Solo travel is booming right now, as more and more of us are choosing to roam alone in this glorious world of ours. The trend for travelling alone is gaining pace all the time, according to industry experts who appeared at 2017 Abta Travel Convention this weekend. Ben Ross, head of print at the Telegraph, said around 12% of us are now embarking on solo holidays, with more people “taking a conscious decision to travel alone with like-minded travellers”. Our appetite for adventure travel is also growing, the panel said.
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So, why the sudden hunger for adventuring alone? Naturally, the chance to trek the Colombian rainforest or cycle through ancient ruins in Sri Lanka is not to be missed. It’ll provide a hit of euphoria that is hands-down addictive. But the appeal of going it alone reach deeper than that. Unlike a group getaway with loved ones, this kind of travel really fuels self-discovery. If you’re feeling a bit stuck or frustrated in any area of life (relationships, career, future plans), it can open up a path forward. Alone or with a group of like-minded travellers you’ve just met, you have a chance to challenge yourself and see things in a fresh light. The adventure part builds confidence and tenacity, while being solo carves out space to discover things about yourself that you never had room to before.
Below, we hear from various Flashpackers and adventurers who’ve used solo travel to change their lives:
A life less ordinary
“I fell out of love with England a long time ago,” says Kerry-Alia Edwards (pictured above, on her travels).
“After a nasty break-up two years ago, I was again lost in a world which expected a lot from me still. My feeling was that I was trapped. I thought, ‘I am 30 I have no husband no children so I do not fit in’. I’m also different to my friends and I like to challenge myself. I felt like something was missing.”
After finishing her degree earlier this year, Kerry-Alia decided to go travelling. She even threw a graduation party, where she announced her plans to friends and family by playing a video. “I was excited, and expected whooping and cheering,” she says. “Instead, I got a sea of tears and ‘Oh no you can’t!'”
Undeterred, she set out. “It’s scary and confusing at times, yet you feel alive,” she says. “Make sure you get a good phone network. You think you don’t need a phone, but it’ll come in handy when homesickness slaps you in the face unexpectedly.”
Create new horizons
“I worked for a big Canadian grocery store as a full timer,” says Dennon Stein (pictured above). “After they cancelled my vacation on me twice, I quit and did my first solo trip. I spent three months in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It was a life-altering journey that helped me make the decision to go back to school. This will also allow me to travel more and I’m planning on another adventure soon.
“It was the best feeling ever,” he adds. “I absolutely loved solo travel. If you keep yourself open, it’s so easy to meet people and you can change your mind on a whim. It was definitely my Eat, Pray, Love trip.”
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This change of perspective was something soon-to-be adventurer Robyn Hathaway craved, too. “I’ve just taken redundancy from where I worked and booked a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia,” she says. “I’m so excited and terrified all at the same time, but after 14 years of working at the same place, it was time for me to move on and see a bit of the real world.
“It’s been so easy to give up on the ideas of travelling I had after university by getting bogged down by the 9-5,” she adds. “I’m so happy I’ve finally got the chance to do this now.”
Break free from routine
In her old life, Kelley McVay (pictured above) was an HR business partner. She worked at the same prestigious New York company for over 10 years before deciding to shake things up.
“I was starting to get frustrated at work because, while I was still fulfilled in my role, it was obvious that there weren’t any further growth opportunities for me,” she says. “I discussed my feelings with my leadership team, and we looked at other opportunities but nothing panned out. I eventually came up with the idea to plan a Round the World trip for my 45th birthday. Because taking a month off was not the norm in my industry, I started to discuss it early and booked my flights.”
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Kelley’s trip took her to Dublin, Athens, Istanbul, Agra, Bangkok, Hong Kong and beyond. “I like travelling alone because it lets me go with the flow of what I want to see,” she says. “The only challenge is that you don’t have that person to download and really talk about what you did /saw. That is easily mitigated as I can contact anyone from my life if I get the urge to talk and share.
“I seemed to get the same questions,” she adds. “Where’s your husband? No kids? Travelling alone?”
By the time she was done, Kelley had decided to leave her job and New York for good, and now helps her friend run a guest house in Siem Reap, Cambodia. “I am using this to reinvent myself,” she says. “I’m taking some classes at Portland State University, and start a writing class next week. If I do return to the States, I want to start fresh and not go back to my old life in the City.
“My advice – don’t second guess yourself. Don’t let anyone else talk you out of what you want to do. And don’t do anyone else’s adventure, do yours.”
Images: Kerry-Alia Edwards, Dennon Stein, Kelley McVay