Travelling solo - why we think it’s empowering and emancipating.
The travel sector has finally started to oust the ‘single’ word when it comes to independent exploration of our world. No more defining a traveller by their relationship status - thus removing stigma from solo travel and replacing it with strength in individualism. We celebrate the solo word in travel and, from experience, we know that travelling by train is the perfect way to do so.
It’s worth swapping quite a few other words around, in fact, to highlight the joys of independent travel. The most common synonyms of ‘alone’ are,, ‘deserted’, ‘loner’, ‘forlorn’ and even ‘abandoned’. For women in particular, this is sometimes how you are still perceived when travelling solo. Having access to travel and tourism is a UN human right*, whether you are married, a mother, menopausal or simply in need of me time.
Only me, not lonely me
When you travel by yourself, you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Want to sleep in and eat breakfast in bed? There’s no one to stop you. Want to spend one day taking in Paris at your own pace, and walking in Fontainebleau Forest the next? You can. Visit Amsterdam’s art galleries in the morning, and go cycling among the tulip fields in the afternoon. On a solo trip you can indulge in the pleasure of owning your journey entirely. That doesn’t make you selfish. That just means you value self-discovery.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Friendly not friendless
When you travel on your own, the world opens up. If you want to stay open, that is. Being alone with your thoughts is an undeniably lovely place to be sometimes. However, if you are in the mood for looking outwards rather than inwards you will find that the kindness of strangers kicks in. People offer to share their food on a train, enquire after you if you look lost, engage in conversation and smile at you more often. We all know that to find the oyster in the world, you have to prise open that shell. Solo travellers aren’t suckers. They are shuckers.
A cut above, not cut off
Travelling solo can push your boundaries and force you out of your comfort zone. And you’ll only know how good you are at getting out of a bind when you find yourself in one. This applies whether you are eighteen or eighty. As life goes on, we all need to think outside the box more, and remove the cotton wool comfort of travelling with a companion. By learning, or re-learning how to just ask for help, or get resourceful when it comes to solving sticky situations boosts your self-esteem big time. You can also make the most of guided and group holidays, which make solo travel a bit more accessible for many. Such as cycling in France, cooking in Italy or walking in Spain.
"If you don’t get out of the box you’ve been raised in, you won’t understand how much bigger the world is." - Angelina Jolie
Fashionable not forlorn
There have been some pioneering women travellers over the centuries such as Vita Sackville-West, Edith Wharton, Dervla Murphy and Sarah Outen. Today, solo travel is on the rise, particularly for women, according to a report by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA**). However, you don’t have to navigate the Atlantic or climb Kili to be considered on trend. Even if you only go for a weekend of hiking, explore a new hostel, seek out a summit, or jump on a train with a pop-up tent for quick bit of coastal camping, you’ll be joining the flow of new solo travel thinkers. Eventually accommodation providers will catch on too, and stop the outrageous notion of single supplements, single beds and so on. Some of the more switched on ones are already doing so. This travel guide on ‘No Single Supplements holidays’ is a good starting point.
“I am rooted, but I flow.” ― Virginia Woolf
This article was not written solo, however, but with contributions from keen solo travellers on our team, Catherine Mack and Catherine Bodry.
* As defined by Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 7.d of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Homage to slow
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Car hire at UK train stations
If you want to travel by train, but need a car when you get there, here's a list of some main UK train stations where you can hire a car.