The rise of solo travel: How to explore the world alone in 2020
It’s no secret that solo travel is on the rise. And this year will only see more of it. We tell you why this trend is showing no signs of a slowdown.Updated: Jan 08, 2020 18:29 IST
Scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed. It would be hard to miss that photo of your friend standing arms spread out near the Dudhsagar Falls in Goa, taking a #nofilter selfie in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra, or posing next to a camel at the Thar Desert. What these posts have in common is a traveller who has chosen to vacation alone.
While this would have been considered somewhat strange till a few years ago, this style of vacationing is now perfectly common. In fact, it was one of the hottest topics of 2019. According to in-destination book platform, solo travel was the no 1 trend for 2019.
And it is no longer a niche market catering to oddballs and social misfits. Google searches for ‘solo travel’ between 2016 and 2019 saw a 131% increase, showing that this form of holidaying has huge appeal globally. In fact, a study polled close to 21,000 respondents in 16 countries and found that 73% of Indians have either travelled alone or are considering it.
Add to that factors like better connectivity, a growing global travel community that constantly provides support and a market that is evolving to cater to this clientele, and it isn’t hard to comprehend why solo travel is only set to grow further in 2020. We spoke to different professionals, who have travelled solo and explored different regions across India and abroad.
For Jatin Singh, a marketing executive, it was the heady combination of discovery and introspection that drew him to solo travel. “My work pressures get to me, so I plan short trips to the mountains every few months to switch off and get in the right mental space,” he says.
He isn’t alone. According to a 2019 study conducted by YouGov, a global public opinion and data company, 50% of such travellers seek uninterrupted ‘me-time’. And they aren’t just harried professionals. There is a marked rise in the number of travellers who are married, with family or otherwise attached, and are actively choosing to leave their other-halves/families back home when holidaying that is growing steadily each year.
Forty-year-old lawyer Naitika Sharma was inspired to plan a solo trip to Nagaland in 2019 after seeing her friend’s mother’s post on Facebook. She says, “She was 65 and had put together the itinerary on her own. I thought to myself, ‘If she can do it, why can’t I?’”
In 2018 alone, search engines saw an incredible 600% increase in searches for “solo travel”. And #solotravel has more than 5.2 million posts on Instagram. As more and more travellers share photos on their social media channels, they inspire wanderlust and FOMO among their peers and followers. In 2020, they too will follow suit and visit these Insta-worthy locations, putting up those beautiful #nofilter selfies along the way.
Technology has made the world a lot smaller and a wee bit less daunting. You can now check a hotel or a car rental company’s reviews on websites. Stay connected with family via texts or even video calls on free Wi-Fi hotspots while on a trip. Let them know your car and driver details while commuting in an Uber. Or share your live location on WhatsApp. They can even track your daily adventures on social media.
That feeling of isolation that was such a put off about solo travel earlier no longer exists. “There really are very few places that let you go completely off the grind. Technology is the security blanket solo travellers needed. You can check in with your loved ones daily and feel connected even in the most far-flung of places. And that’s coaxing more people to experiment with this form of travel,” says Vidyut Patra, a media professional.
There was a time when travelling solo was not a viable option because of the single supplement charge. Simply put, this was a premium charge put on a traveller, who was alone but occupying a room that catered to two people. But according to solotravelworld.com, solo travel today makes up around 18% of global bookings, and has increased by 7% in 2019 alone.
This has forced companies to rethink. Many operators now either waive the charge completely or bring it down to a nominal amount. Lastly, there has also been a rise in the number of operators offering room-sharing services that match you with a fellow traveller on the basis of gender.
“There was a time when travelling in India meant only train travel. One took days to get from one end of the country to the other. Now, air connectivity has improved. You can traverse the length or breadth of the country over a long weekend without having the break the bank. Hire a vehicle with a driver once you are there. Rent a car or a bike. Or reach your chosen destination by cab, bus or train. You truly are spoilt for choice,” says Arun Kamath, an advertising professional.
The world has never been this accessible. It is possible to take off to exciting and exotic destinations with minimum hassles or fuss. And once there, one has multiple options available to explore and discover it like never before. And with connectivity only set to improve further, there has never been a better time to go solo.
Popularity of cruise, safari and adventure travel
“I went to Ranthambore National Park on my first solo trip. I took morning and evening safaris, and used afternoons for some ‘me time’ by the pool, got a massage or read a book. It was definitely not a solitary experience and I got some alone time too,” says Meenakshi Rai, a web designer.
Certain types of travel are more suited to solo travellers than others, cruise, safari and adventure being perfect examples. They are allowing holiday-makers to go off and do their own thing between scheduled activities while offering a safe environment to meet new people and explore a place in a unique way.
Work it out
Gone are the days of the 9-to-5, tied-to-the-desk jobs. As new career options emerge, it is now possible to combine work with travel without compromising on income. “My organisation offers work from home twice a month. Alternatively, you can choose a four-day week once a month. They believe that a proper break boosts productivity, and encourage travel,” says Sameer Desai, who works in a tech multinational.
As more and more companies lay emphasis on work-life balance, sabbaticals, working remotely, flexi-hours or work trips that combine business with pleasure are fast becoming the norm. Such options are increasingly allow travellers to take breaks more frequently and will continue to a big role in helping solo travellers go places.
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