Travel writer Stephanie Rosenbloom is on a mission to teach us how to relish the opportunity to travel alone, not just to endure it. Here, she shares her top tips to help you take the plunge
1. Slow down. Stay curious. Alone, you're free to explore the world - and yourself
Going solo is not something to endure - it's an opportunity to explore the world and ourselves in ways that aren't necessarily possible when we're with company. Alone, we're free to get quiet and slow down. We can look around; breathe in. We can use all of our senses to savour everyday pleasures, be it sunlight on the bank of a river or a basket of lemons on a counter in a brasserie. Travelling alone allows us to experience a place in fresh, more intimate ways. We may even begin to see ourselves in new ways, too. Indeed, social scientists have found that happy people are those who understand that being curious, even being uncomfortable now and then, is necessary to evolve and thrive. By using our alone time to occasionally step outside our comfort zone and try new things food, experiences, languages, ways of travelling), we begin to grow, gain confidence and flourish.
2. There are more ways than even to meet locals and fellow travellers
You need not go solo every minute of the day. After all, one of the joys of travelling alone is meeting people you might not ordinarily connect with if you were surrounded by companions. And today there are all kinds of ways to make meeting locals and fellow travellers easier than ever. You could take a photography or cooking class. Or use a site like MeetUp.com to join a hike or an architectural walking tour. Airbnb offers what it call Experiences (day tours and workshops led by locals throughout the world), while TripAdvisor offers tours and activities. If you want to break up a solo vacation by sharing a meal (and perhaps learn a thing or two about local cuisine), consider wine appreciation classes, food day tours and tastings, or peer-to-peer apps and websites like Feastly and EatWith which enable you to book meals with local hosts. A number of cities also offer free tours of their historic districts. Visit your destination's tourism site for information. You may also want to check out the Global Greeter Network's website.
3. There are plenty of options for solo accommodation
There are lodging options for every type of solo traveller, whether you wish to sleep in a treehouse, a tent, or a luxury suite. Budget travellers have no shortage or options thanks to popular sites like Couchsurfing and Home Exchanges (among the largest exchange sites), as well as lesser-known players, like Tentrr, which offers fully equipped camp sites bookable online. Hipcamp has sites with lodgings like tents and yurts. And don't forget pod hotels, which typically have reasonable rates, as do many ryokans. Looking for something posh? Many upscale hotels offer single rooms for solo travellers. They're typically smaller than standard rooms but are a terrific way to check into some of the best properties for less. Hotels don't always list their single rooms under the Rooms and Suites section of their website, though. Sometimes you have to search their websites for your desired travel dates in order for their single rooms to pop up, so be sure to give it a try - you might be pleasantly surprised.
4. Exploring your passions and interests can lead to life-changing experiences
Certainly, we can (and should) use our time alone to unwind. But we can also use it to pursue our passions and interests, to allow ourselves to be drawn to the things we love to do, or the things that catch our eye, whether it's an exhibition at a fashion museum or a potted rose outside a flower shop. In addition to enjoying yourself, you may also discover or rediscover hobbies, even your next career. Maybe you'll pass enough street art to realize that you want to get back to making your own artwork now and then. Or you'll discover, after days of visiting farms and gardens, that your love of horticulture is more than a hobby - it's something you want to pursue as a full-time job. Alone, uninhibited by others, we can discover who we are, and who we long to be, not just on holidays, but at home too.
5. Anticipating a solo trip may bring you happiness long before you pack a bag
To get the most out of an upcoming holiday, begin your trip in your own backyard by cultivating anticipation. Social scientists have found that actively anticipating a happy event - for example by reading books, browsing websites and watching films about the destination of a future solo trip - allows us to experience joy before we even begin packing a bag. An added bonus? You'll alleviate travel jitters by having done some preparation: researching local transportation options, downloading apps like Google Translate and WhatsApp (it can cut down on SMS texting fees), and familiarizing yourself with relevant customs and laws. So book that solo trip as early as you can - and begin enjoying it long before you arrive.
Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom features more handy tips and tricks for solo travellers and is out now.
More about the author
'Full of heart.' Michael Harris, author of Solitude
Travelling with friends and family is usually thought of as a privilege. In theory, anyway. In practice, it's more often about debating which sights to see, panicking over diminishing phone batteries and bickering over what to eat. Not much joy in that. But alone you can do as you please. You can wander markets, relish silence, go to a park. Go to Paris. Why not?
In Alone Time, New York Times travel columnist Stephanie Rosenbloom travels alone in four seasons to four remarkable cities - Paris, Istanbul, Florence and New York - exploring the sensory experience of solitude. Along the way she illuminates the psychological arguments for alone time, revealing that whether you recognize it or not, it's good to be alone now and then.
This is a book about the pleasures and benefits of savouring the moment, examining things closely, using all your senses to take in your surroundings, whether travelling to faraway places or walking the streets of your own city. Through on-the-ground observations and anecdotes, and drawing on the thinking of artists, writers and innovators who have cherished solitude, Alone Time lays bare the magic of going solo.