Solo travel is a topic with the power to divide people.
While some people are drawn to the adventure and challenge of traveling alone, others can’t imagine the desires that would motivate why people solo travel in the first place!
As I began to investigate the reasons why people solo travel, I was drawn to a body of academic research already existing on this topic, reviewed in the article below.
Why people choose to travel alone
Many studies have sought to identify the motivations for people who choose to travel internationally by themselves. A review of the academic literature on this topic was conducted by Hamid, Sheeba & Ali, Ruksar & Azhar, Mohd & ., Sujood. (2021), if you’re curious about what many different studies have determined to be the motivating factors for why people solo travel, I recommend this survey of the existing research on the topic.
For visual learners, like me, I chose to distill all that information into this simple pie chart showing the reasons that, according to researchers, people (particularly women) choose solo travel.
Research: Solo travel is growing in popularity
As solo travel has exploded in popularity in recent years – the hospitality and tourism industry has scrambled to understand why people solo travel in order to better accommodate these travelers.
It’s probably no surprise to hear that more and more travelers are choosing to travel alone. What was once a niche market of particularly adventurous travelers, is now a common theme on our social media feeds and travel influencer content. Researchers believe that technology is a driving factor in why people choose to solo travel- the confidence that comes with being one click away from maps of destinations, reviews of hotels and hostels, sources of help, and the global community of solo travelers emboldens more and more travelers to consider this style of travel.
According to Google Search trends, Searches for ‘solo travel’ increased significantly in recent years. In my analysis of Google Trends data, 2017 saw a 24% increase in search traffic for the term “solo travel” compared to the previous year, and in 2018 that traffic increased a further 28% compared to 2017.
Prior to the travel shut-down in 2020, searches for “solo travel” jumped another 11% compared to the previous year, before dropping by more than 50% in 2020. Notably, the month of December 2019 saw the highest search traffic for this term, up 33% from the average of the previous 24 months.
Why Solo Travel Is Good
Some people who don’t understand why people solo travel might be confused why solo travel is good. While there are thousands of first-person accounts online about the benefits of solo travel, researchers seeking to answer whether solo travel is good or bad apply research methods to travelers and their experiences.
According to researchers, solo travel is good because it provides a person the excitement of new experiences, a sense of independence, opportunities for personal growth, and the unique experience of both leaving oneself behind and finding oneself. As Wilson and Harris, 2006 noted, “solo traveling is an outer journey (and) it is an inner one for many women (…) Solo traveling is not only a physical thing but a psychological experience with a spiritual touch.”
Why Solo Travel Is The Best
Many people hate going back to traveling with groups or companions once they’ve tried solo travel. One of the primary benefits of solo travel is being able to set one’s own pace – when traveling alone there’s no need to monitor a partner’s impatience as you stand enthralled in front of a painting in a museum, or no reason to worry about ruining an entire group’s trip if you get tired before everyone else.
Chiang and Jogaratnam’s research in 2006 determined that solo travelers choose the route of solo traveler for five reasons: gaining experience with new people, understanding new cultures, relaxation, self-esteem, and escape from responsibilities.
Detailed Image Description for Screen Readers:
A colorful and irregularly shaped circle is split randomly into a pie chart. The caption above the pie chart reads “why people solo travel.” Each of the colored sections of the rainbow-colored pie chart has a line corresponding to a reason that people identify as a motivation for traveling alone.
These include, clockwise from the top: to challenge own limits, to expand cultural awareness, desire to be seen as bold and adventurous, to meet interesting people, rest and relaxation, freedom from gendered expectations, build self-esteem, to get a break from responsibilities, to build self-reliance. At the bottom right of the image, the artist and the data source are credited: “visualized by wanderbig.com data source Hamid et al. 2021.
What about you? If you travel alone, do the reasons outlined by researchers and reflected in this summary infographic ring true for your personal experience?
Drop a comment below to share your own motivations for why you choose solo travel tourism. Although researchers approach this question from an academic perspective, the voices and firsthand experiences of seasoned solo travelers can give potential new solo travelers confidence to take their first trip.
Lynli Roman’s unique approach to travel is informed by decades of experience on the road with a traveling family and, later, years spent as a solo international traveler. When she’s not writing about Seattle from her Pike Place Market apartment, Lynli writes on-location while conducting hands-on research in each destination she covers. Lynli’s writing has been featured by MSN, ABC Money, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post. She is passionate about sharing information that makes travel more accessible for all bodies.