Solo Travelers: How did you get the courage to travel alone?
June 16, 2015 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Pretty straightforward, how did you muster up the courage to travel alone (particularly internationally)? I'm thinking about travelling alone next year and I'm already scared!

I'm a Canadian woman in my late-20s and next year I'll have a big chunk of time off from work during the summer. I'd like to spend at least 1 month of that travelling, I'm thinking about visiting Europe (I'm not really into travelling around Canada or the US). However, I'll have to go alone as I won't have anyone to travel with!

I have traveled alone before, in terms of flying solo to destinations and I've always met up with friends/relatives once I arrived. I'm not really afraid of danger or getting lost. I'm more afraid that I'll be lonely, I'll be judged for traveling alone, I'll feel like a loser, I'll get bored (this is the scariest to me), etc.!!! How valid are these fears and how can I stop worrying about them and get the courage to get out there and travel?

Actually, as an aside, are there any destinations in particular that might be more friendly for solo travelers?
posted by modesty.blaise to Travel & Transportation (40 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Hi! I'm about your age and I am currently planning my first big solo trip to Japan later this summer. I have puttered around Europe on my own a bit, but I had a home base and friends to meet up with, so planning a whole trip alone feels different. Are you comfortable doing things on your own at home? It might not be a bad idea to go on a few little solo adventures close to home as practice. Go out to dinner alone, go to a park and wander around, etc.

Here's what I liked about traveling alone in the past: Yay, I can go wherever I want, whenever I want. I can eat whenever and whatever I want. I can spend whatever amount I am comfortable with. It also really encouraged me to interact with people and make friends in the places I was visiting. I did this by chatting with people at museums, in tour groups, at cafes, whatever. I also always try to sit at the counter/sushi bar in restaurants. I find other people who are also alone are usually eager to strike up conversation.

There were times I wished I had someone to share the amazing vista/meal/museum with, so I kept extensive notes in a travel journal and wrote emails to a group of people I thought would appreciate it. As for being bored, I think part of the nice part of traveling solo is that it's totally ok to just go chill in a park with your book for a while or watch tv in your hotel room and there is no one to judge you for it. And you can plan a trip around doing things that interest you. I find it's helpful to have a few touchstones I know I can go see during my trip. Are you into knitting? Go see the local yarn shops! Are you into comic books? Go to the comic book museum and linger as long as you like!

My final point: MeFites are insanely friendly and I've had the pleasure of meeting several in my travels.
posted by chatongriffes at 2:26 PM on June 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

You will get bored! You will get lonely! Just like non-traveling life. And then it will pass and you'll do something brave or new and have fun.

I like to do a city tour when I arrive in a new place. I get the lay of the land and can ask questions I'm too shy to ask otherwise, like how to buy bus or train tickets. Sometimes I find other solo travelers who are interested in hanging out.

I'd start with someplace English speaking. England, Ireland or Scotland. Maybe weekend to France while you're over there.
posted by charlielxxv at 2:28 PM on June 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

I'll be lonely
Do you get lonely in your current non-travel life? It isn't much different. I find the feeling comes and goes faster since you have things to distract you, everything from new and different places to logistical concerns.

I'll be judged for traveling alone
You will. You are judged by others all the time right now, but it is easier to handle and not as obvious. People may be rude to you, but it is either out of fear or jealousy.

I'll feel like a loser
Having the money and time to travel is the opposite of being a loser. Are you feeling that not having friends along will make you feel this way? You are making the choice to do this alone, much different than not having any friends at all.

I'll get bored
This is a weird side effect that I have experienced. I always bring something to read or puzzles to do. I don't chide myself for watching TV on vacation and I often see a movie when I run out of energy or places to see but I am not ready to leave yet. Many hobbies you may have now can be adapted to travel.
posted by soelo at 2:30 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am a huge proponent of solo travel. Your fears are reasonable but not insurmountable.

