They love travelling independently and find joy and excitement during their solitary getaways. We find out from these discerning globetrotters why solo trips are so fulfilling. They also share valuable tips on how to make the most out of their journeys.
Why do you enjoy solo travels?
My work entails meeting people constantly. I am an introvert so having alone time is essential for me to recharge. Travelling alone allows one to explore places that one genuinely is interested in and to veer off the planned itinerary without causing any inconvenience to others. It may come across as selfish, but wandering alone does give the soul time and space to recharge, develop insight and discover the essence of one’s self. One may also discover a new interest, meet new people or have time to expand on a new hobby. I find that travelling alone also gives me time to appreciate things more keenly versus being distracted by conversation and social activity necessitated when one is travelling with others.
Which are the latest places you’ve travelled to alone and which ones do you recommend?
I was in Copenhagen last April. I had a lovely week exploring the city and its outskirts. It’s a very user friendly city and getting around is easy. Everyone speaks English and I had wonderful conversations at the bakeries, restaurants and museums. I travelled to the Arken Museum of Modern Art which is in Ishog – an hour by train from Copenhagen. The change in scenery was lovely and it gave me the opportunity to enjoy the Danish countryside.
I will be heading to Portland, Oregon soon to visit the Columbia River Gorge and some of her beautiful waterfalls (there are over 90). A friend has said that the Portland Art museum (one of the oldest on the West Coast of the United States) has a strong Asian Art collection so I will be visiting that too. I will also spend a few days at the Willamette Valley to visit some wineries.
For novice solo travellers, I think it’s helpful to choose a destination where language isn’t an issue and where transportation is efficient. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from heading off to park yourself at a sandy beach for some quiet time. Make a list of places that call out to you. Check out the logistics and attractions and I think your inner self will tell you which place to visit.
What tip would you give for dining solo in a fine dining restaurant overseas?
Fine dining establishments always make time and space for a solo guest. Chatting to the waitstaff and asking them about their work or what they do in their free time are very natural conversation topics. I ask them about their favourite restaurants or things they recommend for me to do in the city.
I find that the staff are always happy to share their thoughts. Solo travellers are also usually given one of the best tables in the restaurant, to enable them to watch the comings and goings as they dine alone.
Some of my most memorable solo dining experiences have been at the L’Atelier Joel Robuchon in Hong Kong and at Geranium in Copenhagen. At the L’Atelier, I ordered a lovely bottle of wine (it was very well priced) and enjoyed my evening by sharing it with the sommelier and chef at the restaurant. We had a great time conversing about the restaurant scene and about their experiences.
At Geranium, the reservations team offered me a counter seat (as the restaurant was full). When I arrived, I discovered that it overlooked the entire restaurant with a direct view of the kitchen. It was such a treat and, to me, the best seat in the house!
Are there any challenges about travelling solo?
Obviously, safety is an issue especially for female travellers. I don’t cut corners when it comes to the choice of accommodation. It’s important to consider the location and the type of hotel. Single guests should not be roomed down the corridor, most hotels know to room single female guests near the guest lift. You may request for this when you make your reservation. I also research safety issues and crime rates in the city that I am travelling in.
Late nights are a no-no. I call for a taxi when heading back to the hotel after dinner (unless I am very familiar with the local public transport system) and have my nightcap at the hotel bar. It is also prudent to communicate with one of your friends on a daily basis (like a check in) so that they know all is well.
Why is solo travelling good for the soul?
Waking up to a different sunrise, layering for a different climate, being immersed in a different time zone, culture and language, trying food that isn’t easily available back home… and interactions with people from different lands. These are the joys of being away from time to time, and experiences that are best enjoyed alone at your own time and pace and at your own terms.
Which are the latest places you’ve travelled to alone?
I have made two solo trips to Italy since the post-pandemic era. The first visit was in February 2022 to Florence, when Italy wasn’t yet open to leisure travel by citizens from many countries including Singapore. I was there for a work trip and managed to secure entry with the help of my Italian business counterparts. That was during the era of vaccinated travel lane flights, green pass checks, masks-on indoors and in planes and trains and pre-departure COVID tests.
Fast forward to January 2023. I was lucky to have the chance to visit Florence again. This time, it was a trip scheduled in conjunction with Pitti Uomo, the world’s largest men’s fashion fair. The feel was totally different, with the entire city abuzz with action from buyers, sellers and participants from all over the world. Masks were optional in all settings including in planes and trains. Green pass checks were a thing of the past. It was good to travel and interact just like before, without any of the COVID restrictions.
For first timers to travelling solo, pick a destination that allows you to discover the culture and meet like-minded people. Or one where you have connections or friends whom you could some some time with in between all the solo, open-minded encounters. Go with an open mind, but exercise sensible care to ensure personal safety and wellness.
Any packing tips for solo travelling – especially your suits?
I pack as much as I feel I need, and ensure that I’m able to get on and off trains without any hassle (or third party assistance). Do some pre-planning to ensure you have a good rotation of clothes and shoes for all the activities you will be engaging in. Jackets and suits can be easily flat-folded for travel – just approach any good tailor or menswear shop and ask them to show you how best to fold jackets without flattening the lapel roll. It’s a good skill that every man should possess.
How was your first-time travelling alone?
I loved every minute of it. I didn’t realise how much capacity of joy and happiness I had within myself. It was good for the soul because it was empowering – but more importantly, it made me realise that I’m capable of more than I ever thought I would be. Travelling alone can be scary, daunting – both in terms of personal and physical safety as well as emotional loneliness. But being able to overcome those fears was necessary for me to realise that I am more than my fears and that nothing can limit me.
Which are the latest places you’ve travelled to alone and which ones do you recommend for first timers?
