So You Want To Travel Solo? The Expert’s Guide To Going It Alone
Professional holidaymaker Nadia El Ferdaoussi on why you don't need a plus one to see the world.
Travelling alone still carries a bit of a stigma, especially for young women. But go to any hostel in Europe or South America though, and you’ll meet lots of solo female travellers from Australia and Canada. So how come we Irish are reluctant to leave the group and fly solo?
Is it becauxse it might look like you have no friends? Are people going to think you’re a loner? Is it only for single people? No, no, no, these are all stereotypes and none are true. You don’t need to be a backpacker either (although, undoubtedly hostels are the single best place for, er, singles to mingle). I’m a travel writer and I’ve never owned a backpack in my life, so don’t let that deter you.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to travel to the Philippines but the islands aren’t on your friends’ radar. Perhaps Croatia is your bucket list destination, but your boyfriend can’t stand the heat. Possibly you’re more of an adventure gal and your BFF wants nothing more than to lay horizontal for a week. Or maybe you just want a break alone, simple as that.
One of the main reasons people travel solo, says G Adventures CEO (that’s chief experience officer) Nikola, is after a major life change. Almost half of the adventure travel company’s passengers are solo and of those, 68% are female.
The Croatian skipper sees a majority of solo passengers on his sailing trips in Croatia and Montenegro, although the stats are the same worldwide on their group tours. He says, “people book alone last minute after a relationship break up, or a family tragedy”. It’s less ‘finding yourself’ and more being a bit anonymous, you can tell the people you meet as much or as little about yourself as you like. There’s little to no judgement when you’re with likeminded individuals who really “get it”. They may be travelling alone for the same reasons as you, but either way, it’s seen as the norm.
Travel blogger Ciara of mysuitcasediaries.org shares her personal experience; “Travelling solo seemed like such a terrifying concept to me when I was younger and something I wouldn’t have felt confident doing. I wouldn’t even go for lunch on my own! Over the past ten years I’ve become more secure and comfortable in my own company, I find that I crave solo travel more. The freedom to see what you want, when you want, at your own pace is delightfully selfish!”
I asked solo traveller Gemma, from Brighton, why she loves going it alone. She agrees that solo travel isn’t lonely, “it gives you the freedom to do what you want without being restricted by anyone. Mingling at hostels finding out what other solo travellers are doing allows you to either join in or just do your own thing without offending each other.” Gemma says, “it’s a real break, because you don’t need to worry about someone else”. South America is her favourite place to travel alone. In fact, according to G Adventures, Peru is one of the post popular destinations among solo travellers on their trips. And it’s not only people in their early twenties enjoying this style of travel, “the average ago of our solo traveller is 33” G tells me.
journalistontherun.com blog owner, Janet, is no stranger to solo travel and her biggest tip for travelling alone is about just that; “Ignore what your parents told you about talking to strangers and try make friends with everyone and anyone. I talk to people on the planes, ferries, trains, hostels….any chance to make a new travel friend. So many good things have come of talking to strangers and I’ve even made lifelong friends and met amazing travel buddies this way”.
But what about safety, I hear you ask? Janet shares some advice, “Always tell someone in your hotel or hostel where you are going. Even if it’s just out for dinner or a drink, let the receptionist know. That way if anything should happen at least someone will know where you are. Also, share your travel itinerary with your parents or friends to give both parties piece of mind.”
One of the most popular articles on Janet’s blog, ‘9 Things That Only Happen When You Travel Solo’ sheds some insight into the weird and wonderful things that happen when you travel alone. Being a solo traveller doesn’t necessarily mean travelling alone though, lots of travel companies organise small group tours with no single supplement that are very attractive to anyone wanting to travel on their own.
Travel Department MD, Sara Zimmerman says, “we’ve always worked hard to look after customers who travel on their own. In the past, there has maybe been a bit of a stigma about travelling by yourself, but fortunately that seems to have gone now and travelling ‘solo’ is a massively growing trend. Travel Department offers ‘Solo Friendly’ holidays which are designed specifically for people travelling on their own and do not charge a single room supplement. There’s always someone around to chat to, but if our passengers want time to themselves that’s not a problem either.
Not surprisingly, solo travellers tend to enjoy the same destinations and types of holiday as everyone else. That means for us that Italy is the number one destination, with other popular choices including Spain, Iceland and Portugal. Last year we saw a huge growth in the popularity of long haul holidays for solo travellers, with 20% choosing destinations further afield, such as Russia, India and China.”
According to travel search engine, KAYAK.ie, London is the favourite destination for single travellers from Ireland followed by New York and Bangkok. Interestingly Irish solo travellers prefer far flung destinations according to their search data, with 11 of the top 20 destinations being long-haul. The US is the favourite country for solo travellers to fly out to with 7 cities represented on the top 20 list, followed by Spain.
Travel expert with KAYAK.ie, Suzanne Perry says, “Travelling alone is a special and unique experience that everyone should at least try out once in their life. It allows you to broaden your horizon, as you are getting out of your comfort zone to discover new and diverse places. Our useful search tools such as the ‘Explore’ feature gives inspiration for your next trip within your set budget and KAYAK’s Heatmap displays the closest hotels in a destination based on your interests, whether it’s shopping, culinary, nightlife or sightseeing”, making it easier to plan your next solo travel adventure!
This article first appeared in STELLAR’s September issue. Our October issue is on shelves now!
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