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Home Vacation Meet the people who are coupled up but choose to holiday alone

Meet the people who are coupled up but choose to holiday alone

by Staff

When it comes to travel, going solo isn’t as scary as it used to be. Or so the stats suggest: in annual surveys taken by the trade organisation Abta, the number of respondents agreeing with the statement “I went on holiday by myself” rose by 40 per cent between 2022 and 2023, with the data showing this was similarly true for male and female respondents.

Meanwhile, according to Hilton’s 2024 travel trends report, nearly one in four British holidaymakers plan to take a solo trip in the next three years. What seems to be shifting, aside from individual confidence and a boom in group solo tours and single-supplement-free trips, is the social stigma attached to going without a partner or pal in tow.

The growing trend underlines the point that you don’t have to be single to be a single traveller. These three coupled-up holidaymakers are seasoned solos, travelling without their other halves to satisfy a wanderlust they can’t address together. We caught up with them to ask how it works.

Carolina Knight Ewing, 44, Northumberland

‘My partner or I take the kids while the other one gets a break’

My husband, Chris, and I had different travel styles before we had kids. I grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, so I’m used to crowds and hectic cities, whereas my husband’s a bit of a homebody — he prefers going camping. Now we have a lot on our hands, with kids aged eight and ten plus a cat and a dog, both getting on in years, so we decided to divide and conquer.

At the moment, we rarely venture more than a couple of hours away from our home in Northumberland. I’ll take the kids, Finn and Ellie, to a culture-packed city such as Newcastle or Glasgow, while my husband stays with the pets. Alternatively, my husband will take the kids camping while I stay at home.

It started about two years ago, for practical reasons. We tried going away together with my parents minding the dog, but she gets bad separation anxiety; she lay by the door and pined the whole time. Not wanting the kids to miss out on adventures, we tried the next trip with just one of us going. My son was football-mad at the time and wanted to go to [Newcastle United’s] St James’ Park stadium; my husband isn’t interested in football and is less bothered about cities, so I took the kids alone, seeing the sights. It was a hit.

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Now we take it in turns to take them away each school holiday. It’s not as tricky as you’d think: the kids can carry their own little backpacks now — pop in a packed lunch, a teddy and a book and they’re sorted. When we go to cities, they know where they want to go: we usually hit a museum, see a movie, that sort of thing. I did a fair bit of travelling on my own before having a family, so I’m fine with managing everything, while camping suits my husband better — he can just pack up the car with everything they need.

The kids love it: they get quality time with each of us and they like how we do things differently. Teatime with their dad might mean beans and sausages for three days in a row, for example. It feels like a treat.

For me, Chris’s camping trips mean a few days of peace and quiet, doing exactly what I want. While they’re exploring the countryside, I can cook whatever I like, take the dog for longer walks and watch what I want on TV. Chris and I both work from home, so it gives each of us a break. He enjoys his time alone for all those reasons — plus there’s no one hogging the PlayStation.

Friends and family don’t always understand it. They feel sorry for the person who’s left behind. People will offer to come and stay, and I’m like, “No!”

I think even if we no longer had the pets, we’d carry on doing one-parent breaks. We recently tried a camping trip with all four of us and the dog, and it was great. But the kids did check with me afterwards: “But you’re not coming every time?” It’s their thing with their dad.

Mark Gubbins, 65, Surrey

‘Absence really does make the heart grow fonder’

My partner and I go away without each other at least once a year. Our tastes are different: I tend to go on diving or sailing trips, action-packed stuff, often staying on liveaboard boats for days at a time. Meanwhile, my partner has an annual holiday with a friend, usually based around sightseeing and interesting food; places such as Iceland. It’s something they did before we got together.

Our separate travels are mainly for practical reasons. My partner hates being on the sea, while I love everything to do with the water. She also has some health issues which mean she can’t do the more active stuff I want to do, but she loves living vicariously through my stories. Also, when you give up work — I hesitate to say “retire”, because I don’t feel like I’m retiring from anything — you inevitably spend a lot more time at home together, so it’s important to me that we develop things that we do apart and find some time to be adventurous. It’s about having a sense of self.

