Solo travel is on the rise! A recent cover article in Afar Magazine, chatter on the Today show, and a New York Times feature all point to something we’ve known for years: traveling on your own is an incredible way to experience the world. But even as analysts marvel at the fact that unaccompanied explorers are up 15% since 2013, we already feel confident that we understand solo travel’s timeless appeal. As it happens, we do it a lot ourselves.
From weeks on the trail developing itineraries to summer vacations happily spent exploring the world on our own, almost all of us at Country Walkers have been known to travel solo from time to time. Plus, when we’re lucky enough to join one of our own Guided Walking tours (quite the job perk!), it’s usually unaccompanied as well. As a result, it’s something we know intimately—from the serenity of a mountain trail shared only with singing birds to the thrill of making new friends on the far side of the world. Best of all, we know what makes it so appealing.
Jamen Yeaton-Masi, our Vice President of Worldwide Product & Operations, puts it like this: “While I love traveling with my family,” she says, “When I’m on my own I get to interact with the world just as I am—without the complications of being a spouse, mom, and boss. Sometimes it just feels great to re-connect with your adventurer self.”
Jamen recently returned from a Country Walkers adventure in Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia, which she joined as a solo traveler. “I loved being able to browse through lacquered boxes in an outdoor market and not feel a tug on my arm,” she says. “Plus I found myself chatting with fellow travelers way more than I would have with friends and family present.”
“There’s just something ineffable about being in an ancient European city on your own,” adds Self-Guided Walking Director Melanie Morin, who recently returned from Italy. “You feel like you could go anywhere at any time—whatever strikes your fancy. It’s an incredible freedom.”
Of course, her Self-Guided Adventures give travelers an extra safety net: 24/7 support from Country Walkers, including access to a local representative. “It gives you a lot of extra confidence,” she adds.
Joe Flynn, a Product Director who recently returned from travels in Canada, adds, “I enjoy hiking more than my wife does. For me, solo travel is a great way to get out and experience the places I want to, without worrying about whether someone else is enjoying it.”
For all solo travelers—especially those venturing out alone for the first time—it’s good to keep some key tips in mind.
Consider a Small-Group Tour. One thing guests love about our Guided Walking Adventures is that they give you an incredible opportunity to make friends on the trail. Sharing vistas in Zion National Park, dinners in Japan, or a cooking class in Italy brings people together in a way few experiences do. Of course, walking on a trail can give you plenty of space if you’d like to be alone as well.
Make Connections with Your Camera. Some things transcend language, and gesturing with your camera is one of them. Using simple sign language you can ask to take a local’s picture, offer to snap some shots of a posed group, and show appreciation for a memorable view. As our Creative Director Tina Christensen suggests “It’s a great opportunity to strike up a conversation and maybe even make a friend on the trail. I always travel with my camera!”
Walk Confidently. This tip comes courtesy of Tour Director Tricia Dowhan, who recently returned from an itinerary development trip to Spain. “People traveling on their own can feel tentative or unsure in a new environment. It’s easy to imagine that all eyes are on you—that you stand out like a sore thumb. But if you carry yourself like you belong there, you’ll be amazed by how quickly you’ll feel like you do! I always refer to the map in my hotel room prior to exiting, so I have an extra bit of confidence as I begin my wandering.”
Go Inside to Ask Directions. If you’re ever in need of directions in a strange place, it can be tempting to ask the first person you see to point you in the right direction. However, people on the street tend to be harried (and thus more likely to give bad directions just to get rid of you) or, worse, potentially a “false guide.” Instead, go into a café or shop to ask directions—or, best of all, go to the concierge of a nice hotel, like one of the ones we use for Country Walkers tours.
Plan Key Logistics in Advance. Knowing that important facets of your itinerary are set prior to your departure can give peace of mind. For many of our solo guests, reserving Flight + Tour Combos gives them comfort as well as convenience, knowing that overseas airport transfers and pre- and post-tour accommodations have been arranged for them.
Meet People in Bookstores, Galleries, or Museums. Chance meetings are one of the fun aspects of solo travel. But it’s tough to know where to go to meet people. Our tip: go where people are at their leisure and intellectually curious. No one’s ever in a rush in an art gallery!
Don’t Be Afraid to Dine Out. Food is one of the great pleasures of travel, and solo travelers deserve to enjoy it just as much as anyone else. The idea of a “table for one” may have gotten a bad rap in our culture, but it can be an indulgent experience. Solo travelers in our office have reported receiving special attention from their waiters, little extras from the maître d’, and even visits from the chef when they dine alone.
Skip the Single Supplement. One common downside to traveling alone on a small-group tour is the prospect of paying extra fees. Since tour companies (ours included) base pricing on double occupancy of hotel rooms, many charge a supplement to guests staying in a room on their own. However, Country Walkers is proud to offer two ways to avoid this fee.
Our Single-Share Program allows guests to avoid a Single Supplement by sharing a room with a same-gender roommate. To qualify for this program, you simply have to reserve an adventure at least 91 days before it departs and notify your Tour Consultant that you’re interested in the program. The best part? Even if we can’t find you a roommate, we’ll still waive the fee.