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Solo travel: top courses to book and new skills to learn when you're travelling alone

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Not gone travelling alone yet? Then you're missing a trick.

A quick poll of Stylist readers revealed you lot love flying solo, with many people writing into us to wax lyrical about the benefits of travelling on your tod.

"I travelled to LA over Christmas and New Year by myself following a very nasty break up," said one reader, Ellen. "I spent 24-27 December completely alone and it was a revelation! It was a life-changing holiday, I came back a new woman."

Another reader, Christobel from Nottingham, agrees.

"Three years ago, on a particularly dull September afternoon at the awful customer service helpline job I was forced to take after graduating, I booked a ten-day solo trip to Amsterdam. I was 22," she says.

"I still look back on that trip fondly because of everything I learned, about myself and about other people. Not least I learned how to survive as a solo tourist in reduced circumstances in Holland - you have to trust no-one and really, really like Gouda."

Another reader, Rhiannon, chose New York as her solo travel destination and is still enjoying her time in the Big Apple now.

"I’ve taken random classes, thrown myself out of my comfort zone, stumbled across unknown gigs, gardens and opportunities, and learnt the art of spontaneity once again," she says. "There’s still the odd time where I’d appreciate having a group of friends around the corner, or would prefer not to dine at a table for one, but at least I have something to look forward to in coming home again. "

Travelling solo is a fun and revealing experience, Stylist readers told us

Charlotte, a teacher from West London, opted to leave her partner at home when she booked a mini-break to Paris last summer.

"I booked two nights in a hostel in Paris last August," she says.

"I have never enjoyed a holiday as much as that, quite uniquely being able to do exactly what I want, spend as long as I want in [bookshop] Shakespeare and Co. and eat when and where I choose. The weather was glorious to boot and I could indulge my photography habit without provoking yawns from my (dear) other half. I read so much, walked so far and experienced an exhilarating freedom I have never felt before.

"My only problem was a reluctance to eat my evening meal alone - or rather find somewhere I felt comfortable enough. I just whittled the evenings away finding cafes to read in," she adds.

So there we have a pretty much conclusive verdict: travelling alone can be an exhilarating and fulfilling experience. But how to fill the days and nights when you're eating out solo and heading around and about alone? For those who feel nervous at the prospect, enrolling on a course or workshop to learn a new skill could be the answer, and a good way of bridging the gap between group and solo travel the first time around.

Here, we handpick ten travel experiences for you to book this year, covering everything from crime fiction writing to learning to surf and bear-watching expeditions. All the prices quoted are for solo travel alone - there's none of this two-person subsidy nonsense going on here.

Get set to embrace your creative side and become enriched with some serious me time - both in the UK and abroad...

Learn to make pizza, pasta and gelato in Sorrento

Immerse yourself in the art of cooking classic Italian dishes, from pizza base throwing to making traditional gelato, ice cream cakes and sorbetti. The latter involves lots of obligatory taste testing, we hear. Accommodation is in the three-star Hotel Soleluna in the heart of this magical coastal town.

From £422 for a four-day course. Price includes five hours' tuition in classes of no more than nine people and 3-star accommodation in a private double room in Sorrento. Flights to Naples/Sorrento not included. Visit golearnto.com to book.

Walk the Picos de Europa in northern Spain

An organisation of "adventure, sports and social clubs", Spice UK is very much pitched to the solo traveller. With brilliant feedback from its previous walking holidays, the folks here have created an all-inclusive trip to Picos de Europa, an enchanting area of mountainous greenery between Asturias and Cantabria that faces towards Spain's Atlantic coast. You can either choose to take it easy, walking seven to nine miles a day with up to 1,500ft of ascent, or push yourself a little, doing 10-13 miles with a 3,000ft ascent.

£849 for a seven-day break (Sunday 7 September - Sunday 14 September 2014) including flights, transfers, seven nights' accommodation, seven breakfasts, five evening meals, five picnic lunches and five days with a choice of two guided walks led by professional guides. Visit spiceuk.com to book.

Learn to surf in Portugal

Anyone who's watched Blue Crush may have had that sudden desire to hit the waves in style, à la Kate Bosworth (or Point Break, for that matter - but that's more to do with the hot guys than anything else). Here's your chance to try your skills for real, with this reasonably priced course based out of some of the best beaches in Lagos, Europe's leading surf destination. With up to four or five hours of surfing a day, you can expect to become a pro pretty quickly; or at the very least, you'll develop stomach muscles of steel.

