by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 17th April, 2019
Solo travel is a great way to see the world, learn more about yourself, meet new people and discover a sense of freedom you may not have had before. Nevertheless, solo travel isn't always rainbows and butterflies and fun nights out with hostel dorm friends. There are parts that aren't so fun, but it's important to be aware of them so that you can be prepared.
There are a myriad of ways to save money while you're travelling solo, from finding the cheapest flights to volunteering in exchange for accommodation. However, in many ways travelling solo can be more expensive, and you'll often find that your bank account drains quicker. Whether it's buying food, having to pay the full price for an uber, paying for a room you could have shared or forking out for your hostels pub crawl night to make some friends.
Solo travel can be lonely, it isn't always, but there will be nights where you find yourself alone in your hostel bed watching netflix rather than out and about on the town. It's not always easy to make friends, especially if you're staying in private accommodation rather than a hostel.
If you're an introvert like 40% of the population, walking up to a bar and chatting to people can be incredibly daunting. Likewise walking around a city by yourself and not having anyone to chat to or point out amazing sights to can be isolating.
When you're travelling in a group or with a friend, it's nice to know that you have someone to watch your back or belongings. When you're travelling solo, you don't have that, and so you have to be extra vigilant in keeping track of and looking after your belongings and your own safety.
Especially when on nights out and if you're drinking, taking care of yourself and your safety is of utmost priority, but you don't have someone you know well to look after you, and new hostel friends aren't always the most reliable.
If you're struggling to make friends or navigate a new city, you can end up missing out on a lot of fun when solo travelling. Although many solo travellers find having fun and making friends easy, for some it's not so natural. This doesn't mean it can't be done, but it can be a struggle and you might miss out on some fun activities that you would have otherwise jumped at.
As vain as it may seem, taking that awesome photo with the Taj Mahal in the background is ten times more difficult when you're travelling alone than when you're with other people. Everyone wants some great memories to look back on in photo form years down the line, and asking a random stranger on the steps of the colosseum to do that for you can be a bit awkward (doesn't mean that you shouldn't try at least though!)
Personally, I love trying to navigate my way through a new city and inevitably getting slightly lost or ending up on the wrong bus. This isn't everybody's cup of tea however, which is understandable, because it can be pretty stressful - especially if you're lugging heavy bags with you.
Speaking of lugging heavy bags with you, this is another element of solo travel that I would gladly avoid. If you can't afford expensive hotel transfers, chances are at some point you will end up dragging your full-to-the-brim backpack all over the place. Although this is part of the charm of backpacking, it can also be very annoying.
Hands down some of the worst things to happen when you're travelling solo, other than getting mugged - is getting sick. A sniffly nose is one thing, but the full on flu, or worse can put a serious dent in your travel plans. Staying in a crowded hostel while sick is also not a fun experience, so you'll often find yourself forking out money for a private room so you can puke in peace.
Anxiety while travelling is totally normal, and dealing with travel jitters while solo can be difficult. You don't have another person to calm your nerves or distract you, so it's easy to wallow in your anxiety and this can prevent you from having a good time. Although solo travel is all about overcoming your fears and dealing with the potential nerves, there's no shame in needing some help from a friend.
If, like most backpackers, you spend most of your time travelling in between the cheapest hostels available, you may often find yourself craving just a moment to yourself. When you spend all day out and about, all night partying and the rest of your day sleeping in a room with eight other people, you'll quickly find that you haven't had some peace and quiet in some time, and this can take its toll on your mental health.
Although meeting new people and having a good time is what solo travel is all about, sometimes you do need some time to yourself and it can be difficult to get. This is particularly difficult for us introverts who need a bit of alone time to recharge.
Homesickness is another big problem that many solo travellers face, especially if you're travelling for a long time or you're in a completely new environment. It's an incredibly common problem but it can be a bit shameful to talk about, especially in backpacker communities. It's a normal, natural part of travelling, even if you've been wanting to take a trip for years.