While once the prospect of exploring a new country completely alone would terrify most of us, nowadays solo travel carries with it a strange allure, infused with ideas of adventure, storytelling and personal growth.
Solo travel has soared in recent years, with more and more people choosing to challenge the norm by holidaying alone. Films like ‘The Beach’, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and ‘Wild’ have paved the way for this growing trend and the travel industry has followed suit. In 2022, the world is more geared towards solo travel than ever before, with many package holidays, hotels and excursions designed specifically with the lone traveller in mind.
But what are the benefits? From making new friends and learning more about yourself, to indulging in complete unashamed selfishness, the rewards are countless. First off, there’s no denying that it’s so much easier to meet new and interesting people. Travelling with familiar faces generally means you’re less likely to venture out of your circle to chat with potential friends or travel buddies. When you’re on your own, however, making friends happens so naturally you won’t even need to think about it.
What’s more, if you’re looking for time by yourself, there’s nothing like a spot of solo travel to help you on your journey of self-discovery. ‘Finding yourself’ is a cliché, and while solo travel may not lead to a ‘Eureka’ moment of self-realisation, it could certainly help you discover new passions, hobbies and aspirations.
While you can obviously book a solo trip wherever you choose, when it comes to travelling alone, there are some destinations that come up trumps. Here are five of our top picks.
Ireland is the perfect place to start if you’re new to solo travel. With many of the home comforts we’re familiar with in the UK, including the English language, this is a country that’s famous for the welcome it extends to strangers. Pull up a stool in a traditional Irish pub, offer to buy your neighbour a pint and you’ll have a friend for life – or at least for the evening. Stay a while and you might get lucky and catch a Celtic music session. What’s more, Ireland’s stunning breadth of nature – particularly along the Atlantic coast – leaves you plenty of room for self-reflection.
Thailand’s tropical beaches are a stalwart of Asia’s traditional backpacking route. With a terrific range of tours, good transport options and international cuisine, it’s one of the best places to start a well-trodden solo adventure around South-East Asia. Whether you choose the Gulf coast to the east or the Andaman coast to the west, you’re bound to find fellow travellers to bond with. Plus, it’s not known as ‘the land of smiles’ for nothing! The people of Thailand are, for the most part, warm and welcoming towards foreign visitors and will often go out of their way to help you out.
If you’re nervous about the safety aspect of travelling solo, New Zealand will certainly put you at ease. Kiwis will tell you their country is one of the safest in the world, but it’s the dazzling landscapes, buzzing towns and cities and friendly people that truly make New Zealand a mecca for solo travel. Popular with backpackers, nature enthusiasts, and thrill-seekers striking out on their own, the country is a haven for anyone who loves the great outdoors and one of the best places to meet fellow, like-minded travellers.
The setting for one third of Elizabeth Gilbert’s solo travel memoir ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, there’s no denying that Indonesia has a special magic about it. Bali is the archipelago’s most popular island for solo travellers, but its neighbours Lombok and the Gili Islands are close competitors. If a spiritual and artistic awakening is what you seek, Ubud definitely needs to be on your radar. It’s where Elizabeth Gilbert found love and true peace, and it remains a wonderfully laid-back place for solo travellers to relax, reflect and recharge.
Solo travellers from the US have been heading to Costa Rica for years, and Europeans are finally starting to catch on. As the world’s greenest, most biodiverse country, there’s no better place to reconnect with nature – the country’s pura vida (pure life) ethos is apparent wherever you go. It also has a reputation for being one of the happiest countries in the world, and it’s easy to see why: from white-water rafting down rivers to zip-lining through gorgeous rainforests, Costa Rica is packed with outdoor activities to please your adventurous spirit.