Be it self-reflection, confidence building or simply a chance to relax and recharge away from daily life, here’s why we should all be indulging in a little solo travel this season
I was back in 2018 when I took my first solo trip — albeit unplanned. It was two weeks before we were due to set off to Nepal and a text popped up on my phone from my travel companion, let’s call her Lisa: “So sorry but a huge project has come up at work and I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it.”
Perhaps the fact that Lisa hadn’t even booked her flights up to this point should have been warning enough that she wasn’t ever serious about coming, but my heart still sank. Needless to say — despite the pleas from my mother — I inadvertently found myself in Kathmandu alone. I wasn’t about to let a frustrating and anxiety-inducing situation ruin my trip, though, and I quickly became enamoured with being on my own in a new place, exploring the local culture and preparing for a two-day guided hike in Pokhara. Never was there a time I was bored waiting for someone to get ready for dinner or taking too much time to browse the souvenirs. It turns out, doing the things you want to do at your own pace is actually rather revolutionary.
Sadly my trip was cut short when I caught bronchitis — spending too much time on the back of a moped in an extremely heavily air-polluted city will do that to you— but going forward I wasn’t to be deterred. For most people, the desire to shake up their environment and routine is strongest at the beginning of a new year, and that’s exactly where I found myself in January 2019 when I decided to embark on a fitness retreat in Phuket after a busy holiday season, part of a three-month jaunt around Asia and Oceania. While I wasn’t travelling alone the entire trip, there were solo stints in both Fiji and Cambodia where, from kayaking at sunset to embracing the crowds to experience Angkor Wat at sunrise, I learnt the art of self-reflection, built confidence and made new friends. But most importantly, I was able to enjoy both myself and my time just, well, because.
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“Women can build so much confidence by travelling alone, meeting new people and trying new experiences,” EmmaHiggins, founder and CEO of EnVogue Travel, a new bespoke specialist that’s bridging the gap between extreme adventures and the ultimate in luxury travel, tells MOJEH. Not only do Emma and her team curate bespoke and personal trips for travellers all over the world, they also ensure that extra level of service, support and safety that can so often be missing when you’re alone in a new and unfamiliar country. “I think it is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling for everyone to experience solo travel, and some of my most exciting trips have been while travelling on my own,” she adds.
When we speak to Emma, she has just returned from a solo trip to Turkey where she spent her days exploring the remote Black Sea Mountain region. “The landscape and experiences were surprising and astounding, but my highlight was definitely meeting the local people who, despite us not being able to communicate verbally, were some of the most welcoming I have ever met,” she adds. With the help of a local guide, Emma admits she was able to learn so much about the culture and the country through their warm hospitality while gaining confidence from being able to travel alone in a destination where language wasn’t an option for communication.
From Eat Pray Love to Under the Tuscan Sun, the solo female traveller is everywhere in pop culture. At the time of writing there are some eight million #solotravel posts on Instagram. And while some may see it as a derided cliché, I’m here to tell you there is definitely something deeper to it. Surprisingly, or maybe not, studies have found that women make up an estimated 84 per cent of all solo travellers, so it’s likely that many of us will find ourselves riding solo at some point in our lives. Be it a vacation filled to the brim with activities or a time to rest, reflect and set future intentions, travelling alone is an opportunity for self-growth and to learn something new, which is often much more easily done when travelling solo. Then there’s the act of being dragged out of your comfort zone. Be it requesting a table for one, building up the confidence to chat to that group next to you at the bar or simply sitting in silence with just your thoughts for company, it takes guts to navigate a new place alone and it’s all an important part of personal development.
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“Solo travel provides time to be selfish, choosing an itinerary that suits you and is tailored around your schedule,” explains Emma. “I also always say that travel is the best form of education. Whether that be knowledge about the history of a destination, new skills shared from different cultures or lessons learnt while on the road, it enables you to learn about not just the destination, but about yourself.” All of this said, solo travel doesn’t all have to all be about achieving enlightenment along the way — it can also be an excuse for some much-needed downtime. We can all agree that travelling with others —especially if you have children in tow — can be anything but restful. On holiday, however, gone are those lingering feelings of guilt when we consciously choose to ignore our responsibilities and rest at home (why is that, anyway?), and carving out time to take a big, long breath is one of the most effective ways to practise self care.“
“Most of us are so busy with work, socialising, family, hobbies, workouts and soon that we can end up reaching a point of both physical and mental exhaustion,” concludes Emma. “I am a firm believer in taking time out for yourself to allow both the body and mind to reset. There can be so much pressure on people to fill their schedule that lots of us forget to schedule any me-time. Sometimes the simplest pleasures are allowing yourself to breathe and relax in peaceful solitude.”
From hiking through captivating pine forests in the Himalayas to recharging at a boutique Mauritian hotel, be sure to tick these enchanting destinations off your solo travel bucket list.