1) I'll be lonely
It's a risk! You probably actually will get lonely. Although I think nowadays you can interact with people back home so easily (free wifi, smartphones, etc.) that even if you aren't interacting with people IRL you can still stay in touch with your friends at home/elsewhere.
2) I'll be judged for traveling alone
By who? By anyone whose opinion you actually care about? If you're worried about being judged/pitied by strangers, here's the nice thing: they are strangers. Who gives a shit what they think about you! If you're worried about being judged by friends/family, eh, maybe they just don't understand. I mean, I know my mother is horrified that I travel alone. But my mother is horrified by a lot of things that I really enjoy doing.
3) I'll feel like a loser
If you're anything like me, you probably *will* feel like a loser at some point. It has not killed me yet.
4) I'll get bored
The nice thing about traveling alone is that if you get bored, you can do LITERALLY ANYTHING YOU WANT! Boring museum? Leave and go get a sandwich. Boring town? Move on to the next town, or hang out and watch TV or read a book. I'm not going to say I never get bored when I'm traveling by myself: sometimes you have to wait for a train, or you have a non-refundable ticket and you have to spend an extra day or two in a city that you're not crazy about. But you really can do whatever you want.

I suggest Western Europe as a good first place to go; pick a place where there are tons of things you want to do, and if you speak the language that's a bonus.
posted by mskyle at 2:31 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

How valid are these fears and how can I stop worrying about them and get the courage to get out there and travel?

1. Lonely - it happens. Have a way for keeping in touch with people you care about and.or meeting people where you are (MeFi Meetups are great for this)
2. Judged - unlikely, no one cares about you like you care about you
3. Feel loserish - probably manageable, but if I were you I'd set yourself some little goals where you can feel like you're accomplishing things
4. Bored - are you bored in your real life? I get about as bored when traveling which is not that much and I think people have a standard level of boredom they being with them everywhere. And if you're somewhere new, boredom is more manageable: loo kout the window or go somewhere or something

For me, when traveling alone (and I've done it a lot in many different places) the big deal was deciding where to eat, and having time/space to interact with people in person and also back home. So I'd spend some cafe time writing postcards but also some walking around time (I love to walk which makes traveling most of the time pretty awesome) and then some "I'm going to see the sights" time. And while I would ask people for advice about where I was going, I'd also decide on my own what I really wanted to do and not do. I can be pretty susceptible to other people saying "You HAVE to do this" so I got pretty good at saying Thanks maybe I will" and then not feeling pressured to make my perfect vacation into other people's perfect vacation.

I also think travel nowadays where you can maybe homeshare or AirBnB is nicer because you have some of your "own" space and are not just relying on hotels or friends couches, so consider a place where you could make yourself breakfast or maybe read a book or something so that you're not totally away from home, you've just relocated home to a different country temporarily.
posted by jessamyn at 2:34 PM on June 16, 2015

hostels hostels hostels!

even in your late 20s.... stay at hostels. Everyone there is a traveler just like you and all you do is say "so where are you from? what is fun to do around here?" and people open up quickly and invite you along. You will NOT be judged for traveling alone (I did Europe by myself) and au contraire you will meet more people than if you were traveling in a pair or a threesome, and these are the memories you will cherish. It's a whole different scene traveling alone. You learn confidence; you learn to put yourself out there; you learn to not judge people but make friends with all different ranges of cultures and personalities. It's an adventure.

If I can suggest.... don't stick to English speaking places. Being Canadian, you probably have enough working French to stumble through France (and by extension Spain & Italy). Take a risk!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:34 PM on June 16, 2015 [10 favorites]

I'm also a late 20's female, and I travel for fun quite a bit. Initially, I had a much stronger desire to see the world, had more vacation time and more disposable income (or more likely, a desire to scrimp so I could travel) than any of my friends.

