24 May, 2019

Solo travel and online dating are both obsessions of a modern age – but while one seeps your energy, the other recharges it 

Online dating makes the world go round but it’s not an uncomplicated pleasure. Stay on the ride too long, and you can end up demotivated and emotionally drained.

Surprisingly perhaps, solo travel offers a powerful antidote to the onset of Tinder fatigue. When you travel the world alone, you reclaim a sense of identity. Rather than doubting yourself, you become more optimistic about the world and your place within it.

Here’s six benefits you’ll get from solo travel that’ll free you (at least temporarily) from dating burnout:

There’s zero pressure to be a certain way

One of the most exhausting things about dating is the pressure to be on form. Of course, no-one likes fake but there is an expectation that you’ll be the funniest/wittiest/most switched on version of yourself. There’s no room for, “I feel knackered and hungover, and I haven’t washed my hair in three days”.

Read more: The truth about being single in your 40s

Solo travel is the polar opposite of this. The whole point of it is you can be exactly who you want to be. There’s no need to filter or put your best face on. You simply meet the world on your own terms, without hope or agenda. And, being the champ that it is, the world will step up to the plate and accept you. You can absolutely wear yesterday’s shirt or gulp down three gelatos in a row without anyone thinking less of you for it.

Forget finding yourself: the freedom to merely be yourself is what solo travel is all about.

You can take people at face value

Even the breeziest of dates brings with it a backlog of motive. From the get-go, you’re both sizing one another up and imagining whether you could be together; or which tiny niggles are already raising flags. And that internal voice will perform a similar audit of your own behaviour, too: whether you’re being too loud/lairy, or if your Game of Thrones references are on-point.

When you hit the road solo, you meet a lot of people. Backpacker cafés , hostels, shared train trips: locals and travellers alike await at every new turn. But unlike dating, there’s no look-ahead. You’re not secretly working out when you can leave, because you’re free to at any point. You’re not second-guessing because you don’t have to.

You might see that person tomorrow, or you might never see them again. Or you might become firm friends for five days and then still never see each other again. In dating, this would make things a bit clinical. In solo travel, with the weight off, it becomes altogether more fun and spontaneous.

It’s emotionally energising

Online dating can be great, of course it can. But it can also put you through the wringer. You’re hopeful or crushed or excited or anxious. The pendulum just keeps swinging. With dating, you add extra drama to an already busy life. But with solo travel, the balance veers the other way; you carve out space to think. And that alone can fire you up in a big way.

Read more: A five-step strategy to shaking up your life

Also, unlike a date, there’s no means to an end with solo travel. You may love dating, but it’s unlikely that you relish the process so much that it’s the sole reason you’re there.

A meandering train journey to the Vietnamese hills of Sapa, on the other hand, or a hike through Chilean Patagonia: that is the reason you’re there. Those cheesy tea-towels are right; the joy is in the journey. And because you’re on your own, you can totally soak in the moment. There’s no insecurity, either. With every step, you become more – not less – yourself.

You live in the world, not your phone

Yes, you may swipe right to spark a date, but it doesn’t stop there. Today’s dating etiquette requires a boatload of pre-meet banter. Sometimes it doesn’t even get beyond that stage, but if it does, the messaging element will only escalate. Back and forth you go on WhatsApp, with a physical meet barely putting a dent on the level of messages that get fired across the ether.

Part of this is just life. And yet in solo travel, there’s a lot more incentive to put that phone away. When you’re out in the world, you’re busy exploring it. There’s no distraction; it’s just you versus the chaotic streets of Hanoi, or you and Cartagena’s colourful maze of street stalls.

Instead of burying yourself in your phone, you look out to the world. You take it back to basics and make connections with people. You reap the happiness habit of meeting new friends offline, in a whole ream of weird and wonderful settings. It’s about as far from the smoke and mirrors of online dating as you can hope to date.

One-night stands (in travel terms) are always fun

… because there’s no emotional hangover. The point of a one-night stand is that it’s no-strings fun, but it doesn’t always play out like that. Feelings get in the way, messages get mixed and you can end up totally poleaxed.

Read more: “Why I’ve stopped looking for perfection”

With solo travel however, a one-night stand is invariably a good thing. Star-gazing in the heart of the Jordanian desert. Strolling through the hawker markets of Penang. Glamping out in the Moroccan sand dunes. All these things bring a bucket-load of joy, all the more so because they’re fleeting.

And actually even when you don’t enjoy a travel experience so much say, a bus ride from hell across the Zambian outback you’ll usually look back on it with a kind of “aah wasn’t that crazy” affection. But one-night stands gone bad don’t always carry the same nostalgia.

You create the romance that you want

Romance is one of those slippery qualities that is impossible to pin down in any meaningful way. One man’s Bloom & Wild bouquet is another woman’s cup of tea in bed. There’s no one-size-fits-all and that ends in one of two ways; a.) lingering resentment or, b.) a half-arsed attempt at romance that is actually anything but (read: any generic restaurant offering come Valentine’s Day).

When you solo travel, however, you can curate moments of extraordinary romance all to yourself. You might visit Angkor Wat at sunrise, to see the contours of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer kingdom come alight in a predawn glow. You could camp out high above the cloud forest in the Western Ghats, or snowmobile across Iceland’s vast glacial tundras amid a purple gloaming.

Hazy boat rides down the Mekong, safari bush walks around Zimbabwe, volcano picnics in Belize: travel is brimming with a natural romance that leaves candlelit dinners in the shade. It offers awe and splendour on an entirely different scale.

So instead of losing heart over online dating, let it skip a beat with solo travel. Your soul will definitely thank you.

Images: Shutterstock

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