Miércoles 3 de Octubre de 2007, Ip nº 210

How solo can you go?
Por Sophie Campbell

Here's the bloody marvellous thing about being a 45-year-old solo traveller. I don't care! I don't care if the waiter says "Vous êtes TOUTE SEULE, madame?" before ostentatiously removing the cutlery from the place opposite me. I don't care if everyone in the Maldives thinks I've been jilted and come on the honeymoon on my own. I don't care if I walk into a bar full of men and they all stare. Who cares?

The things I care about are: having to pick the bougainvillea-petal heart off the bedspread before going to sleep, and the way they keep putting chocolates on both pillows though there's only one of me. Anyone noticed that? (Although, this is when I'm working: I don't make a habit of checking into honeymoon resorts toute seule for fun, honest).

I care about walking the West Highland Way on my own and paying over the odds for hotels and B&Bs, though I have a sneaking sympathy for the owners. I mean, if you could get double by giving your room to a couple, you'd want the couple, wouldn't you?

And I do care about the fact that despite a new Mintel survey reporting that ONE THIRD of the population of this country is single, widowed or divorced, when Holiday Which? interviewed a representative panel of its readers, only 6% travelled alone.

Why? Where are they? Guys, girls, what are you all doing? Put down your Xboxes and Autumn/Winter 07 knitting patterns and get out there (if you want to, that is). There is a world out there for the taking - and we haven't got time to hang around waiting to find a partner or hoping that all our mates will get out of debt, have we?

First let me dispel a few solo travelling myths, perpetuated by the partnered press:

· You meet more people travelling alone: True, but not necessarily the ones you want to meet. For every holiday Romeo or Juliet, there are plenty of fruit loops in search of new friends. This goes for us, too. Don't be needy. It's scary.

· Look confident, even if you don't feel it: Well if I could do that, I would never have spent any nightmarish evenings in my teens, pinned to disco walls.

· Women should wear a wedding ring: Women, if you want to send a message to the world's men saying "I am sexually experienced, away from my husband and in urgent need of rampant nookie", wear a wedding ring.

· Go to a festival or event: Have you ever tried being the only non-Kazakh speaker at a five-day wedding in Astana? Or being the only one without a cheese to roll in Gloucestershire? Community events can be very, very lonely.

No, the key to solo travel is honesty with yourself, which can be very difficult. Do you really want to see the Rann of Kutch, or do you actually want to meet a new girlfriend? Do you truly want to learn ice-climbing, or would you secretly prefer to cosy up with the instructor? Are you a scaredy cat?

If it's any consolation, I'm scared of almost everything - flying, dancing, heights, travel arrangements going wrong, mad axemen, maggots, noisy hotel rooms - but I've had some of the best experiences of my life travelling solo. I've been welcomed in more, is the best way to describe it: you are less threatening as one person. Perhaps you agree and love to go solo, or perhaps you don't and have had a terrible time travelling on your own?

Meanwhile, here's my recommendation for hoteliers: OK, charge us 75% instead of 50% for a room, but if it hasn't sold by the booking date, drop the price. The day that happens, I'll buy an Xbox and take up knitting. Anyone got any better ideas?

  07/09/2007. The Guardian.