There are definite benefits to traveling on your own- you do exactly what you want, when you want. You visit the places you want to see, you eat the foods you are happy to eat etc. you can stay in as crappy or as nice accomodations as you wish (I'm a big fan of hostels for a few days, and then a rejuvinating night at a boutique hotel). You can go off with the random travelers you meet for a meal or a drink. hell, you meet way more people traveling alone.

There are downsides. It's more expensive to get your own hotel room, you have no one to share your experiance with (although social media aliviates this a bit), you get bored, you sometimes get lonely having yet another meal alone. (even though I love being alone! turns out that I do need occasional interaction with other people!). If something goes horribly wrong, you are alone navigating the foreign space, and that can be frightening/sressful; but it would be frightening/stressful even with someone else there.

As to friendly destinations, I took trains across the swiss/french alps for 3 weeks, (granted it was in winter and I was being a 'classy' ski bum) and it was magnificent. I find Japan (have been there 2x) very friendly to solo female travelers, same with Scandinavian countries. I do not recommend traveling around latin/south america alone. I did a long trip in NZ with my brother and found Kiwi's some of the friendliest people in the world once you got to know them, but I could see it being hit or miss for a solo travelor.
posted by larthegreat at 2:35 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Would you rather be bored, lonely, loserish and judged at home, or would it be better to spread it over a wider area?

If you get to South-East England, memail me and we can hang out. we can sit together in awkward silence and I will judge your shoes through my peripheral vision. we can totally paint the town red.
posted by tel3path at 2:41 PM on June 16, 2015 [11 favorites]

I traveled alone a few years ago, and although I do have a dear old friend in the country I went to, I was mostly on my own and terrified! I'm not the most outgoing person ever, I do like to be with people but I don't make friends casually. I had the exact same fears as you - afraid of being lonely, afraid of being judged, afraid of feeling like a loser etc. And to be honest I still did feel that way a little bit. However I would not have traded the experience for the world!!!

I was constantly taking pictures with my phone and uploading to Instagram and Facebook. I would go to cafes and check my phone - I know people will shriek but I think it was a savior, and made me feel kind of like everyone else. Then, a high school friend I hadn't seen in 30 years saw my posts and turned out to be staying in the same city at the same time as me, and we ended up having dinner together. Other friends who had been where I was gave advice as well.

The friend in the same country was in touch with me on WhatsApp a lot, giving me advice and helping me when I was lost.

And people are pretty friendly. I did meet people and go out with them. Some people were actually jealous that I was traveling alone.

I also went on a few specialty group tours that were great.

And sometimes I felt that traveling with friends would feel like missing out because I'd be dealing with the friend, not the new experiences all around me.
posted by maggiemaggie at 2:42 PM on June 16, 2015

how did you muster up the courage to travel alone

I can answer this in two ways. One, the good news is you don't actually need any courage. You just...go. So maybe you'll be scared at times but that's ok, there are many things in life that are scary but we do them anyway. Two, the fear of not going becomes greater than the fear of going.

It's too bad you don't want to travel in your own country, because that would be my main advice as far as getting used to traveling alone. Once you become accustomed to making your own plans and decisions and fending for yourself in an area where you speak the language and are (at least partially) familiar with the way of life, it becomes much easier to imagine doing so elsewhere with those potential obstacles added in.

I'll be lonely, I'll be judged for traveling alone, I'll feel like a loser, I'll get bored (this is the scariest to me

OK these are admittedly weird fears to me because I am scared of literally everything all the time but it never occurred to me to be scared of these particular things:) But I will say, you'll only get bored if you've never spent any time alone before at all and if you consider yourself to be a boring person. Usually when you're traveling, there are enough new sights and experiences to give you something to think about, it's not like being stuck in a Dr's waiting room with nothing to read for two hours.

Loneliness, I don't think it will be much of an issue unless you've never lived alone. If you're doing interesting things, you won't have time to dwell on it. Anyway, loneliness isn't the worst thing in the world, it can make you think about life in new ways. Plus, there are so many ways to meet people while you're traveling, if that's what you choose to do.

