The Sometimes-Surprising, Solitudinous Benefits of Solo Travel
Depending on your personality, traveling alone might sound like a dream — or a nightmare. The difference between solitude and isolation largely depends on our own perception, and if you’re used to traveling with a crowd, it might seem downright scary to go stag.
But taking a solo vacation has a host of benefits that can’t be emulated by any other type of travel. It gives you the chance to disconnect from everything and everyone, and maybe even learn a little bit about yourself.
Solo travel also affords adventurers the ability to make on-the-fly decisions that are significantly more complicated when you have to please a whole pack of people. Want to stay at a dreamy destination a little bit longer, or peel off on an unplanned trek down that intriguing-looking side street? The choice is yours — and yours alone. That reality alone can be surprisingly freeing.
Of course, going on vacation alone also comes with its own unique set of challenges, including certain safety considerations you’ll want to keep in mind. In this post, we’ll dive more into all the benefits of traveling alone, including a few of our top picks, tips, and tricks for stellar solo vacations.
Why Would You Go on Holiday Alone?
It’s a basic truth of human experience: some of us do better alone than others. You’ve probably heard the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” thrown around before, and perhaps you even identify with one or the other. But do you know the difference, by definition?
The Myers-Briggs personality test is one of the most well-accepted in the field of psychology, and one of the first things it tests for is introversion or extroversion. The difference between the two is more than just whether or not you prefer to spend your time alone or with company — it’s about how you recharge your batteries and manufacture energy.
Extroverts, who make up the majority of the population, relax and wind down by spending time with their friends. Being in the company of others makes them feel more energized.
But for introverts, who represent about 25% of the population, social interactions like this are taxing. (Getting together with loved ones can still be fun, of course — but it draws energy rather than replenishing it.)
Thus, it makes sense that solo holidays might appeal more to those of us who naturally have introverted tendencies. If the idea of spending your free time alone sounds draining to you, heading out on the highway for an extended without company might sound like a prison sentence.
But there are benefits of solo travel that might just change your mind about how scary the prospect sounds, even if you’re a dedicated extrovert.
You’ll make new friends.
For one thing, you’re rarely alone when you travel alone. In fact, being without your safe social circle of friends and family, you’re in a better position to make new friends than ever. (After all, it’s a lot more difficult to strike up a conversation with a stranger when you’re busy chatting with people you already know well.)
Traveling alone and meeting locals can be an amazing way to truly experience a new location, taking in its unique offerings without any familiar faces to mitigate the experience. You’ll be more primed for adventures no matter where you go — and if you’re really in need of a local buddy, you can always turn to the internet. Area Facebook groups, forums, and even dating apps are all ripe with new friendship possibilities; just introduce yourself and explain your situation, and chances are you’ll have a new hiking buddy in no time!
You’ll learn about yourself.
Most of us are almost constantly distracted. (It’s nothing to feel bad about — it’s pretty much a universal fact of American life.)
But you might be surprised at how much disconnecting from your day-to-day reality can teach you about yourself. When you spend time in solitude, you’ll have more opportunity to think deeply about the important questions we so often push to the side, like what you want out of your life and why you’re here in the first place.
There are few better ways to ponder life’s big questions than to do so while exploring a new destination without any mundane chatter to drown out your mind. No matter where you’re going, just open the door, head out on a walk, and actually take time to observe what’s going on around you. You might be surprised by what you see… and how much those sights might clarify what’s going on in your mind.
You’ll experience total freedom.
Don’t get us wrong, traveling with others is fun. You get to share experiences and create new stories that will be retold for years to come.
But whenever you’re trying to make arrangements with a big group of people, challenges are a reality. Not everybody wants to do the same thing at the same time — or even has the same amount of time off to begin with.
Traveling solo significantly simplifies the planning process. It’s simple: decide where and when you want to go, and go there. You’ll also be totally in charge of what activities you take on once you get there… and if you change your mind about any of it, so be it. Nobody else is around to be disappointed!
