Does the thought of travelling alone fill you with abject horror? Or do you get a thrill at the idea of setting off on holiday on your own?
The fact is, solo travel is on the up, with more of us travelling solo than before the pandemic and American women ranking first in frequent solo travel. Yes, not only is solo travel on the up, but it’s mainly women that are on the go. So, what’s driving this desire to travel alone? And what are the key issues to consider when planning a solo trip?
As an experienced traveller, and leader of hiking tours in Europe that are made up of a significant number of solos, I have first-hand experience of just how life enhancing travelling on your own can be, whatever your age.
But nevertheless, that first solo holiday experience can be daunting, particularly if it’s your first foray into the world of travelling as a single. Our hikes and leisurely dinners provide us with ample opportunity for long and enlightening chats with several of our more independent guests who have shared some of their thoughts.
It seems that the pandemic has changed us in several ways, not least our determination to get things done. We’ve seen how easily our world can change and many of us have emerged post-pandemic with an urge to see the world right now.
It may be as a result of a tragic loss, or simply a feeling of not wanting to wait around, but there’s a sense that we’ve learnt the importance of seizing the moment. Planning when we take holidays, and coordinating with other people can be difficult, particularly with friends or a partner who lives independently, so sometimes you just need to bite the bullet, book your dream holiday and set off.
Quite apart from the logistics of organising dates, there’s the question of shared interests. As we get older and possibly have more time for ourselves, the need to develop new interests, or indeed, pursue existing ones, becomes ever more intense. And, of course, while travelling certainly qualifies as an interest in its own right, incorporating a passion for, say, art, literature, walking or wine into a holiday is a wonderful way to expand your horizons.
So what if your partner doesn’t share or isn’t able to follow the same interests? Step forward into solo travel! Many of our guests join our groups as solo travellers, leaving behind partners who simply don’t have the same passion for hiking or love of the great outdoors.
Nevertheless, solo travel can be daunting and many of us share entirely understandable concerns around loneliness, safety and possibly the fear of ill health.
If this is your first solo trip, travelling as part of a group may be a happy compromise. Above all, it allows you to travel to places you might feel unsafe in alone. While exploring a major town or city on your own is one thing, hiking through a national park is completely different.
Quite apart from the logistics of getting there, and possibly needing to rent a car, exploring as part of a group allows you to get right off the beaten track while still enjoying peace of mind. It also eliminates the need to stress about planning hiking routes or where you’re going to eat.
Not sure whether you’ll enjoy eating on your own? While there’s much to be said for solitary dining, if you’re in the camp that believes meals are made for sharing, then joining a group may be the answer. With the right group, you should still get to experience the very best local food, washed down with some excellent wine and sparkling conversation.
Don’t be too hard on yourself or feel that you need to prove anything. Even taking the tiniest step out of your comfort zone is a step in the right direction. While you may approach your first solo travel experience with a certain amount of trepidation, in fact, the chances are you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come even as early as day 2.
If you are travelling completely independently, take time to acclimatise to your new surroundings and don’t aim for anything too adventurous in the first few days. You need to get used to being on your own against a backdrop of possible language barriers.
However, for solo travellers on group trips, such as a learning or activity-based group holiday, the concerns may be more based on getting on with fellow travellers or the fear of not being able to keep up with the rest of the group.
In fact, you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with some peer support! We see at first hand the exhilaration shared by our guests when they reach the top of a mountain peak or complete a day’s hiking that takes them well out of their normal comfort zone.
Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to ask the organisers in advance about what’s expected of their guests. A well-run group trip should provide comprehensive information and will take account of different abilities with back-up where needed.
If approached right, your solo trip can do wonders for your confidence. So how do you make sure that your solo trip is a positive experience?
Firstly, think about accomplishing something new – whether learning new skills, absorbing new information or achieving new physical challenges. Rather than competing with others, recognise your capabilities.
That way, for example, on a walking holiday, a less experienced hiker will get the same sense of satisfaction and confidence boost on a gentle 5-mile trail through the rolling hills of Tuscany as a super keen energetic hiker will get tackling a challenging 12-mile hike in the heart of the peaks of the Dolomites.
Secondly, embrace the idea of meeting new people. Contrary to what you’d expect, plenty of people who choose to join a group tour may be far less extroverted than you’d imagine, keen to enjoy some quiet time when words aren’t necessary and views can be appreciated without a running commentary.
Rest assured too that if you’re in a group and have a shared interest, you’ll certainly have something in common and will benefit hugely from meeting and exchanging ideas and thoughts with new people.
Have you ever travelled solo, either independently or as part of a group? What were the highlights? Can you share any tips?
Tags Solo Travel