According to Google, requests for solo travel are up 761.15%! In 2022, 16% of people in the US took a solo trip and in 2023, 25% of Americans or 83 million people, are considering a solo trip. What does this huge increase in solo travel mean and who are these solo travelers? (That's me traveling by myself in Peru.)
Women over 50 have long made up a large portion of this group. According to Solo Traveler online magazine, "Currently 85% of solo travelers are women." Forbes Magazine quotes the difference as "63% women and 37% men." So men are traveling solo too! Today the average age of a solo traveler is 47, so younger people are also getting involved.
Whichever study you prefer, it’s clear that lots of people are going solo and are not afraid to head off to distant lands seeking the world's beauty by themselves. Will you be next?
WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT?
Solo travel has increased dramatically since the pandemic and one reason may be that lockdown gave all of us time to think about what’s most important. Many created bucket lists and then realized if they want to see these places before they die, they can’t wait for others to join them and simply have to go on their own. Once people try a solo trip and enjoy the benefits, they are glad to do it again!
Solo travel offers many personal growth benefits including:
Learning to handle unexpected situations
Making stronger connections with strangers than you would if you were with a friend
Becoming more independent and aware of your own mind
Refining your decision-making abilities
Becoming more present in the moment and more mindful in your everyday life
Another benefit of solo travel includes being able to immerse yourself more fully in a new culture. Without a friend or family member by your side, you’ll find yourself trying out local customs and being treated less like a tourist and more like just another person in the place. When strangers discover you are traveling alone, they are more eager to talk with you, to invite you to come to their home, or to show you something most visitors never see. You’ll find yourself on unforgettable adventures you never would have had if you were traveling with someone else.
Traveling alone can also be a hotbed of inspiration. More and more travelers are hitting the road solo in order to work out the next part of their life plan or to stimulate their creativity for their next project. A change of scenery often brings a new perspective and can shake you out of your old ways of thinking. It’s harder to think differently when someone you know well is there and keeps pulling you back to your past. Who might you be alone in a new situation? The results of solo travel could send your life in a completely new direction.
If you’ve ever tried to travel with a group or even your partner, you’ll remember many moments where you and your companion(s) stood around trying to decide where to go to dinner or whether or not you’d like to take a walk or take a taxi around a city. Making decisions with others can be hard and it’s likely someone in the group ends up doing things they don’t really want to do. Imagine what it would be like if you made every choice on your own and everything you did was exactly what you wanted to do. Wasn’t it Sartre who said, “Hell is other people?” Maybe it’s time for you to experience this slice of heaven for yourself.
Yes, traveling on your own can have its downsides and if you might be getting ready to try it, I would want you to be aware of them. I’ll include how I deal with them as well:
1) Unwanted attention - some locals see a solo traveler as someone who either needs a friend/date or someone who might be easy to rob or manipulate.
Solutions - Use your big city smarts and stay alert. Dress like a local. Avoiding being jostled or approached by an unwanted stranger. Don’t flash your cash or electronics. Bring a book to restaurants or listen to books or music on your phone. Ask an unwanted stranger to leave you alone. Call over a waiter or a bystander and ask them to ask the person to leave you alone.
2) Loneliness - Sometimes you just wish someone you knew was there to experience this with you.
Solutions: FaceTime and What’s App are your friends. Connect with people from home and tell them about your adventures. If you’re in another time zone, leave a long What’s App voicemail. Or talk to someone new and see what they think of the place you’re in.
3) Awkwardness - Get ready because it’s going to be awkward! Cultural differences can freak you out and you’re bound to get nervous and even afraid in situations that seem uncertain, like if you get lost or need something you don’t know how to ask for.
Solutions: Breathe. Take a minute and feel your feet on the ground. Get present in your body. Relax. Use your phone to look up information. Ask someone who seems approachable. Forgive yourself for being a dork because all solo travelers are dorks sometimes. Live through this moment and you can laugh about it later.
One way to travel on your own yet also have the opportunity to both stay safe and enjoy the company of a small group of new people would be to select a small group journey or expedition ship for your solo adventure. This way you can check a destination off your bucket list and travel trouble free even though you’re going it alone. You’ll still have that reflection time and that feeling of reinventing yourself yet you can do it in an easy environment and experience some fantastic guiding and pre-planned experiences along the way. Expedition ships, I find, are particularly wonderful for generating contemplation and inspiration.
Another way to travel alone yet to do it safely and easily is to plan a custom trip with your own driver and guide. If you’re craving freedom and want to be flexible yet also want to feel extra safe and receive great information about your destination, a private custom trip is a great way to go. Many of my solo travelers who want a tailor-made set of experiences and who enjoy their own company travel this way.
If you’re a solo traveler, I hope you felt yourself nodding up and down in agreement over a few points in this article. And if you have never traveled alone, I hope you’ll consider it. Some psychologists have determined that people who travel alone tend to be more open, more conscientious, more outgoing, and more emotionally stable. Even if you try it and don't like it, you'll come home knowing more about yourself than you did before you went.