Photo: Courtesy of REX

Holidays are a great way to spend quality time with friends, family and loved ones, but in many cases, group travel isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, the internet is brimming with articles detailing the many small but significant issues that arise when travelling with others, to the point that one might start to consider doing some exploring by themselves. There are so many reasons you may want to fly solo: you get to work to your own schedule and tastes; you get some valuable alone time; maybe you just don’t have anyone you fancy being stuck abroad for a fortnight with. Whatever might compel you to give solo travelling a go, there are many ways in which it is the best plan of attack. Gavin Murray, head of expedition sales at tailor-made travel company Exclusive Expeditions, shares five benefits of going it alone:

1. Immersing yourself in new cultures

When exploring somewhere new and exotic, there is so much to take in and experience, and you really want to take every opportunity you meet to immerse yourself in this exciting new environment. However, having someone along for the ride makes this less than easy. Not only can having a familiar face with you make your trip feel a little too ‘homey’, but the attitudes and preferences of that other person can prevent you from experiencing everything there is on offer. The less structure (and strings attached) a holiday has, the more able you are to fully immerse yourself in the place you have come to, and enjoy yourself along the way, free of guilt.

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2. Taking control over your trip

As with anything that involves other people, travelling with groups inevitably means satisfying the tastes and needs of other people, and this takes a certain amount of control away from you. People with clashing ideas about what they want to achieve on holiday can take a lot of the fun out of a trip: some take every opportunity to sightsee and explore, while others only want to relax. Travelling purely on your own terms makes for a more enjoyable and rewarding experience, knowing that you don’t have to worry about the preferences of others, and that for this brief time, you can just do you.

Photo: Courtesy of REX

3. Experiencing total privacy

Everybody is different, but for even the most tolerant and patient among us, spending every minute of a week or fortnight in the company of the same person can be somewhat testing. All the more so when you are determined to make the most of your time away from home. Having privacy on holiday can prove to be invaluable, allowing you to do exactly what you want to do with your time – particularly if it involves a little holiday romancing. Not to mention, it’s a rare opportunity for you to unwind and think about yourself, and there will be plenty of company when you get back home again. Take the time for a little peace, quiet and self-reflection.

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4. Freeing yourself up for socialising

The people you may meet are of the many appeals of travelling, and a lot of people have made lifelong friends on holidays. Going it alone gives you the chance to really get to know people in the area you’re exploring, and have some memorable experiences with them. You may get invited along to a beach party, or on a tour the next day, and being free of other people’s expectations give you free rein to embrace these offers and take the time to meet new people and experience new things. Having a friend, partner or family member along for the ride can make you feel obligated to dedicate a certain amount of attention to them, spoiling your chance to get to know the culture, meet other travellers and local residents, and potentially establishing valuable relationships.

Photo: Courtesy of REX

5. Realising your travel ambitions

It is surprisingly common for people to put off lifelong ambitions to work around other people. Whether their other half is staunchly opposed to exploring Mexico, or their elderly parents need to stay close to home for convenience’s sake, it can be easy for people to coast through life and realise they never pursued any of their dreams. Taking a trip alone allows you to take your commitments to everybody else out of the equation. You’ll be glad you took the plunge later in life and have wonderful memories to look back on.

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How to stay safe while travelling alone

Of course, solo travel does necessitate a certain amount of extra caution with regard to personal safety, so remember to take precautions. Here are Murray’s top tips for staying safe:

– Dress casually, with no expensive jewellery or watches on display, and in keeping with local custom.

– Keep valuables in a safe and discreet place.

– Stay in well-lit and well-populated areas.

– Research your destination and prepare thoroughly for your travels.

– Give family or friends a rough itinerary so they will know where you are and when.

– Educate yourself on common local pickpocketing techniques and other such traps to look out for.

Gavin Murray has worked in the travel industry for over 15 years and visited 96 countries. Exclusive Expeditions is an independent agency specialising in tailor-made expedition experiences based in West Sussex. For more information visit exclusiveexpeditions.co.uk.

This article originally appeared on Harper’s Bazaar UK