By Daniela Harrison
Solo travelers have always been around, but their numbers are booming. And why not? Solo travel is empowering and enlightening. If you keep an open mind, you can make new friends around the world and discover hidden secrets in places you might have been to before but never really appreciated. Better yet, new communication technology lets solo travelers meet virtually online and get to know their tripmates prior to departure.
The reasons for traveling solo are almost endless. Single Boomers want to take advantage of their singlehood. Same with single Millennials. Some couples just can’t find the time to travel together, or have different interests when they go abroad. Workaholics want to combine business and pleasure, working from their “virtual office” on the road while they (hopefully) discover the joys of travel all over again.
The perception is that most solo travelers are women, but that’s not really the case. Many men do the same thing. Anything where you can learn a new skill, like art cruises, diving trips and more, is a great option for solo travelers of either gender. And I’ve also seen a huge increase in adventure travel for my single travelers. The Amazon, Antarctica, Galapagos, New Zealand, Greenland, Iceland, Africa and more: adventure destinations are rising in popularity. Adventure trips give travelers daily experiences to bond over, and they invariably create lasting friendships.
Cruise lines and tour operators have always catered to solo travelers. Some of these solo traveling opportunities are more known than others, so here are a few recommendations to get you started. Just be warned: You might catch the travel bug from reading on.
Cunard and Silversea Cruises offer gentlemen hosts on selected itineraries (usually identified by a bow tie on the cruise listings). These hosts are geared towards women traveling alone and serve as dance partners, escorts to walk you to dinner and more. If you prefer four-legged company, Cunard lets you take your dog with you while cruising.
Tour operators like G Adventures offer room-shares for solo travelers. This lets you avoid the upcharge for a single room, and you’ll be paired up with another single traveler of the same sex and similar age. It’s a great way to make new friends and keep down the cost of travel. Plus, if you agree to a room-share and there’s nobody on the tour to partner up with, you’ll receive your own room at no extra cost. For itineraries click here.
Gutsy Women Travel offers itineraries specifically designed for women traveling solo. They’re a hoot! Itineraries are designed around women’s interests and focus on making friends and learning new skills while exploring the world.
River-cruise lines like Uniworld don’t charge singles extra on specific itineraries. AMAWaterways offers two cabins on each ship without a single supplement, and many single-room specials that eliminate the single-supplement upcharge. There’s no set seating for meal times and the itineraries are open enough to do your own thing. The result is an easy-going atmosphere where single travelers can easily make new connections. Cruise managers usually create a meet-up for solo travelers, making these cruises even more appealing.
African Travel and Abercrombie & Kent offer Africa-safari itineraries with a reduced upcharge or no upcharge for singles; many other companies follow their lead. These itineraries are usually for small-group trips where solo travelers can mix in with other likeminded explorers.
Alternately, you can get the single upcharge reduced on private tours, which are just so special. Imagine crashing through the African bush, just you, your guide and a tracker, and as you hurtle around a corner, you come upon a few rhinos with their babies. It’s like you’re the only person out in the bush. Nobody else is taking pictures, nobody is talking. Just you and nature: It doesn’t get much better than that!
Also, group trips are always fun. I personally lead at least one group a year around the world. I always have a healthy mix of couples and solo travelers, and I often hold a get-together before the trip leaves; that way, anyone who’s local gets to meet before we depart, so solo travelers can feel comfortable with their group before they leave.
Being part of a small group when discovering a new destination takes the fear and anxiety out of travel, and gives solo travelers some immediate connections and reduces their anxiety level. This is especially helpful for solo travelers taking off for the first time.
Daniela has been a Travel Consultant since June 2010. She works for Avenues of the World Travel in Flagstaff, Ariz. For more information please contact Daniela at 800.230.3322 or Daniela@avenuesoftheworld.com. For travel inspiration visit http://www.avenuesoftheworld.com.