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Traveling Solo Does Not Mean Being Lonely

solo travel

Not counting my solo move to Taiwan in 2011, the first time I tried traveling solo was in December 2012. I didn’t have a plan. I was stressed out, tired, and I really just wanted to get away by myself for a while. So I looked online and chose the cheapest place to go from Taiwan, like throwing a dart at a map. I didn’t care where I went, and as a result, I ended up in Cambodia, prepared to spend 11 days alone.


I know this sounds like the start of a depressing story, but I was actually looking forward to some alone time. However, funny enough, as pretty much always happens with traveling, things didn’t quite turn out as planned. The day I landed in Siem Reap, I had no sooner gotten settled into my room, when I had a crazy idea. I decided to go online and look for people to meet.


Couchsurfers I met while traveling solo in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Meeting Couchsurfers for dinner my first night in Siem Reap


Couchsurfing is Not Just for Surfing Couches


Suddenly feeling refreshed and more energetic to be on vacation, I felt more sociable. So the first place I went was on the site and searched for other travelers in Siem Reap. And guess what? There just happened to be a dinner gathering posted by a traveler from India for THAT NIGHT! What luck!


Get Out of Your Comfort Zone


I have a very outgoing personality, so I’ve never had any problem showing up to events by myself. I thrive on meeting new people. However, for you, this might be a real stretch out of your comfort zone. I totally get that. But I want to give you some encouragement if this is the reason you’ve never tried traveling solo. I went to that Couchsurfing dinner meet-up, and it changed the entire course of my 11-day vacation.


Because I had the courage to show up alone, I left there with eight new acquaintances. I met two guys and a girl from India (all traveling solo), two ladies from Germany, an Irish girl from Australia, a girl from Malaysia, and a girl from China. The best part? Five of them became my travel companions for the remainder of my trip, and we are still friends to this day.


Exploring Angkor Wat with new Couchsurfer friends while traveling solo in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Exploring Angkor Wat with the Couchsurfer friends I met at dinner my first night in Siem Reap


New Adventures Await – But You Won’t Know Till You Try


The rest of my time in Cambodia was epic. This group of people from all over the world became my travel buddies and fellow adventurers. Together, we went to Tonle Sap Lake and watched the sunset on the lake. Then, we got up early and watched the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We went out together at night for dinner and to experience Pub Street, and we even hung out at cafes editing photos and eating ice cream.


We then took a spontaneous side trip to Sihanoukville, which wasn’t at all on my itinerary. I had to check out of my guest house early without a refund, but it was totally worth it. Even the not-so-good experiences we shared, like the “Nightmare Bus” and the lamest full moon island party ever, have become memories that I can look back on and laugh about.


Full Moon Beach Party while traveling solo in Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Sunset boat ride with Couchsurfing friends to the lamest full moon beach party ever in Sihanoukville… we still laugh about it to this day


The most important thing is that with these new friends, I shared laughs, I shared deep conversations, I shared culture, I shared incredible views, moments and experiences, and I shared memories of our adventure that we created together.


Why Try Traveling Solo if it Seems to Be More Fun in a Group?


If meeting and traveling with strangers is not your idea of a fun adventure, you might be tempted to just keep traveling with your friends or family. Let me stop you there. I don’t always go out and meet people while traveling. Sometimes I really do want to be alone. So let me also tell you the great thing about truly traveling solo.


In February 2015, I decided to take a solo trip to Malaysia for nine days. It was one of the most amazing trips I ever had, and I spent almost the entire time… <gasp>… all by myself! It already sounds terrible, right? But you know what? Whenever I look back on this particular trip, I always feel such a warm and happy feeling.


Lunch at Ye Old Smoke House while traveling solo in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Ye Old Smoke House in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia – a beautiful old house with a picturesque garden where I treated myself to a luxurious lunch. One of my best memories solo traveling.


Cherish the Time You Give Yourself


I feel like this was a trip where I focused 100% on myself, and it was amazing! For some people, it’s hard to feel comfortable with only your own company. However, if you can spend time with yourself and learn to really love and appreciate it, your experience from it will be invaluable. The memories I have from that trip are on a deeper level, like a time I will always cherish because I focused on and invested in myself.


