Sin­gu­lar pas­sions

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

THE solo trav­eller tends to get the rough end of the broom when it comes to be­ing charged sup­ple­ments for ac­com­mo­da­tion and tour costs. In Europe, where older ho­tels come in baf­fling con­fig­u­ra­tions, so­los of­ten are rel­e­gated to cell-like sin­gle rooms with nar­row beds and such a paucity of space that one can open the door without get­ting out of bed.

De­spite the in­creased cost, De­par­tureLounge rather likes set­ting forth on her own, rel­ish­ing the prospect of blank-slate ad­ven­tures and the po­ten­tial for rein­ven­tion. If one’s airy plans go wrong, it’s some­how eas­ier to cope when there’s no one to blame but one­self. Once, when Lounge ’ s sons were very young, she ran away for a day. Not very far: just a ride to the end of the bus line and back while the boys were at kinder­garten. She had for­got­ten what it was like to be alone and just felt she had to be free of other peo­ple’s needs.

‘‘ Mummy needed to go on a bus for some peace,’’ she told the ju­nior Lounges that night. ‘‘ Mummy went to pieces on a bus,’’ the younger an­nounced to his wideeyed class­mates at Lit­tle News next day. How ter­ri­fy­ingly close he was.

WHEN­trav­el­ling alone, one can in­dulge all sorts of potty in­ter­ests, too. Lounge can’t imag­ine find­ing any­one who’d want to, say, ac­com­pany her through Ker­ala tracking the sites of TheGod­ofS­mal­lThings or turn­ing the Ja­panese city of Nara up­side down in search of the carved rab­bit-mo­tif net­suke she saw there in 1980 and has been in a huff about not buy­ing ever since.

But for those who pre­fer com­pany and are seek­ing a like-minded com­pan­ion, RSVP has just launched what it calls ‘‘ Aus­tralia’s first ad­ven­ture travel com­mu­nity’’. This com­pany has had re­mark­able suc­cess as an on­line dat­ing site and, ac­cord­ing to spokes­woman Lija Jarvis, presently boasts 1.3 mil­lion mem­bers (54 per cent male and 46 per cent fe­male). So odds look good to pal up with a com­pat­i­ble trav­el­ling part­ner. www.rsvp.com.au.

Other spe­cial­ist agen­cies in­clude Mel­bourne-based Solo Trav­eller, which has a mis­sion ‘‘ to of­fer sin­gles and solo trav­ellers var­i­ous se­lected group tours to suit all bud­gets’’. www.solo­trav­eller.com.au.

AS Aus­tralians marry later, di­vorce more of­ten and have less struc­tured re­la­tion­ships, the sin­gle trav­eller mar­ket is grow­ing and op­er­a­tors must cater ac­cord­ingly. A Flight Cen­tre spokesper­son re­cently com­mented that the com­pany was ex­pect­ing a 15 per cent to 20 per cent in­crease in solo busi­ness over the next 12 months. Mar­ket­ing is chang­ing ac­cord­ingly, with ho­tels tend­ing to charge per room rather than per per­son; but the twin­share spec­tre re­mains, a term that makes Lounge think of two iden­ti­cal bodies cramped in a bot­tom bunk.

THE folk at The Cap­tain’s Choice Tours have so­los firmly in mind, too. Those who book its Silk Route by Pri­vate Train: Bei­jing to Moscow tour in March 2009 will be pro­vided with sin­gle rooms and cabins at no ad­di­tional cost. De­pend­ing on the class al­lo­ca­tion on the tour, sin­gles are as­sured the per per­son dou­ble oc­cu­pancy rate at sav­ings from $3510 to $16,475. www.cap­tain­schoice.com.au.

SPE­CIAL-IN­TER­EST tourism is ter­rific for sin­gles, too, and there’s a swag of tours on of­fer for peo­ple with par­tic­u­lar pas­sions. And some­times those ob­ses­sions are down­right pe­cu­liar, from but­ter­fly-chas­ing in Pa­pua New Guinea to folk-danc­ing out­ings in Es­to­nia and Latvia. In­sects in Greece or Cen­tral Amer­ica? Ir­ri­ga­tion in Is­rael or Oman? It’s all out there, al­though yoga re­treats are all the rage for foot­loose fe­males, ap­par­ently, and gourmet tours for new-age chaps. Girl­sonly es­capes are on of­fer from com­pa­nies with such un­am­bigu­ous names as www.get­awaysfor­girls.com and MaeveO’Meara’s Gor­geous Sa­faris, an off­shoot of her foodie tour com­pany Gourmet Sa­faris. www.gourmet­sa­faris.com.au.

FINDS of the week: South Korea’s tourism or­gan­i­sa­tion is pro­mot­ing home­s­tays; reg­is­ter for mem­ber­ship and then choose from about 5000 homes. B & B starts at $US40 ($60) a night plus a place­ment fee of $US30. The pro­gram also of­fers monthly rates. www.vis­itko­rea.or.kr.

Baby­moons for ex­pec­tant cou­ples are a big new ac­com­mo­da­tion trend but post­na­tal get­aways in lux­ury ho­tels are the lat­est vari­a­tion. In Syd­ney, the Prince of Wales Pri­vate Hospi­tal and Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach have con­ceived a Lit­tle Lux­u­ries re­cov­ery pack­age for new mums. It would seem a fine idea to be bond­ing with bub in an ocean­view ho­tel room rather than the clin­i­cal sur­rounds of a hospi­tal ward.

Mid­wifery staff from Prince of Wales Pri­vate Hospi­tal are on hand at the ho­tel to pro­vide per­son­alised sup­port to moth­ers; part­ners and chil­dren can stay as part of the pro­gram, sleep­ing in the same room at no ex­tra cost. It’s cov­ered by par­tic­i­pat­ing health funds and, in Lounge ’ s es­ti­ma­tion, it’s never too early to get used to the joys of ho­tels. More: Ma­ter­nity Book­ing Co-or­di­na­tor, Prince of Wales Pri­vate Hospi­tal, (02) 9650 4000.

LOUNGE loves: Vibe Ho­tels in Syd­ney, Mel­bourne and on the Gold Coast (Dar­win opens in Fe­bru­ary) have a new Be Pam­pered @ Vibe pack­age that in­cludes ac­com­mo­da­tion and buf­fet break­fast for two and a Napoleon Perdis gift pack of six travel-sized pump packs of body lo­tions and show­ers gels in de­li­ciously fra­grant com­bos such as fig and pome­gran­ate. From $149 to $195 a night, de­pend­ing on lo­ca­tion; valid to Fe­bru­ary. www.vibeho­tels.com.au.

LOUNGE loathes: Ho­tel pack­ages that make a show of in­clud­ing break­fast but said meal ac­tu­ally comes with pro­vi­sos. Lounge had a Se­in­feld soup nazi mo­ment last week when stay­ing overnight at a Syd­ney ho­tel. ‘‘ No hot food for you,’’ she was told when giv­ing her room num­ber to the break­fast buf­fet su­per­vi­sor. Un­lim­ited weak cof­fee and dry crois­sants, though.

DEALS OF THE WEEK

Free nights with Heron Is­land’s tur­tles; sec­ond per­son free at Club Med beach re­sorts; free US stopovers with Canada and Alaska tours; Bali bonus; Tas­ma­nia tour dis­counted. Th­ese and other money-sav­ing of­fers are fea­tured in Travel&In­dul­gence’s hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily:

www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel/dd

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

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