More Folks Are Deciding to Hit the Road Solo

Kellie B. Gormly, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 06, 2012

The word "vacation" evokes images of a family crammed into a car heading to the beach, a girlfriend getaway to Vegas, or a romantic retreat to a spa resort.

But how about a rejuvenating and exciting vacation with ... just yourself?

More people are traveling solo, with 16 percent of American travelers planning to hit the road - and skies - alone this year, compared to 12 percent in 2011, according to the American Express Travel Spending & Saving Tracker.

The reasons for the trend include more solo travel options, hospitality brands waiving supplementary single fees and the reduction of the stigma of traveling alone, says David Patron, vice president at American Express Travel.

Men and women, marrieds and singles, and young and old are traveling alone.

"Solo travelers can go wherever they want and do whatever they want without having to get a second opinion," Patron says. "They are also more inclined to meet new people and try new things."

Indeed, a main advantage of traveling by yourself is the autonomy and freedom with your itinerary. You can spend as much time as you want at that museum without a companion getting bored. You can enjoy a good book in your hotel at night without worrying about entertaining someone. You can do whatever you feel like doing, and go wherever you want, on a whim. You can enjoy the personal growth that adventure and solitude offer. And you might meet interesting people as you travel, rather than feeling tied to a companion.

"We have seen some of that here," says Clare Moineau, travel specialist for Thomas Tours and Travel in New Kensington. "There are a lot of people who aren't afraid to travel alone. ... We see more of it than we have in the past.

"I think people are more independent and feel comfortable," Moineau says. "They don't feel like they have to have a travel companion."

Sometimes, people - often single - prefer a travel companion, but settle for traveling alone. Others seek out a solo trip, she says.

"I think a lot of people don't want to be alone ... but just because they don't have anyone to go with, they don't want to be held back from going," Moineau says. "A lot of people are very independent."

Many people who travel alone also live alone, and aren't used to answering to anybody, Moineau says.

Lisa Toboz, of Garfield, appreciates that sentiment. At 30, she quit her job and spent six months traveling throughout Eastern Europe alone. She craved the adventure and the sense of independence her journey gave her.

Toboz says she enjoyed meeting many interesting people during her European journey, so it wasn't like she was really alone. Traveling solo gave her the opportunity to focus on meeting people.

"When you're with another person, it's about the two of you," Toboz says. "I like to be alone, but not in complete isolation."

Since marrying Jeff Schreckengost in 2008, Toboz, now 38, hasn't traveled alone. But she occasionally longs for a solo weekend escape.

"I like being by myself," she says. "You have yourself and your bags, and you leave your metaphorical bags behind."

Even when traveling with a companion or in a group, people can reap some of the benefits of solo travel by allowing everyone time to do their own thing, Moineau says. She recently took a trip to Alaska with four family members. On some days, each person would venture off on his or her own - going shopping, sightseeing, or to the gym - and in the evening, they all would meet up.

"It makes for a better vacation if you do what you want to do," she says.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7824.

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