You’ll build confidence in yourself.
If solo travel sounds scary to you, chances are, the experience itself is going to be — at least for a while. But once you dive in and get past the heebie-jeebies, you’ll learn that you’re totally capable of navigating the world on your own… and in fact, you might even find you like it.
No matter where you are on the journey of life, all of us can use a boost to our self-confidence and our ability to be comfortable regardless of what’s going on around us. Solo travel is a great way to hone that skill while having a good time. What’s not to love?
You might try even try something new!
Fancy trying that exotic new restaurant your kids would turn their noses up at… or even something considerably more adventurous, like skydiving?
Solo travel doesn’t just give you the opportunity to try out those exciting new ventures without knocking someone else’s agenda out of whack. It might even give you the last little bit of motivation you need to finally bite the bullet and do it. After all, there’s nobody around to distract you. If not now, when?
Mix and Mingle: Singles Vacations
Along with all the benefits we’ve outlined above, there is another major attraction — pun intended — that draws people to the world of solo traveling. (If you’ve read Eat, Pray, Love, you probably know where this is going!)
Stories and stereotypes aside, it’s true that traveling alone does give you a better opportunity to meet and interact with new people, including the handsome stranger or cute girl at the coffee shop.
There are even companies that make model their business around single travel, like dating cruises and international tours built for those looking to meet someone special in the process. But even if you just DIY your solo vacation, you can easily come home with an exciting new person in your life — or at least in your little black book. (Hey, the chances that you live in the same place are pretty slim, so we all know what we’re really after, here!)
The Best Places to Travel Alone in the U.S.
If you do it right and go into it with an open mind, traveling solo can be a great way to experience just about any destination — and the right destination for you depends largely on what exactly you want to spend that ample free time of yours doing.
But there are certain spots that are especially amenable to solo travelers, whether you’re after nightlife, culture, wilderness wandering, or some combination of all of the above.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Montana
Want to get lost in your thoughts? There’s no better place to do so than the great outdoors — and there’s hardly a better great outdoor space than Yellowstone National Park. In fact, this was the very first place ever designated a national park, not just in the U.S., but in the world. It so inspired the powers that were at the time that they came up with the program whole cloth. That’s pretty incredible, right?
Although Yellowstone is a popular option, really any of our national parks will do. Solo backpacking adventures are a common pastime in these federal recreational areas, and if you don’t want to go it alone, you don’t have to. Many of the national parks offer guided excursions and interpretive programs that’ll help you get more familiar with the area while also meeting some new people, and maybe even recruiting a hiking buddy or two.
Nothing coming up on the calendar? Check with one of the National Park Service employees at a Visitor Center to learn about wilderness organizations dedicated to taking on the great outdoors together. For example, Outsiety is a group of women based in Whiteish, Montana — the gateway town to totally-epic Glacier National Park. And most areas have active hiking and outdoor-oriented groups on Meetup, especially if there’s a popular park nearby. You just have to do a little digging!
San Francisco, California
Big cities are big cities are big cities, think some travelers. And to be true, the hustle and bustle is largely the same.
But if you’re looking for an urban experience that’s about as solo-friendly as possible, it’s hard to do better than San Francisco. The bay area is full to the brim with open-minded, open-hearted people… and lots and lots of fun, social activities to take on in which you’ll get to meet them.
Attend a reading at Haight-Ashbury’s famous Booksmith, or see an intimate indie show at the Fillmore. Honestly, you could even make friends while stuffing your face at the original Ghirardelli, though chances are they’ll also be on vacation.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Looking to spend long, sunny days meandering through an art-filled town — or sage-lined arroyos? Finish it all off with a Mexican meal you won’t soon forget and an unparalleled speckling of stars, and you’ll soon understand why New Mexico’s capital city is considered something of a hidden gem amongst travelers today… and why it’s been a sought-after destination since trains were first invented.
