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The Myths and Realities of Solo Travel, According to An Expert

The world of travel information is an endless stream of advice, suggestions, opinions and, unfortunately, some misconceptions. Additionally, travel myths can originate from natural assumptions spurned by cultural climate, societal norms or even plain deduction. Common travel myths include thinking traveling solo is dull, dangerous and only for white men.

These misconceptions could not be further from the truth and require some serious busting. So we spoke with Gabby Beckford, award-winning travel influencer and expert behind Packs Light, about common travel myths that aren’t true.

Here is everything you will find debunked on this page:

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Solo Travel Myths and Misconceptions Solo Travel at a Hostel
Credit: Solo Travel at a Hostel by Oleh Veres via Dreamstime

Solo Travel Myths and Misconceptions

One of the most common misconceptions about solo travel that Beckford hears is that it is boring. 

“I think when people imagine solo traveling in their brain, they visualize it, and they imagine landing and going to their hotel and putting down their stuff and then having nothing to do,” Beckford said. “They’re like, ‘What happens after you arrive there alone?’ And if you haven’t done it before, you don’t know the possibilities. So it can just seem like you go out to eat, and then what? You go to sleep, and then what? But I know how quick it is to fill up those hours in a day.”

One of the first things Beckford tells travelers who think going solo is boring is that you meet many people this way.

“You actually meet more people solo traveling than you do when traveling with a group because you’re not tied to that group,” Beckford said. “People approach me; I approach people; it’s just so much easier to have a flexible schedule. Hostels have daily activities. You can just sign up for one five minutes before it starts, and you don’t have to ask anyone else, and [you can] meet people that way. Things just happen.”

Beckford recommends Hostelworld, Hostelling International and Expedia to find hostel accommodations when traveling solo.

“I like to stay at hostels because I like to meet people,” Beckford said. “People are the best part of traveling for me, but I also like to stay in private rooms at hostels, so I still have a little bit of space. I travel so often with a bunch of technology for my job. So just for a lot of reasons, safety and making sure nothing goes missing, I like to have a private room.”

Beckford says Mexico is an excellent example of where travelers will often come in groups but might miss out on extraordinary solo experiences in the country.

“When I hear people come with groups, they leave, and they’re like, ‘yeah, I didn’t have to use any Spanish because I just was with my friends who spoke English, and I didn’t have to meet anyone else because I was with my friends,’” Beckrod said. “This [Mexico] is just the perfect example of a country where people are so great, and the food is so great, and there is so much to do here that if you really want to get out and experience it — you should try going solo!

If you are afraid of being judged or scared to travel solo, Beckford says these feelings are often rooted in myths.

“I always tell them that no one’s paying attention to you, honestly,” Beckford said. “When traveling solo, you think everyone’s staring at you, and then when you do it enough, you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m literally invisible.’ That’s a really freeing feeling to be able to go out to lunch by yourself and not have to maintain a conversation or not have to think of things [to say] or be in someone’s companionship.” 

It’s all up to you, Beckford says. If you want to explore and look around — do that. If you want to make friends, strike up a conversation.

“People think that they’re gonna walk up to people and say like, ‘Hey, do you wanna hang out?’ And people are just going to laugh in their faces and walk away,” Beckford said. “I promise that has never happened to me or anyone else [I know]. Everyone’s just afraid to make the first move. I think if you go into any space with the mindset of, like, you just want to be friendly, you’re there to have a good time, and you approach someone — those people are just so grateful — they’re exactly like you — they’re in the same position where they’re like, ‘I hope someone talks to me, I’m so nervous right now.’ 

That energy from making friends is infectious, Beckford says.

“I just went on a tour the other day where I went solo, and I think there were maybe ten people, and five people were solo,” Beckford said. “It was kind of quiet at the beginning, and by the end of it, we all had each other’s numbers, and we’re in a group chat planning more tours for the rest of the trip.”

Solo Female Travel Myths and Misconceptions Solo traveler capturing the view
Credit: Solo traveler capturing the view by Ammentorp via Dreamstime

Solo Female Travel Myths and Misconceptions

If the idea of traveling alone as a woman surfaces thoughts of safety, Beckford says there is nothing wrong with this sentiment. Existing as a woman in any capacity can be dangerous.

“No. 1, there are so many ways to solo travel,” Beckford said. “There are women who backpack through the wilderness for days or weeks alone, and that level of danger is different from me coming to a tourist city in Mexico where I speak a little bit of the local language, and there’s a lot of wifi, you know? It’s really about choosing the solo travel experience that fits you.”

Beckford said another common thought about traveling alone as a woman is that it’s only for the insanely brave.

“I am scared every solo trip I take, honestly,” Beckford said. “It’s not that I’m scared because I know something will happen; it’s just a general unknown, and the unknown is always going to be nerve-wracking.”

When someone explains their trepidations about traveling alone as a woman to Beckford, she always tells them there is so much more of a chance that the unknown will be extremely positive.

