Solo Travel for the Faint of Heart


Let me let you in on a little secret… solo travel ain’t for the faint of heart.

Or so we’ve been told.

I respectfully disagree. And I’ll tell you why. Life is about a collection of experiences, some comfortable, some uncomfortable, and some you just downright could do without. I’ve never heard of travel falling into that latter category.

[Tweet “I regret traveling around the world; I wish I’d stayed home instead – said no one ever.”]

That quote, from Man Vs. World, is a classic, mostly because it’s true. Travel may not always be comfortable, it might get very uncomfortable at times… but rarely do we ever regret it.

Solo travel may fall smack dab in the middle of the uncomfortable category for many. But that doesn’t mean it should be avoided. Moving away for college was an uncomfortable experience for some, but no one can say those students would have been better off staying put at home. Those types of experiences force us to grow as individuals. We’d remain stagnant without them.

I am a solo traveler by habit – I am constantly skipping off from one country to another sans partner or companion. Sometimes I meet up with people once I arrive, sometimes not. And I’m often called brave for this behavior. I don’t think so – I think it’s been a culmination of baby steps.

Pushing the envelope of your comfort zone is a process. First you start out small. Say, going on a study abroad trip during college when you don’t know any of the other students. That’s how I started. I did a program for one week, then two weeks, then enrolled in a foreign school for a year, then two years. It was a building process, like a snowball. I met people, I grew comfortable in foreign countries, and I had to push harder to find that challenge I faced on that first trip. I went farther, I stayed longer, and now I’m moving to New Zealand. For one year, knowing nobody, all by my little lonesome. Only I know I won’t be lonely, at all.

Given that vote of confidence though, there is no way I could have gone from living in my home state of Florida straight to moving to New Zealand for a year without panicking. Not without all those building steps in between.

My blogging friend Mandie of RambingMandie speaks very eloquently on this subject. She just finished a 5-month backpacking trip across Europe, primarily as a solo female traveler. And she loved it. Not every minute of it – there are hiccups in even the most well-planned trips – but the vast majority of the time. Recently she shared her tips on 5 ways to travel independently for the first time, specially geared towards those of us in our 30s. She also gives 10 reasons every woman needs to travel solo at least once. Though written for women, her points are just as appropriate for the men out there as well.

One of the biggest arguments against solo travel is the issue of safety. Obviously, if you don’t feel safe, get yourself out of that situation. Or don’t get into it in the first place. Travel + Leisure recently released their list of the best countries for solo travel, and guess who tops the list as number one?

I think I’ll do just fine in New Zealand, and I’ll do it all by myself. For the first few weeks anyways – after that I’m sure to have new friends, in a new country, with a renewed sense of adventure. And my heart certainly will not faint.

{Image by Trey Ratcliff}

  • You’re going to have an awesome time! Can’t wait to read all about it.

    • Thanks Vicki! Of course I’ll be reliving a few Paris exploits before I go too. 😉

  • Wow, thanks for the shout out, Amy!! 🙂 I love this post because it’s so very spot on. I get a lot of comments by people saying “oh, you’re so brave to travel solo.” But it’s totally not true. I’m scared of everything. If they could only see what a big chicken I was growing up. I’ve just learned that anything worthwhile is going to push, stretch, and make you a bit uncomfortable – that’s how we grow!

    I’m so excited for your upcoming New Zealand adventure, and I can’t wait to read about it! 🙂

    • Thank you Mandie!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – and you always explore so many of the topics I have dealt with or experienced, so I know there are more people out there who can relate. I’m the same – I was such a chicken when I was growing up. I even through a fit when my parents wanted to move to another house down the street because I didn’t want to leave OUR home lol. Never would’ve ever imagined I’d be the one without roots and a permanent address at this age! So cheers to stretching and growing, and double cheers to New Zealand – you might have to pop down for a visit one of these days! 🙂

  • Great post, Amy! I couldn’t agree more. Well, maybe I can, actually, because I’d go as far as to say we never regret travelling. Not even rarely. Yes, we may wish something had gone more smoothly or we hadn’t forgotten something etc. etc. but I don’t think they ever amount to full-blown regrets. They annoy at the time but then you brush it off and they just become memories, funny ones most of the time, not regrets.

    Anyhow, I’m probably just being pernickety! Have a great time in NZ, I’ve no doubt you’ll be absolutely fine, and I can’t wait to read all about your adventures.

    • Thank you Robert!! I’m right onboard with you – I may have had less than positive experiences, and wished I’d scheduled/researched/done things differently, but never have I ever truly regretted any of my travel experiences. And those times do make the best stories!! And I know NZ is going to be fabulous – can’t wait to share my adventures over there with all of you! 🙂

  • I see solo travelers as brave people because I’m so scared to do it by myself. But my fear isn’t a fear of being alone (I think I’ll be fine with that), it’s more fear of failing in planning because I’m just really really bad at staying organized. And I don’t know how to do necessary things like read maps, heh. I was completely independent before I came out traveling, and now I feel dependent on my bf again to make sure we get to where we’re supposed to go… and like I need to re-learn how to function as a human, lol. But I AM taking baby steps to learn all of these things so I can be confident enough to try solo travel someday (we both agree that it’d be good for me).

    And best of luck on your move to NZ!! I can’t wait to follow with your posts from there!