Do you judge people when you see them alone? If so that's your problem, stop doing that. If not, then don't imagine other people will judge you. They might actually think you're really cool for traveling alone. And if people actually mock you? They will have proven themselves to be idiots and you can comfortably LOL at them.

Why would you feel like a loser? Do you think other people who travel alone are losers? I've gotten a lot of...odd reactions about traveling alone but never once has anyone insinuated I was a loser. Crazy, yes, but loser-ish? Never. And again, would you rather be the loser who traveled alone or the loser who stayed home all her life out of fear that she'd feel like a loser?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:55 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm more afraid that I'll be lonely,

There are worse things. You'll survive. And honestly, what you'll remember ten years and more down the line is not how lonely you may have been at moments, but what you saw and where you went and what you did.

Also: there is zero chance you won't meet other students when spending a summer in Europe.

I'll be judged for traveling alone, I'll feel like a loser,

Not to be patronising but these are the words of a very young person. You have to be young to think you're that important. Nobody gives a shit what you do. We're all busy managing our own shit. Seriously: nobody cares.

I'll get bored (this is the scariest to me)

This is what guide books are for. And honestly, if you're going to be bored, you might as well be bored in France or Italy.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:55 PM on June 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yes, you will be bored and lonely sometimes, whether you go or you sit home instead. This is the human condition, and happens when you travel with people too, except when you're alone you're less likely to have a screaming fight in the middle of the street with the friend who's been living up your nose 24/7 for the entire trip. Whatever it is you're scared will happen if you are bored or lonely for a moment, I promise it's not fatal.

In case of emergency, you can: go somewhere else, read a book, browse the Internet, eat something, drink something, ask around to find out what's going on that day or recommendations for a good park/market/shop/museum/library, or just sit on a bench and be in the moment of being bored and/or lonely. You will learn something, even then.

The world is full of solo travelers, there is nowhere in the world that there are not people walking around by themselves sometimes. Very few situations will require you to have a partner to participate. Why do you care if anyone else judges you for it? That's their problem, not yours. Even if you are actually a huge loser, which you probably aren't, they have losers everywhere - at least you won't be a loser who sat home.

In any case, one of the upsides of traveling alone is that you can join up with other groups for short periods and not be stuck with them the entire time, so the only reason you'll stay in a tiny little you-bubble the whole time is if you won't engage with other travelers.

The way you become a person whose life isn't limited by all these fears of the intangible is to go do the thing. So go do the thing.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:03 PM on June 16, 2015

Do it! There will be so many other solo travellers (in my London and Western Europe experience) and if you stay at a hostel as suggested above, you'll meet heaps of people.

Have you thought of joining a tour group? One thing I didn't do so much alone was to go out at nights so I only did that on tour. But often hostels will have a bit of a bar or something, so yet another reason to stay at a hostel.

I personally did not have a chance to get bored. I was either out and about seeing the sights or flopped on the bed. I was also too busy and excited by the experience to feel lonely. I did feel a bit weird eating alone, not judged or lonely as such, just wanting to eat with someone. But a few weird meals is totally worth the experience of travelling alone. Do it!
posted by pianissimo at 3:06 PM on June 16, 2015

stay at hostels. Everyone there is a traveler just like you

This! It's a really nice way to travel solo, since a lot of the people you'll see are doing the same thing. Sometimes the hostel staff will organize outings, so you don't even need to be outgoing to have some social interaction when you want it. (And it's also normal to want to do your own thing, so that's fine, too.)

As for being bored, e-book readers are the best thing that ever happened to traveling, alone or otherwise. No need to pack a separate bag just for your books anymore!

Traveling alone is pretty great -- take as much time as you want to do whatever you want, nobody else's needs to worry about. The best kind of traveling companion is one that's as easy to travel with as traveling alone, and that's hard to find.
posted by asperity at 3:06 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here are a few concrete approaches you can take:

You can WWOOF - it'll give you something to do and friendly hosts. You can volunteer anywhere that accepts volunteers, as well.