No matter what time of year you come, the City Different is stunning: covered in snow in winter or heavy with the apricots that grow wild and come to fruit in high summer. And the outdoor opportunities are absolutely endless: Tent Rocks, Bandelier, and Petroglyph are just a few of the national monuments reachable in less than two hours’ drive, and that’s really just the beginning. Don’t miss the chance to meander about an hour and a half north to Taos, famous for its ski valley and 80-mile Enchanted Circle drive. And yes, Georgia O’Keeffe’s house is totally worth visiting, even with the $40+ cost of entry.
Asheville, North Carolina
Whether you want to climb a mountain peak, experience some of the best white water rapids in the country, just kick back with a stellar craft ale — or our favorite option, all three — the mountain-ringed, art-filled gem that is Asheville, North Carolina’s got you covered. I mean, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs right into it, for goodness sake, and it’s rumored to have more breweries per capita than any other city in the country.
There are plenty of amazing social opportunities, too, even for teetotalers. This is the kind of place where hanging out at a coffee shop is basically a religious activity, and you’ll certainly have plenty of them to choose from. Hit an open mic or poetry reading for more opportunities to mix and mingle, or head out on its epic art walk to meet some creative minds. If all else fails, just walk around asking for a hiking or mountain biking partner; you’re sure to find a willing participant!
Denver’s got it all: amazing food, unparalleled culture, and nightlife that will knock your socks off. And, of course, some of the most sought-after outdoor adventures in the country are right in the city’s backyard.
Rocky Mountain National Park could easily entertain you for a week or longer, whether you’re alone or with a friend you made in town — and there’s also a ton of non-federally-managed land the locals can key you in on. Go in winter to check out the ski slopes, and take a class for even more opportunities to meet new people. It’s not surprising everyone is so friendly… after all, given Colorado’s legalization status, chances are nobody’s very stressed out!
Consider yourself a history buff, a culture hound, or both? Looking for an urban east-coast getaway?
Washington D.C. is a worthy destination no matter who you go with. But one of the reasons we love it for solo travel: its abundance of totally-free attractions. You can while away your leisure time wandering through the many halls of the Smithsonian complex, totally free of charge. (And hey, when you’re traveling solo, you don’t have anyone trying to rush you through without reading all the plaques!)
D.C. is also renowned for its foodie and bar scenes, and hanging out at the counter is a great way to meet people to chat. Who knows? You may just overhear some interesting political conversations!
New Orleans, Louisiana
It would be easy to dismiss New Orleans as one, big, non-stop party. (And to be sure, that scene is there if you’re looking to partake. You’re going alone, right? Who’s going to judge you?)
But the Big Easy also offers an amazing number of cultural and historical attractions, with intriguing to-dos that go way beyond Bourbon Street. Meander through its famous, labyrinthine cemeteries or learn more about its French Colonial history on a walking tour. There are also tons of locals who will tell you all the ghost stories you could possibly want to hear… given you’re brave enough to sit through the telling.
Traveling on Your Own is Perfect for RVing
So — convinced that traveling alone isn’t the fool’s errand it once seemed?
No matter where you’re headed on your solo adventure, there are a whole lot of different ways to get there. And some of them are better suited to going stag than others.
Take flying, for example. Sure, it gets you where you’re going fast. And once in a while, you may get an interesting seatmate whose chatter is actually welcome. But how much more common is it to plunk down, throw on your headphones, and sleep right through the journey? How many of us can say we’ve met some of our closest friends at the airport?
Solo RVing, on the other hand, affords ample opportunities for meeting new people, all while giving you the space you need to enjoy solitude in your down time. For one thing, RVing is as much about getting there as it is the destination, and you’ll have a lot more time to actually interact with the people you’d normally speed past in “flyover country.”
RVing also offers solo travelers a unique benefit that other types of accommodations lack: the actual campground! RV parks are well known for their friendly, the-more-the-merrier atmosphere, and it’s hard not to make friends with your neighbors when you’re at the RV park solo RVing. All you have to do is walk out the door and introduce yourself. Not only will you make new friends, but they’ll all be travelers eager to explore the world, just like you.
