Travel for solo travellers is on the rise, especially among those in their 50s and 60s, say tour operators that focus on guided and specialist tours. Cox & Kings, which runs small group tours worldwide, says 40 per cent of its sales this year have been to older people travelling on their own.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that one in three Britons aged 60-plus who go on holiday do so alone, either because they are single or because their partners cannot – or will not – join them.
After spending so much of our lives surrounded by family, friends or work colleagues, it can be a real eye-opener to spend time untethered. You often discover that you are stronger and more outgoing than you thought you were, and happier in your own company than you ever imagined.
According to singles specialist, Friendship Travel, the solo holidaymaker’s biggest fears are eating alone, staying safe and not having company for sightseeing. As someone who has travelled the world solo I can sympathise with the first two of these fears.
Even after all these years I dislike dining alone. To avoid the stares, and feeling like Sally-no-mates, I always try to find an outside table with a view. Security is an issue, though in my experience it lessens as you get older. Even so, I try not to walk alone in strange places after dark, never leave my room key number on show, and dress conservatively.
As for sightseeing alone? What a pleasure. There’s nobody to say, “I’m bored, can we go soon,” and you have a much better chance of engaging with local people who often go out of their way to help someone on their own.
I do recognise that taking a first solo holiday is a leap into the unknown. So I would advise starting with something structured like a city break with included meals and group sightseeing, either with a solo travel specialist or a tour operator running small group tours led by an expert guide.
Confidence gained, I can thoroughly recommend travelling independently. Some of my most memorable holidays have been solo: staying in family-run heritage hotels in Rajasthan and enjoying campfire drinks with my hosts; being welcomed into homes and art galleries in Jeddah by Saudis proud of their heritage and, last Christmas, exploring Cairo on foot with female guides I had found online who taught me more about life in the city than I would ever have learnt on an escorted tour.
Solo travel opens up a world of possibility, of adventure and of new encounters that could change your life and will buoy your self-confidence. Here are 20 amazing trips that will make you want to take the leap.
Ease yourself in
A bolthole for one
A break in the traditional fishing town of Brixham is ideal for easing yourself into solo travel: accessible by public transport, Brixham offers boat trips, coast walks, art galleries and a lively harbour, with lots of cafés and people-watching potential. Little Domain, which specialises in small self-catering retreats, recommends Fruits de Mer, a neat apartment overlooking the marina: view the action from the privacy of your bright open-plan lounge/kitchen or walk out into it directly from your doorstep. You can bring your dog, too.