What do you do for fun at home? Do you volunteer? Rollerblade? Walk dogs? Pick a few random interests and travel with those interests in mind. Here's one example: 12 greater Bay Area taco place minimum in three days. In Portland, Oregon, people tour the breweries, chocolatiers, coffee roasters, or various genres of food carts. They rent or borrow bicycles to get around. You could see how many public parks, museums, or libraries you could visit. Someone wrote a book about his journey to work as a dishwasher in all 50 United States. When I go places, I visit grocery stores and bike collectives. If you have something specific to do, you won't have to worry about being bored. is for finding places to stay, but you can also use it just to make travel friends.
posted by aniola at 3:13 PM on June 16, 2015

Just want to say that, on the occasions when I was traveling alone and people mentioned it, they usually seemed impressed. You're just as likely to be judged a courageous badass for traveling alone as you are to be judged negatively.

Nthing that traveling alone makes it really easy to meet people, especially at hostels or on group activities of any kind. Once I was on a river tour in China and the tour guide, on finding out that I was traveling on my own, introduced me to her niece who showed me around town and accompanied me on various adventures--it was a blast.

Carry a journal, a camera and a Kindle full of books and you'll always have something to do. But I usually had more trouble fitting everything I wanted to do into my itinerary than I had with boredom.
posted by fermion at 3:32 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

The thing that has made me feel very lonely and isolated while traveling solo is the language barrier. If I were planning a trip somewhere where this would be an issue, I would look for opportunities to meet up with other local English speakers, such as organized day/short tours and expat Meetup groups.
posted by jazzbaby at 3:32 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Furthermore, if you get bored, go for a walk and get lost. It's ok! You're on vacation, you have the time and you already know you'll be able to find your way back.
posted by aniola at 3:33 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love solo travel - I actually prefer it to traveling with friends or family. The summer I turned 22, I did two big solo trips, one to Australia and New Zealand and one to Greece and France. I am so, so glad that I did. I made some amazing memories and learned that I'm actually pretty resourceful.

Now, I was never scared of or nervous about my solo travel, but I'm going to try to answer your questions.

I'll be lonely
Well - maybe. (I'm a huge introvert, so this didn't happen to me, but I can imagine how it could happen to someone else.) I'd suggest having an easy way to call home for cases like this. I liked using Skype to make calls while I was traveling. Maybe if you are feeling a little lonely, you could give a friend a call to talk about your adventures?

I'll be judged for traveling alone, I'll feel like a loser
The latter is unlikely to happen, I think. Even if it does happen, most people are unlikely to point, stare, or otherwise make it known that they're judging you. As for feeling like a loser, just try to remember what a cool thing you're doing! My friends tell me often that my solo travels inspire them to be more independent, and I've been called brave for going on these trips. Those aren't loser qualities!

I'll get bored
In a foreign place you've never visited or spent much time in? Where everything feels new and different and remarkable? I doubt it. When you're in a new city, something as simple as a walk around the neighborhood in search of coffee, or trying a new food at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, becomes exciting. Even the view from your hotel room will be interesting. I really, really would be astonished if you got bored on your trip.

How valid are these fears and how can I stop worrying about them and get the courage to get out there and travel?
Your fears are valid (in the sense that your feelings are your feelings and all of that), but I don't think you should devote much time to worrying about them. To build up your courage, I'd suggest talking with friends and coworkers who love to travel. That, and looking at maps and online travel guides and other articles about $FASCINATING_THING at $NEW_PLACE.

