Why You Should Travel Solo and How to Make the Most of It

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I frequently highlight great award availability — special airline products that are hard to get, miles that are hard to use — but I pretty much never write about it when only one seat is available. I need a minimum of two seats available the majority of a month before it makes sense to me to post. Even if one Qantas first class award seat Dallas – Sydney were showing up every single day I might or might not give it a miss.

And that’s a mistake. More people live alone, more people are unattached, and more people say they need time alone than ever before. In my younger years, before I met my wife, I used to spend hours on my own reading in Starbucks or walking in the mall, but I never traveled on my own unless it was traveling to see people. Today I actually do enjoy the peacefulness of being surrounded by strangers during business travel.

New York Times columnist Stephanie Rosenbloom’s Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude is out today. (The paperback comes out June 14.)

I’ve known Stephanie for about six years and had a chance to read the book last month. And she makes a great case for experiencing things on your own, getting out of your comfort zone and enjoying the present moment in unfamiliar places.

She spent four seasons in four cities enjoying dining and museums and window shopping in Paris; a grenade and shots fired west of her hotel in Istanbul; unplugging and pondering the nature of off season in Florence; and heading home to New York City where her alone time in other places trained her to appreciate her own home town.

Traveling with others means connecting with others, sometimes to the exclusion of the places and people you encounter abroad.

Alone you can pick through sidewalk crates of used books without worrying you’re hijacking your companion’s afternoon or being judged for your lousy idea of a good time. You need not carry on polite conversation. You can go to a park. You can go to Paris.

Alone time is selfish, it’s self-indulgent. Sometimes that’s ok, sometimes it’s necessary, and if you’re already alone you might as well be at least some of the time.

Stephanie combines social science research and personal experience into a fantastic narrative that I enjoyed reading — and reminded me that many readers are probably traveling on their own so award availability may be useful even when it’s not wide open for the whole family.

And she offers a full section at the end with tips for traveling alone — dining, striking up conversations with locals — staying productive — and for traveling alone as a female, with is own set of issues (safety).

Whether you’re looking for inspiration traveling alone, advice on how to make the most of it, or pondering whether it’s right for you this is a great book to pick up and read the next time you have a few minutes of alone time.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. As a corollary: traveling in a large group sucks. You can only travel as fast as the slowest person, your itinerary needs to be democratic as possible, you have less flexibility in the event of change, dining reservations are harder to get, and you’re less likely to connect with the strangers you come across.

  2. @john i see single seats much more often than two seats, though i just booked 2 qantas first class seats for myself and my wife to go to my cousin’s wedding in sydney

  3. I started traveling alone in 2015 and I’m still doing it in 2018. From time to time I’ll travel with family or to meet family. Later this year I’m traveling with a friend but nothing beats the flexibility and freedom of being alone. You can do whatever you want whenever you want or maybe not do anything at all. Some of my family still thinks i’m crazy for traveling alone but others have gotten used to the idea.

  4. When traveling for leisure I like to do with my wife and kids. We all like the same things. While traveling for business I do everything i can to travel alone. It is much more productive than having co-workers with me and avoid having to do everything together including free time. I will never forget a 2 day business trip to KL where I was dying to eat local food and because of co-workers ended up having dinner at their local Tony Roma’s.

  5. I enjoy traveling alone and being able to plan things according to my energy levels and interests. The downside is definitely in accommodation costs and especially in offbeat places, any activities/day trips where you need to work with an operator are by private basis only.

    If this book is like that vapid Manhattan woman’s Eat pray love book no thank you. I’ve probably had far more interesting solo travel experiences (that line about Istanbul trying to plug her as some sort of war reporter – give me a break!)

  6. @Ratannai Where did he say that? The author was staying at a hotel. Not far from the hotel there was some action of the undesirable kind. Notable, and that’s it

    I didn’t read it at all as “…plug her as some sort of war reporter…” That’s some imagination you got there

  7. I would LOVE it if you started posting one-seat availability, Gary.

    I travel alone quite often. In addition to the things written above, I find that it’s easier for me to meet and talk to locals or tourists from outside the US when I’m on my own. When I’m with someone else, I tend to just talk to that person and that means I miss meeting new and interesting people.

  8. I am now able to travel more and alone, but like another person said, many trips, cruises, or specials are geared toward and priced based on double occ. Even cruises listed as no single supplement are usually priced higher than 2 persons. There are so many people alone, there should be more opportunities than just fly and book a room.

  9. I enjoy both traveling alone and with friends. Best part of traveling alone is that you can take an afternoon nap should you feel tired without that nagging feeling that you’re somehow robbing your companion/s of valuable sightseeing time. The worst part is dinner. Although I know I shouldn’t, I feel awkward heading into a restaurant solo. It just feels strange being quite often the only single diner in a room filled with people in the company of others. So I save the special restaurants for when I’m traveling with pals and when I’m solo I seek out venues where a person can eat alone and not feel strange. There aren’t a lot of such places but they do exist.

    Tours, cruises and other group events – except perhaps a city walking tour – I’d rather die than join such a group alone or even WITH friends. Traveling with a herd insulates you. It’s just not the way to go about seeing a place…any place.

    Generally I would disagree with the concept that you meet more people as a single traveler than you do when traveling with others. I just don’t find that to be true at all. People tend to look at a single traveler with a bit of suspicion. That’s just the way it is.

    Life is short. Enjoy your travels, whether alone or with a friend.

  10. I’ve traveled to destinations alone, however I was always meeting up with friends. For me, part of the experience is sharing the places I go with family and friends. Maybe one day I’ll do complete solo travel.
    @Pat I totally agree. Once you have a group larger than 4, travel is definitely hard. I traveled as a part of a group of 5 two months ago. I enjoyed everyone’s company but it is harder to plan your itinerary and most taxis do not accommodate that many people.

    I think a group of 2 or 3 is best. You are able to be flexible and everyone is able to enjoy the things they really want to.

  11. I second almost everything said by posters above who travel alone. I have no choice, as I love to travel and am picky about what I do, how much I do, where I stay, etc. and the few friends I have that are independent enough to travel with are married and want (understandably) to spend their limited time and money with their families. I have traveled alone internationally for the last 4-5 years and love it, but for a middle-aged single female, I am limited by the places I can safely go and that just plain sucks. I’m trying to work up my courage to go places that require me to rent a car (I’ve never tried driving in a foreign country–my former husband always did that for us), but there is hardly a city with good subways that I haven’t visited.

    And, please, please, Gary–DO post deals you see for singles. And, after John gets his, I have also been looking for that single seat on Qantas in F from SYD to DFW, and have never, ever found one. Thanks for the post, and I’ll check out the book.

  12. I took my first trip in the US alone when I was 16 and had just gotten my driver’s license. For some inane reason, I drove from Massachusetts to South Carolina, then turned around, no doubt because I had little money, and drove back. My first international trip alone was at 19 when I visited five countries in Europe. Since then, which was years ago, I’ve traveled all over the world alone except for the 25 years I was married when my husband was a great traveling companion. However, after he died suddenly five years ago, I went back to traveling by myself. Outside of business trips, I’ve gone to Easter Island, the Galapagos, Europe a few times, Ghana, and rented a car for road trips in England, Scotland, and Chile. I can’t imagine traveling with anyone. When else do you get the chance to choose exactly what you want to do at the pace you want to do it? I don’t get lonely but if I do want to talk to someone, it’s easy to strike up a conversation.

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