The hashtag #solotravel is currently associated with more than 4.6 million posts on Instagram, and that number is up by around 100,000 more since just last week. There’s a slew of related hashtags, as well as entire accounts dedicated to the travel trend. All of this is to say that the rise of the solo travel phenomenon over the past couple of years is undeniable. And when a trend has this much traction, it’s not just popular but preeminent, affecting people’s priorities and lifestyle decisions.
Solo travel isn’t a new thing, but it’s certainly undergone a rebrand in recent years. No longer is it reserved, at least popularly speaking, for people who are “going through something,” à la Eat, Pray, Love, or who are in pursuit of extreme identity makeovers, à la Into the Wild. And survey after survey only supports just how much public perception of it has evolved. For instance, Intrepid Travel commissioned a survey of 2,000 American adults in 2017 and found that 55 percent agree traveling solo is more socially acceptable now than it was a decade ago. Another survey, by market research and data analytics firm YouGov, revealed 66 percent of more than 1,200 nationally representative adult respondents either have already or would consider taking a trip alone.
Google searches for “solo travel” over the past five years also reflect this increased interest and show that people are searching more and more for solo-travel ideas—especially women, as evidenced by “female solo travel” being the top related Google search term. To this point, travel companies have been reporting more female solo travelers than male, and YouGov’s survey showed millennial women to be the most likely of all respondents to consider traveling alone. Yet for many, safety is a concern; the YouGov results showed 76 percent of women would feel unsafe on vacation by themselves, and 30 percent said their families don’t want them to take a solo trip.
Soloish travel provides for a unique opportunity to incorporate elements of familiarity and security into a getaway unbound by anyone else’s wants or needs.
Beyond worries about safety, not everyone feels comfortable being, well, alone in general. While it’s one thing to appreciate the solitude of a JOMO-forward night in, it’s a whole other ball game to love navigating new place after new experience after new everything all by yourself. the Intrepid Travel poll revealed that, despite evolving mentalities about solo travel, a third of respondents anticipated getting lonely when abroad on their own. Other reservations people reported point to common social anxieties: Only 36 percent, for example, would feel comfortable going to a bar by themselves, and just 45 percent of people wouldn’t mind eating at a restaurant alone. But given the seemingly unstoppable determination people have to do all of those things, compounded by relatable apprehensions involved, solo travel is giving way to an even newer trend: soloish travel.
Soloish travel is when you plan a trip somewhere you know someone, but you aren’t going for the specific purpose of visiting said person. Per travel site Solo Traveler, “Not everyone feels comfortable traveling without a companion by their side, so soloish travel is the best of both worlds: being able to do exactly what you want while having the support of a network. It’s also a great way to catch up with old friends who live far away.”
Furthermore, soloish travel provides for a unique opportunity to incorporate elements of familiarity and security into a getaway unbound by anyone else’s wants or needs. You’re on your own time and schedule, but it can be punctuated by familiar faces, comforts, and resources that might not available when you know absolutely nobody anywhere near you. For women in particular, soloish travel can temper some of the legitimate concerns of globetrotting alone, thus making this brand of wanderlust more accessible.
And while no one needs a reason to travel—alone or otherwise—some women have been vocal about why they’re choosing to go it alone. Maybe it’s a byproduct of the growing openness about health issues common to women, or a wider understanding of the unequal distribution of labor by gender, or something else entirely, but women are no longer embarrassed or shy about admitting they need a break from normal life. Take mumcations and painmoons for example, two types of individual journeys Gabe Saglie, senior editor of booking site Travelzoo, says you can expect to hear more about in the coming year: A mumcation is a chance for moms to go kids-free for a little bit and recharge, while a painmoon is a trip that caters to finding mental and emotional solace after a taxing life event or time period, he says.
Types of solo trips like painmoons and mumcations as well as the modified versions designed by travel companies add fuel to the solo-travel fire, which Instagram hashtags and Google searches have demonstrated to be ablaze. And more resources are becoming readily available to make these trips actually happen: Intrepid Travel started offering pre-planned trips where you book by yourself but have the benefit of local guides planning for you and a group of “ready-made friends” to do everything with. So, who do you know living somewhere you’ve always wanted to go? Maybe it’s finally time to tell them you’re coming—and want to see them for just a bit of your time there.
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