The thought of going insane used to deter me from holidaying on my own.
For whatever reason, I always assumed if I were to spiral into madness, spending an inordinate amount of time alone would be the trigger.
But last year, I bit the bullet and booked my Just-For-One summer holiday.
And now, I have the zeal of the convert and urge everyone planning summer trips during these bleak, January lunch breaks, to take a punt on the solo sun holiday.
Last year, I hopped on a plane to Greece. I had settled on the Greek Islands for several reasons: it’s hot, I love their yoghurt, and I had heard Cher was there, filming Mamma Mia 2.
That meant there was a possibility I’d run into her while taking a ride on a banana boat.
And that was too enticing an offer to turn down.
One main advantage of travelling solo is the lack of arguments. When I arrived in Pireas Port and tried to hop a ferry to Ios, I discovered there wasn’t one until 10pm the following evening. It seems I had misread the timetable. If I had been travelling with pals, this would have led to an almighty row, and I would have been wracked with guilt. Instead, I enjoyed some Ouzo and spent a night on one of the neighbouring islands.
You will also master the art of dining alone. At first you’ll bring a crutch with you — a travel guide or a phone — but as the days roll on you will be perfectly content just staring into space, and flirting with waiters. You’ll start to own it and shout “Table for one please!” as you walk through the doors.
You will read all the books you want, and then some. No one is there to ask you what the plot is, or if you saw that awful adaptation with Colin Firth in it.
Same goes for podcasts.
I recommend Desert Island Discs because the intro music is fitting, and Kirsty Young/Sue Lawley have voices like silk, but are steely in their questioning.
You will get free stuff. Namely drinks and desserts. I guess people feel sad when they see a solitary woman eating a seafood platter for two. As a consequence, they will send you things. You don’t need their pity, but you’re also not above a free dessert.
You will have to befriend people on the beach to mind your wallet when you go for a swim.
Be warned these people are flaky, and will probably fall asleep — keep an eye on your belongings while treading water.
You will do some hard-core people watching, and invent elaborate backstories for every person staying in your hotel. It will then become your mission to find out how closely aligned your fantasy is with reality. Side note: Bring reflective glasses to cover your tracks.
You will start talking to yourself. At first this will just be quiet mumblings, but by the end of the holiday, you will have progressed to full dialogues, where you start disagreeing with yourself and laughing at your own punchlines. Bonus points if you start addressing yourself in the mirror. You will forget about your body hang-ups. You’re not holidaying with friends, or a new lover, and you’re never going to see any of these randomers again. Who cares if they can see your cellulite?
You will accidentally go on a digital detox. Unless you are the sort of person who owns a selfie stick, then chances are you’ll end up with a few awkward pictures strangers agreed to take of you. That means you won’t post them online, and, as a result, will spend less time staring at your screen.
Of course, there are some downsides, some other solo traveller will try to befriend you.
Sometimes, this stranger can be interesting. But probability wise they will be a sad sack. This is your holiday: you’re paying for it and you’re not obliged to make small talk. Be pitiless and cull them.
No one will be there to put sunscreen on your back, so you will either burn or have to wear a T-shirt. You could try covering a tanning kit in SPF, and affixing it to a coat hanger but I promise you that will not be sufficient. I speak from bitter experience. It’s also more expensive, and you won’t meet Cher.
But I’ll end on positives: you will sleep better than you ever have in your life. Like a happy starfish. You’ll be much more appreciative of your own company, and, above all, you will still be sane when you arrive home.