As society breaks free from the pressures caused by the Covid pandemic, a rise in people choosing to go on holiday on their own begins again. Even before coronavirus, an upward trend in single person holidays was already underway. But what’s it like to be in a foreign land all alone and why do people do it?
As the sea wind sprinkled her face with salty fragments of sand and her toes kissed the cool, crystal clear water, she thanked herself for making this decision.
As she stood, facing out to the ocean’s edge of Imorigue Bay, in the paradise setting of Languasian Island in the Philippines watching the sunset, Anu Verma thanked the addict inside her, the voice that couldn’t say no to the high she got from travelling.
“Originally, I booked a travel ticket for six months.” Anu proclaimed, smiling as lost memories of her adventures pierced her thoughts.
“But I just got addicted. There was only meant to be like America, Australia, Southeast Asia and then back home.
“I ended up travelling for 16 months.”
Not only did Anu discover the globe over ten months longer than initially planned, but she did all this as a solo traveller.
And she could well be considered an early pioneer of a recent growing trend of people choosing to take trips alone.
Even before the world pressed the pause button of normality when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, the rise in the solo traveller had already begun.
People were becoming more independent, debunking the myth that travelling alone was for those that couldn’t find someone to take a trip with.
Bridget Smith, a London-based travel writer who has visited over 70 countries as a solo traveller, compiled some statistics around solo travel trends and speculated the strains of various lockdowns could be the cause of an upward trend of people going it alone.
She said: “Sadly, during lockdown, other stats have shown that relationships have suffered, and there could well be that there have been breakdowns in relationships and people are now looking at a different way of travelling.”
Ms Smith, who documents her solo adventures in a blog under name The Flashpacker, also thinks another reason more people are holidaying alone is that after two years of various types of containment and restrictions on travel, older generations feel that time has slipped away from them, and they need to make the most of the time they have left.
According to her studies, the term ‘solo travel’ tripled in online search engines from January 2015 to January 2020.
Another emergence of the last decade has been that of the solo travel operator. These holiday providers cater specifically designed vacations for singles but put them into a group setting with fellow solo travellers. This allows the traveller freedom to explore new destinations on their own schedule whilst offering the chance of companionship with others with the same independent mindset.
Ms Smith, who has taken over a dozen of these group tours, insists they are the ideal way to introduce new people to trips on holiday alone. She said: “It can be an excellent way for solo travellers to take that first step.
“I always say if you’re nervous (about going on a first solo trip), think about taking a group tour because there’s safety in numbers, and you’ve got ready-made travel companions.
“Because the other big concern about solo travel, which is backed up by statistics, is the fear of loneliness.”
One such solo travel company is Just You, an operator that prides itself on crafting holidays specifically for solo travellers.
Managing Director Nicole Mason explained customers who book with them come from the whole spectrum of society. She said: “We’ve got all sorts of different people travelling with us. They could be widowed, divorced, they’re just on their own, or actually, they’re married but they just don’t like the same type of holidays.”
Ms Mason believes the stigmatism around solo travel has disappeared over the last five years, describing it now as ‘quiet cool.’
And with light finally appearing at the end of a long Covid tunnel, the guys at Just You confirmed they are seeing people flocking back to booking their solo trips.
“Post-Christmas really, we have seen booking, not quite at 2019 pre-pandemic levels, but they are going in the right direction.”
The data put together in The Flashpacker blog cites 6.7 million posts on Instagram are tagged with the hashtag #solotravel.
That indicates that people from all over the world, from all walks of life, are discovering, and then returning to tripping alone.
Rebecca Crowe, a confessed solo traveller, loves the fact that she answers to no one but herself when on holiday. She said: “Really you don’t have to answer to anyone or compromise.
“If you want to get up early and sit and people watch all day you can, if you want to change your plans and stay in one place longer or just pop into different places, you don’t have to factor in other people’s wants and needs.
Some find travelling alone can help with grieving. Stuart Harrow discovered travelling alone after suffering a tragic loss. He said: “I sadly lost my wife Natalie to cancer four years ago so it’s by design rather than choice.
“I felt it was still important to chase dreams and take the trips we’d planned together. I also appreciate the occasional change of scenery far more than I used to thanks to the Covid-related lockdowns.”
And Amu, who admitted she has lost friends after turning them down on their offer of a holiday, admits travelling alone helped her through some difficult times.
“I used to say, I’m going to go find myself because I was a bit lost as well.
“Cause I’ve got a bit of a history of childhood trauma.
“A lot of it links to that, you know, I just want to escape, it was soul searching and I went to very spiritual places where I did like my retreats.”
It’s clear that although there isn’t one reason for the upward trend in people deciding solo travel over the last ten years, it is something that can be beneficial, healing, spiritual and most of all, liberating, safe and fun, however far from home you are.