“I’m going to Italy.”
“Oh wow, who with?”
If you follow me on social media then the opening part of this post will make sense, and in case you don’t let me briefly explain. Two weeks ago I booked myself a wee trip to Rome, and off I set last Sunday on the first leg of my journey! I jetted off from Scotland on Monday morning and returned to my home country on Thursday night – and I went totally alone.
Travelling alone seemed to be more shocking for many people than booking the trip just 9 days before I went, but why? The thought was simultaneously thrilling and terrifying, but as a single person who is used to being surrounded by people who are busy leading their own lives if I didn’t go alone I didn’t go at all. Some people don’t understand this, or don’t understand why you would want to go alone and not just ‘wait’ until you had somebody to go with you.
This post is not a moan about people who think they can’t do things themselves, but instead it’s hopefully my chance to give anyone thinking about solo travelling the courage to try it themselves. Having now tried it myself I can confirm that solo travel is full of pros and cons – just like everything else in life!
Let me just quickly explain what I mean by solo travelling this time around – I’ve travelled alone hundreds/thousands/millions of times. I’m sure most people have, for a day out shopping or to get to an open day/interview/event. I guess that the first big difference is that this was more like a holiday ( I believe the trendy term would be City Break!) but I have gone and done that before – travelled somewhere alone and booked my own accommodation. The difference then is that I usually have friends or family there and it is almost always somewhere that I’m familiar with.
This solo adventure was totally new – I’ve never been to Italy before (apart from a half day tour to the markets in the north with my Mum during a holiday in France a few years ago) let alone Rome. Travel alone, stay alone, explore alone.
So let’s get the downsides of solo travel out of the way first!
- Single Supplements.
I stayed in a hostel so this one didn’t actually apply to me, but when I was planning my trip I looked at a few hotels, guesthouses and even a campsite and I was hit time and again with single supplements. I have no problem in paying the same price for a hotel room as anybody else, that’s just life! What is difficult is when you are shown one price then when you get to the end of your booking it increases substantially just because you are only one person. Many organised holidays and tours also charge a single supplement – when thinking about adventures I came across a few companies which specialise in solo travel so don’t charge single supplements but they were all pretty pricey!
- Eating Out.
My biggest hold up as a strong independent woman who don’t need nobody is eating out in public. Not just abroad, but at home too. I’d rather go hungry than eat in a public place alone. The reality is that people eat out alone all the time and nobody gives them a second thought when they walk in and ask for a table for one, but it’s one of the few times that makes me incredibly paranoid and anxious. While in Rome I made a point of doing breakfast and lunch ‘on the go’ (basically I went into a shop and bought snacks and water and nibbled if I felt hungry) but made myself go out and have a ‘proper meal’ (AKA pizza) in the evening. While this is all well and good, when I got home at the end of the week I felt run down and a bit rubbish like I hadn’t eaten properly all week.
- Evenings/Down Time.
Quiet evenings chilling, or any down time in your schedule, are the times you are most likely to realise you are alone. I don’t really know what I can advise but make sure you have some entertainment with you – book, movies, games, whatever helps you chill. The thing is that if you’re out all day exploring you’re going to be pretty tired anyway and probably just want to sleep so being alone won’t be a problem!
- Selfies Only.
When you visit a landmark alone you have three options – take a photo of the landmark but not have you in the photo (AKA no evidence you were actually there in person!), you can lose all inhibitions and take a very cringy tourist selfie or you can give your camera to a complete stranger and hope that A) they don’t steal it and B) they can take a semi-decent photo.
I opted for a combination of option one and option two, which is why I have some almost embarrassing selfies of me in front of world famous landmarks and no decent photos. Funnily enough this wasn’t something I even considered when planning my trip and was probably the thing that I missed the most!
So now that I’ve got the doom and gloom out of the way let’s crack on with why taking yourself on holiday is actually really, really great!
- Do What You Want When You Want.
I realise that the list of pros is going to look an awful lot shorter than the list of cons but that’s because this pro is ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE. It is probably the size of all the negatives combined, or just about. When you are travelling alone you can choose your itinerary – do what you want, when you want to do it (as long as it is safe and legal/as long as you don’t want to visit the Vatican on the same day as the Pope is doing his Pope thing). Want to get up early in the morning and set off on an adventure? You don’t have to wait for somebody else to get ready. Want to go to that obscure museum that tickles your fancy but you know your friends/family/partner wouldn’t be into? You can go and do it without feeling guilty. Want to get McNuggets instead of eating in that nice restaurant? Not a problem. Thinking you’re feeling brave enough to try that delicacy and then chicken out of ordering last minute? Nobody knows (unless you tell them). You’re not interested in that museum/amusement park/shopping centre everybody says you MUST experience while you’re in the area? You don’t have to tag along with people who want to go because it’s just you and you can do everything that you want to do and skip all the bits you’re not so keen on – enjoy the liberation of not having to deal with give and take!
- Work To Your Own Budget Without Guilt.
Okay so first up let’s get something clear – if you are travelling with somebody you should be open enough with them to know each other’s financial situation and ideally you should be on the same page. If you’re not comfortable enough with the person/people you’re with to say “actually I can’t afford that” then I think you need to ask yourself why you’re travelling with them in the first place.
Now that that is out of the way, if you are one of these people who would rather go along with the crowd and not speak up against them then travelling alone might be for you! If you’re feeling a bit hard up you can opt to walk instead of use public transport, or eat somewhere cheaper, or admire the building from the outside and not pay an extortionate entrance fee without feeling guilty. When it comes to planning, you can often save money by traveling at unholy hours or on unusual days (this might depend on your flexibility dates-wise) or you can opt for a cheaper travel company or method you know that your friends wouldn’t choose. This is where hostelling comes into its own as well – you can save money by opting to take up a bed in a room with (normally perfectly lovely) strangers, something you are less likely to try if travelling with friends, family or a partner.
- Meet New People.
Now I’m not saying you’re going to make lifelong friends (although you might!) but travelling alone opens you up to speaking to people you would probably ignore if you were travelling with your BFF.
If you do opt to stay in a hostel (can you tell how I save pennies when I’m going on adventures?!) you will often find that your dorm is full of…other solo travellers. Hostels are prime location for solo travellers because you only pay for the bed you sleep in (see single supplements above) and they are hella budget friendly. I think loneliness is one of the biggest fears of travelling alone, but even if you don’t have full blown in-depth heart to heart conversations with complete strangers that you meet in the passing, you’re likely to exchange some friendly conversation with some people at some point. While in Rome I chatted to a young lady and her grandmother on the tour bus, I had a brief conversation with a girl in my hostel room and on the way home I got speaking to an older Italian lady in Rome airport and to a fellow solo traveller in Brussels Airport (shoutout to Bridie who splits her time between Australia and Edinburgh and was in Rome doing the same things as me at the same time yet our paths didn’t cross until our last flight home). Basically what I’m trying to say is not everyone in the world is bad (although there are no shortage of bad people so you still need to be careful, but general common sense rules apply and if something doesn’t feel right or safe don’t do it), and sometimes (often) meeting new people, even briefly, can be good for the soul – you don’t know how they will touch your life or how you will touch theirs!
So there is my list of pros and cons of going solo – what do you think, do you fancy a solo adventure? Have you travelled solo before? Tell me in the comments below, I’d love to hear about others’ experiences while I plan my next solo adventure!