Every day brings a different report of a strange, unexpected, or otherwise horrifying travel experience. We’ve seen everything from plane engines going up in flames to cruise ships getting pummeled by storms. Stories about folks traveling alone are even more horrific because they often end in abduction or worse. You don’t hear about the lady who had a great time backpacking through Europe or the guy who learned to surf in Australia. These stories don’t come up on the 5 p.m. broadcast because, well, they don’t really make a compelling news story.
Unfortunately, these tales about vacations gone wrong heavily influence what most people think about traveling alone. Many of these beliefs keep people from setting out on a trip, which is a bummer if you’re single. Don’t worry too much, because a lot of what you’ve heard is a bunch of bogus. We’re tackling six myths about traveling alone to prove a great vacation is attainable even without someone else tagging along.
1. It’s unsafe
Though warnings about safety are often geared toward females, men still hear a fair number of horror stories. After all, you don’t have to be a lady to get mugged or beat up. Lodging is usually the biggest concern. Many turn to sites like Couchsurfing to save a few bucks by crashing with locals, which sends up a red flag for a lot people. What if they steal your things? What if they turn out to be a serial killer? According to Nomadic Matt, these services are carefully guarded by the community, so you’ll be able to spot a psycho long before you would ever end up on their doorstep. What’s more, you’re in charge of the host you choose.
When it comes to getting around without friends at your side, you just have to be smart. Do research before you go and stay away from anywhere you think you could be targeted. Blending in is a good idea as well, so dress the part. Condé Nast Traveler also said it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings and avoid drinking too much alcohol.
2. It’s way too expensive
One of the first things that comes to mind when you start planning a trip is budget, and rightly so. Without setting limits, you could easily be on your way to a drastically reduced bank account. But it’s a mistake to assume going it alone will lead to insurmountable expenses. Without another person to accommodate, you can take your pick of inexpensive hotels and street food.
Don’t forget about flights, either. Most people groan and roll their eyes when an announcement comes on over the PA system about how the flight is overbooked and they need volunteers to take a later flight for a travel voucher. If you’re going alone, you only have your schedule to worry about, so go for it. Often, you’ll get upgraded to first class for nothing more than spending a few more hours in the airport. You’re also entitled to request cash in place of a travel voucher, which means you can have a little more fun once you get to your destination.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself tacked with a single supplement fee when you go on some tours or cruises by yourself, which helps these companies make up for the cost of losing an additional occupant. You can avoid the fee completely if you’re willing to find a roommate, which is pretty easy. Many websites, like Friendly Planet Travel, offer roommate matching services for solo travelers.
3. Dining by yourself is awful
Eating a meal at a sit-down restaurant without a companion sounds a lot more terrible than the reality. It’s the norm for folks who regularly travel for business, and there are also some advantages. Thrillist pointed out you can pick a seat at the bar to meet some new friends, and you won’t have to deal with your pals judging your dining choices. Bringing a book is also a good move, especially if you’re interested in eating somewhere a little more upscale.
You could even find it easier to fit into your clothes the next day if you dine solo. One 2006 study published in Physiology & Behavior found those who had a meal with friends consumed 18% more than those who dined by themselves. The social distraction likely makes it harder to pick up on your body’s cues that you’re satisfied, increasing your chances of overindulging.
4. You’ll get lonely
If you’re the type of person who needs constant interaction with peers to have a good time, this myth could potentially hold true. But as Elite Daily pointed out, being lonely and being alone aren’t the same thing. For anyone who values occasional time to themselves, traveling solo isn’t going to make you feel any more lonely than a weekend spent watching football and movies, and it’ll actually be more fun. You are on vacation, after all.
And remember, traveling by yourself doesn’t mean you have to be alone all the time. It actually makes it easier to meet new acquaintances as you won’t be absorbed in constant conversation with your usual group of friends.
5. You’ll be bored
It’s pretty unlikely you’ll spend much time hanging around your hotel or hostel if you’re traveling alone. You probably wouldn’t have made the trip if you didn’t have at least a few ideas of things you want to see or do. The best part about traveling by yourself is the freedom to do exactly what you want without having to accommodate anyone else’s interests. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go skydiving but have missed out because all your friends are afraid of heights. Maybe your idea of a good time is hiking through the mountains.
If you know you’re not the go-getter type, you can always opt for tours. The typical ones at museums are fine, but you’ll have a lot more fun if you go for something targeted to your interests. Some websites, like Viator, let you browse different options by location.
6. You’re totally screwed if you don’t speak the language
Don’t let your lack of multilingual abilities keep you from visiting an international location you’ve always wanted to see. You’d be surprised at just how easy it is to find people who speak fluent English all over the world. Nonverbal communication can also be surprisingly effective, but you need to make sure you’ve done a little reading about the culture first. SmarterTravel.com explained certain gestures mean different things in some countries, and some could even be offensive.
Using a translator on your smartphone is another option, but it’s probably better to study up before you set out. A basic phrase book is always a good investment. You can usually memorize some of the more important ones, like asking where the restroom is located, without too much trouble. And locals tend to appreciate when visitors make an effort to speak the language, even if you make mistakes.