10 Awkward Struggles Every Solo Traveller Has To Deal With

10 Awkward Struggles Every Solo Traveller Has To Deal With

If you tried solo travelling, you can totally relate to this.

Travelling is about having fun and discovering one’s self. What drives you? What inspires you? What makes you happy? There are some who prefer to travel in large groups, either with friends or family because for them, nothing beats a heartily loud bunch of fun people. Others, like myself, prefer the sense of absolute freedom that comes with travelling alone.

There’s just something about being that lone wolf, that solo (by the intervention of every midi-chlorian within the Force, I have refrained from making a Han Solo joke) wanderer in a romantically foreign city. Of course, travelling alone means you naturally have to be a little more alert about your surroundings due to safety reasons.

However, sometimes, travelling on your own can lead to cringe-worthy, awkward situations. If you travel alone frequently, then as sure as the Force is strong in the Skywalker family, you’ve experienced the following 10 situations at least once on your travels. Told in a chronological narrative.

Also read: 3 Things That Happen When You Finally Embark on Your First Solo Trip

10. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go…with everything you have.

solo traveller strugglesImage credit: BKP

You’ve just arrived at your destination after a gruelling five hour flight during which the lavatory was constantly occupied. You land at the airport. In a hurry, you grab your luggage and charge into the building looking for the closest bathroom. You turn as if to say, ‘Hey, can you hold this for me while I…‘ Oh wait. That’s right, you’re alone. You need to answer the call of nature? Well, guess what? You’re gonna have to bring everything you have with you.

The annoying thing is this scenario replays itself at bus stations, train stations, ferry piers, the subway… It gets even worse when you’re desperately trying to occupy a spot. Been waiting in line at an attraction for over an hour and suddenly need to go? Hold it in, private! Because you just KNOW that once you leave the line, you ain’t getting back in.

9. Weird furniture arrangement at the hotel

solo travellerImage credit: Usien

After finally relieving yourself at the airport, you arrive at your hotel to check in. While making your booking, you’d already realised that the smallest room option within the hotel was a double room meant for two guests. You pay the full amount (ouch!) and you head to your room. You open the door and you see…two beds separated by an immovable desk connected to the wall. Which bed do I choose? What do I do with the other one? Should I put my bags on it? Do I just leave it there? Should I request a change of bed preferences? What do I…How do I…? No matter what you choose to do in the end, the empty bed just sticks out like a sore thumb, taunting you and reminding you how alone (not necessarily lonely) you are every time you look at it.

8. Mistaken Identity  

solo travellerImage credit: unsplash.com

You leave your bags in your hotel and you head out, ready to enjoy your day in this new place. Now, I’m not sure if this has ever happened to any of you, but when you’re of Chinese descent, and you travel to any part of China (or East Asia for that matter), and you’re out on the street alone without any luggage, people WILL sometimes assume that you’re a local (or student). While I was travelling not too long ago in Macau, I had people come up to me at random asking for directions. One lady even asked me about immigration schedules and whether or not she could make it back to Guangzhou before 11pm! And when you tell them that you’re not a local, they tend to look at you like you’ve just hurt their feelings by lying to them. Awkwaaaaaard…

‘No, seriously, I’m not actually a lo…what? No, I don’t want a yearly gym membership! I’m leaving tomorrow!’

7. The odd one out

Image credit: Alex E. Proimos

Okay, so you’ve managed to navigate your way through a sea of your ‘fellow countrymen’ and arrive at an attraction. You purchase your ticket (you pay full price because you’re not part of a group or tour) and you go in. Now, if this were a museum or something like that, you’ll be fine. However, if this was Disneyland or Universal Studios or any type of funhouse/theme park essentially, I can only say: good luck.

I mean, have you seen some the attractions at those places? Couple seats, group activities and information signs which begin with ‘With your partner…’ I just read the first three words and go ‘nope’. In fact, at times, even walking alone at these places can make you self-conscious as every other person in the place looks at you as if to say: aww, that guy/girl is all alone. He/she must have no friends. That…might not be too far off from the truth. Sigh. Moving on.

6. Hey check this… oh, never mind

Image credit: Kristin Dos Santos

Getting over the fact that people are looking at your lonesome frame, you continue to stroll about. And then you see something like this: the sun is setting as you stand on an elevated platform, the sky is beautiful. Then suddenly, two bald eagle soars into the sky and clash with each other, fighting with… lightsaber talons before flying off.

