Confessions of a Former Solo Traveler

young woman standing on a bridge in amsterdam over canal

I feel guilty.  Yes, I do.  Not that I’ve done anything wrong, but I have these thoughts sometimes.  You see, I’m a traveler at heart.  I grew up traveling with my family, and as a young adult female, I continued as a solo traveler.  It was scary, yet empowering and I learned so much during those experiences.

Now that I’m married to an awesome travel partner, I no longer need to be a solo traveler.  And while it’s wonderful to have a partner, sometimes I find myself reminiscing about my former days going it solo.  It’s not that I want to travel without Josh, but there are some aspects about solo travel that I sometimes miss.  So here they are, my guilty feelings about the things I miss about being a solo traveler.

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My first trip abroad by myself – and I’m enjoying sight seeing in London!

It’s My Agenda, I’ll Change It If I Want To

Sounds selfish right?  I hate that it sounds selfish, because I don’t feel selfish.  It’s more about the freedom.  The freedom to do what I want, when I want.  The ability to change up my plans on the fly, or perhaps just decide that I want to cancel my plans all together.  What if I’m sick of sightseeing in Paris and I just want to nap in a park under the Eiffel Tower (yeah, that’s happened).

Or if I decide to splurge and spend 4 times my daily budget so I can run off a mountain in Switzerland with a parachute (and a stranger) strapped to my back?  It’s kind of nice being able to call the shots without having to worry about anyone else.  Is that really so wrong?

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Enjoying a morning walk around the beautiful city of Amsterdam – taking in the sights on my own!

Soul Searching As Much As I Want

Soul searching is important.  And I think that’s part of why so many people are stressed out in society, because they don’t get enough time for solitude.  They run around trying to please everyone else, or build their career, pretending like they have it all together, but inside they are completely torn up and confused!  Traveling solo gives you a perfect opportunity to get far away from everything so that you can decide for yourself what you want out of life.

It’s not just about relaxing or going on an adventure, but more about the opportunity to reconnect with yourself.  I remember having a profound moment while sitting by myself along the banks of the Rhine River in Germany, watching the sun slowly set.  I sat there for hours, even into the darkness.  The time spent alone on that riverbank allowed me to reflect on my life and make some serious decisions.  Not only was I inspired in that moment, but I had many other similar moments during that trip; and I returned home feeling totally rejuvenated and with a whole new outlook on my life!

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Enjoying a Quiet Sunset Along The Rhine River, Germany

I Did It All By Myself!

Well, my parents were never pleased with me deciding to travel solo internationally, especially as a solo female traveler.  So over the years I hope I’ve proven (to both them and myself) that I’m not completely irresponsible, nor have I ever ended up in a foreign jail (although I’ve stood witness to others not as fortunate).  I must admit, that there is a sense of pride the fills me when I think about all the places I’ve explored on my own.

The fact that I navigated my way through numerous countries, and dealt with language barriers successfully, has helped to boost my confidence in myself.  It has also has provided me opportunities to solve problems that I would never encounter at home; such as how to order a sandwich or coffee in Italy (it’s not self-explanatory), or how to use a Japanese toilet (overwhelming!).  Traveling solo has also allowed my to become even better at solving problems on my feet — a skill that everyone needs!

Pushing My Limits To Grow As a Person

By nature, I’m an introverted person, being outgoing just doesn’t come naturally to me.  And I have found over the years that if I’m with people that I’m comfortable around, I tend to revert to my introversion.  However, I realized when I was young that my life would be pretty boring if I was a total introvert, and certainly my career would suffer!  So I made a conscious decision to take a proactive approach in my life, by putting myself into situations where I’m forced to act more extroverted.  Even though can be a bit of a struggle, I know it’s best for me.

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A date with myself, enjoying the lights of Hong Kong on a beautiful night!

When I traveled solo, it forced me to get out of my comfort zone.  I would strike up conversations with strangers just so that I could talk to another person (it gets old talking to yourself)!  I have also gone out to dinner with people I barely knew so that I wouldn’t have to eat alone, and I’ve become even more open to asking other people for help when I need it.  Over the years, being a solo traveler has provided me the opportunity to create some wonderful memories and meet some really great people.  These experiences have also spilled over into my life at home because it taught me to be more outgoing on a daily basis.

It’s YOUR Experience, No One Else’s

When you travel solo, there is no one else telling you what to think.  No one else to impact your opinion or affect your experience, it’s solely yours.  It’s about discovering a place for yourself, the experience and the memories are completely of your own making.

People have asked me many times if I was lonely or bored while traveling solo, and they are surprised when I tell them “no.”  People make solo travel out to be so scary, but I think the scariest part is just deciding to do it.  Once you’ve done it, you will really feel like you can conquer anything; and perhaps that’s what I miss the most.  Call me “miss independent,” but I love knowing that I’m strong enough to handle anything myself.

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Spending the day at Hong Kong Disneyland — just me, myself and I.

One solo trip that stands out to me is the time I traveled to Hong Kong by myself.  Being the Disney fan that I am, I had to visit Hong Kong Disneyland.  I remember being in line for their Jungle Cruise (which is awesome by the way), and the cast member asked me how many were in my party.  I said “one” and she looked at me strange.  “You are by yourself?” she asked me with a very confused look on her face.  “Yes,” I told her confidently, “and I’m having a blast.”

19 thoughts on “Confessions of a Former Solo Traveler”

  1. Interesting- I’m in exactly the same boat. I have the world’s most compatible travel partner now- but I sometimes yearn to explore on my own as I did back in the day. When you travel solo, the highs are higher and the lows are lower, and somehow what you learn stays with you longer.
    We still take short trips apart- or sometimes, on a long trip, split in the morning to meet up for dinner in the evening. I think it’s healthy to do that.