From €225 (£179) for a five-day surf course including two sessions a day, transport, wetsuit, board and lunch. Flights not included. Visit surfholidays.com to book.

Learn to screenprint a lampshade in Cornwall

Bedruthan Steps hotel in the idyllic Mawgan Porth in Cornwall is a hotbed of creativity and runs all kinds of courses throughout the year. Many of them can be used as a stepping stone to setting up your own business in an area that interests you. This one is a goodie for textile types or those of you who fancy setting up a sideline in interior design, as it teaches you unique, professional standard screen printing skills. And you get to chill out in the evenings in the hotel's sea-facing spa and very good seafood restaurant.

£55 for a day course (18 October 2014), with single rooms from £115 a night including breakfast. Travel not included. Visit bedruthan.com to book.

Book a solo ski holiday in Austria

Redpoint's holidays to Austria are custom-made for people who want to go skiing on their own. Whether it's because your usual ski buddy can't make it or you want to make new friends, these breaks allow you to ski during the day and socialise in the evenings. The week includes five days of guided skiing around the ski areas of Spieljoch, Hochfugen and Hochzillertal in groups of no more than 10 people - so everyone has a chance to chat over beer and lunch on the slops.

Breaks from £873 including return flights from London Heathrow, five days of guided skiing, single room accommodation and optional evening activities. Visit redpoint.co.uk to book.

Learn Flamenco guitar and Spanish in Seville

Have you got a passion for all things Spanish? This mammoth two-week course includes daily private flamenco guitar lessons and one and a half hours of Spanish classes per day, giving you all the time you need to fully immerse yourself in the culture of Spain. The itinerary's not too punishing, though, and there's plenty of time to wander around and soak in the famous sites of this glorious metropolis, from the Maria Luisa Park to the Giralda bell tower. Accommodation in shared digs is optional for a modest price.

From £435 for a 14-day break including 30 hours' tuition in Spanish and Flamenco guitar (guitar lessons are one-on-one tuition). Flights and accommodation not included. Optional accommodation in a single room in shared self-catering apartment from £108 per room per week. Visit golearnto.com to book.

Learn to write a crime bestseller with author Meg Gardiner in Tuscany

This course doesn't come cheap but it's fairly comprehensive if you have your heart set on becoming the next Gillian Flynn. Award-winning author Meg Gardiner has ten published thrillers to her name and will teach you all you need to know about the craft of creating strong, vivid narratives for your own bestseller. She's also happy to read the synopsis and first ten pages of any novel you're working on during this week-long course of no more than 10 people.

The Watermill, a gorgeous Tuscan home where the course takes place, is an added bonus, with private gardens, verandahs and mill-stream walks to explore and all meals and pre-dinner aperitifs included.

From £1399 for a week's course (Saturday 4 October to Saturday 11 October 2014), including all tuition fees, meals, local transportation and accommodation in one of the Watermill's bedrooms. Flights to Pisa not included. Visit watermill.net to book.

Brush up on your music skills in Hertfordshire

If you're into music of any or all genres, Benslow Music organisation in Hertfordshire is the place to head. This wonderful college runs a huge variety of workshops to introduce music-lovers to new skills, or allow them to pick up again at an instrument they abandoned playing ten years prior.

Its courses cover everything from conducting to folk music, music appreciation, contemporary jazz, solo, choral and vocal technique sessions. There's even a strings speed dating course for people to find their ideal quartet or trio partners with. Many of the courses take place at the weekend, with very reasonable B&B rates available for those who want to stay on-site.

From £285 for weekend residential courses including all tuition and bed and breakfast accommodation. Visit benslowmusic.org to book.

Go bear-watching in Finland

Adventure travel experts Explore! are big on unusual, one-off experiences and it doesn't really get more unique than European brown bear watching in Finland. This bespoke trip gives you a glimpse into the world of these wonderful and elusive creatures in their natural habitat, as well as the opportunity to explore the untamed expanse and pristine natural beauty of northeastern Finland.

The company's trips are very much geared towards solo travellers - in their words: "our tours attract people who love travel - seeing new places, enjoying new experiences and meeting new people. You may join the tour alone, but by the end you’ll feel as though you’re travelling with a group of friends."

From £469 including three nights' accommodation in a simple hotel, guided nature walks to the bear hives, optional canoe trip, all main meals and in-country transfers. Flights not included. Visit explore.co.uk to book

Photos: Rex Features

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