Published issue of National Geographic Traveller
Are you a life-changer setting out on a volunteer break or sabbatical, or a soulful traveller seeking seclusion and solace? Perhaps you’re looking for love, to learn something new or simply to meet people with similar interests? Or, you might be a business traveller looking to tag a bit of free time onto the back of a work trip. Whichever type of solo traveller you are, you’re in good company.
There are more of us stepping out solo than ever before. And when we do, we aren’t usually alone for very long. “I was separated and the prospect of no more holidays just didn’t bear thinking about,” says solo travel convert, Bridget Foster. “I plucked up the courage to go on a singles holiday to southern Spain. I was petrified, as I’d never even spent the night alone in a hotel. But I met another single lady and we started travelling together. We’ve had so many amazing trips to Iceland, Norway, Jordan, Egypt, to name a few, which would never have been possible if I hadn’t taken the plunge and booked that first trip.
In some cases, solo travel results in more than just finding a compatible travel companion. “I was looking for a new way to meet people who were interested in travel and shared a similar passion for seeing the world,” says Kate Radchenko, who lives in the Ukraine. “I joined TourBar, a dating and travel social networking platform that aims to match solo travellers from around the world, and as a result of travelling solo, I met my partner Sana. He’s based in London, so we would have never have had the opportunity to meet unless we’d been encouraged to start travelling alone.
“One of the biggest challenges is reassuring friends and family who haven’t travelled alone that it can be a great experience,” she says. “Many people who haven’t tried it themselves are worried about loneliness when you’re by yourself, but in fact, it can be far from lonely because it puts you in situations where you’re encouraged to speak to new people.”
Read more: Find co-travelers and plan a trip together
Meeting new and like-minded people, as opposed to seeking out a new partner, is a key motivator for many solo travellers. It gives them a chance to share a hobby or interest that perhaps their partners or friends don’t enjoy, or the chance to learn something completely new.
For a different type of traveller, however, journeying solo offers the chance to become immersed in another culture and contribute to a community, with the boom in voluntourism trips largely fuelled by solo travellers