The solo staycation paradox: “it’s not for me”
Going on a break by yourself is certainly the latest in a long list of travel fads, but is it one that’s worth exploring?
Evidently, as that’s my job. Which is exactly why I found myself standing in the lobby of The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa earlier this year.
The general idea: to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai, away from friends, family and the problems that go along with. And according to new figures from the UK’s Future Trends Report, I’m not the only one who’s been tempted to travel by themselves.
Last year one in six people (15 per cent) went on holiday solo, which is almost three times what it was five years ago (just 6 per cent). The report said the main reason to travel by yourself is the opportunity to do what you want – exactly, what you want – without conflicting itineraries.
The report also attributes the rise in solo travel to people wanting ‘me time’ and the increasing use of smartphones and travel apps (that make navigating the world alone a lot less scary).
The Westin has a novel name for its notion of solo travel: the ‘solomoon’. I am not a fan of this term; a honeymoon is implicitly tied to the fact that there are two people involved, and removing 50 per cent of that equation doesn’t seem like very much fun.
But then again, trying to force the word ‘solo’ into various other words doesn’t seem to work. ‘Solocation’ is as bad as ‘soloventure’, both of which are slightly less cringe-worthy than ‘onevoyage’.
I’ll stick with ‘travelling with one’s good self’ for now.
One in 6 people went on holiday solo in 2018, 3 times the number five years ago
But I digress. The entire gist of this type of trip is to relax and do the sort of things that you wouldn’t normally do with other people around. Let’s say if you regularly travel with a misery old partner, perhaps. Or pesky kids.
To this end, I filled my itinerary with things I don’t do enough: a romantic Italian dinner, a lively brunch, drinks overlooking the sunset and – the cherry on top of this cake served for one – a spa treatment aimed to relax and rejuvenate. And this is where it gets interesting: everything on the travel docket is an activity I very much enjoy… with other people.
This inkling first hit me as I enjoyed my first mouthful of pappardelle at Sacci, the hotel’s Italian restaurant. The food was fantastic, the conversation far less so. Have you ever been stood up on a date? Eating alone in a candle-lit Italian restaurant is a good simulation.
Sunset drinks overlooking the Westin Abu Dhabi’s grounds was a similar affair. If there’s a beautiful sunset over the three woods (it’s a golf course) and there’s no one to appreciate it with, did it even happen? Fortunately, that’s what Instagram is for, which pretty much summed up my evening spent scrolling under the sunset.
‘Solocation’ is as bad as ‘soloventure’, both of which are slightly less cringe-worthy than ‘onevoyage’
This kicked off something of a trend for me. Eating meals alone is all well and good when you’re at home in your pants, but out in public, it’s a very different affair. And eating alone at one of the capital’s rowdiest brunches the next day, well that’s something else entirely. It could just be me, but the draw of a chocolate fountain seems wasted on a party for one.
Sitting down with friends and family to scoff and gossip is a basic human need. It’s what sets us apart from monkeys. Except, even monkeys sit down for dinner together.
But food is only one part of the ‘solomoon’ experience. What of the activities? Fortunately, this is where having no one else around starts getting good, as there’s little better in this world than a quiet pool, a podcast and a sun lounger. So too, the spa, which is only ever greatly improved when it’s just you, your thoughts and the sounds of pan flutes playing softly in the background.
Herein lies the paradox of travelling with one’s own good self: it’s great until it isn’t. While some activities are inherently enjoyable on your tod, one of the joys of travel is having experiences (and sharing those experiences with others). We are social creatures - have been since one caveman asked another if he wanted to share caves – and taking that away from something as exciting as travel, just seems like a bit of a waste.
Going on vacation by myself was good, half the time. The other half was a bit rubbish. Which is why I have thought of a solution.
For my next ‘solomoon’, I’ll bring someone with me.