One for all…
Proving that the touring lifestyle is for everyone, Jane McGowan meets members who embrace the benefits of solo holidaying
While touring holidays are a great option for families or couples, the caravan or motorhome packed with barbecue equipment, bicycles and wet-weather boredom-busters, many Club members travel alone. Indeed, touring is an ideal way to holiday for people who, for whatever reason, have only themselves to please, and can bring unexpected benefits. And for those who need a little extra support, or would like the option to socialise, a number of groups have been set up specifically for solo tourers.
The Club recognises the attraction of unaccompanied travel, a point Harvey Alexander, Director of Marketing and Membership Services, is keen to stress. “Having spent a number of nights solo touring when I’m visiting Club campsites, I really enjoy having time to myself with the assurance and peace of mind that friendly site staff and fellow members are there if ever I need them. In fact, I normally end up spending more time talking to my new neighbours on the pitches next to me,” he says.
The Club is also aware of the slightly different needs that solo members may have. Harvey says, “If anyone is apprehensive about solo touring, I would suggest just giving it a go. Look for advice on the Club Together forum on the Club website (there are loads of hints for new solo tourers) and let the site staff know you are coming. I am sure they will give you a warm welcome and any advice or help you need.”
John Ward, 75, from Cheshire has been travelling by himself since 2013. He, along with Diana Horth, oversees Going Solo, a group for lone caravanners and motorhomers who want to connect with like-minded people while on site.
“Myself and my wife had travelled all over the place, but when she died I thought I should stop,” says John. “And I did. But then, six months later I bought a caravan. I came across Going Solo and it was wonderful as it gave me the confidence to get on the road again. Everyone was very welcoming and I immediately felt comfortable.”
Started by Sheila Kirkham in 1998, the group is open to single caravan and motorhome users, and offers members the opportunity to come together for days out, walks, evening entertainment or on-site barbecues. John and Diana took over responsibility in 2018 after Sheila’s retirement from the role. Between them they plan a programme and pick the sites, and members can choose which locations and activities to attend.
“It is all very informal and people can join in as much or as little as they want,” says Diana. “We publish a newsletter and then people basically come together on site. Sometimes we have five people or sometimes 15, in which case we can offer multiple events as people form groups within the group.”
Diana says the group is specifically for those looking for companionship and, while it is open to all ages, members are typically 50+. “Many have lost partners but still wanted to be able to enjoy caravanning,” she says. “But there are others whose partner just doesn’t share their enthusiasm for this type of holiday or who are like me, decidedly single.”
She is also clear that Going Solo is not a group for those who may be looking for love. “Oh no, no,” she laughs. “It is just an opportunity for people with similar interests to come together and maybe visit a National Trust property or have a pub lunch.”
Although not affiliated to the Club, Going Solo mainly visits Club campsites and contains many Club members. Similarly, The Phoenix Camping Club has no official links to the Club, but makes good use of Club locations. The group, which is specifically for single people, holds regular ‘meets’ for its 250-strong membership at venues across the country and, like Going Solo, is purely for making friends.
One member, Kay, offers this comment on the club’s website: “I would not camp alone and joining the Phoenix Club is one of the best things I have done. It provides fun and friendship without pressure, and the security of knowing there are people there to help when and if needed.”
Similarly, the New Horizons Camping Club, which has members aged 50-80+, is focused on its role as “a friendship and companionship club”. It welcomes “people who camp alone… including those with partners in residential care”.
Again, New Horizons makes use of Club campsites (among others) and new members are made to feel especially welcome, exemplified by comments from one recruit on the organisation’s website: “I was looking for a club where as a single camper I could feel relaxed, accepted and free to join in any group or to plan my own daily activities. I think I’ve found that club!”
So, if you are planning to hit the road as a solo traveller, there are plenty of like-minded people only too willing to help make that journey as easy as possible.
As John from Going Solo says: “Making the first trip is the hard part. But you will find that caravanners and motorhomers are very friendly. For me, being part of a group like this has meant I could keep enjoying the type of holiday I love.”