There’s just something about seeing the world. We lust for the wander. We thirst for adventure. Yet there’s so much that holds us back from striking out on the open road. Money, time, and a good travel companion are high on the list of excuses we use not to venture off into the unknown. The first two are hard to deny. We all have to work and time off is fleeting. Money, well, it’s always a struggle. But travel is now cheaper and, therefore, more accessible than ever before.
That last one is a little more of a conundrum. Do we really need to travel with someone? It’s looking more and more like that answer is “no” as solo travel skyrockets across the world. A big ol’ study done by The New York Times back in 2015 showed that solo travel has risen from 14 percent of all travel to a full quarter of the travel experience. Since then, traveling solo has only grown. Google notes an almost doubling in solo travel searches over the last three years. And, if that’s not enough to convince you solo travel is the new way to see the world, travel studies have shown 80 percent of millennial travelers were traveling solo this year alone.
Why? Well, studies of people who travel, in general, have shown a lot of benefits. We know travel makes you smarter, happier, healthier, and more empathetic. Traveling on your own amps all those benefits up. When you’re out there solo, you kind of have to make friends you’d otherwise likely avoid. Your phone isn’t a refuge. If you want to meet people, you have no choice but to look up. It’s thrilling, in a way.
This trend isn’t going away. The advent of social networking apps, augmented reality, cheap hotel and travel aggregators, and access to broader information as a whole means we’re more open to the whole travel experience. Travel companies are paying attention too. Back in the old days, you rarely found a cruise or tour operator that didn’t charge you a “single supplement” — which, let’s be honest, taxed you for traveling solo. Today, travel companies like Intrepid Travel and U by Uniworld specifically cater to young solo travelers who want a little adventure in the backcountry or luxury cruising in Europe, respectively.
We’d like to think that any time is the best time to hit the road. Yet, according to stats from the travel world, fall seems to the time when solo travel peaks. Hey! It’s fall right now. With that in mind, we thought we’d lay down three of our essential indy-trails. These are not so much hardcore adventures but more gateways to the world. The suggestions below will help you dip your toe in the warm waters of solo travel without having to plunge into the deep end. Happy travels!
AUSTRALIAN HOLIDAY: DARWIN
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It might look like the middle of a forest but this is actually the @royalbotanicgardensvic, a short walk from the city or a tram-ride away if you also want to see the Shrine of Remembrance. If the weather gods are looking favourably upon you, it's perfect for a green escape after a day of bustling laneways and buzzing cafes. For the next few nights, the gardens will be transforming for @melbfestival's Fire Gardens – so look out for some spectacular snaps starting from tonight. Photo by @matthewflowerday #visitmelbourne #melbournetwist
Australia is a great place for any American to start a solo trip. English is the main language spoken across the country, making that one less hurdle to overcome. Another great reason is Oz’s vastness. The continent ranges from temperate forests in Tasmania to arid deserts throughout the center to tropical rainforests on the Top End. There’s an amazing food, beer, cocktail, and wine scene in the major metropolitan centers. Then, there’s the Outback where you can truly get a little lost on a walk-about.
Your best bet is to fly into Sydney and hang in cafes and posh beaches while you kick your jet lag’s ass. Once you feel like you’ve seen the city, head to the Outback. Fly into Darwin, the capital of the iconic Top End. This is Australia at its most raw and wild. Take a tour of the backwaters and chase crocs. Run with wallabies. Fish for barramundi. Drink all the Great Northern beer (it’s very light, you can drink a lot). Finally, end your trip in the amazing Kakadu National Park among the red rock cliffs and idyllic waterfalls. It’ll be the adventure of a lifetime.
WHY HERE? There are plenty of great places to explore in Australia but “The Territory” — where this itinerary is centered — is so unpopulated that there’s a sort of easy communalism. Whether it’s stepping into a dive bar, leaping off a waterfall, or exploring Aboriginal rock paintings in a national park, you’re going to feel looked after by locals and the elderly RV travelers who vagabond endlessly around the region.
AND IF YOU WANT TO TRAVEL ON… Flights to Bali from Darwin hover around $400. It’s a short jaunt for a glimpse at Balinese culture, $2 massages, and some of the best surf on the planet.