One of my best trips to date was in 2016, when I joined forces with a group of my close female friends for a small epic voyage around Croatia. We’ve been friends since university and despite being comically different from each other, we work pretty well as a collective. I’m reluctant to use the phrase ‘girls’ holiday’- which invokes visions of
penis straws, dodgy tourist pub crawls and badly-filtered Instagram photos captioned ‘take me back!’ – but that’s essentially what it was.
I always credit this particular trip as being a bit of a turning point in my life. I was knee deep in a quarter-life crisis and taking a break from my daily life enabled me to realise that I wasn’t particularly happy with my chosen career, or the way things were heading in general. It was also the catalyst for me changing my views when it came to travel companions. Solo travel is, in my opinion, the best way forward.
Before anyone misunderstands – this is not because I had a terrible time with my friends, quite the opposite in fact. It wasn’t because anyone did anything particularly inflammatory and, to this day, these girls remain some of my favourite people. I would happily travel with all of them again. It was because, during this mini quarter-life-first-world-problem breakdown, I realised how much I enjoy being by myself when I travel. As it turned out, just as it wasn’t weird or unacceptable for me to go my own way and
change up my path in life, it also wasn’t weird if I wanted to go away by myself.
Solo travel has had a bit of a renaissance in the past few years and I couldn’t be more in support of it for anyone, regardless of age, relationship status, or how good you are at looking after yourself. Here are my personal reasons for choosing to hit the road alone (plus a few tips for novices who are thinking about taking the plunge):
YOU DON’T HAVE TO COMPROMISE
Obvious, but I’m going to emphasise it anyway. When you’re a child, you have to go where your parents decide, no arguments. When you’re travelling with friends, it can
be exhausting trying to organise activities that fit everyone’s taste. Travelling in a couple is, in my opinion, the most nightmarish option, because not only are you stuck abroad with the one person you see all the time anyway, you also have the double-pronged disaster of trying to find activities to suit you both and to find conventionally romantic, Instagrammable moments to make everyone jealous so they don’t realise that all you did the whole time was argue.
Travelling solo takes all the planning out of a holiday. You don’t have to plan ANYTHING. Or, if you’re a planner by nature, you only have to organise things for yourself. It may sound selfish but holiday time is precious, why shouldn’t you dedicate it to yourself?
And don’t get me started on the horrors of travelling with children.
FOR NOVICES: plan an entire weekend for yourself in your city, don’t invite anyone else and only do things YOU want to do. If you didn’t go completely insane, maybe
it’s time to book a trip.
IT’S (STARTING TO BECOME) CHEAPER
I recently read an article in the Telegraph which examined the continued rise of travelling alone and how (some) companies are starting to respond to this demand with
appropriate deals. While the single supplement (aka, the sneaky extra amount solo travellers are lumped with in hotels) is still an unfortunate reality, there are an increasing number of alternative options for people travelling alone, be it specially-created guided tours, hotels designed for singles or travel companies that help you plan the best possible trip with the money you have available.
Not to mention it’s cheaper dining out for one. Unless you’re me.
FOR NOVICES: treat yourself to a fancy dinner at a moderately-priced restaurant you like. Go alone. Accept you might feel odd or uncomfortable, but do it anyway and you’ll realise that, actually, it’s not so scary.
YOU’LL PROBABLY MAKE MORE FRIENDS
On my aforementioned trip to Croatia, we actually made several new friends, on account of the fact that we are all super sociable humans. However, travelling in groups or couples can cause a tendency to retreat from human contact with others. This may be no problem for some people but if, like me, you’re something of a social butterfly (or moth),
this can be tough. Solo travel, however, demands that you slip out of your comfort zone and puts you in a position where you can meet new people from all over the place.
If you’re a bit of a bougie person, you might dismiss the idea of staying in a hostel past the age of 21, but in reality, hostels are a fantastic way to maximise a solo trip.
In the past, they may have been slightly dodgy places full of insufferable gap yah students from equal parts Sydney and Surrey (ok, these still exist), but many are cleaner,
more upmarket and cater to all ages. It provides the opportunity to make new friends and, even if you’re not gagging to add anyone to your Facebook army, you’ll at least have some interesting company on offer.
FOR NOVICES: join a club solo or go to an event which requires that you talk to new people.
IT FORCES YOU TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
I am 28 years old and up until last year, I had no clue how to use a washing machine. Until I started travelling by myself, I didn’t know how to manage my money. Until I
moved abroad, I basically called my mum every time I didn’t know how to do something. Being by yourself can be scary, especially if you’re like me and prioritise cake
over almost every sensible decision. Short trips by yourself, however, can be incredibly helpful experiences, in that they teach you to take care of yourself. Trust me,
while nothing is scarier than being lost in an unfamiliar city in the middle of the night where you don’t speak the language, it makes everything else a little less scary.
It goes without saying that tourists are vulnerable, especially solo, and girls, we’ve got to be twice as alert. Read up on your intended destination, research moderately safe areas to stay and, if you’re going somewhere which will involve late nights and partying, don’t walk home alone. Hide your valuables when you’re out in public and DO NOT WEAR YOUR BACKPACK ON YOUR FRONT LIKE SOME SORT OF PRETEND PREGNANCY BELLY. I don’t care what anyone else says, this makes you so conspicuous and you are, in my view, screaming to get robbed.
FOR NOVICES:Plan a small day trip somewhere new, even if it’s just a place in your city. No Google maps allowed.
IT GIVES YOU PEACE
The world is smaller and faster now than it has ever been before. Juggling professional and personal life becomes increasingly difficult and we’re constantly told we need
to be better, do better, work harder, have more money, look different. It’s so easy to get caught up in this. Taking a break helps, but for me, I can only truly unwind when
I’m by myself. Travelling on your own allows you to ignore everyone and everything for a while, and in doing so, really recharges your batteries. You can’t be everything
to everyone all the time, and you especially can’t do it if you’re running on empty.
FOR NOVICES: Turn off your phone and other electronic devices for 24-48 hours. I dare you.