Dating these days is, frankly, a bit of a disappointment. Sure, you might end up marrying your Tinder match (we all know at least one person who’s done this). But equally, you risk feeling forever frustrated and bored – despite a never-ending stream of new faces. You ride a gauntlet of emotion: lingering hope, excitement and resentment. And yet the end result is rarely worth the drama. Why continue to invest?
A new wave of singletons
With more of us living alone than at any point in history, being single as an active lifestyle choice is on the rise. Divorce rates are on the up , especially among women aged 30-39 and men aged 45-49. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Women, in particular, hold greater financial independence (conversely, being in a relationship may harm us financially, not least when it comes to having children). With the stigma of being single well and truly blitzed, both men and women are asserting their right to be happy.
It’s no surprise that this new-found appetite for singledom goes hand-in-hand with an increase in solo travel. Single people generally have more resource to travel the world on a whim. They tend to connect with people better and hold a greater sense of self-development and growth, too. So, if more single people are travelling the world solo, why not skip dating and instead just focus on meeting new people along the way?
Taking away the pressure
Part of the problem of meeting “the one” in the 21st Century is the amount of caveats we place around this golden standard. “Now, we want our partner to love us, to desire us, to be interested in us,” writes relationship expert Esther Perel in her new book, The State of Affairs (as reported via MindBodyGreen.com). “We should be best friends, trusted confidants, and passionate lovers, to boot. The human imagination has conjured up a new Olympus: that love will remain unconditional, intimacy enthralling, and sex oh-so-exciting, for the long haul, with one person.” Naturally, not many people live up to these sky-high expectations. How liberating it would be, then, to ditch the conditions altogether. When you meet people as you travel, there’s zero pressure. You might get along with them, you might not. Either way, you can simply connect and let the interaction follow its natural course.
Our Flash Pack adventures go one step further by placing you in a group of like-minded solo travellers. There are absolutely no strings here: you might make lifelong friends or you might just have some friendly faces to chat with as you voyoage the world (a bit of banter is always welcome as you work up the courage for sake-fuelled karaoke in Kyoto, say, or as you prepare to raft major rapids on Chile’s Petrohue River). We also run a series of London supper clubs where you can sound out potential travel companions before you travel. “Simply put, they are a great way to meet people like you, away from the pressures of dating or singles sites and apps,” says Flash Pack co-founder Lee Thompson. “Not every person you get to know when you’re single needs to be a potential date, they can be a potential travel buddy instead.”
A more authentic experience
The beauty of travelling in a group of like-minded solo’s is that you get all the excitement of meeting new people, with none of the residue anxiety that dating carries. Sure, you might feel a little shy but any preconceptions of what people will be like are soon assured after a few hours in laid-back company. “As an outgoing introvert (meaning I can do social situations but I definitely need some downtime, too), I was slightly concerned,” says Marie Claire writer Delphine Chui, who recently joined Flash Pack on a mini adventure break to the Scottish Highlands. “But really, I needn’t have been. As dinners approached, conversation flowed as freely as the wine (and whisky).”
John Thompson, a travel writer who joined us on a Vespa trip in the Spanish countryside, agrees. “The group dynamic is perfect,” he says. “I’m not sure what I was expecting (a Mod-life crisis?) but the seven women and three men in our poor excuse for a biker gang get along famously. Most are single thirty- and fortysomethings up for a quirky weekend away, and the vibe is one of energy and excitement.”
The great thing about this kind of scenario is that you’re not trying to impress anyone. As like-minded travellers, the odds are you’ll get along well. The group dynamic takes away the intensity of a one-to-one exchange. But there’s no commitment to see anyone beyond the trip itself. And our itineraries are usually so action-packed, half your attention will be on what you’re doing most of the time anyway. All of this means you can relax and be yourself, leading to more meaningful connections.
A win-win situation
Solo travel is a social movement that’s sweeping the globe and gaining momentum with each new day. Simultaneously, more and more of us are becoming disillusioned by online dating. We’re not saying one will supplant the other. You generally won’t find sexual intimacy and romantic longevity via making new travel buddies on the road (well, you might – but that’s another topic). Instead, it could be time to shift the focus from finding a date to simply connecting with people: something that will make you happier, no matter what. Single people are naturally better at reaching out to the people around them; so why not reap the rewards of this quality by travelling with other like-minded solo travellers?
As Jennifer Taitz, clinical psychologist and author of How to Be Single and Happy, points out: “The good news is that you can practice skills to increase your happiness, independent of whether or not you have a partner, and there is a relationship between being genuinely happy and connecting with others. You don’t need to wait for a lover to love your life.”
The harder you look for something, the more elusive it becomes. In this crazy online world we live in, we cling to our phones like they’re a spare limb. Maybe we should do ourselves a favour by switching our downward gaze outwards. Solo travel facilitates this shift. You too can close the door on superficial swipe rights and empty encounters. You can say no to shallow sentiments and throwaway, dime-a-dozen dates. In their place, you can choose to fuel your self-worth by conjuring up a bigger repertoire of real, meaningful relationships – as you soak in unique experiences around the world along the way. What’s not to love?
Photos: Shutterstock and Flash Pack/Lee Thompson