Updated June 17, 2020.
If you’ve known me for long, you know I’m a huge advocate for solo travel. My husband and I both traveled solo before we met, and I believe that made us how we both are today. Solo travel hones your trouble-shooting skills, opens your eyes to different perspectives, and gives you a special kind of humility—you don’t know everything, but you can learn.
However, solo travelers have a problem that other travelers don’t have to worry about: the “naysayers.” These are the people who automatically think you “can’t” travel solo. “It’s lonely,” they say. “It’s too dangerous,” they say. “It’s irresponsible,” they say. Well, I know they’re wrong, and you know it, too. But you want to communicate that in a way that is less offensive and hurtful than their own words toward you. Here are some responses for the well-intentioned (or not-so-well-intentioned) naysayers in your life.
1. Oh, you shouldn’t go there by yourself. It’s dangerous!
Compared to what? Compared to staying home in bed? Sure. But so is walking down the steps to get to my car. So is driving around to run my errands. Walking around a new city is no more or less dangerous than walking around your home town. Next time someone says your destination is too dangerous, tell them that people actually live there every day, just like people live in your home town every day. And yet we all survive!
Never fear! How to Travel Safely
2. You shouldn’t go by yourself! You’ll be too lonely.
You may have moments of feeling lonely, but you certainly won’t be lonely the whole time you’re traveling—you’ll be too busy! My husband like to point out to me that people take what they would do or how they would feel and project that onto others. Odds are, they are afraid of getting lonely or have trouble being alone with themselves. To be honest, that’s a sad problem to have. Next time someone tells you you’ll be lonely, just say that you enjoy your own company, or that you like doing things on your own time and in your own way. It’s perfectly acceptable to have your own preferences!
Knowing what to expect is half the battle:
7 Things to Expect on Your First Solo Trip
3. I don’t know how you can afford that on what you make.
This is my pet peeve. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the South, but I believe talking about money—your own or someone else’s—is one of the rudest, tackiest things to do. It is not acceptable to talk about money unless you are making a business deal. There are a few ways to handle this:
1. Assume they are offering to pay your way! Tell them you very much appreciate their offer and tell them you’ll get back to them with your ticket and accommodations prices, and when you return, you’ll let them know how much you paid for food, tips, and activities so they can reimburse you!
2. Tell them it’s rude to talk about money. Some people respond best to frankness.
3. My personal favorite response: “Some people have kids, some people drink, some people do drugs, I travel!” This usually gets a laugh and makes my intended point: Different people have different priorities. Fill in your own response with anything you like!
It’s all about priorities, which I talk about on my
Saving and Money Page!
4. Don’t you want to go with someone?
No. If you wanted to go with someone, you’d be going with them, right?! For this question, I like to point out the positives of traveling solo: I get to take my time, I can skip things I’m not interested in, I can do things my friends or family would hate to do or see, I get to recharge the way I want to, etc., etc., etc. I’ve traveled with friends before, and I’m not friends with some of those people anymore because of it! Think of three things you love about solo travel, and rattle them off next time someone brings up this concern.
Sometimes it’s not your choice to go solo:
What to Do When Your Travel Buddy Drops Out
5. Won’t you be scared?
Turn this one around on them: Why should I be scared? They will probably start fumbling around trying to come up with reasons. Or they might bring up some of the other things on this list. You can also just say, “Nope! I’m excited!” And don’t forget you can always leave the conversation if it starts to go downhill. Just walk away!
Read on: 5 Reasons to Travel Solo
6. Aren’t you afraid you’ll get raped?
Seriously? Name a city where no one has ever been raped. You can’t, because bad things happen everywhere. But you can be smart about where you go wherever you are, and you can choose not to be out late at night. When people bring this up to me, I remind them that I’m a smart person and I don’t put myself in compromising situations. So no, I’m not afraid of that. It could happen in my home town or in the D.C. area where I live now. I can’t be afraid to leave my house, so I’m not afraid to travel elsewhere.
Get inspired: 21 Best Destinations for Solo Female Travel
7. What if there’s an earthquake? Volcanic eruption? Flood? Hurricane? Avalanche? (Insert your own adventure here!)
Well, these things happen. They happen abroad and they happen in the United States, and yet we’ve all survived! I have actually been all but stranded on my travels due to a volcano and a hurricane, and my travel plans for Switzerland in January 2018 did change due to avalanche risks, and yet I’ve survived!
There is usually a work-around or some kind of fix in areas where these are known possibilities, and if you’re somehow taken by surprise, guess what–so is everyone else who is living or visiting there! You’re not going it alone, you will have options, and you will be fine! And if you do end up delayed, there are worse places to be stranded than on vacation, after all!
8. But you can’t go there! You don’t speak the language!
So? I always recommend learning a few words (including “thank you”) in the local language, but beyond that, you can definitely get by without knowing the local language. I tell the naysayers that almost everyone in major cities speak English, or at least enough English to help me out when I need it. Act like it’s not a big deal, and they usually start to see that it’s not.
I heard this a lot (along with condescending laughter) before I moved to Japan.
9. Haven’t you seen Taken? I’d never go anywhere alone!
Well, that’s sad. No, I don’t watch Hollywood renditions of travel horror movies, thank you very much. Fear mongering doesn’t do anything for me, so I don’t let it in. Next time someone brings up something so outlandish, look them in they eye, smile, and say, “My life is better than a movie.” And leave it at that!
And actually, I did a movie theme for a whole year of travel!
2019: Year of Movie Moments
10. (For those who are married) Without your spouse? Are you having problems?
Talk about nosing in where they don’t belong! It’s certainly true that some people with unhealthy marriages travel to get away from their each other, and if that’s why you’re traveling, perhaps you do need to take an honest look at your marriage and decide if that is the best thing for you. But in general, this very presumptive, nosey, rude question possibly reveals more about the asker than the person being asked.
When people ask me this and similar questions, I simply give them the honest answers: my husband doesn’t like the heat, so he didn’t want to go to this place that I really wanted to visit (ahem, Qatar, Cambodia). Or, my husband is traveling for work and I can’t go with him, so I’m doing something he’d rather not do (for example: Christmas Markets in Heidelberg). Also, absence really does make the heart grow fonder: I miss my husband so much when we’re apart, so I’m extra thankful for him when I get home!
Is there an equally judgmental question someone asked you about your solo travels? Comment below!
Want more solo travel tips and inspiration, check out my page dedicated to Solo Travel!
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