There's no longer any reason to travel solo, unless you really want to, writes Rachael Oakes-Ash.
At last count there were 6.77 billion people on this planet. That's a lot of folk going about their business, yet more people than ever are travelling solo, whether for work or play. While we may have Facebook, Skype, iPhones and emails with which to connect, life on the road can still be a lonely one.
Travel operators are recognising the human desire for contact and are providing services for solo travellers to feel less alone.
The super-sleek Sanctuary Hotel in South Beach, Miami, offers solo travellers a jogging companion so you need not pound the streets alone or get lost along the way. Westin Hotels has the exclusive RunWESTIN program with a "running concierge" who takes groups of solo guests on a morning jog three times a week. Guests have a workout and, along the way, meet other travellers interested in fitness.
A hotel club floor is an ideal option for the single business traveller craving company. These key-accessed floors offer guests a private dining area away from the general hotel public, with complimentary breakfast and afternoon cocktails. Guests are free to enjoy the presence of fellow club-floor members while dining alone or to mingle at drinks hour, with some hotels offering drinks with hotel management as an ice-breaker. All the big names have them, including Fairmont, Hilton, Four Seasons and Sofitel.
That's all great if you stay within the four walls of your hotel but outside it's possible to hook up with locals through a number of websites. Australian Our Explorer (ourexplorer.com) recognised the need for local guides for those travelling to distant places. You can choose from a selection of guides who have registered on the site from all around the world. Once you know where you are heading, you'll have a local to meet you there and walk and talk you through adventure experiences, city streets and iconic sites.
For business travellers looking to meet like-minded folk on the road, there are a number of international websites. Pair Up (pairup.com) is a business social network that allows you to upload your business contacts, stay in touch to co-ordinate meetings, find other business people in destinations you are travelling to and arrange to meet for tennis, dinner or networking. It's possible to find other solo business travellers attending the same conference or event as you or whose business travel plans co-ordinate with yours.
Jetwerk (jetwerk.com) works along similar lines, calling itself a "social networking service that enhances travel experiences for business and entertainment professionals". The website is designed for business travellers to maximise the time they have by knowing who is going to be at the same place at the same time.
Jetwerkers simply upload their business travel dates and destinations and the site cross-checks with other members to see who will be there when you are. It's your choice whether to connect with them.
In Australia, Handbag Partners (handbagpartners.com) is a new site for those in NSW looking for a travel companion or date for dinners, parties or other events.
The founders, Maria Spinoulas and Monika Aleksander, have set up a unique no-strings-attached, non-dating site for those with invitations that include a "plus one" but have no one to take. As is often the case in business travel, invitations are extended to the traveller and partner. Handbag Partners puts singles in touch with other solos who act as wing men and women or"handbags".
Findsingletravellers.com (www.findsingletravellers.com) is a portal designed for solo travellers looking to hook up with others or wanting to meet locals once they reach their destination. There's a forum with useful information from people who have been where you are going, travel classifieds to help offload your stuff once you get back and a guide with tips on how to ensure meetings remain safe and you choose your companions wisely.
If you prefer to let others do the arrangements for you, then British company Adventura (adventura.com), formerly known as Speed Breaks, understands it is harder to arrange solo travel and the increased costs involved of travelling alone. The company specialises in active singles' group holidays for travellers wanting to ski, snowboard, dive, sail or enjoy any kind of adventure, from an African safari to a European food-and-wine excursion or a simple weekend away.
There really is no longer any need to be alone while on the road unless you want to be but that's a whole other story.