Traveling alone is an incredible experience. It gives you a lot of freedom but also responsibility. You make all the decisions, navigating and exploring on your own. This can seem exciting and invigorating to some while lonely and challenging to others. There are certainly pluses and minuses to solo travel whichever way it strikes you. I’d estimate about 90% of my trips are solo ventures, so you can guess which way I lean… I’m also very introverted, which colors my perspective. In this post, I’ll explore the pros and cons of solo travel from an introvert’s point of view.
Do What You Want, When You Want
Freedom! This is a universal pro, regardless of whether you identify as an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between. When you don’t have a travel companion(s), you never have to compromise on where you want to go, what you want to see, when you want to go, and how long you want to stay.
Everyone has different tastes and when you travel with someone else, even if you mostly like the same things, there are always times when one of you wants to do something the other doesn’t and someone has to relent. For introverts, especially, who can be more sensitive to certain environments, this can be challenging. When you travel alone, the problem is non-existent.
Lots of Alone Time
One thing introverts generally need more of than extroverts is alone time. It helps to recharge us after being out in the world. Travel takes a lot out of introverted people, as it usually involves crowded places, busy schedules, moving around, and socializing. At the end of a travel day, I really look forward to curling up in my hotel/hostel/Airbnb room with a book or a movie and zoning out.
Not having to worry about my fellow traveler(s) allows me to have that energizing alone time I need. Even when I am out amongst other people, there’s no one to constantly chat with. I can focus on observing and taking in the experience or the attraction in a sort of “solo-traveler bubble” in the midst of all the tourists and locals I don’t know.
No Forced Socializing
When you travel with other people, even your downtime involves socializing (albeit on a smaller scale with a person(s) you know well) or at least the presence of someone else. This makes it more difficult for introverts to recover and be ready to go back out exploring. Over the course of a several-week trip, it can be very tiring. Solo travel gives me true alone time when I need it and the ability to pick and choose when I want to socialize with people I meet along the way, which overall makes the experience easier.
Go At Your Own Speed
A helpful way I’ve found to avoid feeling overwhelmed as an introverted traveler is to slow down my itinerary. I might have a few days of busy sightseeing but I mix it up with spending the day sunbathing at the beach or only half a day out, then holing up in my room and relaxing alone for the afternoon.
I also like to house sit, which really lets me slow down and not leave the house for a couple of days if I want to. Traveling with others, especially with extroverts, can make it more difficult to take this leisurely attitude to travel. They may not understand why you don’t want to make the most of the time by packing your itinerary solid. Traveling alone lets you set the pace without worry.
Avoid Overstimulation without Guilt
In the same vein, the busy, loud, social aspects of travel can sometimes be a bigger deal than you think. Overstimulation is a problem for introverts, one which has sometimes caused me to push myself to please a travel buddy. For example, a couple of years ago I was visiting Ireland with a friend who wanted to go out to pubs a lot in the evening to socialize and listen to local music. Ostensibly, this is a cool way to experience the culture and hear a free performance of traditional tunes. But it also involves a crowded, noisy environment at the end of a long day out sightseeing – a recipe for introvert overstimulation!
We ended up compromising. I went out with her a couple of times, though I was counting the minutes until we left, and she didn’t go out as often or stay out as long as she would have liked. I was grateful that she understood and was willing to compromise but I also felt guilty that I was causing her to miss out on part of the travel experience she was really interested in. Solo travel eliminates that potential for guilt.
A universal con of solo travel: it costs more. As a budget traveler, I’m always looking for the best deal. As an introvert, I need privacy and alone time. These don’t always mix well. Private rooms can be expensive, especially compared with hostel dorm rooms. At least when you travel with someone else, you can share a private room and split the cost. It’s not true privacy and alone time but sharing with one friend or partner is a lot more comfortable than sharing with twelve strangers!
Road trips are another great example. Renting a car and/or gas costs can really add up for solo travelers. Filling up seats with travel companions doesn’t add to driving costs. Instead, you can split them and make it a much more affordable transport method. No such ability with solo travel.
The Burden’s All On You
In the pros, I talked about the freedom to decide when and where you want to go as a benefit. It can also be a challenge. I had one memorable trip through eastern Europe where I was traveling very much on a whim, booking my transportation and accommodation only a day or two in advance. While this was exciting and allowed me to explore places based on local recommendations on my schedule, it was also extremely stressful to come back from a day out in a new city and have to research and book travel arrangements rather than relax and recover.
But I was alone and there was no one to help me with it. It had to be done and I had to do it. I’m also terrible at making decisions. I sometimes have trouble choosing my next destination or what I want to do that day but there’s no one else’s input to consider; it’s all on me. I’ve found this isn’t an everyday problem with solo travel but when it does crop up it can be quite anxiety-inducing.
Can Get Overwhelming
I mentioned how introverts are more easily overstimulated and how having a constant companion can sometimes add to the stress. Over years of travel, I’ve learned how to plan and what I need to avoid this problem. Mostly. Sometimes you just can’t help it. In those cases, it can be helpful to have someone who can pick up the slack. If I’m zoning out after being in a super busy attraction, allowing my travel companion to navigate us back to our accommodation, instead of having to focus to accomplish this myself, can be really nice.
No Companion = No Familiar Comfort
In addition to the increased need for alone time, introverts fare better if that alone time is in their own familiar space. Travel necessarily removes all your homey familiar comforts, except what you can fit in your bag. When you travel with a family member, partner, good friend, and/or roommate, you basically have some of that home comfort traveling with you. You can chat about your normal life and just have that calming familiarity. When you travel alone, there’s no one to bring that comfort.
Solo travel has its joys and its hardships no matter who you are. As an introvert, these are the ones I feel most often. Overall, I find the pros outweigh the cons and thus, I am a frequent and satisfied solo traveler. If you’re prepared for the challenges, you can mitigate them as much as possible and truly enjoy the benefits!
- Traveling as an Introvert: Challenges & Benefits
- How Travel Helps Me as an Introvert
- Top 5 Travel Tips for Introverts
- 5 Amazing Travel Destinations for Introverts
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