When I Don’t Feel Like Being a Solo Traveller

by Brenna Holeman

Solo Travel 3

On my own at Iguazu Falls, Argentina

I’ve been labelled a solo traveller a lot. “Solo female travel” is a big label in travel blogs, and a lot of my favourite bloggers are indeed solo female travellers. Of the 87 countries I’ve been to, I’ve travelled on my own in 52 of them. I love travelling on my own, and I’m proud that I’ve tackled a lot of adventures by myself. Some of my best memories have been as part of solo trips: looking out over Cape Town from Table Mountain, flying over the Himalayas of Nepal, wandering through the streets of Rome, spending the nights stargazing in Chile. This year alone, I travelled solo to Portugal, South Africa, Zambia, Spain, and Ireland. Travelling solo has made me stronger, smarter, and more confident, and I really cannot recommend it enough (here are some tips if you’re thinking of doing it).

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Beer for one (and selfies) in Chitwan National Park, Nepal

However, I also think it’s totally okay if you don’t want to be a solo traveller. In fact, I have a bit of a secret: I often travel solo because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me… maybe their schedule didn’t work or their budget didn’t align with mine, but I wanted to go on the trip anyway. That’s not always the case – I often plan trips without even considering asking someone else to come with me, because I really do love solo travel. I wouldn’t take back my months travelling on my own through Europe, Asia, Central America, or South America for anything, and I’ll continue to travel on my own.

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Christmas beers with my sister Zalie in Vienna, Austria

Sometimes, though, I don’t want to travel solo. A beach holiday by myself, for example, isn’t high on my list of “must-do”s for 2015, despite the fact that I seem to have hit up a lot of honeymoon destinations on my own in the past, and I have enjoyed many beach holidays on my own before. And when I picture my dream trips for 2015, either a train journey through Central Asia or a road trip through the Balkans, I picture somebody by my side, be that a friend or a family member. When I went to Porto earlier this year on my own, I didn’t feel lonely; with plenty to do and lots of great staff members at the hostel, I really enjoyed my week there. The solo trip I took to Alicante, Spain in the summer, however, left something to be desired; although there were great people at my hostel, I didn’t really click with anyone, and the hot days left me with little to do but sit on the beach by myself. I loved the weekend I just spent in Limerick on my own, but I probably would have wanted a dinner partner by the fourth or fifth day. Had I been there a few more days, I would have made the effort to meet someone to hang out with.

That’s the thing about travelling on your own; you have to be totally comfortable being by yourself. There really is no guarantee that you will meet someone you want to hang out with or travel with, and that’s the risk you take. That being said, if you’ve never travelled solo and are worried about meeting people, don’t be; the times I’ve been on my own have often been when I put myself in those situations, i.e. decided to be a bit antisocial (like in Alicante or in Limerick), stayed in a hotel and not a hostel, or travelled somewhere during off-season or somewhere quite isolated. In fact, I’ve often met too many people… so many I often forget their names or where they’re from. If you really want to travel and you don’t have anyone to go with, go anyway. Seriously.

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 Dinner with my mum in Ambergris Caye, Belize

But now, living in London and working/studying from home, I spend a lot of time on my own to begin with. A lot. Like, there are whole days I don’t see anyone face to face unless I go to my local pub for a drink (even though I try to tell myself that Skype counts, I don’t think it does). I love the idea of going on holiday with someone or a group. When I went to Botswana earlier this year for my 30th birthday, I joined a tour group; I didn’t want to face the challenges of solo travel through that country, nor did I want to be alone. It ended up being a fantastic trip and I met tons of wonderful people.

Travelling with someone has many benefits: you always have someone to go sightseeing with or eat with, you have someone to help with directions and problems that may arise, you get to share the memories with him or her after the trip, and, oh yeah, you have an incredible time together. A lot of my other favourite memories have taken place while travelling with someone, especially my best friend Kerri or my mum. I love that I can ring them up and chat for hours about our past travels, be it that time we slept under the Moroccan stars or epically failed our train journey into Bulgaria. And that’s the key with travelling with someone, it has to be the right someone. If you are doubting travelling with a person, and fear that he or she may spoil your trip, I say leave them in the dust and do it on your own. Travelling with someone else or in a group is only fun if you have the same travel values.