    1. Thanks Don! I agree that many of the lessons learned while traveling solo tend to stay with you for a lifetime — it is a real life education, that’s for sure! And there is no way to cheat your way through it, you have to depend on yourself especially to get through the not-so-glamorous moments of travel.

      Cheers!

      – Liz

  2. Great post, Liz! As a former solo female traveler I can relate to ALL of your points. Although I love traveling as a couple for different reasons, I’m truly thankful to have had all of the experiences I had when I was out wandering by myself. Your Pushing Your Limits section particularly hit home. One thing I really notice traveling with someone is that people are less likely to approach. It’s like they don’t want to interrupt perhaps. We really have to make a special effort to talk to people, because I think others are less likely to do so when you’re not alone.

    1. Thanks Tamara – yes totally agree! I think when I traveled alone more people would approach me to talk; not in a bad way like I was vulnerable, but because I was less intimidating by myself (I guess). People were always offering to help me or provide information and tips. Josh and I always try to be very open and talkative, but I’m sure there are times when people don’t want to interrupt us. Luckily, Josh is the super outgoing one – he talks to everyone (and sometimes for a REALLY long time while I’m waiting on him 🙂 ) but that’s why we are able to make so many friends while traveling.

      Hope all is well!
      – Liz & Josh

  3. Solo travel is great. I found myself in Costa Rica at one point trying & successfully separating myself from the group we’d found so that I could enjoy the final beach sunset by myself. It was one if my favorite moments. Downside, you can end up like me & tour Paris seeing sights & taking selfies, only to realize hours later that you noticeably have Nutella Crepe on your face in every shot.

    1. Thanks Jess – I just choked on a cookie laughing at your comment. One would hope that their travel partner would tell them Nutella was on their face, but not all travel partners are awesome.

      – Liz

  4. I love this! Traveling solo is so empowering for me, for all of the reasons you mentioned above. I love the freedom to not have a plan, to make my schedule as I see fit and change it when I feel like it. However, there are things about travel that are incredibly romantic and it makes the solo adventure sometimes feel lonely…you’re lucky to have found a partner you can travel with so much. I think finding a travel partner is one of the hardest things to do, and a true test to a healthy relationship. Bravo you two!

    1. Thanks Jessica — agree, very empowering! I admit that there were times when I wished I could have shared a beautiful moment with someone specially, but at the time, there wasn’t one. I am super lucky to have found a great travel partner 🙂

      – Liz

  5. I sometimes feel like I’m letting the ‘solo female traveler’ cause down by how much I enjoy traveling with my sisters. I don’t need to have someone with me to go places or have adventures, and I would never let not having someone to travel with stop me from going where I want.

    On the other hand . . . some things are more fun when you have someone to share them with. It’s nice to have someone you can count on in a strange place. It’s nice to have backup for planning. It’s nice to split expenses. There’s definitely a lot of plusses.

    1. Thanks Jess! Agree, there are definitely a lot of good things about traveling with someone — especially if they are a good travel partner! It’s great to hear that your sisters make for awesome travel partners, nothing wrong with that! It’s important if you travel with someone that they are a good travel partner; I’ve had some pretty bad travel partners before, but traveling with Josh has always been great 🙂 That’s one of the reason’s I knew I could marry him — because we travel well together.

      Happy travels!
      – Liz

  6. Great post Liz. Although I very much enjoy travelling with my girlfriend – and am briefly doing so again this weekend – I can’t deny that solo travel has always held something special for me. It’s more of an achievement, and of course much more “your experience”. And yet so many people still are completely puzzled by the idea of me heading off solo, which is a real shame.

    1. Thanks for the comment Carl! That’s the perfect way to explain solo travel, as an achievement! It’s not like solo travelers are anti-social or selfish, but rather it’s the feeling of accomplishment and freedom. Of course, traveling with someone you care about is a wonderful experience, and I wouldn’t trade traveling with Josh for anything.

      – Liz

  7. I can’t agree more with your blog post! I’ve been doing solo travel off and on for the best part of the last 4 years, freedom and having your OWN experience without anyone’s opinions are major things. That being said, as time wears on it would be nice to have a good travel buddy to save me from those lonely times and save on single supplements and be a bit more secure in unsafe environments… wondering if you ever travelled South America solo? That’s my current dilemma of is it safe enough for a solo female to travel?

    1. Thank you for your comment Ngaire! I have not been to South America yet (but hopefully soon), so I can’t personally attest to the safety there. I do know other females that have traveled solo there though. I think it really varies on the area that you are in. I believe that Jessica Hill (of missadventuretravel.com) is in South America right now, and I think she is going it solo, at least for part of the time. She has some great stories, so you may want to check it out to see if she can shed some light on safety in South America for solo female travelers.

      Happy travels!
      – Liz & josh

  8. I love solo travel. It’s a great time for reflection. Unfortunately I don’t get to travel solo anymore, I’ve converted to travelling with the kids which has its own rewards. But plenty of great memories from my solo travels around the world.

    1. Thanks James. It’s great to have at least had that experience at some point though, because life always changes. Traveling alone, especially when you are younger, definitely helps change you as a person. A good growing experience, I think!

      Cheers!
      – Liz

  9. Great post! I think you are completely right in saying that the scariest part of solo travel is deciding to just do it. You couldn’t be more right with that statement. I will be leaving to teach English in Spain in September for my first solo travel experience, and I cannot wait!

    1. Thanks for the comment Mike – and congrats on your upcoming journey! Yeah, it is definitely scary to travel by yourself…but it’s such an amazing experience and something you will never, ever forget! We look forward to hearing about your experience. One day we hope to teach English abroad too!

      Thanks and good luck!
      – Liz & Josh

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