Few things can be more liberating than holidaying solo, without having to worry about stepping on the toes of friends who may not share your exact interests.
Travelling alone allows you to visit the places that others might not be interested in, says Katherine Chin, a Vancouver-based teacher who travels alone often, because her career limits her travel to the high season, which is when her friends tend not to travel.
“You decide how long you spend sightseeing and what you want to do there. It allows you to spend time getting to know yourself and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. You also meet new people, embark on new adventures, and grow as an individual.”
Katherine was one of several solo travellers to join a Trafalgar guided holiday to Spain, Portugal and Morocco in August. On the same trip was solo traveller Lilia Espino from Australia, who chose this particular trip because it was “pretty good value.”
For Lilia, travelling on a guided holiday allowed her to see “must see” places without any effort. “On your own, you would have to find them. The guided tour included lessons in history and culture which made you understand and appreciate the places you visited.
“It wasn’t just about the places you visited, but also the people you interacted with. It was really interesting to watch the dynamics within the group, and I felt safe being part of it.”
Saving time and money
Katherine, who normally travels independently, says she would recommend travelling on a guided holiday for solo travellers because of the included experiences and conveniences that might otherwise not be available, or available at a higher cost.
“You often save time by avoiding lines, having tickets pre-purchased, and transportation organised. The way guided holidays are organised, you have access to local guides which often give you a more enriching experience since you are getting an in-depth information about a location or artefact.”
Frequent South African solo traveller Natalia Rosa has travelled to over 20 countries on her own, both independently and on guided holidays. “I enjoy both styles of travel, but going on a guided holiday takes the guess-work out of having to plan your holiday, which is great if you’re short on time, on a budget and want to make the most of your trip.
“The old adage of ‘safety in numbers’ also rings true, but more importantly the opportunity to make lasting friendships is well worth the slight awkwardness you’ll feel when you’re first thrown amongst a group of strangers, like a cat among pigeons. Many of the friends I made during these holidays, remain friends today. In fact, some have even joined me on subsequent travels,” says Natalia.
Making memories and finding new friends!
Apart from all of the benefits described, Katherine agrees the one reason she would recommend the most for going on a guided holiday is the friendships and memories made.
“That was the favourite part of my recent trip with Trafalgar. I went on my first tour knowing that most people were travelling with their partners and families. I was not sure how it would be, but I was open to the new experience.
“I started the tour on my own and, by the end, I had established new friendships and created fantastic memories. I loved being able to cross off places from my bucket list but when I look back at photos and think back to my trip, what stands out the most are the nightly gatherings where we reminisced about our day, the inside jokes, the adventures we went on, the meals we shared, and the stories we told.
“Travelling is not only about visiting new places and learning new things. It is about meeting others, sharing experiences, and making lasting memories,” says Katherine
The first step
If you’ve never travelled alone, start by going to a place you have always wanted to go to, Katherine advises. “Do not let the doubt of travelling alone stop you. You will learn things about yourself you never knew, and the excitement of finally crossing that location from your bucket list, will help ease the nerves of your first solo trip.”
Look for kindred spirits to support and inspire you, suggests Natalia. “I belong to a Facebook group called the Solo Female Traveller Network and on any given day there are tales of inspiring women – young and old – who are making their way across the globe on their own fearlessly.
“They share destination and travel tips, schedule meet-ups in cities and bare their souls to fellow solo travellers. They come from all walks of life, religions and countries, ask questions, post photos of their adventures and share quirky little observations while they’re travelling. Most recently, a deaf traveller posted how she’s been travelling in Europe solo for 45 days. The only one stopping you from travelling, is you.”
Your bank balance may be another deterrent, however, because it’s no secret single supplements can be exorbitant. To counter this, look for suppliers that offer single supplement discounts, advises Teresa Richardson, Managing Director South Africa, The Travel Corporation.
“Companies like Trafalgar offer up to 100% discounts on standard single supplements on selected trip departures, so you won’t get stung by the additional charge of travelling on your own. Many of our Europe trips offer single supplement discounts – you just need to check on the Trafalgar website under ‘Holidays for Singles’ or contact your local travel agent to find the trips and departures for the destinations you’d like to visit.”
Solo travel tips
- Always keep in mind general safety, such as keeping your belongings close, being mindful of scams, having both digital and paper copies of your documents, and having your money separated into different places
- Give loved ones an itinerary of where you are going to be, do not share with others where you are staying and take the hotel’s business card with you. If you are going out, make sure you find out a safe way back, watch your drink, and get it yourself
- Research and familiarise yourself with the cultural rules of the country you are visiting. You do not want to inadvertently disrespect the locals or get in trouble
- Try to check maps in the hotel or a café instead of in the middle of the street
- Be open to new experiences that might not have been in your plans. Remember that every experience helps you grow and makes for wonderful stories
- Enjoy your own company but don’t pass up an opportunity to make friends