For me, the most frustrating part about traveling alone used to come at the end of the day, when I’d call my beau at home. “How was Machu Picchu? I saw your tweet and it looked incredible,” he’d say, eager for a full rundown. I would have absolutely loved it if he could have been there with me in Peru, or at the Three Gorges Dam in China, or across from me at dinner in London. But he wasn’t. And if you’ve ever tried to express a life-changing experience after an exhausting day on the road, you know how impossible it is. “It was great,” I’d reply. “You feel like you can touch the sky.” “That’s so cool,” he’d say. “I hope I can go back with you.”

I’ve come to learn that it’s better to wait until I get back to really share my experience. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss my man, because I do, a lot. But my work and my wanderlust have led me to travel alone more often than not, and I’ve grown to embrace it, and even crave it. When I’m alone, extraordinary things happen on ordinary days all the time. 

Here are three reasons I love hitting the road solo:

1. I am the master of the day. How often can you do exactly what strikes your fancy, and indulge every whim you might have? Traveling alone can be like a giant playground for adults, and there’s no one around to tell you when recess is over. I can stay up late and sleep in or call it a night at 9:00 p.m. and wake up to watch the sunrise. I get to linger as long as I want on a sunny day in a beautiful park, or talk to the cheesemonger at a local market for an hour. Or I can rush through five sites in thirty minutes. The experiences are mine and mine alone, so I’ve had to really learn to like myself, and enjoy spending time with me. Inspiration often strikes, so I have a notebook and pen at the ready. Sky’s the limit.

2. I become a braver person. New York is one of the safest major cities in the world, and I have never felt afraid walking the streets, even late at night, in quieter neighborhoods off the tourist track. Living in the city has enabled me to approach new places with a sense of openness to new experiences — to feel caution, not paranoia. When I’m alone, I tend to reach out to people and culture more than I might otherwise because I don’t have a security blanket to fall back on. In my experience, the world is full of good people who want to help you and show off the places where they live. There are exceptions, of course, but I trust the hairs that stick up on the back of my neck. Instincts are everything when you’re traveling, but especially when you’re traveling alone.

3. I get to eat what I want. I love eating at restaurants alone, wherever I happen to be. Many solo travelers prefer eating at the bar because it allows for the possibility of striking up a conversation, but there are times when I don’t feel like playing the “get to know you” game. I’ll sit at the bar if I really love the bartender (Walter at Hotel Cipriani in Venice is the best in the world), but usually I try to snag a table so I can experience the restaurant as most guests would. (If the host betrays a hint of disdain or sniffs “Oh, just one?” when I walk in, I leave.) And, on those days when you’ve run yourself ragged, there is no better way to soothe your soul than a little old fashioned room service. I usually limit myself to one night of indulgence per trip, which makes it feel more special.

What’s your favorite thing about traveling alone? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Annie Fitzsimmons is Intelligent Travel’s Urban Insider, giving you the dish on the best things to see and do in cities all over the world. Follow her on Twitter @anniefitz.

Comments

  1. Peggy Coonley/Serendipity Traveler
    Boston
    September 10, 2013, 10:45 am

    Traveling without a significant other, friends, or relatives leaves one free to travel at their own pace without compromise. Traveling independently provides opportunities for personal growth, self reliance and experiencing the kindness of others you meet along the way. I like traveling both alone and with family and friends, each offers fresh perspectives & memories.

  2. Burcu Basar
    Istanbul - Turkey
    September 10, 2013, 10:58 am

    A great post. I am a 32 years old women who have been traveling solo for the past 10 years. I also like to be the master of my own time and traveling on my own made me more aware of different voices in my mind and embrace all of those. I even enjoy the feeling of loneliness I feel sometimes when on the road and how you learn to deal with it overtime. I think it is one of the best experiences a person can have and should have. It is very addictive though. Burcu (http://www.burcubasar.com)

  3. Raymond
    September 10, 2013, 6:24 pm

    You have the time to think, to observe, your own pacing and time, no argument. Hahaha…

  4. George Pierce
    United States
    September 10, 2013, 6:32 pm

    Just as Mrs. Fitzsimmons stated, the absolute freedom felt when traveling solo is unparalleled. No schedule, no obligations, no bounds–simply wake up, pick a place, and go…and stay there until you’re ready to pick another place. It truly is one of the most liberating feelings in the world.

