Solo adventure travelers don’t have to stay solo unless they want to. Guided trips and communal lodgings give travelers a way to meet and socialize.
It’s not always possible to find compatible travel companions who have the same budget and the same time free — let alone the same idea of what constitutes a fabulous adventure travel tour. Sometimes, a significant other may say, “Not this time, honey: I’m not interested in sleeping with mosquitoes, chasing crocodiles through swamps, swimming with sharks, or going for a bike trip in central Mongolia. Bring back some pictures; I’ll have dinner ready when you get home.” What’s an adventure traveler to do?
It’s certainly possible to travel solo, but going alone isn’t the only choice. There are many ways for travelers to benefit from solo travel independence yet still enjoy the pleasure of meeting up with occasional like-minded companions.
Book a Guided Trip or Travel Alone?
The most obvious solution is to go on a guided trip. But do talk to the tour operators first. Some companies will steer solo travelers to trips where there are likely to be lots of other singles rather than honeymooning couples or multi-generation families. Some companies specialize in singles or solo travel, and they’ll know if they have other singles booked. It’s easy to find these companies by combining an Internet search for a specific activity and destination with the words “solo travel.”
Another option is to check out local outdoor clubs. Local chapters of the Sierra Club (and national chapters, too) run trips worldwide, like many other environmental and activity-oriented organizations such as ski clubs, hiking clubs, and diving clubs. Outfitting stores (especially ski, bike, and dive shops) may also run trips.
Volunteering is another option. Voluntourism vacations can include everything from protecting newly hatched sea turtles to cutting trails to building homes. Costs are low, the company is like-minded, and travelers will never be alone unless they want to be.
Finally, travel independently, but sign up for guided activities upon arrival at the destination. Independent travelers can book many adventures, including guided hikes, ranger-led activities, day-trip safaris, or a zip-line canopy tour.
Finding Company When Traveling
If group trips aren’t of interest, but the company is, pick a trip known for its social scene. On some treks, it takes real effort to stay solo, even travelers who start that way. For example, solo hikers looking for a company should check out trails with well-established “stages” (legs between waterholes such as hotels, towns, refuges, B&Bs, and other establishments that cater to travelers arriving by bike, foot, or pack animal). Examples include the famous Appalachian Trail, especially during the peak long-distance hiking season, England’s coast-to-coast walk, New Zealand’s Great Walks, Nepal’s major trekking routes, Spain’s Camino de Santiago (used by hikers, runners, cyclists, and equestrians), and alpine trails throughout Europe.
When arriving in a town that serves as a staging point for treks, check out budget lodgings that attract backpackers and other adventure travelers. Guidebooks, such as the Lonely Planet series, that cover the adventure travel scene will contain information about notice boards used by adventure travelers. Often, other singles or people looking to form a larger group will advertise for partners.
Choose communal lodgings rather than pitching a personal tent or staying in a fancy hotel. In alpine refuges found all over the world, shelters offer family-style meals. Hostels are another choice. (And no, they don’t have to be youth hostels: France, for example, has an extensive gites Steps system that provides lodging for adult adventure travelers, although families can also be accommodated).
The short answer is: Adventure travelers don’t have to travel solo unless that’s what they want to be doing. The nature of the activity encourages camaraderie. And guided trips and activities, as well as communal lodgings, provide an amenable environment for mixing and mingling with like-minded fellow travelers.