This feeling is a little hard to describe if you’ve never tried traveling solo, but I basically did everything that I thought would bring a smile to my face. I did all the things I would have done with the company of friends, but I treated myself like my own best friend. Of course, I still met people along the way, but my focus was on my own happiness. I allowed myself to do, see and explore anything I wanted.


Sweet couple from Oman I met while traveling solo in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

A really sweet couple from Oman that I met while traveling solo in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Create Your Own Adventures


I took the cable car to the scenic viewpoint of Langkawi Island, where I met some really nice Chinese people and a Russian guy who helped me take photos. I walked all around the historic Georgetown area of Penang, admiring street art and drinking white coffee in the cute cafes. There, I met a couple of other travelers who invited me to join them at their table to enjoy our “photo” drinks. Then I went to the amazingly beautiful high mountain tea area of Cameron Highlands. There, I toured the Boh Tea plantation, I experienced the beauty and scenery of the high mountain rainforest, I treated myself to a luxurious lunch at a picture perfect historical house, I went on a long hike through the forest by myself, and I met a really sweet couple from Oman.


The whole trip was wonderful, and I had such a great time. It was the perfect balance of alone time with small bits of social time here and there. It was the kind of experience that made me promise myself that I would reserve a solo trip for myself at least once a year. Really, there are two main reasons you, too, should try traveling solo. First, there are really nice people everywhere you go, and you will never be lonely. I promise. And second, there really is nothing quite like the pleasure of your own company. Investing quality time with yourself will make you feel loved in a way nothing and no one else can. There is no replacement for this kind of feeling, and it’s completely worth it.


A couple girls I met while traveling solo in Penang, Malaysia who invited me to sit with them at their table at a cool photo cafe

A couple girls I met in Penang, Malaysia who invited me to sit with them at their table at a cool photo cafe


Have you ever traveled solo? If so, what was your experience, and what do you love about it? If not, what’s keeping you from doing it? Are you afraid that you will feel lonely? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make yourself a promise to treat yourself to a solo trip soon. You won’t regret it!

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  • Such a great article. So many people seem to be petrified of travelling solo. Even though I have a travel partner I love going on solo. You meet some amazing people and do some ridiculous things!

    • Thanks, Jean! Haha I know what you mean about meeting amazing people and doing ridiculous things! I think that’s also part of the fun, that you meet so many different kinds of people, and they help encourage you to get out of your comfort zone. It’s such a big world, and there are so many people who are DIFFERENT from us that we can’t help but try new things just because of the new ideas and perspective they give us. I really love that, and it makes me so thankful for all the amazing people we meet along the way.

  • I honestly cannot think of any time I’ve traveled alone, other than just boarding a plane to meet up with family at the destination. I’m not opposed to it, it’s just that I have so little time to travel and so many people I want to spend time with, I can’t imagine ever ending up alone! Both of your trips sounded wonderful, however — the one in Cambodia where you intended to be alone but made new friends couchsurfing…and the one you took to Malaysia to pamper yourself. How wonderful that you are not afraid to travel alone and embrace whatever comes your way!

    • Thanks for the comment, Tami. I totally know what you mean about having so many people you want to spend time with, and if your travel time is limited, then it makes sense that you want to spend it with others. The one thing I would say, though, is that even if it’s just for a weekend get-away, you would be so amazed at how good it feels to give yourself the gift of your own undivided attention. Before I moved to Taiwan in 2011, I also had never traveled solo. I had several highly-independent female friends who often talked about going on solo camping trips, and it always sounded so exciting and amazing, but I never had the chance to try it. I guess that’s what planted the seed, though, for me to really want to give it a try with actual solo travel when I moved to Asia, and it definitely has been an experience for me that nothing else compares to. So I say all that to say that if you can find even a couple days to get away by yourself and just completely let yourself be free to have a great time and really focus on giving yourself the gift of your own time, I bet you will cherish it forever. 🙂

  • I couldn’t agree more with how wonderful solo traveling is. The secret behind it is that you never do end up going solo for an extended period of time – in fact, I always feel at peace and with balance in my life when I travel solo because I get to hang with people whenever I want and if you don’t – it’s completely understandable!