I generally book flights myself, then join an active group tour. My next trip is a group scuba-diving holiday in the Red Sea. On a liveaboard boat, you’re eating, sleeping and diving with a group of strangers; it’s all about sharing this common experience. I did an incredible tall-ship sailing adventure last year with a (sadly now defunct) organisation called the Jubilee Sailing Trust, which buddied up able-bodied and disabled travellers to sail the ship together. I’m not sure I’d go away on my own to just stay in a hotel somewhere, but I love the adventure and meeting like-minded people.

Scuba-diving in the Red Sea

Scuba-diving in the Red Sea

GETTY IMAGES

For me, the trips are about my hobbies and interests. I don’t usually see the people on my active trips again, though I’ve shared photos afterwards, been added to WhatsApp groups or followed them on social media. It’s a one-time deal and that’s part of the romance of it. I have met a few other people on my trips who are also in relationships and travel a similar way.

Sometimes you get surprised comments from friends, but usually to the effect of: “I wish I could do that!” My partner and I do holiday together as well — we’ll go to more relaxed places like Tobago for weeks at a time. We enjoy each other’s company on holiday, but it’s a good thing for our relationship that we do certain things separately. I know plenty of people who head off on golfing holidays without their wives; to me, this is no different.

My partner likes her space, so it suits her fine; we talk about that kind of thing a lot. It’s that old “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing. I often say to her, when I get home, “I know I love you because you’re the person I want to tell about my adventures when I get back.”

Valentina Mazzi, 30, London

‘If I waited for my partner to be free, I’d hardly go anywhere’

My partner, Ed’s, work is very demanding — he’s a fitness coach and doesn’t get much time off. He can only really take one trip a year, while I travel whenever I can. I wouldn’t go very far if I fitted my travels around him, so I do a handful of trips a year by myself.

As an only child, I’ve always been pretty independent. Growing up in Italy, I really associated travel with independence. When I was 17 I did a year abroad in the UK, staying with a British family, and the first couple of times I went to London I was by myself. It felt so empowering. I moved to the UK for my master’s degree and met Ed shortly after.

We never explicitly discussed our different travel habits — it’s been a natural progression. About five years ago, I was leaving a job and had a two-week gap before the next one; one of those rare opportunities where you’re free from the restrictions of annual leave. So I decided to visit the US, stopping in New York, Boston and Washington DC, where a friend of mine was living. On the first two stops, I worried about dining out alone, but it was fine. I’ll often build trips around visiting friends: I went to Japan solo, visiting a friend in Tokyo but venturing out of town on my own, and went to see a friend in Colombia, travelling around with them. Group tours can be fun, too. To mark my 30th birthday, I booked a WeRoad trip around Morocco.

Ed is great to travel with when we do go together; it sounds cheesy but he’s my best friend. We’ll do your typical European summer holiday, going to Spain, France or Italy. It’s the “big travels” I tend to do on my own. He’s envious when I go away without him, but that’s how our schedules are. His job involves some late finishes and weekends, and I feel like that is the extent of the compromise I’m willing to make. I’d rather not miss out on travel too.

My international friends don’t find it unusual, but some of my UK friends and Italian family ask: “Is he coming with you?” My parents occasionally worry that I’m travelling solo, though I think they’re also proud that I’m independent enough to do so. To me, it’s not dramatic. Given the choice, I would travel with Ed — but if he can’t make it, I’m just as happy to go alone.

I’d love to go to Scandinavia, where I think I’d feel comfortable going on my own, and see some of the US west coast and the Deep South. When I’m mid-air or about to land, I often have these moments of deep gratitude, where I feel so privileged to be able to just take off and go to the other side of the world. It just feels like such a missed opportunity not to go if you have the time and the means.

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