Solo travel can be both rewarding and adventurous, pushing you out of your comfort zone to explore new places and cultures. While some find it scary to embark on a solo trip, many travelers quickly discover the benefits of being alone. Others need an easy way or opportunity to strike up conversations with fellow travelers and locals.
Exploring the World Solo and Not Feeling Alone
Traveling alone can be incredibly fulfilling and empowering since solo travelers must adapt to new cultures, navigate unfamiliar environments, plan itineraries, and manage their budgets independently. But solo trips can be lonely at times.
Many solo travelers agree this experience is a fantastic way to meet people since they are exposed to people from all around the world. Still, it does not come easy for everyone, especially if they are embarking on their first solo journey.
A study published by Solo Traveler World reveals that more than half the solo travelers surveyed actively look for new friends while traveling. Here are six forms of solo travel that will make it easier to combat loneliness while traveling the world.
1. Wellness Retreats
Wellness retreats are spaces dedicated to meditation, fitness, wellness, spirituality, and yoga, but they are also a wonderful way to meet other travelers. Many retreats offer classes, hiking excursions, or meals that all guests are welcome to join.
These retreats often have structured agendas that help solo travelers plan their trips and provide a balance between solo time and group activities. By joining a wellness retreat, solo travelers surround themselves with other travelers seeking the same enriching experience.
Rosalind Cuthbertson, who co-owns Frequent Traveller travel blog, shared her experience attending such retreats. She wrote that wellness retreats unite like-minded individuals, so friendships are often instant and powerful.
“As someone who loves travel in all its forms, I can't recommend enough the enriching experience of going on a retreat,” Cuthbertson wrote. “Solo travel can sometimes be emotionally draining. But the retreat is the perfect blend of structured activities and free time. I attended yoga classes and meditation sessions but also had time to explore the local markets and beaches,” she continued.
Top Yoga Retreat Destinations
BookYogaRetreats.com published its top 10 yoga retreat destinations for 2023, with Portugal, Greece, and Indonesia leading the list. Last year, Costa Rica barely made the list, but this year advanced significantly. Yoga retreats in Costa Rica are eco-lodges or specialized yoga centers tucked into the jungle and bordering the beach. Popular options include Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, Luna Lodge, and Essence Arenal.
India, Thailand, Mexico, Iceland, Sweden, and the U.S. are also known for their wellness retreats. Not all retreats are solo traveler-friendly, so try to find one with many group activities and social spaces.
2. Group Adventure Tours
Adventure travel unites individuals with a flair for exciting, hands-on experiences. From watching wildfires to white-water rafting to cliff jumping, this form of travel pushes participants out of their comfort zones and leads to unforgettable experiences. Whether trekking through Patagonia, exploring temples in South America, or backpacking in the wild, adventure travel is all about embracing the unknown.
Alec Sills-Trausch, an experienced hiker and outdoor travel writer behind Explore with Alec, shared why he loves organized hiking groups as a form of solo travel. “They are a great way to meet new people and spend time outdoors. I find that many people want to get out but don't know where to go or don't want to go alone. A group setting makes it easier to lace up your boots and get outside!”
Joining group adventures that involve a strenuous, guided hike up a volcano and an overnight stay at a campground or in cabins is an unforgettable experience that forges a strong bond between travel partners, who support one another throughout the hike. These tours are carefully designed to foster a sense of community and camaraderie among participants who share a common interest in adventure and exploration.
While many of these activities require a certain fitness level, solo travelers can choose from hiking, rafting, cycling, or even wilderness survival. The latter was even featured in a recent Netflix original titled Happiness for Beginners, showing exactly how two solo travelers can connect during such an experience.
Adventure Travel Trade Association is a network of more than 30,000 organizations, tour operators, guides, and individuals committed to sustainability and adventure travel, offering endless options to join group adventure tours.
3. Artistic Retreats
Artists come together at retreats to improve their skills and travel. These retreats cater to all kinds of art, including music, dancing, photography, pottery, writing, and painting. While many travelers use these retreats to help them grow as artists, they are also a great networking opportunity.
Kevin Mercier, a professional travel blogger at Kevmrc.com, attended a photography retreat in Tuscany last year. The experience involved exploring the landscape and photographing medieval towns and vineyards. While some of his new companions traveled in groups, others came alone.
“It was easy to connect because we all had the same passion,” Mercier wrote about the experience. “We became like a big family, laughing and learning together.” He also explained that his photography improved throughout the trip, but the retreat also introduced him to new friends he would like to travel with in the future.
Artistic Retreat Options
Aperture Tours is a tour company specializing in providing photography experiences in various cities worldwide. They offer guided photography tours and workshops by professional photographers familiar with the local area, its culture, and its unique photographic opportunities. Travelers can join an 11-day photography workshop in Oman or another to capture Japan during winter.
Gwen Kleist, family travel expert and founder of CaliforniaFamilyTravel.com, had a similar experience at a writing retreat in Santorini, Greece. Kleist wrote that she would not have visited the island alone if it was not for the retreat. “Attending a writers retreat provided a nice balance of time at the resort working and writing, and opportunities to meet like-minded people and do a bit of sightseeing, try new restaurants, and have great company instead of going alone,” she wrote.
