4 April, 2019

Want to embrace the freedom of being single? Try travelling with a group of like-minded strangers

Hitting your 30s is great, but it also heralds in an unnerving time of change. Friendship groups splinter and reform under the guise of weddings, mortgages and babies. If you’re not at the stage of house-hunting or NCT classes, it can feel horribly like you’re being left behind. This, despite the fact that you’ve probably got bags more freedom and autonomy than your mate who’s just downgraded to a Ford C-Max (the family-friendly choice).

Radha Vyas on a bus ride in Cambodia

This is exactly the situation Flash Pack co-founder Radha Vyas found herself in, when she cast around for someone to join her on a trip to Cambodia a few years ago.

“I was single in my thirties, completely tired of my job and desperate for a holiday,” she recalls. “I racked my brain and my Facebook account but the reality slowly sunk in, I had no one to travel with. All my friends were busy booking holidays to Devon and Maldives with their children or new husbands.”

Read more: Overloaded? Try an unstructured day of play

Radha eventually joined a group tour, but everyone was much younger than her. Her single status stood out for all the wrong reasons. An ice-breaker session where everyone introduced themselves was a particular sticking point. “I felt like I was at an AA meeting but instead of declaring an addiction, I had to declare that I was 32 and past it,” she says.

The stigma of being single

The skyline of Paris, seen from Montmartre

Radha is far from alone in feeling the way that she did. Over half of women and nearly half of men in the UK live alone, in a scene mirrored by the US, Japan and Australia.

A massive 75% of women and 65% of men in Britain haven’t even looked for a relationship in the past year, and the majority of these people say they’re happy being single.

Read more: Tackling burnout with an outback adventure

Yet still, we stick to a culturally conditioned script that “settling down” (whatever that means) is somehow better for you. People who are alone, we imagine, don’t actually *want* to be that way. They’re languishing in some sort of no-man’s land, and can only be rescued by a Disney-esque finale of the couple waltzing off into the sunset.

A still from Lady and the Tramp

Never mind that the divorce rate is climbing all over the world, with one separation taking place every 13 seconds in the US, the home-place of Hollywood happy endings. We stick stubbornly to the dogma that Marriage Is Good and Babies Better Still.

The tonal relevance of Bridget Jones may have waned, but don’t be fooled. We live in a society where Facebook posts about rings and babies continue to hold far and away the strongest currency. Your beautifully filtered snap of the Ayeyarwady river at sunset doesn’t stand a chance.

Solo, single and ready for adventure

Flashpackers in a pool by the ocean in Sri Lanka

What we see on Facebook or Instagram is a microcosm of our attitudes at large. As a demographic, single people are overlooked, or regarded as a little lost or lacking in life purpose.

It’s rubbish, of course. Single people may or may not have purpose, but either way, it’s not a reflection of their relationship status. If anything, being alone gives you greater outlet for self-growth and reflection than your shacked-up pals.

Read more: Five great places with a thriving singles culture

Radha and her co-founder Lee Thompson (pictured below) set up Flash Pack because they wanted to cater for people like themselves, who had – going into their 30s – felt marooned by a cultural dialogue around singledom.

Lee Thompson, co-founder of Flash Pack

Saying that, being single isn’t the defining characteristic of Flash Pack travellers. This isn’t a dating service, or the wanderlust answer to match.com.

Instead, Flash Pack creates a space for people who recognise the value of independence. We acknowledge that there is more to life than the social construct of getting married and having kids. We understand that, while a thirst for adventure might get more upscale as you get older (hence our boutique edge), it certainly doesn’t drop off a cliff just because those around you have become more constrained in their holiday habits.

Empower yourself with group travel

Group travel has such negative connotations. And yet, it is the one element that people on our trips rave about, above all else. “I was worried about awkward small talk but they were such a lovely bunch of people, and I made lifelong friends,” is the gist of many a Flash Pack review (helped, no doubt, by our kindness policy).

Read more: Forget dating and just connect with people

Like being single itself, it seems the concept of travelling with strangers is coated in myth. We imagine it to be claustrophobic or slightly sad, when the reality is, it’s empowering.

Flashpackers at a dinner in Manila, the Philippines

Travellers come away on a high, having met and bonded with other professional 30-40 somethings in the same life stage as them. They’re happy not only to have re-tapped the delight of meeting new people (something that is often bypassed in our day-to-day lives), but also to have done so with strangers who share their values.

Flashpackers drinking tea in the Morocco hills

When you’re surrounded by the same colleagues, friends or family every day, it can be easy to be influenced by their understanding of what’s “normal”. And this might well follow the tired old narrative that being single is not ideal.

Read more: The delights and challenges of dining alone

Travelling with like-minded strangers is a wake-up call. You’ll see straight off the bat that the the “poor singles” cliché is palpably untrue.

The freedom of travelling with strangers

Flashpackers on snowmobiles in Finland

Being single is not some Utopian state. It’s not any better than coupledom. But, crucially, it’s not any worse either.

As Alain de Botton notes in The Art of Travel, “Our responses to the world are moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others.”

Read more: Solo travel cures a very modern insecurity

When you set sail with a group of strangers, you’re not totally on your own. You have the security and moral support of your crew. Yet you’re free from the expectations that normally frame you. You’re at liberty to do and be who you like.

Get out there, see the world and connect with people. Being single gives you wings.


Plot your next adventure

Want to celebrate your single life? Jump aboard with a small group of like-minded solo travellers, on these thrilling getaways to the Great Unknown

Find a beach with your name on in the Philippines 

A beach in the Philippines

Spend two days zipping between hidden caves and coves in the dreamy Bacuit archipelago, glamping out on a secret beach with a private chef and luxury one-man tents. Paddle-board down Loboc River and quad-bike the Chocolate Hills in the country’s lush, tropical interiors. And discover some of the most beautiful, dream-like islands known to mankind.

Hooray, let’s play

Lose yourself in the vineyards and volcanoes of Chile

Chile is home to some of the most diverse and dazzling topography on earth. We get right to the very heart of it, with ramble through rolling wine valleys, erupting geysers and the other-worldly landscape of the Atacama Desert. Plus, white-water rafting, and a day-long hike through the lakes and peaks of the Torres del Paine National Park.

So damn beautiful

Ride a Vespa through the streets of medieval Spain

Flash Pack Vespa adventure in Spain

Learn how to ride an iconic Vespa scooter in this remote and beautiful region of central Spain. With quiet roads that snake past sunflower fields and mountain canyons, there’s plenty of space to practise your newfound skills, coupled with hearty helpings of tapas and local vino in nearby towns come the evening. A totally unique adventure that’ll send your heart a-flutter.

Toot toot, let’s go

Images: Flash Pack and Shutterstock

 

 

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