While pretty much every RV campground is ripe with new friendship opportunities, it is true that certain parks go the extra mile to make mingling more feasible. For instance, high-end resort-style RV parks often offer social events and activities at no extra charge, and these can be a great way to get to know your neighbors.
On the other end of the spectrum, though, RVing can be a great way for dedicated solo travelers to disconnect entirely. You can get off the grid, away from everyone, and take on a solo boondocking adventure — enjoying your peace and quiet with nobody around but mother nature.
Whether you’re trying to make new connections or taking a much-needed break from your existing ones, your RV will provide a comfortable, personal haven in which you can retreat between days of exploring. And when you rent through the peer-to-peer network, you’ll have even more opportunities to make new adventurous friends – like the actual RV owners! What’s more, the rigs available on the by-owner rental market are generally much more well-taken-care-of and better-appointed than their fresh-off-the-factory-floor, commercial competitors. Get a taste for what RV camping is really like by checking out the RVshare rental listings near you today.
Ready to Travel Alone? Tips, Tricks, and Reminders
Ready to stop reading and start sojourning? Before you take a trip by yourself, there are some basic tips you should know. Whether you’re RVing or taking another mode of transportation, here’s what you need to know about solo safety.
Pay attention to your surroundings.
That thing about there being safety in numbers? In a lot of cases, it’s true. And while that doesn’t mean you should give up your solo travel dreams entirely, it does mean you need to keep your wits about you when you don’t have the comforting cushion of a group.
Whether you’re walking down the street or cozied up at your campsite, just be sure to stay aware of your surroundings. If something seems off, play it safe — and get out of there. Hey, when you’re RVing, your house has wheels. Use ’em!
Make it look like you’re not alone.
This is an especially good tip for women traveling solo, who can seem like easy targets to predators (even when they’re not!).
To ward off any unwanted visitors, you can make it appear as though you’re not actually alone. For instance, wearing a wedding band to the bar can head off would-be suitors, and sticking an extra pair of shoes on your campground welcome mat — perhaps a large set of men’s boots — can make prowling thieves think twice before breaking and entering.
Find ways to save money on the road.
Solo travel is many things, but it isn’t always cheap — especially if you’re used to having one or more parties to split expenses with. When you’re paying for your own accommodations, you can easily spend a pretty penny just keeping a roof over your head… although at least you’ve only got one mouth to feed!
While there are lots of ways to save money on travel, one of our favorite recommendations for RVers is to purchase a Passport America membership — and that goes double for RVers traveling alone. For less than $50 per year, you get a full 50% off your campsite accommodation fees at almost 1900 campgrounds across the country. So it’s basically like you’re splitting the cost, even if you’re on your own!
Take pictures… but don’t get too distracted!
When you’re traveling alone, there’s a natural tendency to want to record, record, record. That way, you can share your experience with the loved ones who are waiting for your return back home. Heck, we even get a little trigger-happy with our cameras when we’re traveling in groups. And it’s true that you want to remember these once-in-a-lifetime experiences for years to come.
But don’t make the mistake of missing your vacation by spending the whole time trying to find the perfect selfie angle. You’ll be able to regale the friends and family you have waiting at home with your tales without taking eighteen thousand pictures… and chances are you’re only ever going to look at one or two of them again, anyway.
Being too concerned with social media shares or just recording an event for posterity is a great way to distract yourself from the actual experience… which is, after all, the whole reason you took the trip. So put the phone down and make some memories instead. Besides, your friends would way rather hear you tell the tales than swipe through your phone’s photo storage, anyway.
From helping you choose your next destination to explaining what to pack and what activities to enjoy once you get there, when you’re traveling with RVshare, you’re never alone — because we’ll be there every step of the way to guide you!
Happy travels, solo adventurer. We can’t wait to learn more about your epic trip.
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