Meet the Northern Ireland women who love holidaying alone
A recent survey by British Airways found that more women than ever are now travelling on their own. Karen Ireland asks three seasoned travellers why they love flying solo
Joyce Craig (50 plus), a retired stockbroker, is divorced and lives in Donaghadee. Named Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year in 2015, she lost her daughter, Nicola, in 2011, and son Michael (25), who had a brain tumour, in 2015. Her son Christopher (26) has cerebral palsy and lives in independent living accommodation. Joyce is travelling to Portugal on her own next week to look at options for taking Christopher there for Christmas. She says:
My son Michael passed away three years ago from an inoperable brain tumour. For the first time in my life I felt all alone. I'd always had my career, was married and a mother. But suddenly I found I just wanted to get away. I had travelled a lot in the past and always loved it. I love airports and aeroplanes. But I had never been anywhere on my own.
I just started with small trips away on my own to clear my head and get some space and then I really got the bug for travelling again.
In the beginning I went to places which were familiar to me such as Majorca and Portugal.
I don't mind being on my own - I like the independence of being able to come and go as I please and do my own thing and set my own agenda.
In the last couple of years, I have travelled to Australia and New Zealand on my own and attended a friend's wedding in Barbados and a wedding in Italy.
Now I would go anywhere. I just love the feeling of booking a flight and getting away. There are always plenty of people to talk to. I made some lifelong friends, who I stay in touch with, just by chatting to them on the plane and connecting with them.
I always stay in a hotel as I like to do my own thing and come and go as I please.
I've also been to Venice by myself.
The only thing I wouldn't do was go on a gondola as everyone seemed to be in couples but apart from that I don't let anything hold me back.
Friends often comment that they would never be as brave as me and travel all over the world on their own, but I really don't mind.
I book all my travel myself as that way I get better deals than by going through a travel agent and I always try to get good times and connections.
I have never gone on holiday as part of a group of singles. I like doing my own thing too much. I have connected with a hotel in Crete which caters for people travelling on their own and I may try that.
My next big adventure is to New York - I'm already planning and looking forward to that.
Flying is one of my favourite things and if I was told I couldn't fly anymore it would break my heart.
I've found that, wherever you go, there are always plenty of people to talk to in the hotel etc - people are very friendly. The only downside is it can be expensive as you have to pay extra for the single supplement in hotel rooms.
Apart from that there are no negatives to travelling solo that I can think of.
It is very liberating and I'm always on the lookout for the next big adventure."
'People think I'm brave, there's nothing to be nervous about'
Cathy Walker (42), who works in a bank as a team leader, is single and lives in Dunmurry. She says:
I have been travelling on my own since I was about 36. I found at that stage that most of my friends were married or in long-term relationships and our big holidays away stopped happening.
I went on holiday with my dad a couple of times and then I remember thinking to myself 'you can't keep going on holiday with your dad at this age', so I took the plunge and booked my first holiday on my own.
I booked it on a Wednesday and was flying out on the Sunday, so I didn't really have time to think about it or worry about it.
The first time I went away was only for four days - I thought that would be enough on my own to begin with.
I went to Ibiza as I know my way around there, so I felt comfortable and confident. And I've been there several times since for longer periods and I love it.
I work hard and like everyone else I want a holiday and something to look forward to, so why shouldn't I go on holiday?
I've been on a lot of shopping trips on my own too, to places like Liverpool and Manchester.
People close to me tend to worry more about me travelling on my own than I do. I love it and look forward to new experiences.
I always get dressed up at night and look for nice places to go out and have dinner.
Sometimes I do think it would be lovely to have someone to share this with, but then I just think to myself 'you should be grateful - you are on holiday and enjoy it'.
People are very friendly when they notice you on your own and they talk to me.
I feel a bit like Shirley Valentine. I just like to lie by the pool, get a bit of sun and go for walks before getting glammed up and going out for the night.
I would encourage other women in a similar situation to book a holiday and not worry about going on your own.
Everybody needs to get away and there is nothing to be nervous about.
People think I am brave, but I don't have a choice - if I want to travel I have to do it on my own. That's just the way it is.
For anyone considering it for the first time I would recommend a short break first to get used to it. Don't dive in and book two weeks away on your own.
But go for it and enjoy it. Embrace new situations and new places. You will love it."
'I love going off the beaten track, having new adventures'
Kate Thompson (57), director of Northern Ireland Duke of Edinburgh Awards, is single and lives in Belfast. She says:
I have always loved travelling and have travelled on my own since my early 20s.
I think part of the reason I have gone on my own is that I like to go to places off the beaten track, which other people might not want to go to.
I also find that I have a lot of energy and can maybe cover more ground in a couple of days on my own than with a group.
I read a lot about places I want to visit and make sure I have done my research. I am very interested in photography, so will often go to places which will be spectacular to photograph.
As a woman travelling on my own, I am safety conscious and I try where possible not to arrive in strange places in the middle of the night, or if I do I will get a taxi directly to my hotel. And I try not to be out and about in places which I don't know very well late at night. That said, I am on the go from early morning until late in the evening when I travel to places, trying to pack as much in as possible.
I like to be up photographing sunsets and sunrises.
I have travelled all over the world on my own and some of the highlights have been Cambodia and Burma.
I've also visited Japan, which I loved, and found the people incredibly friendly and I love history, so I enjoy going to places such as Berlin.
I love engaging with local people and experiencing different cultures and I can only truly do this if I'm on my own, as I speak to people and engage with them, which I might not do if I was with a group.
Sometimes, I will visit places and go on a recce on my own - then I might take the camera club and I'll know where to go and what to do.
I also love trekking holidays and canoeing, so I will try to fit that in around visiting new and different places. I think when you are on your own you meet really interesting people and make real connections with them.
There are still loads of places on my bucket list which I want to visit, including Cuba, South America and the Antarctic.
I love scenery, old buildings and architecture as well, and I love discovering the history of places. I just love to travel and have new adventures."