Forget romantic walks along tropical beaches or candle-lit suppers in European capitals. More and more British holidaymakers are opting for “me time” and going away without their partner, according to a new survey.
The gifted but solitary British psychiatrist Anthony Storr famously told his patients that “the capacity to be alone is necessary if the brain is to function at its best”, echoing the old cliché that “time apart” is crucial in forging a happy and lasting relationship.
It’s advice the holiday-going public are obviously taking to heart with “solo breaks” becoming the escape of choice for 27 per cent of people, who admitted they ditched their lovers for solo trips or holidays with friends last year, compared to just 10 per cent a decade ago.
The survey, which was commissioned by insurance company Liverpool Victoria, showed that the top reason for leaving your (supposed) nearest and dearest at airport departures was to have time away with friends, followed by wanting to take “me time” or to take part in a hobby, presumably the one your partner despises.
“The way we travel has fundamentally changed in recent years with people going away more frequently and taking part in a wider range of activities,” said Selwyn Fernandes, the insurance managing director for the firm, hinting at how the era of cheap flights thanks to EasyJet and Ryanair has transformed the way we travel.
And in a comment which rejects the concept of compromise as the bedrock of any stable relationship, he added: “People no longer have to spend all of their holidays with their partner or compromise on where they both go on holiday.“
Even less romantically, the survey, which was based on the responses of 1,000 people, found that four per cent of respondents said they decided to holiday alone because it was cheaper, while three per cent left their partner at home to look after the children or pets.
The solo holiday is also slightly more popular with independent-minded female travellers, who took 52 per cent of the apart-from-partners trips in 2013.
Oddly the survey didn’t ask if respondents were travelling alone to escape troubles at home or a failing relationship, instead it focused on the gender divide, showing that the traditional stag do versus hen night gender divide is still very much in existence. It claimed that women tend to prefer going away with friends for city breaks, spas and short-haul beach trips, while men opted for activity-based trips including golf and fishing.
Not that absence always makes the heart grow fonder, said Martin Loxley, head of family law at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.
“Most relationships will go through a rocky period at some stage, and it seems the way you deal with things during that time can be the difference between patching things up or splitting permanently,” he told The Independent. “The secret seems to be spending more time together rather than separating your lives even further than they already are.”
Case study: “It started off as an accident but has since become an annual feature."
Stewart Campbell, 29, concerts director at the University of Sheffield , has been with his partner for eight years, but they holiday separately.
“It started off as an accident - his annual leave was incompatible with mine - but has since become an annual feature. I take myself off for a month every summer on my own.”
Mr Campbell, who has travelled to India and Thailand alone, admits that lots of his friends think it’s “a little unorthodox” but that he doesn’t think it’s “indicative of a disconnect”.
“Firstly we have very different ideas of what a holiday should be. Holidays are more of a kind of 'mental' pilgrimage to me. I take myself off, see a bit of the world and do some quality thinking… a lot of my creative ideas come from travelling solo actually; me, my thoughts and responding to and making decisions from the world around me. Travelling solo also brings me out of my shell - you lose inhibitions somewhat, have no hesitation in talking to strangers, meeting new friends, trying new things. I certainly come back from travelling alone in a more confident, happier place. “
According to Mr Campbell his “absence certainly makes the heart grow fonder”, adding “I can assure you I'm 10 times more bearable for my partner post travelling solo, and besides, someone's got to have custody of the dog.”
Case study: "I love cities but my partner doesn't"
Jen Llywelyn, 65, a writer from Devil’s Bridge in Wales, treasures her regular city breaks away from her husband Jim Wingate.
“I need me-time. I also need city-time,” she said. “We live deep in rural Wales and I wouldn't live anywhere else. But I love cities. Jim does not love cities! I like to go for a week, self-catering to sleep, write, walk, eat, explore and go to jazz clubs. With him I go to rural retreats. My best time was Ljubljana, when apart from one text a day to tell my son I was OK I didn't contact anyone. I wanted to find out who 'I' was, not the mother or the wife or the child. It’s scary psychologically, but life-changing.”
According to Ms Llwelyn her husband doesn’t “mind at all”. She said, “He knows it’s something I need to do. but the noise and pollution of a city break isn’t for him. He’s a writer too and stays at home to write in the rural solitude, while I find a corner of café somewhere.”