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Have you ever felt like the odd one out because you weren’t part of a couple? Perhaps it’s impacted your travel choices?

Back in 2006 when I launched my travel company for solo travellers there was an unspoken bias favouring couples over singles.

Then, over the years, I was connecting with more and more single travellers and it confirmed my suspicions; many people without partners seeking out travel felt uneasy about travelling alone…or worse, they were avoiding travel altogether.

Reflecting back to the early days of founding Encounter Travel, I never anticipated some of the reactions – those raised eyebrows and the sceptical comments that came when I revealed in conversation to people with partners my venture catering to (older) single travellers.

“Oh, dating holidays,” they’d jest, subtly suggesting that group travel for singles might be somewhat risqué.

I just didn’t get it – it was akin to assuming that because a tour or cruise was comprised of couples, they must be engaging in ‘swinger’ activities.

August this year will mark our 18th birthday of taking care of solo travellers. Each birthday I reflect and see just how far we’ve come (the travel industry) when it comes to travel for single travellers. Less and less single travellers are feeling like outsiders in the travel world.

I put this shift down to one word – solo! The landscape has changed. Now, fewer solo travellers feel ‘singled out’. We talk about the ‘solo traveller’, rather than ‘single traveller’.

We’ve transitioned from ‘single travellers’ to ‘solo travellers.’ It’s no longer about our relationship status but about our independence. The solo traveller is celebrated rather than pitied.

What’s more, solo travel now extends a warm welcome to those with partners who don’t share their passion for exploration. They too are encouraged to embark on solo adventures without feeling like they’re missing out.

The ripple effect of this shift to embracing solo travel is stronger than ever. Countless bloggers now share their solo travel experiences and journalists are penning pieces on solo travel.

Even major travel companies are recognising the value of solo travellers, integrating them into their offerings and marketing messages, where in the past they were ignored.

Solo travel has played a major role in my life since my early 20’s but for many it may be something new at 40, 50 or over. The more we discuss it (solo travel) and share our stories, the more we inspire others to take that leap of faith and plan their own solo adventures.

I remember fondly this email I kept from the son of one of our travellers. It’s emails like these that warm my heart and serve as a beautiful reminder of why we do this (create travel groups for solo travellers).

“Guys, I just can’t thank you enough for providing this tour for my mother. It was her first ever overseas travel and she was not very confident and was quite anxious and we really had to push her to actually do it.

“Now she can’t stop raving about the wonderful people and places she visited on her tour. It really has changed her life and thank you so much for being so patient and informative with our requests and questions along the way.

“You guys really have a wonderful thing going on and you are providing such a great experience for those who are in this age bracket and solo. I know she will definitely be doing another trip with you in the near future.”

To travel alone is one thing. But to travel solo, yet not alone? That’s an entirely different experience!