Trust me, you will have a blast! Have fun.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:35 PM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hostels eliminate most of these worries. Private ones, particularly... for some reason the IYHF ones were colder and not as social in my experience. But there are a million private ones, easy to research in any guidebook or online (try the Lonely Planet forums) and they super social and you meet people from all over and wind up hanging out with folks you would never meet otherwise. (And yet you don't HAVE to - you can always break off to do stuff alone! It's very empowering.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:37 PM on June 16, 2015

If you're into the tour group idea, community colleges sometimes offer travel abroad "courses" that are basically pre-planned vacations with a topic and a guide from what I can tell.
posted by aniola at 3:38 PM on June 16, 2015

Libraries often have a million travel guidebooks (like the Lonely Planet).
posted by aniola at 3:39 PM on June 16, 2015

Loserish is staying home when you could be exploring, learning, having fun. I traveled alone in the UK at your age, had a totally wonderful time. I met other young people and often traveled with them. You get up the courage by buying a non-refundable ticket.
posted by theora55 at 3:49 PM on June 16, 2015

Seconding the thought that you are more likely to impress people positively than incur negative judgment. N-thing the idea that you should stay at hostels, where you absolutely will meet other solo (or otherwise) travelers. The conversations that I've had with other travelers are some of my greatest memories--they are generally worth more than the sightseeing that might be the ostensible reason for traveling. You are more likely to meet people when you are alone. I also recommend reading the book The Practical Nomad. I believe it addresses your concerns (and much else besides), although it has been many years since I read it.
posted by polecat at 3:52 PM on June 16, 2015

A Map for Saturday is a great documentary of a guy travelling the world solo.

I've travelled alone many times (nearly a year all added up), and I highly recommend it.

Stay in hostels, meet lots of others travelling solo (but don't be afraid to join others travelling together, they'll probably welcome some fresh faces to sight see with), and spend days with them if you want, or continue on your own.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:04 PM on June 16, 2015

modesty.blaise: "I'm more afraid that I'll be lonely, I'll be judged for traveling alone, I'll feel like a loser, I'll get bored (this is the scariest to me), etc.!!! "

Lonely - maybe, now and then. I was always too busy taking in the new experiences to be lonely.

Judged - judged as AWESOME, maybe! Everyone admires a solo traveler. Lots of tourist spots, and other tourists, will be extra-nice and extra-welcoming to you, and people will always say, "Wow, you're impressively brave!" It's romantic and exciting, striking out across the globe on your own, Victorian adventurer style.

Loser - dude, you're looking at the Eiffle Tower in person; if this is losing at life, I don't wanna win!

Bored - bring a book. Strike up conversations with people you overhear with North American accents. Ask museum docents about the art. Ask hole-in-the-wall owners about their hole. Etc.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:37 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I much prefer traveling alone under most circumstances. It takes a little courage but much less than you think. Most things just take a tiny initial oomph: to get out of the hotel/hostel door in the morning, to ask for a table for 1. But it's less difficult than you think. Europe in particular is EASY.
posted by vunder at 4:47 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing the hostel suggestion, and the idea that you should give yourself some task (taking pictures, travel blogging, finding a book and visiting all the locations in it, etc.) to shape the time a little.

Trust me, there's nothing more alluring than a solo female traveler. Imagine yourself as a mysterious adventurer, and it will be so.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 4:47 PM on June 16, 2015

I really doubt boredom will be much of a problem. Going to the supermarket will be an adventure, seeing all the different products (and the products you're used to, but with some weird, unfamiliar mascot on the box.) Just turning on the TV will freak you out. It's like visiting an alternate universe or something.

Are you OK at meeting people in general? I am very shy, and even so I've had some interesting encounters in other countries. If you are good with people, you'll probably meet all kinds of fascinating folks.

If you have somebody you're close to at home, make plans to check in with them regularly. It feels a lot less lonely when you know you'll be talking to somebody later, to catch them up on your adventures.

I'd be more concerned about your physical safety, but I'm not the one to offer any advice about that.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:22 PM on June 16, 2015

Eat at the bar at restaurants. There will often be other solo folks there, and, if the bartender is worth his or her salt and not too busy, they will strike up a conversation.
posted by slateyness at 5:25 PM on June 16, 2015

I traveled alone to South Africa - three times - all when I was a single female in my 20's. I have also done a bit of traveling with other people.

