No Guilt Solo Travel: 6 thoughts on making yourself a priority

Solo traveler from France.

This is Claude. He was in his 70s when I met him while traveling Patagonia, Chile. He was inspirational! I can’t recall whether he left a wife at home or not. And I suppose it’s not pertinent. He is his own person.


Guilt often controls us. Limits our world. And frequently it is unnecessary.

I receive many emails from readers about specific solo travel issues. This one, from Jim, is about overcoming guilt and making himself a priority so that he can travel solo. Because I suspect that it applies to many readers, I’ve chosen to respond on the blog.

Here’s an edited version of his letter…

I just finished the third reading of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook and found it fascinating to say the least. I know you probably get many emails and probably don’t have time to answer them, but taking a chance that you do….. well, here goes. I am 68, married and in good health, and have planned three two-week trips taking my wife and her mother (now 89) to Europe. I decided on the second day in Rome, our first trip, that I was coming back alone because there were already things I wanted to see and do that I was overruled on.

That was six years ago and for a variety of reasons, mostly feeling guilty, I never made it back, and instead planned two other trips with them to the UK and France. … My wife gave me your book as a retirement gift several months ago and has encouraged me to go, but try as I might I don’t know how to plan a trip for ME. I have read about a number of subjects on your blog site, but not this one, and nothing about a man wanting to travel without his wife. In our case, I am six years older and her has chosen to work three more years. Sounding selfish, I know, but I want to travel and enjoy life while I have my health and can afford it. Any advice you or someone on your staff would care to offer will be appreciated. Thank you.

Slidell, LA

St. Andrews Scotland

A view of St. Andrews. Jim took four days for himself to play golf here prior to a trip with his wife and mother-in-law. This is the extent of his solo travel to date.


No guilt solo travel.

So, how do you shed the guilt, make yourself a priority and plan the solo trip you want? That requires the right mindset. Here are a few thoughts for you to consider…

  1. Travel solo and free others from guilt. Jim’s wife has chosen to continue working. Many spouses aren’t interested in travel. By taking off solo, you are freeing your partner or friends of the guilt of holding you back.
  2. Travel solo for more happiness. Being happy yourself leads to making others happy as well. We all know how contagious a smile can be. Travel solo, come back happy and spread the smiles.
  3. Travel solo to rejuvenate. If you have responsibilities to care for others – parents, children, friends – taking some time to travel solo, to make yourself a priority for a while, will make you better able to care for those important people in your life.
  4. Travel solo and avoid frustrating others. It’s only fair. When traveling with others there has to be some give and take. However, if you’re still not getting enough of what you want from a trip, go solo. Don’t drag people where they don’t want to go.
  5. Travel solo as a gift to others. Sometimes, doing something selfish is actually giving a gift to someone. I believe this to the case with Jim. He has been generous with his time and planning talents. He has gifted them to his wife and mother-in-law. Now his wife would like to gift to him the time to follow his own travel dreams.
  6. Travel solo because the guilt is unnecessary. In my experience, those people who carry guilt often have the least reasons to feel guilty. Natural caregivers and those who are thrust into care giving roles may find it difficult to shed the responsibilities and travel solo. It may be hard work to do so but you should take care of yourself once in a while knowing that there is no reason to feel guilty doing so.

Know that solo is not selfish.

Go for it Jim.

  • The Digital Gypsy

    I am so happy you wrote about this topic because it’s one that not everyone wants to talk about. Guilt can be a taboo subject! I definitely think that solo travel is an important experience for self growth and if someone makes you feel bad for wanting to do it, it’s probably because they’d love to be doing it themselves. If it’s self-inflicted guilt then you need to get over it asap because it could impact how you feel on your travels and spoil a wonderful trip.

  • Haitham Chérif

    I have my first solo travel in about two months, and i just can’t help feeling guilty, give me some advise or pep talk plz.