    Traveling alone also means that you don’t have to argue with anyone about what and what not to see or do. There’s no worry about whether someone is truly enjoying themselves as much as you are, or whether they’re satisfied with how the trip is going. It’s one of those things you don’t notice until you go on a solo trip and realize that there’s nothing holding you back from what you want to do.

  5. Manuela Couto
    Toronto, Canada
    September 10, 2013, 9:21 pm

    My fav part of travelling alone is thow many more people I get to meet from all over the world, partly from their sheer curiosity of why I am travelling alone. I definitely get approached a lot more, but I also reach out a lot more to people I come across in the most random places abroad. And if you stay in hostel, you’re pretty much guaranteed to meet new friends who share you love of travel.

  6. Alex Bellink
    New York
    September 10, 2013, 9:57 pm

    I spend a lot of time traveling around the northeast by car. Sometimes I bring friends, but no matter what I make sure I’m driving my own car so I can make the calls of where we’re stopping. Side trips on long drives are all the fun. If I want to drive 8 miles off the highway to go to a chocolate factory in a blizzard in farmland Quebec (true story), I’ll do it! Double park the car on the side of the highway in northern Vermont to take photos of the Adirondack mountains across Lake Champlain at sunset? Yes please. That’s my favorite part about traveling alone and being the one in control. If my travel partner doesn’t like it, well hey, I’m the one driving! ;)

  7. Barrett Caldwell
    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    September 12, 2013, 12:35 am

    Annie, you nailed it! As someone who spends months overseas each year in upwards of 10-12 countries a year, this was the perfect capture to the thoughts I have when traveling. I never thought it’d be hard to describe what I’d just witnessed to people back in the States, but man…at the end of the day, it’s just hard to sit back and recap it all over Skype/Facetime. Maybe we’ll cross paths one day…in the meantime, stay safe and live it up!

  8. KeyQu
    istanbul, türkiye
    September 12, 2013, 1:49 am

    I love traveling alone, especially I love being the one going places, or doing things rather than waiting or trying to catch up.I love the fact that I can take any picture at anytime, without wondering if I’m about to lost the person I’m with. I love having my own pace during my travel.

  9. Cecille
    September 12, 2013, 1:52 am

    Just so right for items 1 & 2. I don’t need to compromise with friends I’m traveling with. It makes me a braver person or I think more social. Actually, I’m meeting more friends on the road when I’m alone than with travel buddies. And I love it!

    Ok, I didn’t include item 3 but it doesn’t mean that I don’t agree with it. I’m just not a fan of eating alone. I’m a foodie person but I explore & try more when with friends. Ok, this goes to specific travel buddies who are foodies like me. Gosh! It’s more fun to eat with friends. We usually order different items in the menu then share. Thus, we can try more.. When alone, I just grab a sandwich from a cafeteria and eat while walking. Or sometimes, will bring it to the hostel and eat with newly found friends.

  10. Nurse-issistic Traveller
    Cebu City, Philippines
    September 12, 2013, 3:33 am

    Getting lost when i’m travelling alone has always turned out to be the greatest part of my trips. If you’re in a group and end up getting lost, the blame game usually stirs everyone up. I get lost quite a lot but it is only when i’m lost that i truly get to know myself better and what i’m capable of. And not only that, i’ve come to realize that the world is full of good people eager to help you when you need it most.

  11. Nishi Jain
    India
    September 12, 2013, 6:26 am

    Ya, you said it! Such absolute freedom to roam and wander about.
    Another thing I like about travelling alone is freedom of thought and speech. When you are with somebody, there is an unspoken obligation to fill in long silences, to keep interacting with the other person. Of course, the intensity depends on who you are with and how comfortable you are with them. But speech often hinders thought and you don’t get enough space to think about things other than “oh look how beautiful that tomb is”, or “You know my dad always talked about this”…
    By the way, that’s a nice animated photograph you have there.

