There are no black and whites in life. Married people might be deliriously happy and single people miserable, or vice versa. Modern life also brings with it a labyrinth of flexible relationship options. We might live alone, with a lover, or in shared housing (with our lover nearby). But as more and more of us choose to be single, we understand better what it means to be alone.
Whereas once, a societal script read that singledom was the domain of the sad and lonely (cheers, Bridget Jones), now we know that it can be – shocker – A Good Thing. In fact, it may easily be one of the most liberating and empowering experiences that life has to offer. From self-reliance to greater openness, here’s why being single can enhance your experience of travelling the world…
You’re naturally sociable
The greatest joy of hitting the road solo is the ability to meet new people. Data shows us that single people naturally excel at this, thanks to an in-built ability to connect. A 2016 study found that single people are more sociable than their married counterparts, and more likely to reach out to those around them. Married people, in contrast, have a greater tendency to be insular. “Single individuals are more likely to frequently stay in touch with, provide help to, and receive help from parents, siblings, neighbours, and friends than the married,” the researchers from Boston College and the University of Massachusetts said. “Being single increases the social connections of both women and men.”
Contrary to common perception, single people are far from unattached. A recent study showed that people who class themselves as single are just as likely as those in relationships to seek out intimacy, and have around the same level of attachment figures that they rely on for comfort and support. But while married people tend to hunker down with their attachments, single people look outwards. Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule but it’s still good news if you’re solo and heading for a spot of adventure.
In the old days, we assumed that no-one was single by choice. They were simply biding their time, waiting for the right person to come along. Nowadays, the number of single people is higher than ever before and we’re suitably enlightened. A growing body of research points to the fact that many people are actively choosing to be alone – in part because of the benefits of solitude this allows them. In a recent sample of people who described themselves as “single at heart,” 95 percent said they savoured the thought of being alone, while just 5 percent were worried about being alone. Little wonder that single people are more likely to hold “a sense of continued growth and development as a person”, as this separate piece of research shows.
If you travel the world, you’re likely to have moments when you’re alone. If you’re uncomfortable with this, you might find things tricky. You may even start to feel insecure with any experiences that oblige you to spend time solo (a long train trip, say, or a hotel stay where you’re not likely to meet other people). On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who can feel confident using that time for reflection and enjoyment – well, you’ll have the travelling gig nailed.
If there’s one thing we know that travel is brilliant for, it’s the voyage of self-discovery that mirrors your actual journey. “Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind,” declared Roman philosopher Seneca. American author and activist Helen Keller went one step further, saying, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Single people are arguably best placed to exploit this sense of adventure that life throws up at every turn. And when they do, they have more time to use it as a means for rewarding growth. This again, goes back to the point of having greater head space. “Research has shown that there are some profound rewards associated with living single, including more personal growth and development,” says Bella DePaulo, a project scientist at the University of California Santa Barbara who has conducted extensive analysis into what being single in a modern age means.
Read more: Travelling the world after loss
One longitudinal study of US adults showed that single people were more likely to agree with the statement, “I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself and the world”. Whereas married people were more likely to agree with the statement, “I gave up trying to make big improvements or changes in my life a long time ago” – and their agreement with this became stronger the longer they were married. That’s not to say all marriages are bad. Or that all single people will love travelling. But if you are single, you hold an advantage when it comes to making the most of the vast and colourful opportunities afforded by travel.
So, to recap: if you’re single, you’re more likely to reach out to other people, but you’re also happy to be alone, and you possess greater scope for self-development via travel, Sound like a win? We think so.