  • James

    I am the “Jim” that Janice wrote about in the above blog. I wanted to say thank you to her, and all of those who responded. Here we are about a year later and after taking my wife and M-I-L to Hawaii last fall I am now planning my first ever solo trip to Europe in September. Since I really wanted to make it happen I bought a non-refundable business class flight into Rome and out of Paris three weeks later. Then I bought my rail pass (cheaper than point to point tickets) so now I’m committed to go. I so look forward to the experience, and the fear, or traveling alone and making all my own decisions, getting lost and perhaps turning down some unplanned street/road just because it looks interesting. This is a great blog, and in addition to what Janice wrote about me I’ve learned so much from reading about the solo experiences of her readers. Many thanks.

  • Happy

    I have been traveling solo for 20 years. My husband was not interested in going and did not want me to go, but I did anyway. I never felt guilty, he loved to work at his business all the time. I met many other solo travelers who had the same situation. I waited on him until I was 51 years old, I knew I was not getting any younger and I was not going to let go of my life dreams. I am so glad that I took the trips. I did not feel guilty, he had what he wanted in his business. Since that time I have had cancer, I am so glad I followed my dreams, now it is a lot harder to do. Go any enjoy!!!!! You do not know what tomorrow holds.

  • arleeda

    When my husband developed vascular dementia (which isn’t as bad as it sounds) and could no longer travel, we moved to a retirement community near our kids so that he could get regular meals and there was family in case of emergency. He died of a stroke about 15 months later–luckily I was home, and sometimes wonder how guilty I would feel if I had not been. However, I was there and now have every reason to travel alone and I do. Because of my age I generally take guided small group tours, but truth is one is still alone with these groups-I just don’t have to worry about details and what would happen if I have a stroke.

  • Zoe

    Great advice. :)

  • lucy

    I am afraid I will feel lonely and selfpity will take over me for not having someone to travel with

  • Corinne Vail

    Life is a balance; I think that everyone should define their wants and needs and be supportive of their partner’s….just like Jim’s wife.

  • Susan

    It is also important to remember ‘the wife’, for many summers in a row this was me …. while my husband bicycled for two weeks I stayed at home, enjoying the chance to change my schedule. We still do solo and appreciate each other much more when we share our stories.

  • Deborah Fortuna

    I will be 64 yo soon. I plan to put all my things in storage, sell my car, and travel for however long it takes. Sometimes I feel a little “guilty”, but I’m overcoming that. Reading this blog has really helped. Since I’m not leaving until November, I plan to start my travel in Australia, tour that area of the world then move on to India and Europe. Thanks for your inspiration.

  • Janice Waugh

    Right on Carol. Enjoy!!!

  • carol

    I like what Rebecca wrote. The guilt is the problem of the other person.
    Life rushes on. I have started solo traveling, 62 years old, can’t wait, health
    may not continue as long as one wishes. Am married, spouse does not want to
    travel. Need to make ME happy now.

  • axrl

    Offering oneself the privilege of travelling solo is just the thing to do. Bravo!
    And be assured that whatever your wife may say as she is informed of your intentions you will not for a second be all that much missed. Your wife is going to have a swell time when you are gone. All women do.

  • Janice Waugh


  • Jonathan Look, Jr.

    Great points Janice. I also think it is possible to be successful or bring happiness to others unless you are happy yourself. Solo travel need not be constant but for me it is an occasional necessity.

  • Constantinos

    I will give to my self the greatest birthday present ever… I’ll travel solo to Paris ! :) <3 25th May. I just find out your blog, and it's wonderful! <3 from Greece

  • Charlie

    Good points! Guilt is such a difficult emotion to put to rest, it just takes time and effort – travelling is definitely good for the soul.

  • Janice Waugh

    Well said Rebecca.

  • Rebecca Enright

    Learning to let go of guilt is one of the greatest gifts I have been given from solo travel. I initially had it, then let go because I realised how much happier I was. I’m still ‘made’ to feel guilty, but I accept that as a separate issue, which is not my problem, but the problem of the person. Ultimately you have to do what’s best for you, and in turn your own happiness and contentment will reflect well on others :)

  • GaraBee

    Great points, Janice. Guilt is something we put on ourselves and it can be hard to shake off. You only live once, Jim, your wife is encouraging you – so go forth and travel while you still have the energy and enthusiasm!