One of the many (and I do mean many) burdens of being British right now is that, despite centuries of invasion, colonization, package holidays and backpacking, there’s still one valuable lesson we haven’t learned from other countries: solo travel with strangers doesn’t have to be scary.
Despite our adoration of giant rucksacks, budget flights and overseas branches of Nandos, we still tend to assume that all other nations share our own uniquely awkward emotional repression and fear of social embarrassment.
This all-encompassing fear of intruding upon others’ time, space or sun lounger is something that seems to affect men more than women.
It’s a tragi-comic lesson we’ve adhered to from the most tender of ages. Go to your average club and watch the battalion of teen-to-twenty-something male wall flowers prowling around. They treat approaching a woman with the amount of natural finesse and style usually reserved for a starving chimp rummaging through a landfill site for the last banana peel.
We’re so terrified of being embarrassed. We fear blushing more than we fear baldness. And this is why men are so reluctant to travel on their own. Even with group travel. Budapest bachelor party with the lads? No problem. Birthday booze-up in Hamburg? I’m there, mate. But what about something a little more adventurous than these male rights of passage which, in essence, are about as mind expanding as an evening spent in the company of your Netflix subscription.
My own experiences of solo male travel over the years have proved the same salient truth over and over again. It’s time the rest of you learned to stop fearing embarrassment and start embracing the exciting possibilities of solo trips for men.
The single male traveler and the kindness of strangers
People in other countries (and I mean, almost any country other than the UK) have an ease of manner and an openness to conversation with strangers that us Brits simply can’t get used to.
For me, it was the German couple who saved me from being homeless on the streets of the capital of Liechtenstein (on the week of the Icelandic ash cloud crisis in 2010, too) by letting me live in their house. The complete stranger who drove me to the only functioning dentist in Maseru, Lesotho, so I could have an emergency operation on my wisdom tooth. The Kiwi sisters who let me live in their penthouse hotel suite in Los Angeles for three days, merely because I, and I quote, ‘look like I needed spoiling’.
Men are just as keen to travel solo as women
All these people, whose email addresses I’ve mostly lost track of, were, fleetingly yet beautifully, part of my life as a single male traveller. And all I had to do was leave the house, get on a plane and start wandering.
You don’t need mates to do that. Better still, solo travel gives you new mates, as well as new travel experiences.
And women seem to have figured this out a long time ago. The stats don’t lie; every tour operator repeats the same mantra – women have no problem with traveling solo. Men, however, just don’t seem as keen. But the crunch here is that men actually are desperately keen to travel.
Traveling solo as a man is not as alien as it may seem
So why does traveling solo as a man seem practically taboo? The British social fear gene seems to have succeeded in geographically stapling us to the confines of our home town. Solo travel for men feels alien and impossible.
There’s only one lesson to learn. And, by a curious happenstance, I genuinely consider myself to be one of the lucky men who absorbed this lesson at an early age.
People are nice. It’s the blandest of truisms but if you’re that guy who would love to take a solo trip around Vietnam but you’re worried that nobody will talk to you and you’ll be branded a loner, then this is a statement that you probably need to have tattooed on your retina.
Embrace meeting new people as a single male traveler
The vast majority of people in this world either actively wish you well on your travels or are utterly indifferent to your presence on the streets of Melbourne or Hanoi.
Plenty of people in cafes, parks, banyas or beaches are usually up for a chat. Single travelers – and there are loads of those – definitely are. And, unless you give off creepy serial killer vibes, you’ll be astonished how easy it is to become a major player in the arts of social bonhomie and conviviality.
So what are you waiting for? Not only is the country you pine to visit going to be, if anything, even more surprising and awesome than you could ever imagine. You’ll also surprise yourself too at just how damn easy traveling solo as a man can be. And, anyway, what’s the alternative? Netflix can show you new things but it can’t give you real lived experiences and human connections, no matter how long you spend watching it. Time to go travel the world… solo.
Ready to take on a solo adventure? Join Flash Pack today with other like-minded travelers.
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Images: Flash Pack