  12. Tetiana
    Ukraine, Odessa
    September 12, 2013, 10:34 am

    At first and main thing in travelling alone – it is freedom of your choise. You and only you can may your choise about everything.

  13. SusanE
    USA
    September 12, 2013, 11:45 am

    Great article and great comments. I agree with everything and traveled solo 4 times throughout Europe. I might suggest keeping a small brief journal of your day, because it is wonderful to have a reminder at the end of your travels.. Traveling on your own assures that you travel light. That you can go where you want and chuck a sight if there is someplace more interesting. I never had dinner or lunch alone unless I wanted to. You can stay in a single dorm room in London or in a guest room in a family home in Rome, On your own you get invited to parties, festivals, and breakfast at the local hangouts.. The local people know stuff that tours and tour books don’t know and that you’d never find if travelling with another person. AND when you do something incredibly stupid, no one is there to tell tales later. Great article by Annie Fitzsimmons!

  14. Wendy
    Midwest U.S.A.
    September 12, 2013, 11:48 am

    Thanks for this article and all the comments. I am traveling to Africa alone for the first time, and although I have a deep desire to travel alone, I have also battled some fear about it. I’ve been to Africa three times but always with friends or family. Your comments have help put my mind to rest and stirred up even more excitement at this opportunity. If anyone has travel trips for Africa (Zambia specifically), I would welcome your insight.

  15. Nancy
    Scottsdale
    September 12, 2013, 4:05 pm

    AAHH….departing ALONE for Copenhagen next week. Can’t wait for all of the experiences and the joys and challenges I will encounter to broaden my horizons and warm my soul.

    • Annie Fitzsimmons
      September 14, 2013, 12:30 am

      Have a wonderful trip Nancy!

  16. Penny Sadler
    Dallas
    September 13, 2013, 8:33 pm

    I started traveling alone about 7 years ago, and I absolutely adore it. Seldom do I wish for another person to share an experience with. I concur on all three points!

  17. AlteCocker
    Washington, DC
    September 13, 2013, 11:20 pm

    I get to stay in the museum as long as I want! There is no one tapping his foot because he wants to leave.

    Traveling solo does not mean you are alone. You have more interaction with locals who are always curious about solo travelers–especially senior solo travelers.

  18. Sabas Castillo
    Caracas,Venezuela
    September 13, 2013, 11:26 pm

    Travelling on your own allow you to reflect upon your own limits and fears: you are force to keep going even in the most edgy of the circumstances. You are also naturally force to talk to people at the moment when you have spent days rummiating your own thoughs.This,enhance your portafolio of friends,expand your emotional limits and make you have inner strenght!

  19. Salma Nashef
    Jordan
    September 14, 2013, 12:28 am

    I am the boss of everything… the time, type of transfer, food, places to visit, time of traveling, etc.
    Inspite of the fact that at certain points I miss a person to share a talk , laugh & eat.

  20. Vijay
    San Francisco
    September 14, 2013, 1:03 am

    I completely agree with you! Traveling alone is an experience every human should indulge in. It gets you out of your comfort zone and you tend to do acts who are hesitant to do. Recently, traveled to Peru and Chile and forced me to communicate and try a little harder to get around or even talk to locals!

  21. Dinah
    Atlanta
    September 14, 2013, 10:19 pm

    I love traveling alone because I get the opportunity to troubleshoot what goes wrong on the trip by myself. I don’t have a choice, but it is sweeter after you solve that problem yourself. The sense of accomplishment adds to my confidence that no matter what happens, I can rise up!

  22. Lyndsay
    Manila, Philippines
    September 15, 2013, 7:00 am

    I agree, I actually love travelling alone just for the freedom and flexibility of not having to worry about your company. You don’t need to worry about not having a company because you get to meet new friends on the road that eventually becomes your friends and of course, your company.

    I have more reasons why I travel solo:

    http://www.discounttravelblogger.com/why-do-i-travel-alone-2/

    I believe that other travelers have more reasons than what we have that we’ll get to discover soon. Be safe in your travels!

