Solo Travel in My Teens:
My first solo travel experience was at 19 years old when I spent nearly 6 months travelling around India, Nepal and South-East Asia. I absolutely had the time of my life, but I came home with mixed feelings about whether I’d travel solo again. It forced me to interact with people from all warps of life was good for me as I’m naturally quite an introverted person. I definitely meet some amazing people along the way. However, I think I was probably too young to appreciate the times I spent NOT around other people. (Which I say with no intention of patronising all you 19-year olds out there. There is nothing wrong with this; just your priorities are entirely different at 19 than they are at 29). For me, at that age, it was sometimes isolating rather than liberating.
Solo Travel in My Late 20’s:
As I’ve got into my late 20 and (let’s be honest) got past the partying stage of life, my idea of solo travel has changed. It has gone from being something that felt quite daunting to being something that now feels aspirational. Age 29, solo travel inspires notions of indulgence and self-nurturing. Last year I decided to book my first solo trip in nearly 10 years. I opted for a weeklong Yoga retreat just outside of Marrakesh with Yoga Explorers (a Hove based travel agency specialising in yoga holidays). I wanted an experience that would be relaxing, and ideally, I wanted to visit somewhere I’d never been before. I chose this particular trip as the Yoga was a slow flow and didn’t sound too serious (or chanty/spiritual, which is not for me!). It was in Morocco, somewhere I’d never visited before, the hotel, Tigmi, looked beautiful and had a spa. There was also the option for single occupancy, ensuite rooms which was important to me.
The whole experience was incredible. Everything about it was all I’d hoped for and more. As it turned out, booking a Yoga retreat was the perfect way to re-introduce myself to solo travel. Here’s why:
1- “Me time.”
I sort of hate the phrase ‘me time’. To me, it seems to imply selfishness. Your time is yours to spend, and there is nothing selfish about using it to do something, by yourself, which you find relaxing. For me, there is nothing better than the cocooning, comfort and full-bodied relaxation of a nice long bath. A yoga retreat is like a week-long bath. There’s the Yoga itself which is, by its very nature, all about unwinding and relaxation. Add in; time spent lounging by the pool, reading, long walks exploring the local scenery, spa treatments, healthy meals, morning tea, even meditating on the yoga deck if you want to (which for me means having a bit of a lie-down, wrapped in blankets) and you are all set to come home feeling about as peaceful, relaxed and replenished as its possible to be.
2- Structured days.
One thing that surprised me on my first exploit into solo travel was how much I struggled without a fixed time frame for my days. (Something we can probably all relate to at the moment seen as we’re in our, what, 23654771st month of lockdown?!). When travelling, this sort of dizzying loss of the notion of time is coupled with a sense of urgency and pressure to go out and ‘experience’ your surroundings. Visiting sites and attractions is all very well, but strangely seems to take no time at all when you’re visiting them alone. It’s a bizarre sensation of being both rushed and having all the time in the world that I found particularly disconcerting at times. This can mostly be negated by booking scheduled excursions with a group and guide whereby your day will obviously be scheduled to fit with the tour. Neither the less, there will always be the odd day when travelling solo that can feel quite discombobulating and anxiety-inducing due to this effect. I loved that you have a set daily schedule on a Yoga retreat, including set times for meals and classes. There is still plenty of time left free for you to do whatever you feel like, but having a structured day means you are never left floundering for what to do next.
3- Meet a wide range of people.
Probably the most apparent benefit of a Yoga retreat over going completely solo is that you will be with a group. For all the reasons listed here, Yoga retreats tend to attract solo travellers, so there will likely be lots of other people in the same boat as you. It’s a great way to meet people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds.
4- It’s perfectly acceptable to spend time alone.
With a mix of private spaces and communal areas, its completely up to you whether you feel like seeking out the company of others or retreating for some time alone. In contrast to other group or activity holidays where you can sometimes feel pressure to stick with the group, either is totally acceptable on a yoga retreat. Likewise, if there is an excursion or place you particularly want to visit, there are plenty of people to go with, but the option of going alone is also there.
5- Plenty of time to explore the local area.
There is plenty of time built into the schedule of most yoga retreats for you to explore or relax. One of the main perks of my Yoga Explorers experience was having the lovely Jo (founder of Yoga Explorers) with us. She knows Tigmi and Marrakesh like the back of her hand and therefore could make some great recommendations in terms of what we should see and do whilst we were there. Although this might not be the case for every yoga retreat, the teacher will often have run the retreat in the same location time and time again, so they will have a good idea of the local area.
6- Small group yoga tuition!
Okay, not directly linked to solo travel, but the Yoga itself has got to be a plus, right?! My retreat was with the amazing Sarah Williams, who I cannot recommend enough. Still, whoever you go with, you are getting daily small group tuition, usually with some of the best and most experienced Yoga teachers in the biz.
Let me know below about your own experiences of yoga retreats or solo travel. Any thoughts or comments? I’d love to hear from you!