue to wander.

Recommended Reading:

A Life of Travel and Relationships by @theblondeabroad

My Solo Travels Begin by @WanderlandAlex

How Travel Saved our Marriage and Transformed Our Lives by @theplanetd

What have been your experiences with traveling solo compared to traveling with others?

36 Comments on “Is Traveling Solo the Best Way to Travel

  1. I think there are definite times to travel solo and other times to be in SMALL groups. I am an introvert as well so I am cautious about traveling with others not because I am anti-social but rather it is less enjoyable for me. But I definitely don’t think I could be a 100% solo traveler, and because I married now, it is not so much of a possibility these days except for short trip I take from time to time.

    • Thank you Andi! The differences of each are yet another reason for me to travel with others and by myself. There is often such a contrast. Still, at the root, I’m a solo traveler.

  2. Excellent read, as always! I had an unbelievable experience during my six-week solo trip, and it was something that could have only been enjoyed as an entirely independent traveler – but I always love a trip with friends, or my boyfriend. Looks like I ought to get the solo travel bug out of my system before 2013 – Niko and I will be spending the entire year road tripping across the continent!

    • Better get that solo travel out of the way Katie! It’s becoming about balance for me. Each travel style is so different and has so much to offer. It’ll be interesting this summer and can’t wait to see what it has to offer.

    • Thanks Brian. The thing that I’m finding is that you can still have the experiences of traveling with others while on a solo trip and can have the experience of traveling solo when traveling with someone else. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I really enjoyed your thoughts on the matter, especially this:
      “Maybe I’m just fortunate to have a travel partner who greatly enhances the sense of place, and helps illuminate the adventure of experience, without distracting from it.”

  3. In my experience, the people most likely to write this “solo travel is the only kind of travel” claptrap are those who are alone for a reason. They’re too picky, too unwilling to compromise, too stubborn, usually single or in a relationship where the other person doesn’t like to travel. Unfortunately, some of these people get assignments to write articles and they see it all through the lens of a solo traveler, a concept that is completely foreign to probably 98% of the people who leave home to go on vacation, especially outside the shoestring backpacker level. (I once saw a review of an all-inclusive family resort in Hawaii written by a woman who was 50, traveling alone, and had never had kids “or even a nephew.” WTF?)

    Sure, solo travel is easy, liberating, and requires less planning. Your time and plans are completely your own. But it also has serious downsides, which is why after having done both a zillion times, I’d much rather have some physical company instead of just broadcasting my experiences to virtual friends. And I meet far more locals when I’m with my family. People trust a husband/boyfriend/dad far more than they trust a single man traveling alone—which again is seen as kind of strange and creepy in much of the world, where nobody travels without friends or family.

    • You always bring such fresh perspective Tim and I greatly appreciate it. I’m finding that for myself, I’m getting to a place of balance, where I enjoy each style of travel, as they all bring something different to the table.

  4. I feel that solo travel is a great foundation for travel, but then the traveler can use the time to be open to meeting other travelers and locals. My best experiences on the road are both with and without others, it just depends on the flow of the day and my mood.

    • Well said Kristin. I’m finding an increasing number of people who have never traveled solo. I’ll always be a solo traveler at heart, but like you mention, find myself wanting a bit of both, depending on the day.

  5. The answer to the question, “Is solo travel the best way to travel?” depends entirely on the people you’re traveling with. I’ve spent weeks at a time traveling with some people because I really enjoyed their company. On the other hand, I’ve spent a few hours with others who drove me to spend the next few week avoiding any and all contact with everyone.

    • A good point Daniel. I’ve been fortunate to have found some great traveling companions over the years, as I mentioned above. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I’ve traveled solo for most of my trips but I’m starting to realize the value of a good travel companion. Towards the end of my three months in Europe (so jealous of your trip by the way) I found myself wanting to travel with other people. This year I’m actually traveling with friends for each of my vacations and it’s nice having other people to share the experiences with. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with splitting with your travel companions for an afternoon if you need that solo experience.

