Friday, June 20, 2014

Highs and Lows of Solo Travel

With so many people pushing solo travel these days, it's easy to feel like you're missing out if you've never done it. After reading more blogs about solo travel than is healthy, I had decided that one day, I MUST go solo on a trip to see what all the hype is about. Little did I know that, that trip was right around the corner.
First picture taken on my solo trip to Buenos Aires

After having thought about the small steps I could take to test the murky waters of solo travel (going solo to Chicago or other cities that I have already been to a hundred times) I was faced with the daunting task of heading off on a last-minute solo trip to an entirely different country!

Having planned a last minute trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, I was all set to go with Luiz's amazing, adventurous grandma as my travel companion. Unfortunately, a day before we were supposed to head to São Paulo to catch our early flight out, she was told by doctors that she wasn't allowed to fly. Without going into much more detail, that left me heading to the airport at 1:30am alone.

I won't say that I wasn't excited about the prospect of going solo, it was something I had been planning in my head for months and it was finally happening; but I also won't say that I wasn't completely terrified at the same time. Having taken 4 years of High School Spanish and being fluent in Portuguese and English, I was decently confident in my ability to at least survive Argentina's own unique version of Spanish but I still had no idea what to expect upon arrival.

Over the course of the next week, I navigated the amazing city of Buenos Aires and I had the time of my life. I walked everywhere and saw all of the major attractions while still finding the hidden gems that made the wonderful "Paris of the South" feel almost home-y. I surprised myself with my understanding and ability to converse in Spanish as well as my navigation skills, becoming so familiar with the neighborhoods surrounding my hotel that I knew where I was at all times and had become a regular at the most amazing french bakery. Needless to say, this was a trip for the books.
Amazing weather in an amazing city, what more could a girl want?

However, I learned that solo travel isn't all rainbows and butterflies like many people make it out to be. It does have its drawbacks and there were many times that I felt defeated by the city I had come to love. So for the rest of this post, I'm going to shed some light on the pros and cons of solo travel, to give an honest account of everything involved so that maybe, if one day you too should embark on an adventure such as this, you are a little more prepared for what is to come than I was.

-Complete freedom to choose where you want to go and when. It's just nice to not have to compromise on the sites that you really want to see in order to allow time to fit in what others want to see. You get to plan out your own itinerary and make changes along the way as you wish without worrying about the disapproval or disdain of others.
Want to sit in a park to people watch and enjoy the weather for hours? Do it!

-Being able to sleep in or go to sleep early without worrying about others' plans or judgements. I definitely took advantage of this when most nights I was completely exhausted and in bed by 10pm after a long day of trekking around the city. I've had times where I've needed to rest and recharge before going out and doing more but didn't get to because whoever I was traveling with wanted to keep going.

-Having to be completely independent and step out of your comfort zone. This could go either way but I felt it was more of a pro because I felt so accomplished at the end of the trip with all I had gone through and done that it really made the entire trip that much more rewarding and special.

-Getting to know other travelers. Being alone in a big city makes it easier to reach out and have conversations with other people. While in Buenos Aires I had conversations with the staff at an amazing bakery, a Brazilian couple on my bus tour, and a couple of people on a tour of the Recoleta Cemetery that I dropped in on.

-Eating whatever you want. This is probably the best part of solo travel. If I wanted pizza for dinner, I ate pizza for dinner. If I wanted a plethora of desserts for dinner, that is what I had. You don't have to worry about what anyone else is "in the mood for"; you can just eat whatever you want, where ever you want, and how ever much you want.
French sweets from Smeterling for dinner? No problem!

-The loneliness. I know most people must sense this but let me elaborate a little bit more. For the past two and a half years, every single trip I have taken (minus my trip to the Amazon Rainforest)  has been with Luiz and I absolutely LOVE traveling with him. So on this trip, I found myself wanting to turn to him to say something about what I had just seen or heard, wanting to enjoy the amazing food with him, and wanting to get back to the hotel to talk about everything that had happened during the day. At the end of the day, I just found myself missing him so much so that on the days where things hadn't gone so perfectly I was considering booking a flight home early.

-No pair of extra eyes. In cities like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and São Paulo it is really nice to have another person there just to help be a look out with how prevalent petty theft is. When you're trying to take an amazing picture before the light turns green, the last thing you want to be worrying about is if someone is going to come up and rob you.

-Extra security. Along the same lines as the previous point. One night when I returned back to the hotel I found the door to my room WIDE OPEN. That entire night (even after searching every single inch of the room) it was hard to shake the feeling that something had been stolen or that someone was still in my room. In that instance, having an extra person would not have necessarily provided security but would have helped to calm me down and feel a little safer.

-Not going to certain places or doing certain things because it isn't safe for a female solo traveler. This is another big one as far as safety (are you seeing a trend?). There were some things that I really wanted to do in Buenos Aires (like a cooking class that went all night long- until 1am!) but I couldn't because either the area wasn't safe for me to be in alone or getting to/from the area or event wouldn't be safe because of the time of day or the chance of a sketchy taxi driver.

-Unless you have someone else take your photo, all photos from your trip with you in them will be "selfies". This isn't a huge deal but sometimes it's hard to hand over your phone or camera with all of your trip pictures to a stranger and hope that they return it after taking your pictures. I try to look for the best in people but sometimes we must face the hard truth that not everyone can be trusted.
Selfie on the tour bus at Boca Juniors' Stadium

I know this has been a long post with a lot of writing and not as many pictures as normal but I think that it's important to write about ALL aspects of Solo Travel so that people can get realistic expectations of what it is like in order to decide whether or not it is right for them.

After this trip I know that although I will most likely travel solo again (and thoroughly enjoy it), I must be honest and say at many times all I could think about was how it was not for me. Since Luiz and I have been together, traveling has been something that we have always done together and that we love to do. Because of that, I find that it is hard to travel solo just because I really do have such an amazing travel companion.

xo Jessica


  1. Such a well written post. I like how you were so honest in your evaluation of solo travel :)
    // timidlioness

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, I'm glad that you liked it! After seeing so many people romantizing solo travel I just had to see for myself what all of the hype was about and I'm very glad I did as it was such a wonderful and eye opening experience :)