“Or, you’re going to meet the best people and be in a group the whole time, and you won’t even be alone for a second,” Beckford said. “Don’t let the fear of the unknown be the thing that limits you from really fun or life-changing experiences.”

Beckford said it comes down to taking that first leap and going on that first experience.

“[You should] know exactly how it feels to be alone or on a plane by yourself or navigate a city by yourself,” Beckford said. “Those are just things that no amount of advice can teach you. But I think that by looking at other solo traveling women’s stories… it’s not even what they say — it’s just the energy they have and the happiness they have when they travel and the way they say it changed their life.”

Beckford recommends starting by following these women and their stories and reading their books.

“I think that will get you into the mental place to try it yourself,” Beckford said. “And once you do, try that first trip; I think it’s just addictive. Once you get a taste, you’re like, ‘Oh, this is a good time; yeah, I’ll keep doing this.’”

According to Beckford, Iceland is one of the best solo destinations for a woman. It’s where her solo traveling journey began.

“It was the best starter country ever for solo travel because I went to the city, Reykjavík, and then I went backpacking,” Beckford said. “I really feel like I did the two ways to do Iceland, which is super outdoorsy and more touristic in the city.” 

According to Beckford, the standout reasons why Iceland is a great starter country are:

  1. Everyone understands and speaks English there, so in that capacity, you won’t be overwhelmed or feel too lost.  

  2. It is a super safe country. Every year it’s voted number one or number two safest country in the world. Petty crime, theft, or anything like that doesn’t really happen in Iceland.  

“They also have really great laws around women’s equality, and people are generally happy there,” Beckford said. “If you ask any solo traveler [who has been] what they think about Iceland, I’m positive 99% of people would say they love it and recommend it. I always say it’s a great starter country; it’s kind of expensive, so save up. But it definitely helped instill confidence in me that I could go somewhere alone and have a great time.”

Solo Black Female Travel Myths and Misconceptions Solo traveler taking a break
Credit: Solo traveler taking a break by © Mimagephotography | Dreamstime.com

Solo Black Female Travel Myths and Misconceptions

A common misconception Beckford often hears from Black women thinking about their first solo travels is that they will inevitably face racism.

“In that sense, I think they’re correct that racism exists all over the globe, and the opportunity to experience that is ever-present,” Beckford said. “But I think people think it’s just going to be somehow 10X worse than what they get at home. Like, they’re going to spend all this money to go on vacation to have a good time, and it be ruined just because of the color of their skin.”

Beckford says there are probably far more global destinations than one might think where you rarely encounter racism.

“It’s just not as much of a glaring thing in people’s minds [worldwide],” Beckford said. “I see a lot of Black travelers go to the continent of Africa and have a fantastic time. If anything, being a Black traveler is extremely empowering, and it’s a growth and an eye-opening experience for them to go to the continent. I always recommend to Black travelers, if they want to see what it’s like to be in a Black-majority place, go to the continent of Africa.”

Beckford caveats this all that, of course, the opportunity for racism is global.

“But the other thing I tell them is that we’re living in the United States; it’s rarely worse than that,” Beckford said. “We’re just so overwhelmed by these conversations every day in the U.S., and it wears on a lot of Black travelers to escape that conversation. So I tell them, just go on one trip; go on that first trip, and who knows, maybe you’ll be surprised by the comparison to being in the U.S. and that it’s just not as bad.”

But outside of destination choice, Beckford says one of the best things Black women traveling solo can do is to join online communities for inspiration and advice.

“Act as a Black traveler; go into the communities online — Facebook groups,” Beckford said. “There are Black travel communities everywhere. Ask them, ‘I want to have a vacation, or I want to have a trip; I want to do these things, but I just don’t want the color of my skin to be an issue. Where should I go?’ They will recommend places to you.”

A few Black travel groups Beckford recommends are Nomadness, Black Travel Movement and Black Girls Travel Too. Beckford also assembled a list of Black Travel groups for kids here

“I think that there are a lot of myths around solo travel,” Beckford recapped. “But it all comes down to the fear of the unknown, taking that first leap, and going on that first experience. You get to look around or have the opportunity for someone to come up and talk to you. You get to make friends.”

About Our Expert: Gabby Beckford Gabby Beckford
Credit: Gabby Beckford by Packs Light

About Our Expert: Gabby Beckford

Gabby Beckford is the award-winning travel influencer and Opportunity Expert behind the blog Packs Light. She makes the incredible accessible to Gen Z and Black travel communities by entertaining, inspiring, and empowering them in travel. She’s visited 40+ countries, given a TEDx talk, and grown her community — the Young Travelers Network — to more than 8,000 young travel lovers and her travel TikTok to 332,000!

Beckford has been featured in The New York Times, Good Morning America, CNNTravel, National Geographic, and more. She has also participated in various creator programs, including those run by Meta, LinkedIn, and TikTok. Her mission is to empower young people to seek risk, seize opportunities, skip debt, and see the world.

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