    • That’s where I’m finding myself. In addition to my trip this summer, I have a couple trips planned with friends. I don’t think I’ll ever be one type of traveler or the other, as I’m finding that each offers things that the other doesn’t.

  7. I am not my best during solo travel! I still do it sometimes, but I don’t see as much or meet as many people. I need to have someone there to get me motivated and out of my shell. See you in Vegas!!

    • Funny, I was the same way for so long, but then traveling for 9 months and especially my time in Central America really changed that. Nonetheless, I find myself being drawn more to traveling with others now. See you in Vegas soon Abby!

  8. Great post! I get kind of irked when I feel as though I’m judged as not “adventurous enough” or not a “real traveler” because I travel with my husband. He’s my life partner and I want to share these experiences with him! I think I do better with someone to keep pushing me too, when I get tired or grumpy!

    I do think what I learned from a year multiple travels is that it might have been better to have more solo time within traveling with others. I think traveling with someone can have a negative impact on your experience if you let the other person dictate what you want to do – but if you find a balance, I think sharing experiences can add a different dimension to travel. Not better – just different! And either way, it’s all traveling, and all very worthwhile!

    • You bring up a good point about balance. And one of my points is that you can still find those moments of solo travel, even when you’re traveling with someone else. I think having a break from one’s traveling companions is healthy and can enhance those times together. Thanks for your perspective!

  9. As someone who always travels alone I can tell you it is not the best way to go. I do think everyone should do a bit of it but I am looking forward to the day I can share it with someone special.

    • That’s a point where I’m getting to as well. Solo travel is great and it’s really helped form who I am today, but many days I long for having someone I can really share it with.

  10. yeah, solo and accompanied both have their benefits – nice to hear you’re open to both and fully engage in the experience – what else can we do? ;)

    • Thanks. It’s all about finding balance for me and there are some great benefits of both.

  11. I totally love solo travel. My first trip was to a B&B for a week in Half Moon Bay (I was living in Northern Cal at the time), then to New Hampshire where it was sort of solo. I stayed with friends, but spent the days to myself. When I had my second overseas rendezvous with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, it was in London and Bath, but I spent the first week by myself in London before he took the train down from Scotland. I think I really needed that “solo time” before I spent our 2nd rendezvous together. It gave me a week to muster up the courage to be the first one to say, “I love you” in the relationship. (egads!) I also have a pretty awesome travel journal from that week.

    Nice post. A ton of memories swelled up for me just now. I think I need to gather my wits about me now.

    • What a great story. I think even when in relationships, solo travel is so important. There are moments of solo travel that just can’t be imitated when traveling with others. Nonetheless, I’m excited to break away from my solo travel M.O. this summer to travel with others!

  12. Nice read, Traveling alone can be therapeutic but so can traveling with others. I didn’t read the other article you mentioned but sometimes people create a post like “Traveling alone – the only way to travel” and the “for me” is implied at the end. After all,…it is their blog, their travel experiences.

    It is completely ridiculous to think one form of travel is better than another as we are all built differently. Some of the very advantages I might cite as advantages of solo travel another might come along and think of them as inherit disadvantages based on their personal/social makeup.

    For me solo travel works but for some they would ask, “what’s that about, you just went alone?” like I’m a misfit haha. Anyway, I enjoy both at the end of the day but solo is more fulfilling to me.

    • Well said and I agree Michael. It’s interesting hearing the stories of how people like to travel. I’m the same way, where at the end of the day, I love traveling solo, but I’m learning a lot about myself and others by traveling with others as well.

  13. Pingback: Travelogues: Early Mornings Traveling Alone | The Wanderscapes

  14. The best way to travel is to travel. I am argentinian, living in Spain. When I was in Argentina I used to travel alone. Why? because my best friend had one child and wasn’t much interested in travel, the other ones didn’t have enough time or money, or they didn’t want to travel on winter (as I used to do because of my work) or they preferred to stay studying or doing just nothing. I chose traveling and I didn’t have enough money and I did have to study… but I preferred traveling.

