Traveling is dangerous. It’s too expensive. You’re too old to travel. You know what’s more dangerous? Letting these myths get the way of your adventures. If you’ve ever considered traveling by yourself, I’m sure you’ve probably heard some of these or maybe you still believe some of these myths. Move over Myth Busters, we are going to bust 7 myths about solo travel and share what it’s REALLY like to travel the world all by yourself.
I’ve traveled to over 17 countries in the last 7 years, most of which were alone. I solo traveled Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia, countries that are notoriously “unsafe for solo female travel.” Most recently I traveled by myself to Egypt, a country that even experienced travelers are hesitant to go by themselves. I tell you this not to brag (there are many other travelers/travel bloggers with much more impressive country counts) – I’m sharing this so you know I’ve got some experience before I just start throwing truth bombs at you.
Anyways, let’s dive in.
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Myth #1: it’s expensive.
Reality: I lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 4 months and my monthly rent was $275. You can find hostels as low as $5/night in Central and South America. A large helping of pad thai in a Thai market is around $1.50. You can eat like a king in Egypt for under $5. My travel budget is around $500-$1500/month depending on the country. It’s actually cheaper for me to live and travel abroad (in many countries) than stay home in Chicago, USA.
One of my best travel hacks for long-term travel (3+ months) is work exchange. You volunteer for around 20 hours a week in exchange for free housing and meals. Work exchange opportunities range from working reception at a hostel to teaching yoga to volunteering on an organic farm.
Worldpackers offers thousands of volunteer positions for you to collaborate, learn, and get immersed in the local culture in more than 140 countries. I also love Worldpackers because if you ever need to end a volunteer experience early, their support team will help you to find a new host to continue your trip and can reimburse you for up to three nights of accommodation. After receiving your first positive review on Worldpackers, you can take part in Workpackers’ Programs and earn a little money so you can travel even more!!
Click here for 11 more ways to travel the world for free.
Myth #2: it’s lonely.
Reality: I know this is a super common concern, but the reality is you will make cool-ass friends from around the world. Solo travel is not lonely, it’s quite the opposite. You will never be alone in hostels and people will talk to you more because you’re alone. There are hundreds of other solo travelers waiting to make friends. The backpacker community is extremely welcoming and it’s filled with open-minded, dope humans. I promise you will not be lonely.
Eating, drinking, and traveling by yourself is not “normal” in the states. But, once you adjust to doing everything by yourself, it becomes addicting. When I was in college, I didn’t like to run errands or have meals by myself. Now, I’ve become much more introverted and enjoy meals and days by myself. I’ve learned to honor my space and cherish my alone time.
Whether you like to hang by yourself or not, the beauty of solo travel is that you have the choice. You can choose to be surrounded by people all of the time or you can do your own thing. There’s power and liberation in choice.
Myth #3: it’s too dangerous for women to travel alone.
Reality: Before we dive into this myth, let’s acknowledge the fact that it’s dangerous to be a woman in society, period. Women are attacked in every country and most of the time in their own homes. Truth is, 92% of violent attacks against women are by people the victim knows (source). You are more likely to be assaulted in your own town by someone you know than abroad. But, that doesn’t mean you should stop living your life or traveling alone.
When I was younger, the thought of traveling by myself seemed terrifying. Then, I met an Irish woman in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil who backpacked Africa by herself. In South America, I met a middle-aged American woman who was traveling the world by herself and just came from backpacking the Middle East. The more women I meet doing things that I never thought was possible, the more confidence I have gained and the less I listen to the doubts and concerns of others.
Do not let anyone who has never traveled before tell you that traveling is dangerous. Listen to solo travelers and listen to your own intuition. If you are being called to travel or really do anything, fricking do it. And don’t apologize for it. *bam*
Myth #4: only single people solo travel.