That being said, there are infinite benefits to solo travel, too. It allows you to discover things you may not have discovered if you were with someone else; it makes you hyperaware, much more attentive to the details around you. It is challenging and exciting, and, as many people will attest, you are rarely actually alone. All it takes is a quick conversation with someone on a bus or in a hostel common room and you can often find a friend and/or travel buddy.

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Best friends (and travel buddies) in Mancora, Peru

I believe there are some journeys that are best done solo and I do believe that everyone should try travelling on their own at least once. But I also think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do a trip with someone already at your side. I mean, if nothing else, you get some pretty fabulous photos. Oh yeah, and there’s always someone to rub suncream on your back.

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Wouldn’t have been as fun without Kerri at Machu Picchu, Peru

Do you prefer travelling solo, travelling with someone else, or, like me, enjoy a mix of both? 

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Anna @ shenANNAgans November 28, 2014 - 6:45 am

Check out the beers, they are massive. 🙂
II totes agree about travelling solo making you stronger, smarter, and more confident, I seem to come back from solo travels with tons more friends and crazy cool and random adventures under my belt. Guess because I put myself out there or something.
But I much prefer to travel with someone/s.

Brenna Holeman December 1, 2014 - 3:38 pm

Yeah, those beers were great! And I totally agree with you, I love making new friends when travelling solo. I think that we definitely put ourselves out there more when travelling on our own!

Laura November 28, 2014 - 11:43 am

I have done very little solo-travel. I like the adventure of it and the fact that I can eat when I want, linger where I want for however long I want or skip places altogether, because it’s all up to me. But at the end of the day I like having someone to tell it all to. I think I would get a bit lonely exploring and doing exciting things, and then having to keep it all in.

Brenna Holeman December 1, 2014 - 3:39 pm

I think it’s great that you’ve tried it, though! Thanks for your comment, Laura…

Alex November 28, 2014 - 3:01 pm

I can totally relate to this Brenna. I could count on one hand the friends that I could and would travel with (even some of my best friends I would never travel with), and I do a hell of a lot of solo travel myself, but like you I also crave the company of someone who knows me from back home to experience things with.
However having said that, I’ve currently been travelling India with a girl I met on a bus 4 weeks ago and she’s already feels like a best friend from home. I dont think her and I would be as close if we had been already travelling with people and I’ve found this with other best friends who I’ve met while traveling.
Lovely post, love the blog

Brenna Holeman December 1, 2014 - 3:40 pm

Thank you so much, Alex! I think we have similar views on travelling… and I love meeting a cool travel partner on the road. You’re right, you can instantly feel like best friends…

Jacquie November 28, 2014 - 6:56 pm

I’ve not travelled by myself even though I can be quite independent. I just have friends all over the place that offer me places to stay 😀 Although once I’m in a city I like to go off and do my own thing for the day. It makes me sad when people say that wouldn’t even fly alone even if someone was meeting them at the airport. Heck, I know a lot of people who won’t even go to the movies or for a walk by themselves in their home city. Sometimes you are your own best company, and the beauty of being on your own is you get to do EXACTLY what you want!

BF and I recently did a trip (him to India, then Korea and me to Hong Kong, then met him in Korea). Of course it made sense to book different plane tickets. People at work were ASTONISHED that we weren’t doing the entire trip together, and that we weren’t flying home together. We flew home on the same day but we had different round trip tickets (because obviously that’s way cheaper!) One person even suggested we book all single way tickets JUST so we could fly together, even though it was like twice the price. Uh, no thanks!!

Brenna Holeman December 1, 2014 - 3:41 pm

Oh wow, that is crazy!! I don’t think it’s necessary to fly together… I mean, it’s much nicer, but I usually just settle in with a book or a movie anyway.

And you’re right about being your own best company sometimes… I often go to movies or dinner on my own, and I really like it. Thanks for your comment!

Jen November 29, 2014 - 12:11 am

I love this post. Also, the pictures on your blog always take my breath away.

Brenna Holeman December 1, 2014 - 3:36 pm

Aw, thank you so much, Jen!

Katie @ Domestiphobia November 29, 2014 - 4:44 pm

I went to Italy for my 32nd birthday. My best friend came with me for the first half of the trip, which was amazing, and then I traveled solo in a foreign country for the first time ever for the second half of the trip, and I’ll admit — I didn’t love it. It was a challenge I gave myself, I generally like being alone and I’m glad I did it, but I was lonely. The problem was that I was in Tuscany for that second half, which is way too romantic to do alone. Also, I’m “in my 30’s,” married, and just kind of over the whole hostel scene, and it’s much harder to meet people when you’re staying in hotels. The best parts of my solo trip were the tours, when I was able to interact with other people. But, like I said, I’m glad I did it — now I know I can!