You turn around, prepared to exclaim: Holy schnitzels! Did. You. See. That? Except, of course, there’s no one there. And you either weren’t fast enough to capture the moment on camera, or the photo/video really does not convey the true awesomeness of what had just transpired. You’re left with no one and no way to share the amazing scene that your very eyes just witnessed. And all of your friends back home annoyingly say ‘pictures or it never happened’. Garghh…!

5. But first, let me take a selfie

Image credit: Gage Skidmore

Speaking of photos, one thing that is common for most, if not all travellers, is that their albums are only ever full of two types of photos: photos of scenery; and selfies WITH said scenery. Yes, the cruel reality is that when you’re travelling alone and you see a breathtakingly gorgeous scenery, the only way to immortalise it and to prove that you were ‘there when it happened’ is by taking a selfie (or selca if you prefer the Korean term). Except, selfies don’t often turn out the way we want it to be unless you’ve been practising vigorously on Instagram. Which means you’re probably better off just taking a picture of the scenery itself and move on with your life. Again, sigh.

4. Table for one, please. Yes, just one.

Image credit: Pete Souza

Right, so it’s time for some food. Not far from your location is a highly recommended restaurant. It was dubbed a must-try and it had 5-star reviews with comments which suggest that customers began farting rainbows after eating there. So, of course, you decide to try it. And then, horror settled over you when you realise that it is a classy, high-end restaurant located on a rooftop terrace and featuring a live orchestra (not band, orchestra). You courageously go up to the reception and calmly say: table for one. You deal with the judgmental look that’s given to you and then you’re lead into the restaurant and seated at a lonely table in a lonely corner where everyone is looking at your lonely self with pitiful eyes.  But that’s not even the worst part sometimes.

Also read: Read This If You Are Scared To Travel Alone

3. What minimum portion per serving?

Image credit: memegenerator.net

You look at the menu and you see this awesome looking traditional Italian pizza and you just have to try it since it’s a national dish (let’s just pretend you’re in Italy while this whole thing goes down, okay?). You call over the waiter and inform him of your decision. He frowns and politely informs you that the item on the menu is meant for two people (that’s one more than what you have) and that you can’t possibly finish it by yourself as the chef won’t prepare smaller portions. ‘Might I suggest something a salad instead?’ What? WHAT? They underestimate your power hunger? You go ahead and order the pizza anyway. And then you realise: you’ve never been so wrong in your life. The portion was too much. You couldn’t finish it. You just couldn’t.  

2. It’s party timeee! Or not…whatever.

Image credit: Troggle

After your dinner, you head back to your hotel to freshen up and change. You’re in the mood for a drink. Or better yet, a full-on rave party! Joyfully, you head out alone to find a cool bar/club to live it up big-time. You get to the entrance and you see the happening scenes inside. You’re pumped. You’re ready to do shots and get wasted. After all, if you get drunk, your travelling companion can always just… oh for crying out loud!

You start thinking of all the things that could potentially happen to you if you get tipsy. Or if you get drugged in the club. Or mugged. Or kidnapped. Or worse…In the end, you stop by the nearest convenience store, buy a couple of beers and chug them down in your hotel room, all the while questioning your major life decisions and just reflecting on life in general.

1. No extra space in your bag

Image credit: Ian Muttoo

It’s your last day and you decide to go shopping for souvenirs and trinkets for yourself and your friends and family back home. Just before you head out, you pack up your luggage and then it hits you: your bag is almost at full capacity and you have limited space left to store anything else. Your face drops as you come to the realisation that even if you had the money, your shopping is limited to spatial constraints. If only you had a friend with extra luggage space you can chuck some of your stuff in. Maybe you can sneak it onboard the plane as a second piece of hand carry but it sounds easier than it really is sometimes. Well, that settles it. Keychains and fridge magnets for everyone! (Psst, better hide that t-shirt you bought for yourself).

Also read: Why Travel Solo?

So there you have it: 10 awkward struggles you’ll encounter when travelling alone. How many of these things have happened to you personally? That being said, I think everyone should travel on their own at least once in their life. It’s different from travelling with a group of friends or family. It’s enriching and it helps one to truly learn and appreciate their own company. And to my fellow lone rangers who traverse the world on their own: I salute thee and may the Force be with you in 2016! Okay, seriously, no more Star Wars references.   

About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.