While I never tire of talking about solo travel, I sometimes feel a bit irritated by the media focus on “solo female travel,” as though there is some requirement to divide travelers into different groups.
Surfing the Internet or reading newspaper headlines, you would think that it is only women who travel alone – or only women who need tips and advice on how to do so.
It doesn’t make sense to me.
At Solo Traveler, we have never intended to be a community only for women. Obviously, as Janice and I are women, we experience travel, as we experience all of our lives, through a particular lens. And we have set aside a page on the website that focuses on the experiences of women. But by and large, day to day, we write for travelers. Full stop.
Since it seems that the voices of men are sometimes left out of this conversation, I thought it was time to give them some profile. I turned to the Solo Travel Society, our Facebook community, where 36% of the members are male, to ask the men a question: What is your primary reason for traveling solo?
In more than 120 comments, they shared their thoughts on male solo travel. As I waded through the responses, I pulled out some major themes. Here's what they had to say about why they, personally, travel alone.
Exploration and Adventure
Exploring new cultures, having exciting adventures, and pursuing personal passions were some of the reasons the men gave for choosing solo travel. Stefano talked about the excitement of the unknown, “the feeling of exploring that it's difficult to have if you're with others, especially because many tend to plan and foresee everything, which takes away the magic. I even avoid pictures of a place I'm about to visit in order to have that surprise factor, because often we think we know something about a place, but then we go there and happily (for me) discover we knew nothing and much of the world is still a gem to discover!” Karl seeks the adventure of “meeting people different than me, eating different food and going places I have never been.” Clayton enjoys being exposed to new languages and cultures and meeting new people, without being restricted by other people's schedules.
As a photographer, Kendrix finds it “difficult to find someone to travel with that understands photography and what it demands. It’s also easier to meet people than if I was traveling with someone. Plus it’s easier to change schedules and plans at the last moment when I’m alone.” Sporting events are the draw for Robert, who doesn't have many friends who share his interest. He says, “I also enjoy having my own plan of what to do, and not having to change it to fit in someone else's plans, and I don't have to worry about anyone else being on time.” Akshay enjoys exploring local cuisine, and traveling solo allows him the opportunity to “focus on food and not on sightseeing and partying which my family and friends are keen on.”
A lot of the men who responded to my question gave very thoughtful responses, particularly around the potential for male solo travel to help them step outside themselves and their daily lives and to get to know themselves better and in a different light. As Asif said, “In our lives we have different roles like father, son, husband, and brother so we sometimes lose ourselves in these roles. Solo traveling gives you a chance to meet yourself and just be yourself.”
Kanian spoke about the spiritual impact. “Traveling solo is the most rewarding experience–it makes me feel human, it makes me trust humanity, it breaks me, shapes me, and nourishes me with all it does to my sensibilities, emotion, psyche, and soul. It’s spiritual and it’s bliss. It's my salvation!”
A number of men commented on the value of being pushed out of their comfort zones. Mark asked, “Where is the fulfillment of staying in your comfort zone? Where are the experiences which keep your memories warm at night?” Dan said, “I like the feeling of being placed outside of my comfort zone. Travel feels like more of an adventure when you are alone.” And Jeremy shared the four benefits that solo travel offers him: “the adventure of being out of my comfort zone and not knowing where each day will take me; the reflective thoughts that come from the time spent in solitude lead to an evaluation of life and how I am spending it; a time to just ‘be' rather than just ‘do'; and the opportunity to meet more locals for a more immersive experience and make more friends.”
Steve summed up the power of solo travel to inspire personal discovery very nicely:
It’s my therapy, and I am convinced it helps keep me somewhat sane. It’s the time in my life where I can truly step outside my comfort zone. Away from work, responsibility, day-to-day routines, I completely do things on my own terms. I traveled a certain way in my previous life. My solo trips now are the opposite of everything I used to do travel-wise. Traveling solo is a completely unique process for me, personally. It fuels my everything. No plans, no commitments, no reservations. Buy a ticket, get off the plane, and figure out what I’m doing from there. I truly love the getting lost part and absorbing myself in a new place and new culture. No checklists. It gives me a huge sense of accomplishment that carries me forward to my next trip.