Brenna Holeman December 1, 2014 - 3:42 pm

I think that challenging yourself is really great… and even though you didn’t like it very much, at least, as you said, you know that you can do it!

Glamourous Traveller November 30, 2014 - 3:35 pm

Totally get you! I usually prefer to travel with someone and tend to do solo travel mostly when I can’t find someone to do it with me. Perhaps its more to do with narcism since traveling with someone always cuts out that selfie stick! But for me if I had to do a solo trip, I always choose cities rather than beaches or activity based vacation. Cities means museums, shopping and cafes. Things that I have always enjoyed doing on my own

Brenna Holeman December 1, 2014 - 3:43 pm

Good point! I think it’s often much easier to travel solo in a city…

Katie @ The World on my Necklace December 1, 2014 - 2:17 am

My favourite travel partner is my boyfriend because we get along so well together and just have fun together- also he is really easygoing and lets me plan everything haha. I also love travelling by myself and with friends, although all forms of travel can be challenging at times. I have 3 1/2 months of solo travel planned next year followed by 7 months of travelling mainly with a friend, with my boyfriend meeting us for 3 weeks in the middle and another good friend meeting us for a month. I really think that mixing it up with who you travel with is fun

Brenna Holeman December 1, 2014 - 3:43 pm

Totally agree – mixing it up is so much fun! It sounds like you have an amazing adventure planned…

Kat December 3, 2014 - 8:33 pm

Can totally relate to this Brenna! I was all for solo travel when I first started, and am now happy to travel with others and go away with my boyfriend. It’s nice to be adventurous on your own but it’s also great to enjoy those special experiences with others! Lovely post! x

Helen December 3, 2014 - 8:34 pm

I feel exactly the same. There are times when I love travelling solo, and do it a lot! But then other times when I just want to have a partner with me! Both have there advantages!

Like when you get off a really long bus and you have no idea where you’re going!

Well, if you ever need a travel partner, you know where I am! I’m definitely up for a few trips next year!!

And I totally agree about the sun cream and the photos. I can’t understand why strangers get annoyed when I ask them to take 10 photos – don’t they know blogs need good pics? 😉

The Guy December 5, 2014 - 1:21 pm

Great reflections and some perfectly made observations.

Travel is an amazing experience solo or accompanied. There are certainly benefits to both. Having a companion means not being alone, a drinking buddy and a fellow diner. As well as someone to look out for you.

Travelling solo means freedom of movement, doing what you want to do when you want to do it and no arguments.

Brenna Holeman December 5, 2014 - 3:07 pm

Totally agree with what you’ve said here! Thanks for your comment.

World First Travel Insurance Blog » Blog Archive The World First Wander - The best travel writing on the internet. December 5, 2014 - 1:50 pm

[…] Solo travel can often be amazing but sometimes it’s better to have a bit of company. In her post When I don’t feel like being a solo traveller Brenna talks about how she became a ‘female solo traveller’ and why she loves meeting up with […]

The World First Wander: the best travel writing on the internet | USA Insurance Buzz December 6, 2014 - 2:45 pm

[…] Solo travel can often be amazing but sometimes it’s better to have a bit of company. In her post When I don’t feel like being a solo traveller Brenna talks about how she became a ‘female solo traveller’ and why she loves meeting up with […]

Zalie December 8, 2014 - 2:36 am

OK seriously…let’s plan a trip together!!!

Brenna Holeman December 8, 2014 - 3:05 pm

Next September…!

Amy Lynne Hayes January 9, 2015 - 4:02 pm

I can completely relate to this sentiment. Traveling alone is not a deal-breaker, and certainly not a reason not to go, but it does take more energy than traveling with someone. You have to be more social, put yourself out there more and try to connect with others. Sometimes on a holiday all you want to do is kick back, relax and chill out. But that doesn’t mean you don’t want someone there with you. I often do the actual transport solo, and then meet friends who live in various locations. I may not see as much this way, but that’s fine in my book. 🙂

What Solo Travel Has Taught Me - This Battered Suitcase September 1, 2015 - 1:28 am

[…] lonely on the road (written after a particularly self-pitying spell in Guatemala) and also about when I don’t feel like travelling solo (written after I realised I was going to break up with someone, and was feeling sad he […]


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