Going solo: why travelling by yourself is always a good idea

— by Adrienne Wyper


Photo: Alena Darmel for Pexels


Going on holiday by yourself is an opportunity to put yourself first; to take care of your own needs and wants. You don’t have to take anyone else’s opinions into account: what to do, where to go, how long to stay… anything! You have the freedom to go back to the hotel for a nap, breakfast in the same café every day, go on a really long detour to catch a glimpse of a painting you’ve always wanted to see, ignore a local must-see sightseeing spot because it doesn’t appeal to you…

My first solo trip, in my 20s, was walking near Malham in Yorkshire, staying in a youth hostel, and on my first morning I was terrified by the sound of a chainsaw in the woods. As a city-dweller, I associated it with horror films, not woodland management. Then as I passed the bloke wielding it… he gave me a friendly wave. My last trip was a few months after my dad died, in my 50s, when I felt a desperate need to focus on my loss. I booked three days in a smart split-level flat near Whitstable on the Kent coast.

In between I’ve taken myself off to Devon and Pembrokeshire, several European cities, a Greek island, and, while working in Tokyo, to Kyoto, Hiroshima, a tiny island, and Bali. My friend and former colleague Fiona has been ‘to or through’ 40 countries. She says she used to much prefer solo travel – the freedom, the challenges, the newness of the places and people, the mental space to just ‘be’ – but mostly because it gave her a lot of confidence, and educated her socially, culturally and politically about the world.


Photo: Marissa Grootes for Unsplash


Travel trend

More people are now choosing to go solo, with a 5% increase in the year to August 2023, according to Abta, and lots of them are women, according to travel trade statistics, with around two-thirds of escorted tour customers being female. And over-50s specialists Saga found women over-50 were twice as likely to want to travel alone than men.

After becoming anxious in recent years, with the worry of Covid and other age-related health issues, Fiona is heading off on her own again: currently learning Greek for a solo trip to Kefalonia and Athens. ‘I’m very glad to have got my travel mojo back post pandemic. I didn’t realise how much my sense of identity is linked to travelling solo.’


So what’s stopping you?

According to a 2020 survey, safety is the number-one concern for women, followed by spending time alone, getting lost, and the cost.

Personally, I’ve never felt in danger when on holiday alone (apart from descending an extremely steep hillside while lost in Greece, thinking ‘if I fell and broke my leg now, I’d be lying here for a long time…’), and I take the usual sensible precautions like avoiding dimly lit areas that feel dodgy.

When you’re in a new location, the simulation of being in a new environment overrides any potential feelings of loneliness, I’ve found. I do end up talking to people, and have spent whole days and evenings with new acquaintances. And with a smartphone, you’re never alone; it’s easy to stay in touch with friends and family back home.

Also thanks to the smartphone, getting lost is harder now – as long as you have a signal. If you have a guidebook and a map (folding paper or digital download) and can ask people, it rarely happens, although see above! Another time, in Japan, I couldn’t work out where I was, and ended up getting an extortionate taxi to my local station – 200 yards down the road!

And as for cost, it’s true that some tour operators and hotels charge a single supplement for not sharing a room, although, good news, this is changing. I have shared with a stranger once; we got on well and went for dinner together, then after a few days she went to do a diving course, and I had the place to myself.


Photo: Zeb Zakovics for Unsplash


One downside is that it can sometimes feel like hard work if you’re having to plan transport, book accommodation, navigate and deal with another language. But you can just take a quiet day at the earliest opportunity to balance the ‘work’ and leisure. And all that decision-making, problem-solving and being self-reliant is empowering.

Being on your own in a bar or restaurant can make you feel self-conscious, at least at first, but reading a book, writing a journal, planning tomorrow’s activities and doing whatever you want/need on your phone keeps you too busy to be bothered. And you can always enjoy some people-watching – and listening, without your own conversation drowning out those interesting snippets.

Memorable solo dining moments include chatting to the Greek waiter who kept bringing me more olives while watching a storm out at sea, lightning flashes illuminating the lilac sky; tucking into a vegetarian feast while watching Balinese dancers; walking past umpteen restaurants to find the one that appeals most – to me, not the compromise that suits the majority of the group. And sometimes I’ve just had beer and crisps watching TV in a hotel room.


First time

You could do a one- or two-nighter near where you live, so you’re not away for long, and there’s no foreign-language worries. Or join an organised group trip, where like-minded individuals travel together.

And now I’ve written this, I really, really want to go away by myself. Maybe later in the year…


Adrienne Wyper is a health and lifestyle writer and regular TNMA contributor. 




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