Best for: First timers
London is hardly a hidden gem — every frequent flyer has stepped foot on its soil. But have you ever truly seen it? Venturing to well-traversed territory is a stress-freeway to whet your solo-travelling appetite and grants the opportunity to rediscover all The Big Smoke has to offer, without distractions. Immerse yourself in an abundance of culture, from world-class galleries and museums to that one guilty-pleasure musical your family never wants to see, while visiting friends along the way — namely Chanel, Prada and Cartier, all of which are mere moments from the doors of The Carlton Tower Jumeirah. Neatly settled in Knightsbridge, it provides a five-star spin on familiarity with an array of amenities that put first-timers a tease — not least its three-storey wellness centre. Boasting sweeping city views, state-of-the-art gym, Talise Spa and London’s largest naturally lit pool, The Peak is a members-only paradise. If London weather is particularly cooperative, stroll to nearby private gardens to finally finish that novel you’ve been neglecting. Bliss. Book now
Best for: A relaxing break
Boasting the same crystal clear waters and fine white sands as the Maldives yet much more friendly to the solo traveller, Mauritius marries great food, culture and, of course, plenty of opportunities for a little R&R. While it may be full of high-end luxury resorts, if you want to avoid ending up surrounded by couples, opt for a boutique hotel with a more diverse clientele. Our recommendation? Salt of Palamar is situated on the east coast and is the country’s first eco-hotel. With vibrant interiors by French artist Camille Walala, locally-sourced organic food and a cool rooftop bar, there will be plenty of opportunities to make new friends — or not, if you’d prefer.While staff-led local excursions will allow you to get out and see the island (Mini Cooper convertibles are also for hire if you want to explore), if you’re simply looking for a little downtime then spend your days soaking up the rays by the 25-metre lap pool which comes flanked by emerald sun loungers and monochrome parasols. Alternatively, head to the Salt Equilibrium spa where you’ll find the island’s first salt therapy room alongside a choice of massages and scrubs. Island living at its finest. Book now
Best for: An active escape
A forgotten Himalayan nation tucked in amongst mountainous folds, Bhutan’s capital Thimphu is bursting with national monuments and museums, local boutiques and bustling bazaars ready for exploration as you acclimatise to the high-altitude environment (it sits a huge 2,334 metres above sea level). If you’re not sure where to start, we suggest opting fora 10-night excursion with bespoke travel company Pelorus which, best taken between September and April, involves everything from enchanting hikes through fragrant pine forests, historic tours of vast fortresses, helicopter rides through protected black neck crane reserves and meals cooked by your very own private chef to be enjoyed in the most original of settings. Meditation sessions, massages and traditional hot stone baths are also thrown in for good measure. From traditional lodges perched in mountainsides to home-style Bhutanese farmhouses, accommodation options are endless. For luxury lodgings, start your journey at the Six Senses Thimphu. Set in an apple orchard, its minimal design highlights the scenic views of ancient peaks and lush river valleys, while rooms come decorated with natural textiles including a Natural mat organic bed and bed linens with a wood-burning bukhari stove.
Best for: Gastronomy
A glamorous isle combining pristine sandy beaches with crumbling ruins of the ancient world, Sicily oozes elegance, style and sophistication — the perfect option for a luxurious solo trip. Let EnVogue do all the hard work for you with its six-night itinerary which will see you dining at a 1920s historic villa in the heart of Taormina as a private guest of a passionate Sicilian lady who invites very few into her home. Not only will you indulge in exclusive Sicilian gastronomy and sample homemade recipes passed down over countless generations, you’ll also learn all about the history of the island at the same time. Other highlights include uncovering the island’s storied past in the iconic Valley of Temples before tucking into a private picnic in the Garden of Kolymbethra, and recharging on Taormina’s soft sand beaches before hopping aboard a boat to sail across to Isola Bella. We suggest basing yourself at the most exclusive property in town, the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo. Embodying opulence, elegance and style, just a stone’s throw from the ancient Greek theatre and with views across the Ionian Sea, you could do much worse.
Best for: A solo staycation
If you’re looking to get away from it all with a weekend of good food, peace, quiet and a little pampering, there’s no denying Dubai is full to the brim with luxury hotels and beachfront resorts that make for the perfect solo staycation. What’s more, with summertime special offers popping up all over, there’s no better time to escape for some dedicated me-time. For lavish interiors, sublime spa, fine food and a stellar Downtown Dubai location (plus close proximity to The Dubai Mall if you’re looking to indulge in a little retail therapy during your stay), The Dubai Edition ticks all the right boxes. Warm beige tones, vast floor-to-ceiling windows and chic arched domes set the tone for a relaxing yet stylish stay, while rooms are similarly chic and offer balconies boasting unparalleled Burj Khalifa views. A Deluxe Room is the perfect size for a solo traveller — you’ll find a king bed and marble bathroom complete with huge bathtub —but if you’re feeling flush, you can always upgrade yourself to a suite for a little extra space. As to be expected, food here is world-class too, with the palatial Duomo paying loving tribute to fine Italian flavours. Post dinner, take yourself for a nightcap at the hotel’s luxury bar Leon where the mixologists are some of the best in Dubai. Be sure to check out the spa before you leave, too —not only is there a 24-hour gym, you can also choose between everything from bespoke massages and facials to sleep therapy. Book now