    Since I live in Madrid, I’m experiencing differents ways of traveling: in a tour with other 20 person, with 14 friends, with 7 friends or 3 or now with my boyfriend and also alone… I think that what is important is not to stop traveling, that if you don’t have a companion or enough money, don’t stay, get a ticket and go to the town next to your town. But I still don’t know which is the best way, I enjoy all of them. Here in Spain, most of the people I know thinks that is very sad to travel alone or to see someone traveling alone… they prefered to stay if they don’t have noone to travel with. Well, I think that THAT is really sad.

    Sorry for my poor English… I will try to improve it reading your blog and commenting. :)

    :) Rayu

  15. Great post Spencer!
    Last year I traveled solo for 6 months, but had one month in the middle where I was with family and friends for a full month. It was with 4 completely different sets of people in different places, but after 2 1/2 months of aloneness, I was ready to socialize! It’s definitely different being on your own, both in good ways and in bad ways. I’m hoping to continue to travel alone for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t say “Come with me!” if someone wanted to tag along.

  16. I’ve traveled solo for many years, traveled with large and small groups of friends, and also traveled with my hubby for many years. Each is truly a very different experience. Though it’s a challenge when you’re married or have a SO, it’s important to continue to do ALL three for diverse travel experiences – if you can! Solo travel is so much more thrilling because you only have yourself to count on, and the luxury to do what you want without the compromise. Traveling with friends can be tiring if you don’t have a great “travel match”, but essentially a “party vacation” that you can share with many and relive the fun tales together as a group, while traveling with a loved one is romantic and exciting, creates a deeper bond and for those who’ve been married as long as I have, an excellent way to keep the fire burning! ;)

  17. I primarily travel solo because I’ve found that I enjoy myself more than when I’m with other people. I like to tell people solo travel isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. Would I say it’s better than other kinds of travel? No, it’s just different and from my perspective, it’s different in a way that’s *personally* affirming. And maybe that’s simply because I haven’t met the right travel partner yet, although if I did, I still think I’d strike out on my own from time to time.

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  19. I do almost all of my traveling solo. My wife is a non-traveler, and I’m almost lucky for that, since my style of traveling (up for sunrise, then go-go-go until sunset) doesn’t really work well for most people. In fact, I’ve never, in all my travels, met anyone who does trip the way I do. And that’s alright, I stopped apologizing for how I do my trips many years ago- I have fun, come back with great memories and photographs, and rest a few days before I start thinking about planning the next one!

  20. I’ve traveled in so many ways, with friends, with family, solo, with a boyfriend, hiking w/ small groups, etc. and the thing about going solo is you’re so much more ‘open’ to meeting others and striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know. Those have turned into great friendships and lasting memories. The one thing that is tough on solo traveling are the dinners. I don’t mind eating breakfast/lunch alone but dinners for me are meant for conversation.

  21. I travel with my husband and small dog. I wouldn’t travel any other way. In part because I love to discuss what we have experienced after the fact. I love having my dog with me – in part because I adore him in an utterly obsessive way – but also because we are treated as locals when he is with us. Invited to dinner by strangers. Stefan and I have the ability to be perfectly silent and alone – together. I believe that traveling solo is a state of mind – not a state of physical being. You can be in a crowd of hundreds and still be – alone. I believe having someone to share that special, unique moment is a big part of why I continue to love to travel after years of going at it solo. The knowing look, quite smile, head nod that says “I know what you are thinking…”. I would never trade that. It’s about having the right travel companion. Yet – I believe you can only fully embrace and appreciate that if you’ve gone it solo a while.

  22. Bravo! Great article. Although I prefer solo travel myself, in no way do I think it’s the ONLY way to go. The part where you said you were an introvert, not anti-social, but intoverted, and that you felt hesitant about that invitation from your friend. I know EXACTLY how you feel, too often have I felt this way. But almost always I find that I learn something from stretching myself, and putting myself out there. Thanks for sharing this.

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