Here's to solo travelers, the rapidly growing breed of folks who strike out on their own to experience the world - even if a usual companion isn't willing or able to go along for the ride. More than 30% of the guests at my adventure travel company Classic Journeys are individuals traveling on their own, a happy trend that's confirmed by many industry surveys. A significant majority of solo travelers are women and, according to an AARP study, more than half of them are married.
Why they're traveling solo is as varied as the places they go, but one thing I can say with certainty: Solo travelers are in good company. Solo vacation is good for the soul and if you travel in the context of a small-group guided tour, you can have an adventure, enjoy some me-time, and make it all happen without ever feeling too solitary.
After years of working with solo travelers, I know many who treasure this style of travel. One thing I hear repeatedly is, "It's amazingly liberating to take my own vacation on my terms and nobody else's!" It's a great way to dig into an interest that may not shared by a spouse or friends. And if the usual suspects would rather get in a week of golf or just can't see themselves harnessed onto a zip line like you, that's no reason you shouldn't wave goodbye and wish them a good time.
A traveler planning a trip to Iceland recently told me, "My sisters would never vacation anywhere that would require them to pack a heavy sweater and a hat. It actually felt good when I said, 'Well, that's okay. I'm going anyway.' And I had a blast."
Speaking of companions, one of the great benefits of solo travel in this "group setting" is the chance to broaden your circle of friends. That sounds contradictory, I know, but I see this through the lens of solo travelers who go out on their own by joining small-group tours. You are immediately in the company of like-minded travelers. (The only way to hike the Inca Trail is with folks who have dreamed of that experience as long as you have.) Travel friendships often last after you get home, but even if they don't, the time you spend in the company of people who are new to you can be really refreshing.
A common and understandable fear of a potential solo traveler is that you'll feel too much like a party of one. Who wants to be that person standing at the front desk of the only inn in town when you learn that your reservation is nowhere to be found? In fact, it's really easy to experience just the opposite: the sense of being looked after and also in control of what you're doing. In the case of Classic Journeys trips, an expert local guide is right there for you 24 hours a day. With someone to guarantee hotels, handle transportation, and arrange activities, you can bask in what feels like honored-friend status.
Of course, a vacation-for-one isn't for everybody. But I am going to continue to advocate for the idea because I see how it rewards travelers with a craving to see the world. The independence and the chance to vacation on your own terms are very appealing factors. Traveling on your own can be the pause that really refreshes your spirit. Heck, it will even make you part of one of the biggest travel trends there is.
You owe it to yourself.