Sunday, 12 April 2015

How To Travel By Yourself

Yes, my series of personal posts is maybe starting to make me look like a bit of a sociopath. I promise you that I do spend time with other humans and do enjoy their company but there's nothing really that mind-blowing in writing about "why I like spending time with my friends" and, anyway, I gushed about them here. So there.

Today we are talking about holidays. Holidays are my favourite thing in the world. As a child we didn't travel must aside from the usual two-weeks-in-the-sun during the school holidays but since travelling around Japan on my gap yah I've been hooked and now can't get enough of seeing new places. I like to do a longer trip and a few shorter trips each year - when I first started working a 25 day holiday allowance sounded so pitiful but if you use it wisely you can definitely fit in a lot of trips and don't forget to take advantage of bank holidays (they're not just an excuse to get drunk on a Sunday night) and even a weekend break away can make you feel so refreshed.

I've travelled a fair bit on my own and thought I'd share some tips as I know that some people find this scary / weird / totally unappealing but I have to say that I love solo travel and even if you never take a solo holiday then you might end up traveling alone with work or having to take a solo trip at some point. 


Planning for this year!
Hong Kong Peak Selfie

1. Pick your destination wisely
I personally wouldn't do a beach holiday on my own - I'd probably be bored after two days and from past experience its super stressful having to get someone to watch your stuff while you take a dip in the sea. A city is perfect as there's so much do to and no chance of getting bored. I've also done a language holiday which was great as my French got so much better in a really short space of time and I made friends on the course and am considering a yoga holiday for next summer - I guess these are in-between options as even though you're on your own you'll meet people and most others will be by themselves too.

2. Consider tours
In Australia I did a Top Deck tour which was great as all the planning was taken care of and I just had to turn up. I do love planning but it's sometimes nice to let someone else take care of all that. Lily Melrose recently went to Japan with Contiki which looked amazing too and for more far flung destinations a tour can take away a lot of the stress. It's also a great way to meet others while having a balance of group and solo time - I think I'd feel a lot of pressure to be entertaining if I were taking a two week trip with a friend, weirdly it can be easier to relax around total strangers!

3. Research research research
When I went to Shanghai I spent hours researching things to do so that I could plan my days before I went. Plan 2-3 things per day or do one neighbourhood of the city each day. Research cafes and restaurants too - I wouldn't sit down to a three course meal on my own but finding a cute café with free wifi is a lifesaver and seriously, no one cares that you're eating lunch on your own. Solo travel makes me feel like I live in the place I'm visiting rather than being a selfie-stick wielding tourist. Check and double check visa requirements, flight times, how to get from place to place...no one else is going to do it for you! I love this site for useful tips on how to book train tickets just about anywhere in the world...

4. Staying safe
Pick somewhere central to stay or somewhere near a metro station so that you're not navigating an unfamiliar city alone at night. Pick an area that will always be busy - in NYC while I loved the look of some of the places on the LES staying in mid-town in a more touristy area made more sense from a safety perspective. Don't just look at hotels - consider smaller B&Bs or hostels which may have a friendlier vibe and may be a good way to meet people. I'm going to Seoul in September and have booked the cutest guesthouse for some of my stay - the reviews from other solo travellers were great and this convinced me away from an anonymous hotel.

5. Books
Avoid awkwardness on public transport or in cafes by loading up your Kindle - I love taking time out over a coffee to read and hardly ever do this at home so a solo holiday is perfect for getting your me-time fix. A decent guidebook is a must too - I like Lonely Planet for providing lots of practical tips and decent maps. I usually buy just one but get a few beforehand from the library to read up (I have become obsessed with my local library lately - free books!).

6. Activities
Break up the solo time by planning some activities - I love doing walking tours in cities as you'll often get younger people and also recommend cooking classes if you're somewhere with interesting food as even if its you and a group of strangers there is no better way to bond than over your mis-shapen xaiolongbao.

7. Enjoy
Lasting, have fun! Do all the things that you want to do and don't worry about upsetting anyone else. Want to sleep in one morning - go for it! Want an early night? An entire 3 hours in forever 21 (no that didn't happen in Shanghai)? It's your holiday so do what you want. I try to stay off my phone as much as possible when I'm away but the occasional WhatsApp is great for updating friends back home and telling those tales that at the time seem baffling but that would be hilarious were you with someone else. Being by myself somehow makes me feel so much more immersed in that place - I pay a lot more attention to my surroundings when I'm not bemoaning my at-home issues somewhere else in the world!

Solo travel is so empowering and we are so lucky (especially as women) that we have the chance to travel this beautiful world and explore new places. Enjoy it and make some amazing memories and maybe even get to know the person worth knowing the most while you're at it (that would be you!). 

Have you travelled anywhere on your own?

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4 comments

  1. Amen to this sister! I recently went away with people I didn't know and it was one of the best things I've ever done!
    Sophie
    X

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  2. I travelled to Florence for a week on my own for a conference and didn't mind it as much I thought I would. I got to do what I wanted and eat at the places that I wanted to. I wouldn't do it all the time, but I'm glad that I got to experience the pleasure.

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  3. I'm tempted to book a solo holiday this year - will of course be pestering you on all forms of communication prior to doing so! I enjoy that there is a growing collection of solo Pineapplette Peak selfies hahaha x

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  4. I think it is amazing that you travel by yourself, I am always really scared of doing it (mainly because of my diabetes) but I definitely need to get out of my comfort zone!

    Maria xxx

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