Lonely this Christmas? Six ways group travel could help

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Perhaps for some people that’s true, but it’s not the case for everyone, with the Red Cross reporting that 31 per cent of Australians feel lonely at this time of year.  

It’s not hard to see how that might happen. For a start, consider how fiercely it’s marketed as treasured time to spend with friends and family. When our own story doesn’t follow that script, it can feel very isolating. 

Combine that with disruption to the normal routine – things like mandatory leave from work, or teams and groups taking a hiatus for the holidays – and we can be left feeling very disconnected.

One interesting suggestion to help alleviate loneliness is group travel.

There’s a whole host of reasons why this makes good sense:

  • A group with plenty of other singles means you won’t feel like the odd one out. Case in point: of the people who book a tour with Intrepid Travel, more than 50 per cent are travelling solo.
  • Rather than relying on a social network that may have let you down in the past, one of the benefits of group travel is that you’re venturing into a whole new pool of people. This proactivity can be a real morale boost in a situation where we might otherwise feel powerless.
  • A change of scenery is great for your mental health. A study by the journal Nature Neuroscience found “a connection between real-world exposure to fresh and varied experiences and increases in positive emotions.” Simply put, going somewhere new makes you happier.
  • Looking forward to an upcoming trip makes us happy thanks to the increase of dopamine in the brain. So, the benefits start even before we set off.
  • A holiday gives us something interesting to talk about when we get home, which makes conversation back in real life that little bit easier. 
  • You might just make friends while you’re away, says Dr Michelle Lim, CEO of Ending Loneliness Together. “There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution, but travelling with others may help build new relationships,” she says. “Shared experiences can help bring people together, and it gives them an opportunity to change acquaintances into friends.”
Group Travel Loneliness

What goes on tour… Many friendships continue long after the trip has finished. Photo: Getty

Those are just a few of the benefits of group travel, but with a list like that, it’s easy to see why it’s an area of tourism that’s growing in popularity.

While, in the past, the notion of group travel might have conjured up ideas of retirees herded around on buses, the situation has become far more nuanced. There are group trips these days tailored to every age group, budget and appetite for adventure or comfort.

Brett Mitchell of Intrepid Travel – which has run small group tours since 1989 – points to its Women’s Expeditions as a great example, as well as its range of Short Breaks that might be a less daunting first step for newbies.

Mitchell sees group travel as an excellent option to combat loneliness this holiday season.

“The shared experience between travellers can tackle feelings of isolation, creating a sense of security and comfort and, in turn, foster connections,” he says.

“We’ve seen so many travellers connect and form bonds – some making lifelong friendships.”

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