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Ask the Traveler: Should I go on a solo vacation?

Illustration by Andrea De Santis

There’s nothing more liberating than solo travel. It can be an adventure, a path to personal growth, and—yes—a little intimidating at first. But don’t let that stop you from taking the plunge.

If you’re a first-timer and completely solo, look to countries with stellar safety records where you speak the language, and where infrastructure—like public transit and cell connectivity—can lighten your logistical burdens. Budget extra for accommodations in more secure neighborhoods.

If practical considerations like these feel limiting in an era of go-big expeditions, don’t worry. There’s another, increasingly popular option: going solo with an organized group.

An epic trip through Australia several years ago with tour operator Contiki permanently converted me to traveling with strangers. Not only did I opt into some daredevil activities I’d never have braved without the moral support, but I also never worried about where to find gas or what time local restaurants closed.

In a recent survey of the Solo Traveler website’s online community, 42% of respondents said there’s another advantage to traveling solo: to meet new people. I agree.

If you think about it, every guided trip has a self-selecting group. A laid-back food tour of Italy’s Amalfi Coast will draw a far different crowd than a multiday trek through windswept Patagonia. In many cases, you can further winnow your travel companions by joining age- or gender-specific groups.

“Guided group travel offers solo travelers a sense of community and comfort they may not always get while traveling alone,” says Melissa DaSilva, president of travel company Trafalgar’s North American division. “They find themselves among like-minded individuals but from all walks of life.”

And, as interest in solo travel spikes, it’s getting a bit budget-friendlier for lone travelers to join group voyages. Trafalgar and other companies are dropping single-supplement fees in some cases, offering free single-room upgrades in others, or helping singletons find roomies. Increasingly, cruise lines are catering to solo travelers, too.

So if you, like the bulk of the Solo Traveler survey respondents, “want to see the world and don’t want to wait for others,” then don’t! Get out there! Be brave. Be smart. And remember, “solo” doesn’t have to mean “solitary” when it comes to your next big adventure.

Writer Jessica Fender is based in New Orleans. She’s a frequent contributor to AAA publications.

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