Solo travel is at an all-time high. It became one of the biggest travel trends of 2017, and Google reported that searches for solo female travel grew by 52% between 2016 and 2017. But I don’t even need to see the statistics to know that solo travel, particularly among women, is an increasingly large phenomenon. I take pride in being a solo traveller myself, and I know from my own experience that the thrill of heading off on your own personal adventure is incredibly empowering. It boosts your self-esteem, makes you happier, and gives you skills you never knew you had. And I’m not alone. I met so many solo female travellers on the road from all walks of life and every generation. Though we were all on our own itineraries, our connected presence as solo travellers felt like being part of a community.
But what’s behind the popularity of solo (female) travel?
Popular culture has been no stranger to solo female travel. Elizabeth Gilbert’s viral novel Eat, Pray, Love came out in 2006 and stayed in the charts for three years. Then there was Wild – the bestselling memoirs of Cheryl Strayed published in 2012. The common theme that links these two stories is the portrayal of strong women choosing to travel alone to take a break, reflect, and discover. Unsurprisingly, these stories inspired many women to embark on their own solo adventures.
However, what makes solo travel among women a reality now more than ever is financial independence. Women have more control over their money and how to spend it than they did a few decades ago. It’s no longer enough to simply settle down, get a job, and start a family. Women are prioritising their energy into new experiences and they have the money to do it. Career breaks and gap years are now the norms, and many women and men choose the solo travelling experience to discover more from life. “When you travel alone, the adventure is yours. The challenge is yours, the victories are yours, and knowing that you can have those things on your own is incredibly empowering” says Anna Claire Eddington, Creative Director and Guide at Adventures in Good Company.
As a recent graduate myself, solo travel allowed me to gain control over my life when my future plans after university felt like a void of uncertainty. Planning my itinerary was therapeutic in a time that was dangerously unstructured, and the fact that I was doing it alone gave me the confidence to organise my life post-trip. Solo travel was an alternative answer to the expectation to “get on with it” and find a good job straight away. Although it took a little while to save up, having that goal made it worthwhile.
A new era for safety and visibility on the road
It’s not only women’s financial independence that has made solo travel so popular. The internet has played a huge part in transforming the furthest and most faraway corners of the earth into visible and tangible destinations. Thanks to the likes of social media, YouTube, and travel bloggers, such faraway destinations are now within our reach because of their exposure and promotion. We’ve all travelled vicariously through our friend’s envy-inducing photographic holiday evidence on Instagram or Facebook at one time or another. We now know more about the world and how to travel in it than ever before and it’s only increased our interest and its accessibility.
The internet is a vast resource which holds a wealth of personal accounts and advice about every aspect of your dream destination. You only need to search for solo female travel on Facebook to find a whole network of groups dedicated to aiding and celebrating women from all over the world as they embark on their own adventure. Seeing women be visibly successful is a huge incentive to get out there yourself. “Women travellers tend to have an impact on women in the destinations visited and a subtle message of women’s empowerment takes place,” says Deborah Kilcollins, brand manager for Big Five Tours and Expeditions. Observing other women fulfil their solo travelling dream inspired me to do a trip of my own.
But solo travellers don’t just have the internet to thank for making destinations more accessible. The biggest threats to women travelling solo are safety concerns and the fear of isolation. Now, with sophisticated smartphones, it is a lot easier to stay connected wherever you are on the road. Those days when your only connection to your life back home was a postcard and a dodgy long-distance phone call threatening to cut out any minute are officially over. Solo travel is a lot less daunting with the knowledge that you can connect to your friends and family at the press of a button.
Most importantly, solo travel feels a lot safer with a smartphone because it gives you more control over your environment. You can book hostels, search for a good restaurant, and plan your route to the next landmark when you’re out and about. No matter how good (or bad in my case) a map reader you are, you can nearly always navigate your destination thanks to that little blue dot on the screen telling you where you are.
Whatever the reason for travelling solo, you’re rarely alone on the road. The solo travelling community is huge, and wherever you go you can always find fellow travellers to create lasting friendships with. Tours have increased in popularity precisely because it’s an easy way for solo travellers to connect and meet like-minded people. Now with the growing demand for solo female adventures, many tour operators have started offering female-led hikes, backpacking trips, and safaris. Women are seeking more unique travelling experiences and the inclusion of these tours have made that an accessible reality.
Thanks to social media, new technology, and inspirational individuals the world feels a lot more accessible, visible, and navigable. For those searching for a new experience in life, solo travel has never been easier.
Thanks for reading,
If you enjoyed this then you might like 10 Things that I’m learning or have been told as a solo female traveller.