I think I had a better time on my solo trips, honestly. I had the freedom to do the things I wanted to do. I didn't have to accommodate anyone else's schedule or food issues.

I also got to meet tons of people I wouldn't have even talked to had I been there with friends. In fact, some of the most formative experiences of my young life are because I risked traveling alone. There are the obvious safety concerns (like, don't go out at night, watch your alcohol intake and don't drink something someone you don't know and 100% trust gives you, etc.) but as long as you're smart about it, you'll be okay!

Definitely stay in hostels, and hang out in common areas. You will meet people who are also alone and looking for someone with whom to hang out and go on day trips.

You will be lonely. You will be bored. But there's a lot to be gained if you are willing to deal with the discomfort created by being lonely and bored.
posted by guster4lovers at 5:52 PM on June 16, 2015

I travel alone a lot, mostly for work but also several longer trips overseas. There are definitely moments where you'll be bored, lonely, or frustrated (I spent one day in Paris absolutely wishing I could teleport home due to some things that happened that day) but I find the whole process really rewarding. I even embrace those moments waiting for a train, when you're just left with yourself and the world around you to observe. I like being able to set my own schedule, to not have to worry about seeing Tourist Destination A-C if I'd rather see X-Z, and to be able to spend as long or as short a time anywhere without having to take anybody else's feelings into consideration. I also try to journal a lot and even do quick little sketches - I'm no artist but they liven up the page. I wish I were the type of person who was super social, language-barrier-no-issue, and made friends wherever I go, but I'm not. But the travel is no less rewarding for that.
posted by PussKillian at 7:11 PM on June 16, 2015

I've traveled alone a fair bit. I took my first trip abroad when I was your age, pre-Internet and arrived in Paris with very little French, not a lot of extra cash and no reservations. It was a bit scary, but I had been dying to go for years and in the end I felt empowered that I had done it (and had an amazing trip, although I was sometimes lonely).

Will you get lonely? You can. I was generally fine during the day as I was already used to and enjoyed walking around cities and visiting museums and cafes solo, but it was a little lonely in the evenings as my cheap hotel didn't have a TV in the room or a hotel bar, or even a lobby to hang out in. You might try a guest house or hostel that offers sit down dinners (I've stayed at a couple of places like this in Mexico City), where you can mingle with other guests. This can result in making plans with other people for site seeing during the day, as well as offering built in company for the evenings. You'll be far more likely to meet locals or even other travelers when you're traveling solo.

I've never felt judged when traveling alone, ever and while I'm not overly concerned about what other people think, I'm not so self-confident as to be unaffected by it, so I think that I would have at least been aware that people were thinking I was a loser. As someone else said, if anything people were impressed (especially as some had the opinion that most Americans traveled in tour groups; not sure if that is still the prevelant or if it also extends to other nationalities).

One thing I would suggest is to limit your trip to a week or two as you are already anxious about being lonely and/or bored. I find that even as a semi-introvert who spends most of my time alone, I definitely have a threshold for how much time I can spend completely on my own, particularly when I'm in a place where my ability to communicate in the local language is limited to the point where I'm unable to meet my desired daily quota of human interaction. My personal threshold varies, but it's generally no more than two weeks (which works for me because I don't have the $ for more extended trips, but even if I did, i don't think that I'm cut out to be a long-term solo world traveler, as much as I love to travel and explore new places).
posted by kaybdc at 8:32 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a 30 year old woman in the last couple days of six weeks in South America on my own. I haven't been lonely - I've hung out with some neat people, I've spent time on my own, a couple of times I've noticed that I feel like talking to someone, and I either write a blog post or strike up a chat with someone else in their own. The universal reaction to me being alone is "wow, you're so BRAVE!" which is a bit of an ego boost really, and sometimes feels true and sometimes not - but is always good for not feeling like a loser! I haven't been bored. I haven't even had time to finish the puzzle books I brought with me for downtime. It's been pretty exhausting at times, having to make all the decisions for everything constantly, and I'm totally ready to be home - but its been amazing too. Memail me for more!
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:51 PM on June 16, 2015

Slightly different from hostels, and as a supplement, join Servas, an international networks of hosts and travelers. The hosts open up their homes to the travelers, who thereby get shelter, and a friendly local person or persons for guidance in the area and the exchange of ideas and experience.

