For some, solo travel is a blessed relief. I was on the ‘train to the end of the world’, in Argentina, seated next to a woman, who appeared to be alone. I expressed some reservations about my forthcoming Antarctic trip because I would be on my own and sharing a cabin with strangers.
She was inattentive because her husband – a train-spotter – had hired a car and was chasing the train taking photos. She was in such a state of anxiety checking that he was keeping up that she was barely able to enjoy the trip, “Listen, love”, she said “There are distinct advantages in travelling alone. At least you can do what you want”.
Yet it happens to a lot of us, at some stage in our lives, we have to go on a holiday alone.
Recently, I spent three days in Paris solo. Good grief! Paris – the city of romance and I’m on my own! I was aggrieved – but not for long. On day one, I walked for eight hours. For the first time, in a lifetime of travel to France, I developed a mental map of the city. I didn’t have to concern myself with who wanted to do what or who needed to go to the loo. This was quality alone time!
I didn’t stop for lunch but grazed all day at patisseries along the way. Evenings were a bit lonely, but I ate relatively early and was buoyed by passers-by who wished me bon appétit as I dined alone. Then I picked up some local wine and cheese for supper, strolled back to my hotel and brushed-up on my French by watching local TV. Next time I go to Paris I’m going alone by design, not by default.
One obvious travel option for solo travellers is to go on a group tour, but not for me. I’ve travelled independently since I was 16 and I’m not yet ready for the enforced bonhomie of community singing.
Fortunately, the travel market has shifted to accommodate the needs of erstwhile backpacking baby-boomers and there are now choices for small-group, soft adventure travel for those of us who are aged 50+.
Travelling solo means you don't have to worry about what others want to do
Eldertrek, for example, offers trips worldwide to places such as PNG or the Stans (those countries that you can never locate on the map). I haven’t tried them yet but I like their itineraries.
Two’s a Crowd is another solo traveller organisation. In fact – Google ‘solo travel’ and you’ll see that there’s a lot on offer.
The biggest problem for solo travellers is the single supplement. It can make your holiday costly. One solution is to phone a friend and buddy-up in twin share accommodation.
Another is to watch-out for specials, such as my recent Pandaw river cruise in Myanmar, which had no single supplement to fill-up the last cruise of the season.
Some travel companies specialise in solo travel, guaranteeing single room accommodation and no single supplement. Travel With Me even arranges coffee meet-ups in Australia so that solo travellers can share experiences and become acquainted with opportunities for travel that carry little or no single supplement.
Round the world plane tickets offer scope to intersperse a few solo trips with rest-stops with family and friends around the world. This works well for me because I break my solitude with some companionship with people I’ve known and loved for a lifetime.
The cost of solo travel isn’t the only issue, as Terry confided: “My biggest problem is where to sit in the dining room. On one recent tour there were tables of six and just one table for four. If I sat at the table for six and no other solo traveller joined me then I was stranded with an empty seat next to me. Even worse, I risked splitting the seating arrangements for couples.” Eventually, the solo travellers opted for the table of four.
Despite the difficulties I’d rather go solo than not at all.
What are your experiences with solo travel? Let us know in the comments section below.