    • Yes!!! Exactly! It really is the perfect balance. You can completely call the shots on doing whatever you feel in the mood to do. I even surprise myself thinking I don’t want to be around people and then suddenly feeling very sociable, like in Cambodia, or enjoying being mostly by myself, like my trip to Malaysia. You can’t always predict the mood you will be in, so it’s nice to have the flexibility to act on your whims. At least we can take comfort in knowing that, like you said, we’re never really solo for too long anyway. Thanks for your comment!

  • Love your take on the subject. Before we met each other, we did travel solo and it is a whole different kind of adventure. You get to make new friends, become braver and know yourself better in the process. Definitely something everyone should do atleast once. Ye old smokehouse looks so charming. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for the comment! I totally agree – solo travel really does give you the opportunity to be braver and know yourself better. It is such a valuable and irreplaceable experience. Regarding Ye Old Smokehouse, it is SO incredibly charming! If you ever have the opportunity to go to Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, I can’t recommend it enough. It is also a guesthouse and has such a wonderful and romantic atmosphere for couples. It was absolutely my favorite part of that whole trip, and the gift to myself of the afternoon I spent there is a memory I will always cherish.

  • I traveled alone in my younger years. Never had a problem with feeling lonely or meeting other people on my solo outings. These days, however, we switched to a slow travel mode, so for the most part we travel as a couple.

    • There’s definitely nothing wrong with that! At least you have experienced the adventure of solo travel for yourself, and it’s great to hear that you didn’t feel lonely or have any difficulty meeting people. Slow travel with a friend or partner is fun, too, and it brings its own elements of experience. It’s great that you have been able to enjoy different ways of traveling, and the important thing is… you’re traveling!

  • I think you have nailed it. Solo travel doesn’t mean you always have to be alone, but everyone needs some alone time once in awhile. It helps you process and think. Also, those “nightmare bus rides” and the like are the stories you will tell over and over and over…the real memories!

    • Thanks for your positive comment, Corinne! I know what you mean about taking time to process and think. I really cherish that time, and some of my happiest moments have been just sitting somewhere beautiful by myself, taking it all in and letting my mind wander where it wants to. It’s like a special gift to myself to take this time to enjoy my own company. I also agree about the stories. Every trip is an adventure, every challenge makes you a stronger, more confident person, and every experience is a memory with probably a good story to tell. Keep making memories!

  • I agree with you! I’ve been traveling for more than three years now- almost all of that time traveling alone. I’m never lonely. The only time I’m alone is if I want to be. I’m constantly meeting new people along the way. I love traveling like this! Everyone should try it once to know if it’s for them or not.

    • YES!!! 100% agree with you, Nathan! There is really something special about traveling alone that you can’t get through any other experience. I really enjoy it so much – everything from the excitement of a new adventure, to new friendships and experiences with the other amazing people you cross paths with, to the peaceful and relaxing times when you choose to just enjoy your own company. It’s an experience that is irreplaceable, and I agree that everyone should at least try it once.

  • I can relate to this so much. People think traveling solo means you are depressed. I am fed up of telling them how much fun it is. Now I have stopped talking, I just let me blog and instagram do the talking. 😛

    • Haha yeah, sometimes people feel sorry for you because you’re traveling alone, and you have to explain to them that you do it by choice. They just don’t understand why someone would want to travel solo. I think you have a good approach, though. Stop telling them and just show them. Hopefully they will feel inspired and decide to give it a try! Thanks for your comment!

  • They say we should learn to enjoy our own company, since we spend the maximum time of our lives with ourselves 🙂 Solo travel is for the truly independent individual, one who is completely at ease being with himself/herself…so if you can do it well, more power to you!

    • Hi Punita, thanks for your comment! Yes, I totally agree with you that we should learn to enjoy our own company. So many people are uncomfortable with being alone, whether they are traveling or not. For this reason, I feel that traveling solo, even for just a short time like a weekend, is so valuable for everyone. If you’re totally independent and at ease with yourself, as you mentioned, then it’s good “me” time, and for those who aren’t comfortable with traveling solo, it’s a good way to try it out and see how wonderful it can be.

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