Can there be anything more deliciously self-indulgent than solo travel? Going where you want, when you want? Creating your own agenda, sticking to it if you wish, and ditching it if you don't?
I've often flown solo and I prefer it this way. I can wander around the airport or work in a lounge, board at my own pace without searching for the rest of the group, and switch off for the entire flight. Most of the time though I would find company waiting for me at the other end - a business associate, other conference attendees, a long lost friend.
Until recently, I'd never taken a holiday on my own, there's always been someone up for coming along on the journey. When the chance to take part in a 1-week detox programme in Grenada came up though, I decided this was something I needed to do on my own. And I absolutely loved it.
I got up in my own time, spread my clothes out around the hotel room and made the most of not having to share the space with a single soul. Because of the type of holiday that I was on, I was kept busy with activities, group sports and personal training sessions.
However there were a couple of instances when I became acutely aware that I was alone, and it was a bit of a problem.
The first involved tan lines. The weather was gloriously warm in Grenada and when my schedule allowed I would pull out a sun lounger and make the most of it. I sensibly rubbed my factor 30 sun lotion onto the parts of my exposed skin I could reach. I slapped a blob on the back of each shoulder and as that was the furthest I could reach, that had to do. That evening my back revealed the errors of my ways. Horrid, red, criss-crossing burn lines! Not attractive. In fact, they were so bad, the next day a guest offered to put cream on my back to prevent it happening again. (Which was very kind, if a little embarrassing.)
Pictures are very awkward too; if you want to be in them that is. If I wanted anything varying from my giant head and a speck of sand (now known as 'the holiday selfie'), I would have to ask for help and stand awkwardly all alone on a romantic spot, posing for a stranger.
There were also certain activities I was apprehensive to take up on my own, in particular sampling the local culture. The resort I stayed at attracts a lot of solo female travellers so on this occasion I could pair up with other ladies for visits to town or the nightclubs. Common sense tells me I shouldn't have attempted these things on my own, so if there was no one else willing to come with me I would have missed out on seeing a fascinating side of the country.
Eating alone is a bit sad isn't it? As a writer I could just about get away with dining with my laptop. As a bookworm I was happy to share my table with a good novel. But it was the other diners in the restaurant who felt most uncomfortable about my solo dining. I found that couples often asked me to join them - I suspect wishing I wouldn't. The resort I was staying at had prepared for this, as every night a member of staff hosts a 'singles' table where all the solo travellers can dine together. Joining these tables for a couple of nights I found the company great and conversation flowing, but I'm aware this isn't an option on all holidays or travels abroad.
I noticed that I began talking to myself, particularly in my room which was often silent - I kept putting on the radio just to have some background noise. I missed idle chitchat and started muttering or giggling to myself. During the day I could chat to staff and other guests around the pool but there were many silent periods in my evenings.
During the times when I was sick of silence, or had experienced something amazing I wanted to share with loved ones, I found myself reaching for my iPhone or laptop and hooking up to Wi-Fi like it was the juice of life. With no one to share the highs and lows of my day with, I went online and shared with the world instead. As a blogger this is a beneficial reaction, but I wondered if the average non-blogging Joe Bloggs would just end up doing work or spending all their time online, when they should really be unwinding on holiday?
With an increase of well-priced solo holidays on the market, if your friend or partner doesn't have the time, budget or inclination to join you, I completely recommend taking the deliciously self-indulgent option of going alone. But consider the potential pitfalls I've outlined above and measure your choice of destination and accommodation against them. Finally, pack lots of books and mind you don't burn your back!
Have you ever taken a solo holiday? Would you consider one?
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