It's not always the most popular opinion to advance, but do you ever get annoyed by how much certain types of advertising are aimed at couples? "Hey! Try our new meal box service – delicious ingredients and new tastes for you to try! Just choose between 'meal for 2' or 'meal for 4'!". It feels a little bit mocking.
It can be even worse seeing holidays advertised this way. Sure, if you're booking a weekend in Paris or Venice for Valentine's Day, it's fair to say you'd be expected to book for two. But it can get thoroughly annoying to see the beautiful beaches of Dubrovnik, or the fjords of Norway, advertised in the same way.
Sure, a holiday is often best enjoyed with loved ones, family or friends. Watching the sunset, enjoying the peaceful idyll of your chosen destination? These are fine things to experience with someone you love.
But guess what? Sometimes those same peaceful, idyllic destinations can be perfect holiday locations for one. We shouldn't be ashamed to travel solo and to look for places that cater for that choice.
Reason #1: You Pick Your Own Destination
Let's take a completely hypothetical scenario. You've read several books and watched documentaries about the majestic, austere beauty of Serbia. You know you want to go. Every time you mention it, however, friends and family wrinkle their noses.
"I'm more than up for a holiday," they say, "but what's wrong with New York or Paris?"
The answer is of course that nothing is wrong with those places. You've just seen them before. You know so much about them from just having been alive for long enough, and you fancy something different.
If you go alone, you can head for Belgrade and know that you're seeing it how you want to. Without someone muttering under their breath about how they could get a pulled pork sandwich on any corner in New York.
Reason #2: You Choose Your Own Itinerary
Alternatively, maybe you want to go to New York. There's no reason why not – it's a fascinating city. So many people have made it their home that there is genuinely something for everyone. And sometimes, that's part of the problem. There is too much New York, too much London, too much Paris to see all of it in one week.
So, you'll get to a point where you want to go and check out Radio City Music Hall, and your fellow traveller would prefer to walk through Central Park. Whoever breaks first will resent the other for the duration of the flight home. Yes, even if you go alone there may still be some New York you didn't get to see. But it will be your choice. You can see it next time.
Reason #3: The Magic of Getting Lost
Anyone who does much solo travel can talk about the value of getting lost in a new city. Not figuratively speaking, either. Getting lost and not knowing where you are. It's how you really get to know a place.
"How do I get back to the main square from here? I'll try this side road. Oh, that's not it, but check out this fantastic little bakery! I'll remember this tomorrow at lunchtime!"
In these days of smartphones and interactive maps, you never need to stay lost for long. However, working on your own initiative will reveal the true city to you. There’s plenty of help to be had, too – you can be aided by the likes of Just You and specialists in the solo travel area. Then you have the backup you need and still be a little bit selfish and literally lose yourself.
Reason #4: You Get a More Authentic Experience
It is an unwritten rule of travel that the more people there are sharing a holiday experience, the more generic it will become. Six people travelling together from the UK or the US will find the nearest McDonalds and eat there. The "brave" one in the group might try one of the "local" menu items in there. All the same, it's not exactly exploration, is it?
If you go to Vienna, you should be trying the array of sausages from food stands and strudel from the bakeries. If you're in Toronto, pick up a beaver tail or some poutine. What's the use in going somewhere new if you're not going to broaden your horizons a little?
It's also a fact that if there is a language barrier, this will become a greater problem the more people are holidaying together. Unless you all met on the same Italian course at university, it will always fall to one person to order in cafés, mediate in shops and haggle in markets. And that grates before too long.
Reason #5: You Don't Need to Travel Alone, Alone
With tour providers now specialising in trips for the solo traveller, you can be one of many people having the same experience. So if you think that a certain part of your holiday would benefit from having someone to talk about it with, it's cool. If you don't fancy walking home alone from a bar in an unfamiliar city, no worries.
This kind of tour gives you the best of both worlds. If you suspect that your co-tourists in Finland don't much fancy seeing Helsinki's Kamppi Chapel, go yourself. Then meet up again for lunch or for the evening's entertainment. After all, it can be a superb way to meet people who share your interests in a way your friends just don't get.
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