Reality: you don’t have to be single or “friend-less” to travel alone. Solo travel is a joy you can experience regardless of relationship status. I’ve traveled solo both while in a relationship and single. I took a solo road trip up the coast of California while in a relationship. Also, my ex-partner and I backpacked South America and moved to South Korea together, and did many solo trips during our travels together. We found that solo trips strengthened our relationship and we both really enjoyed our own space and adventures.
According to a 2020 survey by Solo Traveler, nearly half of solo travelers say they travel alone because they like the freedom to do what they want when they want. It is incredibly liberating to choose what you want to on a trip. You can choose to go to museums all day OR sit in a cafe and people watch for hours. Everyone has their own travel style, when you are alone you can start to discover what style of travel feels authentic to you.
Other solo travelers say they travel alone because they don’t want to wait for anyone. It can be challenging to find a friend or partner to travel with and coordinate schedules and budgets. If you’re not able to find someone to travel with, don’t let that stop you.
Myth #5: you’re too old.
Reality: there are 80-year-olds traveling the world and living their best life. Age ain’t nothing but a number. After I met a 78-year-old backpacker in Ecuador, 60-year-olds free diving in Dahab, Egypt, and witnessed my own mother competing in a triathlon at the age of 55, you can’t sit here and tell me someone is “too old” to do something. I won’t accept that as an excuse.
In all seriousness, travelers come in all colors, shapes and sizes, backgrounds, and ages. Here’s some proof:
Meet Sue. Sue has over 30 years of independent travel experience and has visited over 70 countries, many of them alone. She provides inspiration, tips, and itineraries for women over 40.
Not seeing any travelers or travel bloggers that look like you? Maybe it’s a sign to share your story and add some representation to the world of travel.
Myth #6: it’s dreamy all the time.
Reality: The perfectly curated travel Instagram trip is a big ‘ol fat myth. I’m sure you already know this, but travel is chaotic, some days everything goes wrong. That’s why many of us love it. We are addicted to the chaos and uncertainty (aka adventure). Will I lose my passport today? Will I go to the airport on the wrong day? Will I get traveler’s diarrhea? It’s mystery!
I remember before my solo trip to Guatemala in 2016, I was never a “hiking person.” I was raised in the city and my family never went camping or really did outdoorsy things. When I arrived in Antigua, Guatemala, I went on my first official hike. It was an easy, relatively short volcano hike and I got through it. It gave me the confidence to hike another volcano.
The second time I ever hiked in my life, I went for it: a two-day overnight volcano hike. Within the first 15 minutes of the 2-day hike, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of regret. To this day, it was the hardest hike I’ve ever done. I complained the entire time, I was miserable. On the morning of day 2, we hiked another 3 hours in the dark to the peak of the volcano. I watched the sunrise in the freezing cold. I took amazing photos and it was one of the coolest views I’ve ever seen.
After that (miserable) hike, I hiked 5 more volcanos in Guatemala and many other mountains in other countries. I still complain during every hike and question my sanity midway through, but I love it. I think hiking is a lot like traveling (and life in general). It’s hard sometimes. Pictures don’t always capture the raw, real experience of it all. It tests every ounce of your sanity. But, once you experience the stillness of a peak or those moments when time stops, it somehow makes it all worth it.
Myth #7: you shouldn’t trust anyone.
Reality: I believe humans are generally good.
The idea of “stranger danger” was been taken too far. Hollywood has made an entire industry that capitalizes off of our fears. People are afraid of hostels because of the movie Hostel. We’ve been taught to fear European travel because of movies like Taken. If movies and media are our only perspective of the outside world, it makes sense why Americans are afraid of travel and traveling alone.
A huge part of travel is centered around trusting strangers. Everything from hitchhiking, couch surfing, volunteering, Uber-ing, flying on a plane, and meeting local people involves trusting strangers. Solo travel increases self-trust and strengthens your own intuition. I believe travel creates connection and a better world. We’re all just imperfect humans, in search of love, connection, purpose, and some good food.
What other myths have you heard about traveling alone? What did I miss?
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