  23. T Smith
    September 15, 2013, 6:54 pm

    I admit that I like to be selfish when I travel – I want to see what I want to see, do what I want to do! I recently went to London and Paris with a friend; the best days I had in both cities were the ones where my friend and I separated to do our own things.

  24. Gillian Deack
    Pittsburgh, Pa
    September 18, 2013, 9:49 am

    Traveling is a rewarding experience. Not only does it grant new freedoms, but it allows the traveler to experience a place where time and rules do not exist.

    One of my favorite reasons for traveling alone is to catch back up with myself. Life can be a bit overcrowded sometimes. The everyday demands of friends, family, work, and the neverending glitz of social media sometimes interrupts my “mental quiet time” and when that happens, I like to hit the road. Traveling allows me to take a step back from everything and everyone and look at things in a new perspective. Maybe there was something I did not see the first time, or, perhaps I misread a situation. Either way, the vast emptiness of the open road gives me the “mental quiet time” I need to refocus and get back intouch with myself so I do not lose sight of who I am or what I represent.

    Happy travels everyone!

  25. Alejandro Corpeno
    Ecuador
    September 18, 2013, 12:44 pm

    He travels the fastest who travels alone -Rudyard Kipling-

  26. Madu
    Colombo,Sri Lanka
    October 2, 2013, 7:08 am

    Great Post :-)

  27. Natasha Madan
    California, USA
    October 9, 2013, 3:33 pm

    You can be spontaneous! I am able to connect to the place and people more deeply when traveling solo. It gets you out of your element, makes you smarter. Even the smallest of experiences are magnified in ways you could never have experienced otherwise.

  28. Stella
    London
    October 10, 2013, 9:03 am

    Travelling alone allows oneself to adapt to cultures much easier and making friends easily. When travelling with family and friends, you are always with them but not have much chance talking to locals or strangers. But travelling solo allows anyone to interact with others for as long as they want. Also, can buddy up travelling together if fancy to.

  29. Buck Purcell
    Ignacio, CO
    October 10, 2013, 10:52 am

    A great article thanks I have been traveling outside of the USA for the past 14 years and as of the date I have traveled to 75 countries and all of this has been as a solo traveler, sometimes I join small tour groups ( max of 12 people) to better see the area I am traveling in. Being a solo traveler let’s you meet more people of the area you are traveling through, let’s you spend more time learning about the people, and the country. Love seeing the world

  30. Ravi Agarwal
    New Delhi
    October 15, 2013, 4:20 pm

    There is something which bonds us to our nation. Though we may not coversate or discuss about it even with our near and dear ones but yes, that sense of feeling definitely rests in our heart. Found a very interesting link the other day.. check it out: http://prik.in/2013/10/why-we-still-love-india/

  31. Peta Bartlett
    Perth
    October 17, 2013, 9:10 pm

    I have only travelled a handful of times overseas, some as a sole traveller and the others with a friend. When travelling solo, I find that sometimes I chicken out of trying something new where as when you are with someone you kind of dare each other and push each other past your normal boundaries. But also, when travelling with a friend you have to really compromise where as when it is just you, you are the captain of your trip!

  32. Oliver Mendl
    Germany - Düsseldorf
    October 19, 2013, 6:25 pm

    I love traveling alone, I do what I want, when I want it. That doesn’t mean I don’t like company, but just not 24/7. I love to meet friends, and I feel much more free in making plans, going out for the night with them, when I don’t have to look after someone traveling with me. It’s also easier to make new friends, start a conversation – it seems to come naturally, easier when your wandering around town. Then again, I also love to listen to music, sometimes especially picked by me, when walking streets, bridges, parks. So a loud, hell yeah to good company, just not all the time :)

  33. Tracy
    Canada
    October 19, 2013, 6:27 pm

    There is no one in the world we spend more time with than ourselves yet traveling alone is one of the few opportunities we have to hear ourselves, listen to what we have to say and live our lives exactly the way we want. It is not perfect but it is never more real and for that I love it.

