Holidays are amazing. The feeling of getting away from it all for even a few days can recharge and reset your mind and body so completely that wonders are worked, giving you something to look forward to, then to enjoy before looking back on with smiles. Any break away from the routine is worth doing, especially if you combine it with the chance to do some things that might help you improve slightly as a person. And if you happened to also be surrounded by amazing, funny and intelligent single people at the same time, well, who could ask for more?!
All of this and more was on my mind when I travelled up to Buckinghamshire in the summer to take part in the first Staycation of its kind in the country. Organised by the ever excellent My Friend Charlie (I’ve spoken about them before) and the equally amazing Sarah Ryan (I’ve not spoken about her yet, but watch this space…), it took place over the course of a stunning summer’s weekend in 2019 in one of the most lovely country mansions I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.
But what even is a Singles Staycation, I hear you ask? Well, it’s simply a weekend where the focus is on what it is like to be single in the modern dating world, bringing together a bunch of people in the same boat and putting them together with both each other and with a range of experts to look at this and help explore ways in which things might be done differently. It’s not a matchmaking type event, more a group of friends-you-haven’t-met-yet meeting up to help each other out.
This pilot event was held at the magnificent Chicheley Hall, a country house which lives up to every stereotype of the country house. Whether that be about the exceptional staff there, the imposing facade set in its own grounds, the lake around which you can promenade or the peacocks roaming freely and waking you each morning by putting the sounds of Kulashaker into your head, it was the perfect venue for any sort of occasion.
Our first night was spent mostly getting to know each other. getting fifteen or so people together for the first time means there is a fair bit of this to do, as everyone is learning more about the other people they will be sharing a weekend with as well as sharing those things themselves. Admittedly this did give me the opportunity to pretend I was a professional badminton player/joss stick magnate/author/other-almost-ridiculous-yet-borderline-believable-profession before revealing more about who I actually am in real life.
It also gave us the chance to take part in a Q&A with some of our hosts. As well as Charlie and Sarah answering various dating questions from the group, they were also joined by the “Man Whisperer”, Kenny Mammarella-D’Cruz. The three of them gave funny, interesting and at times contradicting opinions and advice, which was very welcome indeed. Panel discussions where everybody simply agrees with each other are some of the most boring things out there, so a little debate was very welcome indeed before we then headed to the bar to sample some of the beverages on offer.
The next day was long but exceptionally enjoyable and random. Beginning with a slightly truncated 7.30am run around the grounds, it then moved after breakfast to a group meditation session. Whilst meditation isn’t for everyone, the opportunity to sit in the morning sunshine with your eyes closed and simply relax is never one to pass up.
After that things got even more random as we headed off to go alpaca walking. Yep, actually walking alpacas on leads. Not something you get to do every day, that’s for sure. This was followed by falconry displays, archery, crossbow and rifle shooting and then by a private viewing of a bald eagle (which we all got the opportunity to hold). To do any one of those things would have been a worthwhile thing, but all of them took things up a level.
Throughout this whole time we were also continuing to talk to each other, getting to know everyone’s stories and offering little insights into things to think about. There’s nothing at all like spending time around people all looking for love to help you ask questions about what you are actually doing and what you are looking for.
Following another evening of great food and lots of drinks (where I even introduced them all to salted caramel flavour Baileys…) the final day was filled with workshops and discussions to help us focus our thoughts on relationships, on ourselves and on how to be better at both of those things. We even got our hands on each others dating app profiles and did a little critiquing and improving, leading to some impromptu photo shoots and redrafts. This was so successful that one of the group (who had never had a profile before) had several matches within the hour and started happily chatting away with them.
These weekends aren’t free, admittedly. However, cost and value are two very, very different things, and no-one who paid the extremely reasonable £450 for the weekend walked away feeling anything other than happy with their choice to go along. Just to go away for a good weekend in a posh country mansion with all meals included is coming close to that cost anyway, so to get that plus all of the activities, all of the advice, the workshops and the company of awesome people is beyond good value.
It has also sparked friendships that have long since continued, with reunion barbecues and follow-up events planned to see how we are all doing. In the modern world of online contact and remote conversations, nothing comes close to the feeling of making new friends in real life who “get it” when it comes to the search for love.
At the time of writing there is a winter staycation being planned, with people on the waiting list getting first dibs at going along. If you’re not on that waiting list yet, get on it right now. And I do mean now, not in a few weeks time, as all of the places will long since have been snatched up. And if you do go along, tell them DD sent you; you never know, it might make things even better.