    • Haha funny enough, one of my very best friends is absolutely hopeless when it comes to navigating and knowing her way around, so when we both moved to London I was always the guide and she was always just being led blindly lol. She always managed though. It’s scary when you think about all the things that can go wrong, but in all likeliness those scenarios you play over and over in your mind never actually happen. Sort of like my fear of flying… and all the situations I can create in my mind when we hit a bit of turbulence. It’s not rational, but it’s there all the same.

      I can’t even believe I’ll be leaving for NZ in about 10 days – it’s been looming for 9 months, and it’s finally around the corner! Eek!! And I cannot wait to share – this will be the very first time I’ve traveled like that while having a blog, so I’m super excited. 🙂

  • Before I got married, I was a total solo travel addict! It was so nice to be able to jet off places and see what I wanted to see, and it really forced me to go and interact more with my environment and with the people I met. I find that with a built in social buddy, I don’t feel that same need to go out and be social. Fortunately, my husband is on board with making sure we find more people to chat with when we travel and finding ways to learn more things about the places we visit just to kind of recreate that feeling!

    • That is so true!! I always meet more people when I am forced to be social, and I love that experience. Of course traveling with a partner or group of friends is pretty fantastic as well. It’s a win-win really, as long as we’re out on the road somewhere lol. I have made some of my best friends though through solo travel, and I love when the group grows because everyone is open and sociable. It’s one of the most rewarding things about travel I find. 🙂

  • Lovely post! Im such an extrovert that I’ve always worried I’d have no one to externalize things to. haha. I’ll likely be traveling solo for the first time next year, so I just might find out!

    • Thank you Katie!! And I’m sure you’ll be fine traveling solo as an extrovert – I externalize things as well, and I’ve never had any issues finding people to connect with while traveling. Plus really sharing helps make more meaningful connections, in my experience. 😉 Can’t wait to follow along with you adventures!!

  • This post is so true, I love it!

    Brave is such bullshit, don’t you think? I mean, to me, brave are those fighting in our armies in wars that we don’t all agree with. Brave are people fighting cancer, y’know? Not those of us choosing to explore the world by ourselves!

    Yeah we might have uncomfortable experiences, we might end up in towns we didn’t mean too (referring to Mandie’s Croatian experience), but we’re always just a taxi or bus or flight away from where we need to be.

    • Thank you Sammi!! And I completely agree with you – setting out by ourselves to beautiful, developed countries isn’t quite the same as going to a war zone or fighting for your life against a disease. But then I don’t know if those individuals would call themselves brave either – they might just consider it as doing what they have to do. It’s an interesting concept.

      Uncomfortable experiences make us grow, and as long as we have the means, we can always get out of those situations. And that’s the beauty of solo travel – preparing us to deal with the unforeseen and not panicking. It’s a pretty power lesson to learn while snapping photos of a Thai beach or the Eiffel Tower! 😉

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  • I think the ‘adventure traveler’ image kind of gives people the impression that the only option is taking a sedate guided tour if they can’t make their way across South America without a guidebook. But anyone can push their comfort zone a bit – even if it’s scary!

    • You’re so right Jess!! There are so many different types of travel between guided tour and totally on your own. I’ve done both, though not in South America lol. And I’ve enjoyed both types of travel immensely. It all depends on what is outside your own comfort zone. Remember the concept of baby steps and building blocks is a great help too!

  • Love love love! Especially this –> “I’m often called brave for this behavior. I don’t think so – I think it’s been a culmination of baby steps.” I completely agree. When I started traveling it was always with someone else. Then little trips alone and then ultimately moving abroad where I knew no one. I haven’t traveled long term alone, but I’m thinking about it now.

    • Thank you Adelina!! It is all about the building blocks, isn’t it? I don’t think I would ever even entertain the idea of moving to New Zealand in a few days time if I hadn’t had all those other miles under my belt! It would be too big of a jump. It’s certainly something we have to work up to, a little stretch of the comfort zone at a time. 🙂

  • That’s exactly how it’s worked for me Chalsie! And the length of time builds… a week, 2 weeks, a month, a semester, a year. I have to admit though I’m finding myself a bit more apprehensive or something after being in my hometown for the past 18 months – that’s the longest I’ve ever been in one place without changing addresses in the past 8 years! I’m sure it will be fabulous though, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about New Zealand. Where did you go when you were there? 🙂 x

    • I feel exactly the same! It’s been 3 years since I last travelled, and I feel quite apprehensive to book something else. I think it’s fear of lack of funds. But y’know, life is short, and I want to travel. So I’m going to make it happen! I’m thinking about visiting somewhere in Asia early next year.
      I did a loop of the south island of New Zealand in a camper-van with my boyfriend. It was amazing! I highly recommend hiring a car and just driving places! x

      • Yes!! I was just checking my bank account today, wondering how long I can go if I don’t find work straight away. That’s my goal, but there are no guarantees! It does add an element of stress, that and my fear of flying lol. I loved Asia – would love to go back one day and see more. A camper-van is definitely on the NZ bucket list – would be a fabulous way to explore!! x

  • Katie Featherstone

    I totally agree. It really isn’t scary to travel alone if you do your research an take it slowly. I’m glad there are so many women doing it and inspiring the rest!

    • I confess I’m not the best researcher, but it is easier when you go to countries where they speak the same language lol. I’ve had almost 3 whole days on my own in Auckland now, and so far I’m absolutely loving it. And I couldn’t have done it without the testimony of those who have gone before me! 🙂