Travelling solo could be one of the scariest things you've ever thought about doing – but it will actually probably turn out to be one of the most liberating.
Let’s face it; we are by nature, social animals. We want to share, whether that’s food, or what we saw on TV last night or experiences. Just look at the popularity of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And for many of us it’s the same when it comes to travelling. It’s almost natural that we want to go away with someone we already know.
But that may only be convenient for you, not the other person, due to lack of funds, no more precious days off work or just differences of travel style. You may fancy California, they’d rather do China. They've always wanted to go on safari, you’d rather scuba dive in the Florida Keys.
And then there’s this little thing called 'the comfort zone' that we like to bob about in, and I'm no exception. You want to get away, but you’re not sure how you’d cope on your own and a ton of excuses swirl round in your head. All of a sudden another year is over, you look back on your achievements and “tidying rubber bands in desk drawer” is a serious contender for most gratifying thing you did at work in the past twelve months.
Mark Twain was a provider of natty quotes if ever there was one. Especially when it came to travel.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
He was right. You’re not going to think back and look fondly on that two-day health and safety course you attended in Norwich as a personal highlight. Another great quote, from Eleanor Roosevelt this time, was “do one thing every day that scares you”. And while we’re on a quote roll how about Mae West who said “you only live once but if you do it right, once is enough”.
“Will” – you’re asking yourself – “why have you gone quote crazy today?” Because all of them seem appropriate for travelling on your own. A little bit scary, a little bit intimidating perhaps but also more than a little bit emancipating and, hey, can we say sexy too?
I remember the first time I went travelling solo – to Sri Lanka. It was great because I got to set my own timetable and, selfishly yes, not have to worry about anyone else. It also forced me to chat to people when I was a bit out of my comfort zone, but also I didn’t have to explain myself when I just wanted downtime with a good book and a cold beer.
If you are thinking about travelling alone, you may want to consider the USA or Canada. Not only do they speak English, but they’re a friendly bunch and you’ll never be on your own for long if you don’t want to be, whether that’s chatting to a bar tender or the woman opposite you on a train.
If you're travelling solo, then you might want to consider a tour group. This might not sound like your idea of fun as you picture the old 'coach tour' stereotype of sitting on a bus full of people and seeing the beautiful scenery pass you by, through a dirty window. But small group tours are very different - with a maximum of 13 travellers in a spacious custom minibus, you won't be fighting for space.
Go on, give it a try. You have nothing to lose but Facebook friends when you boast about your solo holiday exploits - and that Tracy in accounts was always jealous of you anyway...
Will Hide is a London-based travel writer who spent 12 years on the travel desk of the Times before turning freelance. He still writes regularly for the Times as well as the FT, Telegraph and numerous magazines. You can follow his travels at Been There, Done It.