How to enjoy travelling solo
Travel is one of the favourite pastimes enjoyed by many millions of Britons – and each year even more of us seem to discover those delights.
The latest figures published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), for instance, reveal that 2016 was a record year for overseas travel, with more than 70 million Briton’s travelling abroad (mainly on holidays), a figure that was 8% higher than the previous year. Spending on that travel also reached a record high of nearly £44 billion – 12% higher than in 2015.
Although the ONS has yet to publish the figures for 2017, falling prices for many European and longer-haul holidays, seems certain to continue the upward trend – according to research published by travel search engine Kayak at the beginning of the year.
The older traveller
A closer look at the statistics compiled by the ONS shows that, whilst travel across all age groups continues to grow, the numbers aged between 55 and 64 years and those over 64 account for an increasing number of travellers. In 2016, the over 55s accounted for almost 25% of British travel overseas.
One of the explanations for this rise in the older overseas traveller, of course, is simply that we are all tending to live longer.
By the year 2040, around 14% of the UK’s population will be aged 75 or over, whilst around a third of those born this year may expect to live until they are over 100 – said the first in a series of articles on retirement published by the Guardian newspaper in mid-January 2017.
Anyone retiring at today’s state pension age of 65, therefore, stands to enjoy many a long year in retirement – whilst those who have made the prudent step of arranging their own private pension scheme may exercise the option of retiring still earlier.
Travelling in retirement
Whilst travel opportunities abound for those beginning retirement, there also arises the question of travelling solo.
Advancing years might have meant that a spouse or partner has passed away, retirement might have been preceded by divorce – or it might simply be a question of, having spent the large part of a lifetime with the same partner, retirement brings the opportunity finally to admit that one does not necessarily have to share every single interest or pastime of the other. Different interests, in other words, might mean that one person’s lust for travel is not necessarily shared by another’s.
Quite apart from anything else, it might be that the traveller looking forward to many happy years of retirement might have just as much of a desire to travel solo as the youngest of gap-year backpackers.
Whatever your age, there are many attractions to travelling solo – and some of these might be thrown into even sharper relief:
- you get to travel at a pace that suits just you – when you want to stop for a while, you simply stop;
- you choose when and where to eat – if you are seized by a more adventurous moment and want to sample the street food, there is no one around to warn about the dangers of hygiene;
- if there are days when you want to splurge, you splurge – with no one who is eager to hit the road again by shaking you out of bed the next morning;
- if you want to spend the day visiting a museum or art gallery, you choose just how long to stay and do not have to cut the visit short because a travelling partner wants to spend the remainder of the day on the beach;
- when you are travelling solo, in other words, it is just you and the place you choose to visit – there is no one else’s preferences to take into account or reasons for compromises to be made.
Are there downsides to travelling solo?
The answer is yet, but the degree to which they are likely to discourage your sense of adventure might depend on the kind of person you are and the self-confidence you have in managing your life just how you like it.
There is no constant, ready-made dining companion, for example, or a companion to take to the cinema or theatre – but some might take that just as an opportunity to meet new acquaintances and strike up friendships in faraway places.
If you are socially more retiring or awkward, the key might lie in finding comfortable ways of naturally breaking the ice when starting up a conversation with the locals.
One of the bugbears of any solo traveller is likely to be the shortage of single bedrooms - the heftier price that is usually charged for them or the need to pay for a double if you want a room of your own. Once again, though, the resourceful single traveller is usually able to find some alternative that does not break the bank.
As a solo traveller, you may need to be more aware than others of the common sense safety precautions to be taken by anyone visiting an unfamiliar place. Let someone know of your plans for the day and at what time you expect to return – and remember to put the number of the local police station into your mobile.
Avoid the obvious ways of drawing attention to yourself as a tourist – such as pouring over your street map or guide book in public places – and dress as far as possible like the locals so that you blend in.
In fact, as a solo traveller, you probably stand a better chance of blending into your surroundings than, say, a group of tourists, all speaking in the same foreign language and led by a tour guide.
Travelling solo can be a fun, enriching experience – Bon Voyage!