Next month I’ve planned another solo break to the Lake District, one of my favourite places as regular readers will know. I like to take a few solo breaks a year, but this will be my first proper solo break – no meet-ups with family or friends – in 2019. ‘Me time’ in a different space and environment, with freedom from regular commitments, helps to recharge my batteries. It also means I have more time to get some writing done, or work on a self-improvement project, be a tourist and, basically, please myself.
In Solo Success, I said that loneliness is a state of mind, not necessarily to do with living or being alone. I’m sure many people will have experienced a feeling of loneliness in the midst of a crowd of people they know well, or sitting across the table from a partner. Ironically, in our age of social media connectivity, many of us feel disconnected, internally and externally. And sadly, in the UK, surveys show that loneliness is at epidemic proportions affecting people of all ages and status. Whatever you decide to do, wherever you decide to go, take my advice and look on a solo break as an adventures and/or a TREAT. Here are my top tips:
1: Never plan to go on a solo break when you are feeling lonely. You will feel lonely wherever you are, and coping with a change of scene may make you feel worse.
Once, on being dumped by a boyfriend, I felt discarded and lonely, so my knee-jerk reaction was to book a week off work and fly to the sunshine to get my head together. The resort – nay the whole island – was awash with lovey-dovey couples, which only served to emphasise my singleness and solitariness. Instead of buoying me up, the whole week sent me further down into the dumps. But I learned from that experience, eventually!
2: Choose a place that you know you love, that you can trust, where you have previously had a good time, and that you want to explore more.
Avoid mistakes with the location or the hotel. I make sure that I book somewhere that meets my own personal criteria or needs. I know what I want and what I want to avoid: no places perfect for couples on a romantic break! These days I return to certain places again and again, because I know I can trust them to deliver. In the Lakes I’m usually allocated the same apartment that I’ve stayed in before. It feels like coming home: the empty birds’ nest above the front door lintel waiting for the Swallows to return next spring; the plug-in nightlight. What’s this got to do with loneliness? Any environment that makes you feel that you don’t fit in, that you’re an outsider, is likely to create feelings of loneliness.
3: Research and plan what you are going to do, at least for part of your trip, and book where necessary. Don’t be left twiddling your thumbs and let loneliness sit on your shoulder.
What are you going to do on this solo break? Is there a specific reason for needing to get away from normal, everyday life? Do you need to devote time to something important? Last year, my solo break in the Lake District was planned as a much needed writing break. But this year I’m having some health problems and I’m taking every opportunity I can for rest and recuperation – so I’ve booked myself a spa treat. But obviously I’ll combine this with the stimulus of getting out into glorious natural landscape, and whatever culture is available on the agenda in mid-October. I checked in advance, obviously and, to my surprise, the Theatre by the Lake is putting on a production of a play I performed in earlier this year in Coventry. Naturally I’ve booked a ticket.
4: Leave some room for flexibility in your plan, so that you can adjust/rearrange to meet new circumstances before or during your break. Don’t tie up all your time in advance.
Last year, a few days before my departure, I was given an opportunity to take part in a course that would require daily commitment while I was away. I signed up, knowing that I would have to re-arrange the balance of my priorities for my break. Then, just before departure, I had an accident that injured my (already dodgy) knees. My aims were compromised but I was able to make the necessary changes.
5: Be present and react to your surroundings and the people sharing them with you. We are social animals. Every day is enhanced, and loneliness avoided, by and through the quality of the social connections you make.
Finally, are you willing and ready to be sociable while you are away on your own? At the very least, to talk to people who you meet while you are out and about and get into conversation. To chat to people. If you are feeling very brave, you might want to check online to see if there is a Meetup Group (or equivalent abroad) for something in which you’re interested, in the place you are visiting. Just because you are going away on your own, and you’ve got stuff planned, you don’t have to be alone the whole time. I realise that this is the ultimate test of confidence, and that real time fear can scupper good intentions. But you are in a place where, potentially, no-one knows you. So be brave and give it a try.
I hope that these tips help people to experience a solo break treat, without feeling lonely.