I went to Athens and Santorini. Many people feel like Greece, especially Santorini, is a very romantic/couple destination, but the country has everything for everyone. There were plenty of solo travellers who I met on tours. What I loved about Greece was how multi-faceted it is.
For history buffs, it’s a dream destination. Watching a concert at the Odeon is a must. For adventurers, there are plenty of activities like hiking trails, volcanoes and swimming in the Aegean Sea and volcanic springs. For party goers, Greece is incredibly vibrant – at night, both Santorini and Athens were buzzing. In fact, Athens is fun at any time – bars are full even at 3pm on a random week day afternoon. The wine tours are always great and a fun way to meet new people.
What are your travel tips for female travellers?
Tip no 1: Nobody is thinking of you as much you think of yourself! So don’t be embarrassed of being solo and let that stop you from doing what you want to. Do what makes you happy.
No 2: Safety first. When booking a hotel, look at the location first (use Google maps and trawl through Trip Advisor reviews). Sometimes the most beautiful resorts can be a bit secluded, so think about how you want to travel. I wanted to be able to commute at any time and be independent, so I chose hotels on busy main roads.
No 3. Tours are great! Again, I found some incredible tours by trawling the travel sites. They were a fun way of meeting new people, and discovering the hidden secrets of the city. Fellow travellers and tour guides are happy to recommend restaurants, bars etc, so don’t feel shy to ask them.
No 4. Go beyond the expected: of course there are tours of the Parthenon and the other well-known historic sites. But also unexpected ones that let you explore a different facet of the city – I did an incredible street art tour of Athens that took us off the usual touristy beaten track.
No 5. Download tons of books/ podcasts / TV shows. Bring multiple chargers and travel plugs.
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Why is solo travelling good for the soul?
Solo traveling seemed daunting before I tried it, but I loved it once I did it. Traveling alone gives me a sense of complete freedom – to be who I am, to plan my own itinerary, to see what I want to see. I have varied interests: horse riding, surfing, diving, and doing long arduous hikes, and sometimes it’s difficult to gather friends to join me on my hare-brained adventures!
As a solo traveller, I’ve found it much easier to meet new people too, both locals and other travellers. I’m also a lot more open to new experiences, to saying “yes” to invitations – what else do I have to do anyway? That’s arguably the point of travelling – to be exposed to new people, ideas, perspectives. Finally, traveling alone and experiencing a completely foreign culture and landscape gives me the time and space to be more introspective. Some of the most peaceful, thoughtful times I’ve had have been sitting alone on a train, zipping through the countryside of a new land, looking out of the window and pondering my life.
You’ve travelled alone to far-flung destinations like Patagonia and Mexico. Why did you choose these places and would you recommend doing this kind of adventure based travels alone?
I was in Patagonia for six months, but the first two months were spent volunteering at a ranch in the countryside. That gave me time to meet locals and other travellers, and immerse myself in the local culture and language, before travelling across Argentina for the next four months.
In Mexico, I spent most of my time at a surf camp and language school in Puerto Escondido, which also gave me a base to meet other like-minded travellers. I speak Spanish, which was a huge plus. Speaking the local language significantly enriches the experience – it allows you to bond more with locals, get more off-the-beaten-track insights, and navigate the cities that much more easily. I’ve always had a great experience travelling alone, so I definitely recommend it!
What tips would you give for first timers who travel solo to such places?
Go with an open mind and a sense of adventure. You’ll find that you’re completely capable of doing things alone, or at least asking people for help. Navigating a foreign country alone isn’t easy sometimes, but I’ve found that people will help you if you ask for it.
Other tips – have a loose idea of what you’d like to see and do. If you don’t speak the local language, it really helps to learn some key phrases. Put yourself in situations where you’ll meet people organically – sign up for group tours, attend a class, etc.
Finally, read up and do your research on your destination before going. Spend the first few days in one place, which will give you time to acclimatise to the local vibes, get your necessities (exchanging local currency, finding local tours, etc) in order, and just get familiar with the way things work in a new country.
Any challenges about travelling solo?
While traveling alone, I do get the occasional pang – it would be nice to enjoy a meal or witness a gorgeous sunrise with a friend. But I usually find new friends to go with. As a solo female traveller, I’ve had to make concessions for the sake of safety: I don’t go out alone at night, I have to be extra vigilant of my surroundings, etc. But speaking the local language and just being sensible are basically all you need.
Why is solo travelling good for the soul?
Everyone should embrace the beauty of solo travelling as it is a chance to get to know yourself better, step out of your comfort zone, and embark on new and and exciting adventures. Discovering new sights, learning about the history and culture of a new country is intriguing.
You went to Italy alone, could you share some of your experiences?
One of the most memorable experiences was solo-piloting a speedboat at Lake Como for the first time. It was the most nerve-wrecking, yet most liberating and exhilarating experience. And of course in Milan, channelling full-on shopping queen mode is mandatory. There you can go from store to store and pick out the most fabulous fashion in the world, with no one to stop you. Time is flexible and one can certainly do with a bit of retail therapy.
Would you go to an island holiday alone?
I think island getaways are the easiest. Not much planning is needed, just bring sunscreen! Your time is flexible unlike following a tour, so I would suggest a nearby destination like Thailand, Vietnam or Indonesia.
What tips would you give for first timers who travel solo?
Be open-minded and adventurous. Embrace the unknown and savour every moment. Pack light, get travel insurance, do research on sightseeing and book restaurants ahead of time. Planning is the key to worrying less on the trip. Share accommodation and flight details with family members. Talk to locals to find out authentic hangouts and to get a feel of the country. Don’t be scared and take loads of pictures.