I traveled through northern Spain solo staying partly with Servas hosts and partly in inexpensive hotels. Having the regular sequence of welcoming Servas households lined up along my way made for a non-lonesome trip, and richer than if I had only congregated with other travelers.

You sit for a screening and orientation interview, and there is a modest fee to join. But totally worth it.
posted by bertran at 9:58 PM on June 16, 2015

I've travelled by myself to several places over the last few years. When I was younger, I wandered around Indonesia for several weeks by myself.

Advantages of travelling alone:

You don't have to negotiate with anyone else. Go where you want, do what you want. It's totally your trip.

You have a bit of a better chance of blending in and looking less like a tourist.

If you screw something up.....hey, nobody necessarily has to know but you! So you got lost for an hour, you can conveniently leave that out of the wonderful travel stories you tell when you get back.

I actually seem to get really good restaurant service, and to some extent really good hotel service, when travelling by myself. I have an outlandish theory that people may think I'm a professional travel writer or reviewer or something. I'm not, but I don't do anything to correct people on the subject, either.

Disadvantages of travelling alone (not many):

In some locations, safety may be an issue. I'm a guy, so I can't speak directly to the experience a woman would have, but I've had minor discomfort in odd neighborhoods or after dark a time or two. It's never kept me away from an entire city or country, though.

Also, minor hassles from panhandlers, touts, etc. can happen in specific locations, my sense is that this is somewhat more likely to happen to a person alone, but after a while you get pretty skilled and brushing them off.

Some travel experiences are difficult to do without being in a group. You're unlikely to organize a jungle adventure safari for just one person. You also might find destinations where they expect a tour operator to call ahead and schedule a visit for a busload of people, but they're not generally open for single visitors to walk up to the gate unannounced. Or, you might show up for a scheduled 1:00 tour, but you're the only person who showed up, so they decide not to do it. I haven't found these to be big problems, but they can affect your planning.

Overall, though, advantages outweigh disadvantages to me. Get out there and have an adventure!
posted by gimonca at 10:15 PM on June 16, 2015

If you're thinking Europe, you got, well, a million choices to make. Any of the great cities of Europe will be just fine for you, easy to get around, tons of things to do, well set up for visitors who might not speak the language that well. And great to wander around alone.

I got back from Budapest just earlier this month. It was absolutely fantastic!
posted by gimonca at 10:19 PM on June 16, 2015

Fodor's tips on money while traveling.
posted by notned at 9:09 AM on June 17, 2015

I don't know if people are being polite when they call me "brave" for going around by myself, but it seems like they mean it. If this were the 1600s I would agree, but today you just buy a ticket and hop on. Everything is taken care of.

Sitting on a train may expose you to existential horror after your playlist has looped three times and you start to think. But it's no worse than sitting on the edge of your bed for a whole afternoon.

What is this fear of solitude? Stare it down, laugh at it, and book a flight already.

Bring Walt Whitman. He'll tell you, as in Song of the Open Road:
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)
posted by mbrock at 9:52 AM on June 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

mbrock: I don't know if people are being polite when they call me "brave" for going around by myself, but it seems like they mean it.

Ha, that's what I was referring to above when I said people thought I was crazy. People kept saying I was brave to travel alone, and I thought it was silly (because I'm a total coward) but sweet of them. Then a more socially aware friend told me no, "brave" is just a polite way of saying "nuts."

Either way, OP, what other people think of you should be the last thing on your mind when you're traveling!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:30 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

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