Experienced travelers may think nothing of venturing into unknown territory with nothing more than a old rucksack and a shabby novel. Others don’t enjoy the idea of being alone, and would prefer to travel with another person or several companions. Both options have amazing perks and irritating pitfalls, and you should weigh them accordingly before you take a solo road trip.
Reasons to hit the road on a solo adventure
Your itinerary and schedule are yours to make as you see fit. When you’re solo, nobody else will slow you down or try to get you to see something you might not be too excited about.
Traveling solo forces you to grow and solve problems. By figuring out where to eat, sleep and communicate with foreign people, you’ll gain confidence and the ability to blend in with the locals. You’ll be more at ease with yourself, and likely won’t stand out as a tourist.
Meeting new people on the road is also a joy. Locals are the best well of knowledge to tap into for where to eat, what to do and what you must see at each stop.
Solo travelers are more likely to get invited to hang out with locals than groups of tourists. Don’t underestimate the kindness and generosity of people. You might gain many lifelong friends.
Drawbacks to traveling alone on the open road
As nice as independent travel can be, there will be the need for company sooner or later. When you see something fantastic, like a sunrise over a temple or mountain summit, the flavor of the moment is better when shared. For some, being alone may be liberating at first and then a bit uncomfortable as you get further into the trip.
It can be a little awkward to dine alone constantly. (I always bring a good book or a few magazines to read while dining to avoid staring into space while waiting to be served.) And if you are an introvert, it may be difficult for you to engage with locals to get the most out of your experience in each area.
There are other obvious disadvantages, too. You might run into serious problems and if you’re alone no one will be there to help. You could accidentally take a wrong turn, and end up in a rather inhospitable place. Solo travelers are easier targets for theft and assault. What would you do in that situation? It’s a good question to ask yourself ahead of time.
Going solo? Use these tips!
If you decide to take a solo road trip, it pays to think ahead and make provisions for some worse-case scenarios. Use these tips to get you started:
- Give your itinerary to your family or a close friend so someone knows the roads you’ll be traveling.
- Set up GPS tracking on your cell phone and give your family or a close friend access to follow along electronically.
- Determine regular “check-in” times or days where you call a loved one to let them know you are safe.
- Keep your cell phone charged at all times.
- Carry a battery-back up in case your car won’t start (to charge the phone) or you get stranded somewhere.
- Check your tires and get a tune-up before you hit the road.
- Fuel up regularly so that you don’t risk running out of gas.
- Consider signing up for a roadside assistance program to help if you have car troubles.
- Don’t carry a lot of cash.
- Stash an extra credit card somewhere in your car or travel gear in case your wallet goes missing.
It’s also prudent to always pay attention to your surroundings and not to intentionally place yourself in precarious situations. For example, rest stops are great features but many are abandoned at night. If you need a bathroom break or a quick rest, consider stopping at a more populated stop like a gas station, shopping center or restaurant.
A little savvy precaution goes a long way towards ensuring your road trip is a safe and successful one.
Should I stay or should I go solo?
It’s up to every traveler to make a careful decision about the pros and cons of solo trips. After trying a solo journey once, you might decide it’s the only way to go as long as you take the right precautions.
Traveling in a group can be challenging at times, but the experiences are shared and you could create long-lasting friendships with somebody who has all the same interests. Consider the pros and cons and if you decide to go solo, do be sure to take smart precautions to ensure your safety and enjoy your trip!