When you think of booking a summer vacation, you might think of trips as a couple, with friends, or with family. The thought of going on vacation alone can be daunting, if not unattractive. This raises all sorts of questions – who will you talk to? Who are you going to eat with? Will you be safe?
There has long been a stigma against solo use. Societal norms encourage us to be with someone – leisure experiences are priced as something to share with others. There may also be a level of guilt or self-indulgence associated with solo travel, such as shirking responsibility or giving up time with family.
An augmentation of one-person households, however, means that the hospitality industry now serves single consumers in addition to families and couples. The continuous blurred line between work and leisure, especially for Millennials and younger generations, makes it easier to work remotely or travel for our jobs. We are more transient than ever and have more opportunities to work and travel alone without feeling completely disconnected from the rest of our lives.
This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our 20s and 30s. From the challenges of starting a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or simply making friends as adults. The articles in this series explore questions and provide answers as we navigate this turbulent time in life.
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In recent years people have been more and more traveling alone – including young holidaymakers. They also share their experiences with a wide audience on social media – the #SoloTravel hashtag is associated with over 7 million posts on Instagram. Solo travelers participate in the growth solo economy – new products and services targeting isolated consumers.
Hotels, Cruisescatering, tourism companies and festivals show how design, staff and technology can be adapted to accommodate – and even encourage – solo consumption in travel. Our research in The Solo Consumer Experience in Cafes offers insight into how solo drinking can be as enjoyable and fulfilling as going with a partner or friend. Through free writing exercises, these consumers shared their own experiences. Their words offer a few reasons why you should try it too.
To be together, alone
Our research participants highlighted the key factors that help them enjoy their solo experience – high seats and windows that allow them to sit and observe the lives of others without any direct interaction or connection. You don’t need to arrive with others to feel part of a social environment. Alone in a crowded square or on a busy beach, the proximity of other people and their conversations can be a source of comfort, distraction or even entertainment.
The seat is important – I like the window, especially a stool and a “shelf” table to the outside… I see people, I imagine their lives, I see cars and life go by. I look at the other customers, I look out the window at the street, the cliché of “watching the world go by”. The setting, the context and the environment of the café are important for this moment of pause.
Take some time for yourself
Being alone can be a therapeutic experience, a time to process thoughts, feelings and emotions and leave you ready to face the world again. Perhaps take the time to write, draw, or do some other creative activity at your own pace. Dive into your own thoughts without feeling the pressure to please someone else or force a conversation.
Sitting alone with my thoughts can be a comforting experience; choose a seat, get comfortable… I can find silence with my thoughts and feel no pressure to act for anyone or get involved in a conversation that doesn’t interest me.
Get out of your comfort zone
Being able to do your own thing, without having to consider others, can be relaxing and can also give you the opportunity to do something you’ve never done before, without judgment. You might want to go to some kind of class, go shopping, or have a full day of relaxation.
Our research findings indicate that time spent doing things alone can relieve some of the pressures that companions can bring. Alone time gives you the space to experience things at your own pace and enjoy your surroundings without distraction. In doing so, you may find yourself in new situations, far from your comfort zone – an energizing and exciting experience.
Embrace the culture of the solo traveler
Solo travelers have their own way of doing things, they have a common behavior and process and often become a collective in themselves. They recognize the process of traveling alone and respect others who do the same, and may even seek out spaces to be alone, together. Solo travelers can engage in a shared experience and dialogue while maintaining their own individualism – helping each other in times of need, but also leaving themselves alone.
We look for places where we feel like we belong… We are happy to smile at each other. We don’t need to argue to engage. We are happy alone with a coffee. I am among my tribe.