After completing my first 8 days solo trip few months back, I can consider myself having some experience in solo travel :). I may not be able to give you perfect advice but I am sure my experiences will help you understand the various pros and cons with respect to a first time solo traveler. As each individual is different, some of the things which I think are problems may not concern few people but as a general rule, pros and cons listed will be applicable to most of the people. In retrospect I can list out following sides of Solo Travel.
1. No Picture Perfect : You are at a superb location and are mesmerized by it. After capturing many shots you realize you want to put yourself in the frame as well. And that’s where the problem comes. There will be times when people nearby would happily take picture of you on your request. But there will also be times when you look around for a person whom you can request but no one available. They may be busy in their group or just not interested in taking picture. Some may reluctantly take one picture but you would want to curse them later for really bad shots :). Moreover it will not be comfortable to ask for a retake every time. So if you like your pictures taken then you have a problem in hand.
2. Eating Alone : This might appear not a big concern for everyone but it does affect. Most of us don’t like eating alone even when we don’t talk much while eating. So prefer open air restaurants or food joints on streets where you see lots of things happening around. Another option is to try a dare like I did on my trip and that is to ask a stranger who is also eating alone for a company. I call it a dare because I would never have tried it otherwise but on my travels I gathered courage to ask strangers if I can join them for lunch/dinner and I never got a ‘no’ in response :).
3. Constant Alert : You have to be always alert when traveling alone. There is no one else to take care of you and your luggage. This can be stressful at least on initial few days. You need to take extra care of your belongings and need to have sufficient funds with you. You don’t have a backup with you in form a travel partner’s fund in case of emergency. So special care has to be taken to divide money in parts so that in case of theft you have other sources to survive. Gather some experience of traveling in smaller groups before you embark on your journey on your own. You will learn to travel with more responsibilities when less people are there to share tasks and that would help you.
4. Cost : You will be bearing all expenses alone. Costs will not be split when you pay hotel bill, taxi fare etc and sometimes it will increase your total tour budget by sufficient margin. Hence you need to rely more on public transport than hiring a taxi every time you want to step out.
1. Life Changing Experience : This might sound a bit exaggeration but it will certainly be one of the most important experience of your life. The amount of confidence you gain after accomplishing a solo trip can not be matched. It is not a cakewalk to land in a new place or a new country and travel on your own. Especially on first day there may be butterflies in stomach during initial few hours till you feel settled. But when you finish your trip and look back, you will be amazed to realize that you didn’t know your own potential. Its a different experience to say “Just Did It” than saying “Just Do It” :).
2. More Interaction : You will interact more with fellow travelers/local people when you travel alone. You will meet people from whom you can learn a lot. You will meet other solo travelers who might give you some handy tips. If you travel in a group your interaction will remain limited to your group. But if you have no other choice, your chances of interaction with others are much higher. I have learnt about some great destinations by hearing stories from others and lot of people whom I met on road have become inspiration for me.
3. More Attention : You actually pay more attention to details of your destination when you travel alone. You will be a better observer or people watcher if you like to do that. Since you will be engaged in places/activities that only you like, you will be more attentive.
4. You Get What You Want : In future, if you want to visit a specific place and not getting company, then traveling alone will not sound daunting. It will always be better to have something than nothing. Even if your trip doesn’t turn out as great as expected, it will be better than a canceled trip. Always remember that there are more number of places in world than number of days in your life :).
As you can see just like anything else, both pros and cons are associated to it. I hope above points may help you understand various aspects in a better way. I have become a firm believer in the fact that despite of some difficulties associated ‘Solo’ travel is much better than ‘No’ travel. What is your take on this ?