  34. deborah
    orlando, florida
    October 21, 2013, 8:01 am

    Hi Annie,

    I’ve never backpacked and have thought about it for the past year. I’m a member of couch surfing but I’ve never done it. I really want to go to Regensburg, Germany and the countryside by myself, that’s my goal; perhaps just after the new year or when the weather breaks for spring. Wondering what tips you can give a newbie? Thinking maybe I could stay in a dorm in or near Regensburg? Not sure how to research this either. How do I get started? I’m a single middle aged woman who needs a bit of freedom at this point. Thanks for any info you can offer. Great article!

  35. Melissa
    South Carolina
    October 23, 2013, 9:39 pm

    This is a great article and I love traveling about the world. Here are three other reasons to travel. http://melissamurdock.com/2013/09/29/three-reasons-to-travel-abroad/

  36. Monica
    Sao Paulo, Brazil
    October 24, 2013, 1:29 pm

    I just loved your article. I thinkl travelling solo makes me aquire a “new personality” I become more open-minded and definitly much more easy going than I am day by day. I do not share your love for eating alone though, the desdain of “oh, just one” reaaly bothers me, but I loved your attitude, walk away right? People are alwyas astonished when I say I travel alone. And my answer is: It is much safer than u can imagine and much more fun…thank you so much for sharing and I liked the comments as well.

  37. Nisha Manglani
    India
    October 28, 2013, 8:08 am

    Travelling alone is fun,keep walking,never get lost, but explore more places.You learn about the culture, meet lot of people,their stories fascinates me :)
    Only thing i don’t like abt travelling alone is, pack my bags (overload)

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    uk
    October 29, 2013, 6:03 am

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  39. jeneff
    United States
    November 6, 2013, 7:59 am

    This is exactly the viewpoint I’d like my daughter to have. Brave, intelligent and curious. I hope I can help her learn this.

    I traveled solo when single and loved the exhilaration of it. When I got married, it became a battle because he didn’t share my enthusiasm for gallivanting. He would rather buy an SUV for his big game expeditions to the mall.
    So I went anyway. We stayed married and after being left alone so often he decided he liked travel after all. It’s okay traveling with him but I still manage to get away alone. Nothing beats it.

  40. Barb
    January 11, 10:45 pm

    Awesome article. All the reasons I enjoy traveling alone. Plus then I can stop and go to the bathroom whenever I want to.

  41. AHavrilla
    January 12, 9:09 am

    When traveling by myself I don’t have to deal with comments such as “Do you really need to take so many pictures?” I can also return to an especially photogenic location to capture it in different lighting. If you’re with a non photographer they usually don’t understand. Also when I’m with someone else I don’t get much work done such as processing photos and uploading to my photo site and posting to FB/Twitter. And I’d feel guilty doing this when someone else wants to go for a late dinner or drinks or whatever. I enjoy my trips with others but it is a totally different ballgame.

  42. rrp
    INDIA
    January 23, 6:32 am

    Travelling alone is a Art and the experience you live in stays with you for times to come, and that experience make you solve other quests. Lot of people think that aloof people do it deliberately but they don’t understand , its a choice when you don’t want to talk to anyone and just travel and cross people and their minds.

  43. keerthi kumar
    Bangalore,India
    January 24, 4:31 am

    Many time I travel, it gives more pleasure, the reason,i can observe many things,independently can chat with many un known people and gain the knowledge,Eat only needed,, get down at any place ans restart the trip, feel tire you can go for rest, by this many short comings can be avoid.Many advantages are there.

  44. pertunia
    South Africa
    February 18, 9:42 am

    I have traveled alone to Thailand before but i will be going to new York in may and i am very excited but also nervous.

  45. poonam
    india
    February 20, 7:27 am

    hi!,
    this article motivated me to finalize and take a solo trip which i have been thinking for a long time. good for me

  46. vincemadamombe
    Malaysia
    May 24, 6:27 am

    I’m a male student who has a dream of travel around the world one day. I find this post very helpful in many ways as it is giving me tips on how to travel solo overseas. As it says in the blog travelling alone is an art and the experience you lives with you forever this article motivated me to finalize and take a solo trip. I also believe that by getting lost in some unfamiliar places you could experience the place more.
    P/s: Thank you for all the traveling tips provided.