Another great example is The Himalayan Writing Retreat, which is more than just about writing. It is also about embracing the beauty of the Himalayas, connecting with fellow writers, and embarking on a journey of self-discovery through words. Participants can start their writing journey, overcome writer's block, or take their work to the next level while connecting with like-minded travelers.
4. Volunteer Programs
Not all forms of travel are ethical, and some damage the environment, wildlife, and local communities. That's why volunteer programs are essential. Volunteers dedicate their time and skills to address local and global challenges while traveling, experiencing new cultures, and meeting people. A trip that has a purpose beyond just visiting places can feel exhilarating.
Volunteer programs often include conservation, educational initiatives, teaching English, supporting medical professionals, or building houses or schools. Sometimes, volunteers are given free housing and meals in exchange for their work.
Volunteering during solo travel helps to avoid feeling lonely because participants become part of a group with shared goals, making it easier to connect with people, make friends, learn new things, and explore the area. Volunteering keeps them busy so that they won't be bored. It also allows them to experience different cultures.
Volunteer Programs around the World
“Visitors to Hawaiʻi don't have to choose between a hike, a walk along the beach, seeing stunning Hawaiian flowers in botanical gardens, or volunteering to help keep paradise stunning for generations to come,” said Monica Fish, a former Oahu resident and frequent traveler. “Through their Mālama Hawaiʻi Program, travelers can take their pick from many volunteering activities that allow them to experience first-hand the cultural connection between Hawaiians and the land while cleaning waterways, adding trees and plants in conservation areas, and keeping their beaches beautiful. And a bonus, many hotels offer discounts to those participating in these volunteer activities.”
Volunteering is also a popular thing to do in Costa Rica. There are many animal sanctuaries, like Jaguar Rescue Center and Sanctuary, Natuwa Macaw Sanctuary, and Toucan Rescue Ranch, where solo traveler volunteers can get involved, practice their Spanish, and connect with other solo travelers.
International Volunteer HQ is a great place to look for opportunities and trip planning. These volunteer programs include some meals and accommodation for an affordable fee. Other great websites for volunteering include Oyster Worldwide, Worldpackers, or WOOF, which pair travelers with volunteer opportunities across the globe. Travelers can spend a month or more exploring the region while volunteering.
5. Community-Based Tourism
Community-based tourism is another route for solo travelers interested in ethical travel. These programs ensure that locals experience the economic benefits of tourism while introducing travelers to new cultures and traditions. Activities commonly seen in community-based tourism include cooking classes, community tours, cultural performances, and local festivals. These activities provide an opportunity to meet locals and other travelers.
Community Tourism Ideas for Solo Travelers
Bella Bucchiotti, a travel and food writer at xoxoBella, participated in community-based tourism in Thailand. She traveled alone and stayed with a local family while she worked on their organic farm. “They welcomed me with open arms and showed me their way of life,” Bucchiotti wrote. She shopped at local markets, cooked traditional Lanna recipes, and learned skills passed down through the family.
Homestays, like the one Bucchiotti stayed at, are excellent alternatives to hotels, as they provide discounted housing while teaching travelers about local culture. Homestay tours usually include airport transfers, family meals, a week-long itinerary with activities, a cooking class, and visits to the local area.
Other community-based travel programs include Fundación En Vía, which introduces travelers to local women entrepreneurs in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Thailand, Peru, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Costa Rica, and Ecuador are also known for their community-based programs. In addition to offering homestays, these countries have sustainable eco-lodges that provide economic support to local communities.
Eco-lodges operated by indigenous communities are another way to participate in community-based tourism. Kapawi Ecolodge in Ecuador, owned by the Achar Indigenous Nation, Nemiah Valley Lodge in British Columbia, Canada, owned by the Xeni Gwet'in community, and Rewa Eco Lodge in Guyana, built and run by the people of Rewa Village, are models for responsible and sustainable tourism. Travelers can take inspiration from their operations to make more conscious and ethical choices when planning their trips.
Whether you're in Europe alone, on a holiday solo in the UK, or wandering alone in the USA, solo travel allows you to do what you want, when you want, and where you want. Amidst all of it, hostels can be a haven for solo travelers. In addition to offering budget-friendly accommodations, many hostels have common spaces that make it easy to connect with fresh faces. Being solo, people often congregate in shared kitchens, the lobby, coworking spaces, or by the pool.
Benefits of Staying in a Hostel for Solo Travelers
Travelers can enjoy organized activities in an inclusive environment, like beach barbecues or group excursions like walking tours. Some hostels even have large offices with designated desks and a free daily welcome drink to introduce guests to one another.
Locals often own and operate these hostels, providing travelers with a more immersive experience. Guests who want to stay longer may volunteer at the hostel in exchange for free accommodations. Most hostels also offer private rooms for those who do not want to stay in a shared dorm. Travelers who opt for private accommodations can benefit from the hostel's social activities and shared spaces without sacrificing privacy.