Going It Alone – Why the Greatness of Solo Travel Endures

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Solo Travel Benefits

Solo Travel Benefits

I’ve always enjoyed traveling alone.  My relationship with solo travel began at a young age.  I vividly remember flying on Southwest across Texas as an unaccompanied minor to visit my much-older brother.  My solo travel probably peaked during my bachelor and newlywed years.  After a few years of solo travel dormancy, I go it alone every several months.  Doing so has been like getting together with an old friend and remembering why it’s so special.  I just got back from a one-night trip out west to Winston-Salem, North Carolina for the McCartney show.  During this trip and other recent ones, I’ve been reflecting more on what makes traveling alone a worthy endeavor.  These are my favorite solo travel benefits – some more widely applicable than others.

It’s All About Me

I’ll start with an easy one.  I can selfishly pick the activities, dining, hotels, and travel method I prefer.  As much as I enjoy family vacations, there are varying levels of interest in certain activities.  Participating in the touring priorities of others is part of being a considerate member of the family unit.  In turn, I may choose to lead an outing to a location others aren’t as excited for.  But at a certain point, I know I should save certain stuff for a solo trip.

For instance, after watching the The World at War, I wanted to visit the Imperial War Museum in London.  There’s no way family would tolerate going there for a full day, much less the three I had planned.  Going alone on that trip was an easy decision.

Solo Travel Benefits

Connecting

I enjoy connecting with new people and places when traveling alone.  My wife and I have taken Amtrak across the country and loved it.  While she enjoyed the experience, I was even more enamored.  I decided to take a trip on the California Zephyr the following year, and she encouraged me to go solo.

Sitting with new people at every meal isn’t for everyone, but the random discussions and stories I’d hear from other travelers were priceless.  I remember talking to an old guy wearing an engineer hat while taking a train to, you guessed it, a model train convention.  I was intrigued by a foreigner visiting the US for the first time, traveling across the States and seeing views many locals haven’t.

More recently, it was the traveler sitting next to me in the Las Vegas Centurion Lounge.  Somehow, we ended up talking about dogs for about an hour.  I knew I wouldn’t see these people again, but it was enlightening to obtain just a glimpse of their experiences.  I find myself connecting more with places and experiences, as well.  Just recently, I had a grand time doing this in Asheville.

Disconnecting

Another solo travel benefit I value is what I’ll call surreal, divine disconnection.  I naturally feel this most on road trips and maybe a bit on train travels.  Whether it’s in transit or at destinations, quietly taking in the natural surroundings without any distractions is a form of meditation for me.  The same goes for the quiet en route to my destination.  I’ve caught myself not saying a single word to anyone, not even myself, for several hours.  Try it some time – it’s delightful.

Solo Travel Benefits

Loose Planning, At Best

My solo travels usually involve a priority goal, but I ensure not to pack too many plans into a given trip.  I need to leave room for those happy accidents and random turns for discovery.  I can’t fully know all of what’s possible at a given destination by simply reading a travel book or online content.  Identifying those experiences in the moment, at the location is part of the wonder of travel, in my view.  And naturally, I don’t have to put as much advance planning into solo trips.

Random Hobby Tinkering

Many in the points hobby know that certain plays work in one location but not another.  A regional grocery store chain enables a play that simply isn’t an option back home.  Another store offers an item at an amount or capacity I can’t otherwise obtain.  Unlike the few who take the hobby extremely seriously, I won’t travel to a destination for a specific play.  But if I can participate in the hobby in a way I can’t from home, I’ll take advantage of that during the trip as a side benefit.

Commanding The Hotel Thermostat

I’ve loved cold hotel rooms since I was a kid.  Super cold.  Growing up in a generally-hot climate, I loved the frigid air immediately hitting my face moments after simply pressing a button.  Almost as equally, I enjoy the unending drone from the unit cooling the room.  My family travel companions aren’t as big fans.   So I’ll keep enjoying this on solo trips.  Weird, I know.  But it’s me.