Independence and Freedom
This was the category that yielded the largest number of responses. Many readers love the freedom and lack of restrictions that go along with traveling alone. Shaun said “I travel solo because I want my journey to be about me and the places I’m going to see.” David said, “I guess it's a bit selfish, but I love the independence. I always travel shoulder or off-season with only a tentative itinerary in my head. If I get to a place I like, I just stay longer; if I get to a place I don't like or I see the highlights more quickly than anticipated, I just move on. You're less able to do that when fitting in a travel companion's wishes.”
Some of the men spoke about the unique ways that they travel and how much easier it is to do so alone. “When I travel, I don't stop. I'm out sightseeing by 9 am and won't rest or eat until around sundown. I'm a peculiar traveler, and nobody I know would be willing to walk 10-12 hours a day, every day,” said DX. Conversely, Sambor said this: “I want to see the world and learn about it on my own terms and at my own pace. Generally, I'm an introvert so going out in the world, spending hours in the hustle tires me out. I need my own space and often I might not get it when travelling with others. I also dislike taking care of others, and I had to do so on a few occasions, which just made me feel more tired. No such problems when travelling solo.” Marinus prefers to explore a destination on wheels. “I'm single and have done most of my holidays on a bicycle, varying from 600 to 5,000 km. Apart from the fact that it's not easy to find people wanting to take such long bicycle trips and having the time for it, I like being absolutely free to make my own decisions. It also makes it easier to make contact with the people around you, because when you're two you can always talk to each other, but when you're solo you have to talk to others when you're fed up with talking to yourself.”
Not having to explain their choices or worry about the enjoyment of others was frequently mentioned as a great benefit of traveling alone. “I don't have to worry about someone asking why I'm taking pictures of certain things, or why I'm waking up early to catch a sunset, or why I just want to relax instead of going out and doing something. It's the freedom to do what I want without being questioned about it,” said Willie. For Mike, the “complete flexibility to make plans, change plans, and avoid the disappointment of compromise” is important. Similarly, Mitch said, “I like making my own itinerary and doing all the stuff I want to do without feeling obligated to make anyone else happy.”
Anand values the independence of being responsible for every aspect of his trip. “I first traveled solo because I had no one available to accompany me. There has been no looking back. I travel solo all the time now. I like it because you are solely responsible for all your decisions. It keeps your senses alert and you have an unrestricted time the way you want.” Endro sums it up this way: “The freedom to go wherever, whenever, and for however long and the freedom to do whatever, meet whomever, is something I can only do after ‘talking, reflecting on, debating, and connecting with' myself. This is the luxury I can not get when traveling with someone familiar.”
Male Solo Travel: It's Not Always Plan A
In spite of all of the positive aspects of solo travel shared by the men of the Solo Travel Society, there were a large number of responses indicating that traveling alone was not their first choice. Some fell into it because their partner wasn't interested in traveling, or because their spouse had passed away. Some were single, with married friends who wanted to travel with their partners. Some found that their friends couldn't afford the time or money to travel the way they wanted to.
Oswald said, “My main motivation for traveling solo is I want to see the world. At the end of the day, I'd rather do it alone and have all the experiences that come with it rather than not travel and wonder what could've been, while waiting for others to join in.” Xavier concurred, saying, “My friends and I have different ideas of travel. Life is too short to wait around for someone.”
The last word on male solo travel as Plan B goes to Ted. “It's better than staying home alone. I'm not a passionate, enthusiastic solo traveler like some people are, but I do it anyway. Maybe that's typical of men, and explains why solo travel so often seems to be exclusively a topic for women. So thanks for asking the question!”
Interestingly, Tom was the only person who mentioned valuing the solitude of solo travel. “I'm an introvert and enjoy solitude. Plus, planning a trip with other people can be a pain. I love the flexibility a solo trip gives me. I can be social whenever I want, I can go off on a random hike whenever I want, I can do whatever I want. I enjoy traveling with people, but most of my trips are solo trips. I would be doing solo trips whether I was a man or a woman.”
Are you a male solo traveler? Please share your perspective in the comments section below.
Contributions from readers are welcome. Have you traveled solo to a destination that you would recommend to others? Use our easy, online form to submit the story and photos of your trip.