Independent travel is no new phenomenon but it’s certainly becoming easier. Cheap international calls and mobile internet keep us connected with home, and a change in attitude is encouraging more of us to go it alone.
Solo travel no longer has to involve hitch-hiking around South East Asia or speed-dating on the Costa-del-Sol, and the rise of more sophisticated singles holidays has seen an upsurge in non-single travellers choosing to travel independently of their partners – today, around a third of guests on singles holidays are partnered-off or happily married.
‘Seems a bit suspect’, you might think - holidaying alone surely isn’t a sign of a happy relationship.
Last year, I decided to see for myself.
The first was holiday time. As a part-time lecturer and freelance writer, my holiday-time is more flexible than my partner Tom’s - as CEO of a large company, his holidays are limited to a few weeks a year. But last July, with the school holidays approaching, I felt the urge to maximise my summer break. Too busy at work, time off for Tom was out of the question.
I turned to family and friends, and came across my second problem: a clash of interests. Once I’d eliminated all those with baby, family and work commitments, I worked my way through friends who simply wanted to flop on the beach for a week (not my idea of fun) and recession-hit friends who were limited to weekends away in the UK(not adventurous enough).
With few options left, I decided to take the plunge and go alone.
Once I’d assured Tom that I wasn’t off on an 18-30s sea, sun and sex escape, he couldn’t have been happier. I deserved a break, and he was feeling guilty that his work commitments were getting in the way.
I booked myself onto a yoga and Pilates holiday, in Morocco.
Like anyone else would be, I was a little apprehensive at first: will I get on with the group? Will I be bored by myself? Will I end up drinking alone in the evenings?
But right from the drinks on day one, my concerns dissolved. A group of likeminded individuals, all in the same boat, we hit it off immediately and, whether we were bending ourselves like pretzels or drinking at the bar in the evening, we didn’t stop laughing all week.
I returned home seven days later full of Zen and packed with energy, with new skills under my belt and a set of new friends in my address book.
Tom was intrigued to hear about my break and, meanwhile, had enjoyed one his most productive weeks ever – plus plenty of golf and the odd game of poker with old friends.
We’d both enjoyed the week apart, giving us some time to indulge in ourselves for a few days, as well as appreciate each other a bit more.
Since that first trip, I haven’t looked back. I don’t make it a habit of going away without Tom, but when my long teacher-holidays clash with his heavy work load, I feel the desire to indulge in an interest, or when friends are too cash-strapped to join me, I have no qualms about heading off alone.
My experience, it seems, is far from unusual. The ABTA Travel Report 2010 suggested that some of the main incentives behind solo travel were wanting to pursue a personal interest and being forced to leave recession-hit friends behind.
Tom has expressed just one request – that next time I book myself on a cooking holiday, so he can enjoy the benefits too.