Japan Tops Solo Travel List in a Weird New Report

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 12.19.55 PM.png

If you’re the independent sort of person who likes to travel alone—or so despised, you friendless wretch, that you can’t find anyone to travel with—Japan may be the destination for you.

That’s according to a new Solo Travel Guide just out from Get Going Insurance. It’s of those reports of questionable methodology periodically released by marketing departments to gin up web traffic.

The guide weighs four criteria to arrive at its list: crime rates, cost of food, cost of lodging, and global peace ranking (an annual metric of relative peacefulness compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit).

Japan tops the list, apparently because food is relatively cheap, and a solo traveler faces very little threat from petty criminality and violence.

It looks to me like peacefulness gets the most weight in the report, putting New Zealand, Spain and Germany in the top five (all fabulous countries to travel alone in—last year I wasn’t 10 minutes into a conversation with two new friends at a little New Zealand pub when they invited me to join their sailing trip to the south island). An emphasis on peacefulness makes sense, as your average solo traveler would likely rather not get stuck in the midst of a violent conflict without even a buddy to watch his back. The exception here is the number 2 slot, Cuba, which only does OK on the peace index (probably owing more to political prisoners than the presence of armed conflict). Cuba seems to rank highly because of a super low crime rate—ah, the peculiar joys of travel in a police state.

I’m glad to see the list includes Indonesia, one of my all-time favorite places to venture out solo in search of sun and surf. I once wrecked a motorcycle, alone, in the mountains there, and had it not been for the generosity of strangers along the way as I hobbled dozens of miles through more mountain roads toward home I never would have made it.

Though it only comes in at 14, I’m also delighted to see Mexico make the list. The country has become a kind of travel home for me—I return to Mexico again and again, usually alone, and the contrast between reality and the hysteria stoked by right wing politicians and their lackeys on TV couldn’t more stark. The country does pretty poorly on peacefulness which is fair—it can be genuinely dangerous…if you are involved in the drug trade or mean to interface therewith—but its affordability and a petty crime rate on par with New Zealand’s earn it a spot on the list.

The report leaves out some of the most important considerations for enjoyable solo travel—how weirded out are locals by solo travelers (usually the more so the better, oddly enough)? How active is Tinder in the country? How widely spoken is English or another global language?

To that last point, the Solo Travel Guide includes a helpful list of phrases in several major languages, “thank you” being the most important (xie xie, gracias, obrigado, shuk-ran, etc.).

Weirdly the only sentence the authors provide in translation is, “Can you take a picture of me please?” I commend the implicit condemnation of that 21st century scourge, the selfie stick, but this seems an add choice as the one sentence in translation to provide solo travelers. You’re much better using hand signals to ask for a photo, and memorizing this easy one in the local language: “Hi, my name is [insert name], what’s yours?”

Denver Nicks