How to travel alone without getting too lonely
While many solo travellers relish the prospect of having some time to explore by themselves, others may feel apprehensive about the possibility of being lonely. It's important to remember that even experienced travellers had to take their first solo trip at some point. But the beauty of solo travel right now is you're not alone in your desire to see the world by yourself.
This is a trend on the up. In 2018 alone, Pinterest saw an incredible 600% increase in searches for "solo travel". Solotravelerworld.com reported that searches for "solo female travel" grew by 52% over the course of a year -- and this doesn't just involve backpackers fresh out of college or university, jetting off for a spot of self-discovery. Solotravelerworld.com's statistics also show that a staggering 86.2% of independent travellers are aged over 35, and that 85.7% of solo jetsetters are female.
So what do the increasing number of people who take holidays by themselves do to ensure that they never feel lonely during their trips? We've compiled tips and advice from experts and seasoned solo travellers to help you set off on your adventure with peace of mind.
What to do when you are travelling alone?
The simple, and exciting, answer to this question is that you can do absolutely anything you want when you're travelling alone. The advantage of travelling without a companion is that your eyes are likely to be more open to your surroundings. You're more likely to talk to locals and fellow travellers, rather than focusing just on the person with you, and you're more likely to explore, too.
Travelling alone can actually be an incredibly sociable experience. There are ways to embrace fascinating cultures, dine on delectably authentic cuisine and explore the wonders of your destination and never feel lonely.
How do you meet people travelling solo?
There are many ways to meet people when you're travelling solo, from booking a place on a group tour and sharing a table at dinner, to signing up for classes and learning how to make conversation with strangers. All travellers have different preferences, so there are lots of methods to choose from.
However, if you'd like to sit on a sunlounger and devour endless amounts of literature then absolutely enjoy the freedom of indulging your inner bookworm completely guilt-free. Solo traveller Rebecca Evans explained:
"So long as I am armed with my Kindle (on solo trips I treat it a bit like Wilson in 'Cast Away': a constant companion, source of emergency entertainment and handy shield against unwanted approach) and a rough plan of things I'd like to do/not do, then being bored isn't even on the radar."
But if you really want to get out there, meet other travellers and locals, and explore while you're in the area, there are many ways you can. Rebecca told us:
"There's often an assumption by those that haven't done it that travelling alone would be lonely or boring but, in my experience, that's never been the case.
"As for being lonely, the world is full of people to talk to, and when we travel with a ready-made source of chat, we largely miss the opportunity to engage with them."
So let's investigate how!
Book a group tour
A group tour is a fantastic way to meet other travellers. Not only that, but you'll have the tour guide to chat with, as well -- they're invariably full of knowledge, so you'll be able to learn a lot about the area, too. The nature of discovering new things together means you'll have lots to talk about.
Rosanna Neophytou is the marketing manager for Tucan Travel, a company that won silver in the Best Small Holiday Company for Singles category at the 2018 British Travel Awards. She explained:
"At Tucan Travel, we run group tours where predominantly 60% of our bookers are solo passengers and a large portion are aged over 50. We don't charge a compulsory single supplement on most tours -- instead they will be sharing a room with someone of the same gender.
"Travelling on a group tour is a great way for people to make friends with people from all over the world without having to worry about logistics, accommodation or safety.
"Many of our destinations are quite off the beaten track, which is why we appeal to solos."
Take a class
Whether you're interested in wellness, cooking, languages, crafts or something completely different, taking a class can be great for socialising. Learning how to cook the local cuisine means you can amaze family and friends when you get home, while taking a language class will vastly increase your opportunities for conversation in that country.
Yoga retreats and classes are also hugely popular and are great for both body and mind, meaning you'll go home recharged and full of happiness from meeting your new friends.
Whatever you choose, the chances are you'll be taking the class with like-minded travellers and locals. Strike up conversations and invite your classmates for coffee afterwards.
Joyce Connor is a makeup artist from Berkshire and regularly travels alone:
"I've met people doing cooking classes, going on an elephant safari, and just chatting to other people who are on their own in hotel restaurants and cafes.
"Day trips are good. You can get chatting to families and once a family invited me on their trip the next day."
Download the app Experiences by Peek to help you discover tours and activities local to where you're heading.
Learn to strike up conversation
Learning the art of beginning conversations can be invaluable in helping to meet new people when you're travelling abroad. Faye Smith from Sheffield shared her solo travel story with us:
"I travelled to Australia for eight weeks solo aged 49. It was my first time ever abroad alone and I went in memory of my daughter who died aged 12. I took her rabbit teddy with me, which was a great talking point.
"I spoke to strangers on public transport and at events, and asked people if I might join them at restaurants. I also took a brilliant game called Chrominoes, which broke the ice!"
Rebecca Evans gave us her tips to initiate communication:
"My top tip would be to make eye contact and smile -- and don't be afraid to be the one to start a conversation if you feel comfortable to do so. I've had a lot of lovely chats with the people next to me in a restaurant, bar or queue for something!"
Eating alone can be one of the more difficult situations for solo travellers, but learning how to speak to people can really help. Sit at the bar or a communal table, strike up a conversation with staff, and if you enjoy the food you can even make yourself a regular during your time in the area.
If you want to eat with fellow travellers and locals, then download the fabulous EatWith app. You can also share a home-cooked meal with locals with the help of the MealSharing app -- fantastic for an authentic experience!
While spontaneity is a wonderful aspect of travelling, planning the basics ahead of time can help you feel prepared and more comfortable meeting people. One of Joyce Connor's top tips is to do research before you go abroad and discover the nearest locations for safety and emergencies, such as local police information.
Joyce explained to us that planning has been the key to her solo travels:
"I do lots of research before going abroad. I also download movies so if I'm going to be alone I have something to watch without Wi-Fi.
"For the first trip, if you're not used to travelling alone, try a country that's likely to speak English so you won't feel overwhelmed by another language."
Planning your accommodation can be a fantastic idea, too. If you're looking for a sociable experience, hostels and B&Bs provide a more interactive experience compared to hotels and resorts.
Planning ahead also includes arming yourself with great apps and travel guides to help you along the way. We've suggested a few already, but a final one to help you along is SoloTraveller which helps put you in touch with other solo adventurers in your area.
If you're feeling apprehensive about your first solo trip, then hopefully these tips and real experiences from experienced travellers will put your mind at ease. Whether you want to explore, learn a new skill or sample the local cuisine, travelling solo will open your eyes to beautiful locations and help you meet fascinating people along the way.