Conclusion

I don’t want to overdo it.  Too many solo trips would get old.  More importantly, I’d be a subpar husband and father.  So I’ll take my few, quick solo trips a year and enjoy them for what they are.  And all the mistakes I make along the way I’ll ensure not to repeat on family trips.  What are your favorite solo travel benefits?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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20 COMMENTS

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Solo travel is self care. Everyone needs at least some time alone, and you can do it even when traveling as a couple. For example, take an occasional day apart to cater to individual interests and then share your adventures over a meal. You do not spend all of your time together when you are not on vacation, so why do it when you are on vacation?

    Solo travel also means more interaction with locals. When you travel with someone else, you are often treated as a pair and left to yourselves, especially when you are not speaking the regional language. When you travel alone, the locals often engage you. They might offer personal recommendations, suggest places tourists are not aware of, or even take you out to eat. A couple in Taipei took me out for a five-course dinner and would not let me pay!

    Some of my fondest memories of traveling alone are one-one-one conversations with locals. I learned more from them than I could have from any book or museum. For example, the elderly man in Spain who described life as a boy during the Spanish Civil War; the friendly South African man who told me about his three years in jail under apartheid; or, on a happier note, the Swiss adventurer I met in a ger camp in Mongolia who was walking from Siberia to Australia. [OK, she was not a local–and she took a cargo ship for the final leg!]

  2. Comprehensive list! For me the thermostat goes up not down the fist thing the new hotel room door swings open.

    I’ll add two:
    1. For those of us in the bottom half of the “happy marriage” spectrum- a break.
    2. More space. In the Amtrak roomette, car, hotel room. Just feels more open and less cluttered to be able to arrange only my things.

    The biggest negative, as 2808 Heavy and L both said, is dining alone in upscale restaurants. I generally avoid them and pick delis, food from grocery stores, or very casual restaurants.

    • EricF,
      Thanks for mentioning the space angle. I’ve definitely loved the extra space in the Roomette during Amtrak long haul trips!

  3. My friends either don’t travel or are married so I travel solo 90% of the time and love it. My job is very social so I love disconnecting and enjoying some solitude.

  4. I solo travel a lot so I’m good with all the logistics of traveling abroad. Where it fails is when I travel with a group and they rely on me to ensure everything is taken care of weeks ahead of time! In 2019, traveling to Gold Coast for New Year’s, my friends wanted to know where we were staying, what car I rented and it was not even November!

    For me I look forward to traveling again, waking up one morning and planning a last minute trip across to the other side of the world on a whim.

  5. I’ve done the solo travel thing before and it’s…okay. I can be alone and not be lonely but I’m only down for solo stuff on very rare occasions…after all, vacations are usually better spent with those you love and/or care for.

    That solo dining out is brutal. Unless there’s a bar I’m not down for a cloth table meal by myself unless I’m dining before 5pm.

  6. Most of my friends are married with families. They can’t take off for 10 days to England. If I want to travel it really needs to be solo. I don’t love long multi-course meals for dinner when traveling alone so I tend to get take out, eat from the grocery store or eat at the bar if I can

    • Brett,
      Have a blast! Although, how is a solo trip feeling more overwhelming than the alternative? I don’t doubt you – I’m just curious.

  7. Thanks for the reminder and bit of encouragement. Solo travel is great for: 1. going to places where others don’t have any interest in going (Newark, NJ, anyone?), 2, for those who want to walk, take trains or buses when the naysayers complain that “it is too slow; it’s not safe.” 3, for those who want to explore on a budget airline like Spirit or Frontier, 4. for museum fans (I went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science three times in four days). 5. to have meals easier and less stressful (I have heard, “I don’t like bread/dough” when visiting Italy and never got to try pizza, and some people don’t eat meat dishes and don’t even want to SEE it on the table, 6. managing costs (actually had a relative show up for a three day travel weekend with ZERO dollars and no credit/debit cards, not even enough to cover train, food, or anything that cost any money, like shopping–I learned this at the train ticket booth when I asked, “Did you bring ANY money?”).

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