11 benefits of travelling soloExperts point out the many advantages to travelling alone
Travelling solo has ceased to be an eccentricity and is fast becoming an option that even contributes to our personal wellbeing. According to various experts at the UOC, this new trend is gaining ground thanks to both the socio-demographic changes that society has undergone in recent decades and the greater ease provided by technology.
Pablo Díaz, a professor with the Faculty of Economics and Business at the UOC, believes that the rise in solo travellers is a "dynamic of the times we're living in"; not only do we travel more, but the values associated with this type of travel ("challenge, freedom of movement, flexibility, self-learning and the possibility of meeting new people") are also on the rise. Besides this, social media has made it easier to share and spread the word about these types of solo experiences.
An added bonus to all of this is the fact that the price of solo accommodation and mobility options, traditionally more expensive, has fallen. "Now that people can choose dates with greater flexibility and the market is adapting its offer to match this new niche, prices are dropping", Díaz claimed.
Lluís Garay, Faculty of Economics and Business professor and director of the university master's degree programme in Corporate Social Responsibility gives another reason for this increase in solo travel. He maintains that the reasons to travel that have most grown in popularity in recent years, "such as those related to sport, mountains or even to self-knowledge", favour precisely travelling solo. A good example is the Camino de Santiago, which is a blend of all three. Garay points to the "socio-demographic changes of recent decades" as being primarily responsible for this new trend. Aspects such as ageing, the crisis of traditional family models and female empowerment have quite a lot to do with it. "It's also easy to understand why a single person with a medium to high income and enough holiday allowance has opportunities that other profiles don't have", the UOC professor added.
Technology as a driving force
Technology is no stranger to this new way of travelling and proves to be quite handy for solo travellers. Professor Díaz highlights that technology is a great help in planning a journey with independence and flexibility, although it also plays a major role right before the solo traveller sets off. "They're inspired by other solo travellers who use technology intensively to post on social media or blogs, where they write about their experience", Díaz asserted.
And technology is no less helpful while on the road. "The feeling of loneliness that can sometimes come with travelling alone can be reduced thanks to the use of social media, which allows travellers to share their experiences with their nearest and dearest", Díaz explained. Paradoxically, technology can also help us feel less lonely or even eradicate the feeling completely once we are back home if we use it to relate with other travellers or local people through "meet-up, activity or travel-sharing apps".
Eleven benefits of travelling solo
Besides the advantages that travelling solo can have at a logistical level, studies have shown that it also has benefits in terms of developing people's autonomy and maturity. Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences course instructor Sílvia Sumell summarized the principal advantages of travelling solo in the following list:
- We increase our self-assuredness and self-esteem.
- We improve our decision-making abilities, as in one way or another everything depends on us and there is not much room for "doubt" or being led by others.
- Our general level of overall well-being rises.
- On a cerebral level, new neural connections are created, as we are exposing our brain to new situations and stimulating it. These new situations range from the fact of being in contact with new people, being immersed in a different language or landscape or having to use a map to be able to get around.
- We learn to be with ourselves.
- It helps to shatter the myth that people travel solo because they do not have friends or anyone to go with. This is no longer true and many people prefer to travel solo as yet another new experience.
- We learn to tackle new sensations and feelings that we would possibly avoid if we travelled as a couple or in a group.
- We learn to look for resources to solve different problems or situations that may arise. Seeing what we are capable of makes us feel better.
- We face possible fears or insecurities.
- We enhance or stimulate different cognitive areas, such as spatial orientation (eg when arriving in certain places that we want to visit), our ability to organize and plan (eg preparing the whole journey, planning meals, etc), executive functions, and our attention, concentration and memory capacity (eg the fact of being alone means that we have to be more alert and pay more attention to what we are doing, as we cannot depend on the group or partner). We may even be able to learn or practise a language or new words, and we boost our social skills (eg when we relate or communicate with new people or another culture, etc).
- Travelling helps us break down complete myths or prejudices we may have about people, cultures or ways of thinking.
However, travelling alone is not always smooth sailing. Díaz claims that the individualization of social media can lead to what is known as FOMO (fear of missing out). "The concern with missing out on something created by social media through the constant exposure of experiences", he stated, "has a beckoning effect on solo travellers who want to satisfy these needs created on social media". Doubts also exist in terms of the safety of women travelling solo, a growing group. Finally, we need to consider a type of solo traveller who, as Díaz put it, "are unfortunately sex tourists, who go to very diverse places where, for legal or financial reasons, they find it easier to satisfy their desires".
For his part, Garay recalls the challenge that this new trend poses to the tourist industry. The destinations that receive solo travellers will have to make changes, "especially with regard to the type of accommodation (single-use rooms), catering (options for solo travellers) and leisure (more closely linked to their motivations)".