Hope everyone had a good weekend!
It’s back to the travel gig and here’s the latest column from The Royal Gazette.
Travelling solo – that wasn’t really my plan when I started travelling around the world last year. Yes, I started with a boyfriend (I called him a travel buddy) but that ended.
I debated. I was in India. I decided I was going to finish my round-the-world trip solo and boarded a plane, head cold and all, for Thailand.
I was nervous. I had done a lot of travelling before. I had lived in France, Italy, the Czech Republic and Turkey. I travelled through India and Sri Lanka for three months. But I had never travelled for long periods of time on my own.
I’ll tell you this: my mom was not happy.
Landing in Bangkok was easy. I changed my travellers’ cheques, bought a ticket for the bus into the centre of the city and into solo travelling. The first night I was not sure how it was going to work.
I decided I had to eat. I sat in the hostel’s lounge-restaurant and ended up meeting two girls who borrowed my guidebook and became my travel buddies for the next two days.
I will never turn back from solo travel and neither should you. Yes – women or men. The world is not scary once you are out there.
First tip to start travelling solo is: do it! Solo travelling is empowering, will push you to do things and meet people that you never imagined.
The scary part? Things will just make sense. As cliché as it sounds and I’m not a hippie: the universe works with you. The right experiences happen, the right people show-up and it just works. When I needed to see Machu Picchu I met two guys on the same travel page; they were not going to hike and were quite happy with a lazy train ride followed by indulgent dinners. They were there for a reason – to help me.
But if the idea of going global solo scares you, tip two: start small. Begin at home. Go shopping on your own, eat lunch solo (bring a newspaper, book or magazine to help) and when out try to start conversations with people you may never have talked to. I know … it’s Bermuda. You will run into people you know. That’s scary. What will they think? Who cares! I’m not saying close yourself off. Say hi, even invite them to join, but this is the beauty of travelling on your own – you’re open to new experiences.
Tip three: Don’t worry so much. Yes, take security seriously, women especially (sorry but it’s true). But the world is generally safe and with precautions you take at home you will make it through the world just fine. I only had one real scare on my year abroad.
It was going to Thai boxing on the back of a motorbike and the trainer went a separate way from the other bike. I made him stop and I got off. Turns out he was one of the nicest people and I ended up training with him. But there is no sense in being sorry.
Travelling solo you will find that the sixth sense kicks-in far sooner than when travelling with someone else too.
Which leads to my third tip.
Stay in hostels.
I never would have been on the bike trip, I might have even missed Machu Picchu if I had not stayed in hostels. I met my travel buddies here. I have said it before and I will say it again – these accommodation choices are of much better quality than their name precedes them. And they are a better choice for solos than hotels which generally cater to couples who happily wrap themselves in the safety of their double rooms.
Added bonus for women travellers are the mixed dorm rooms i.e. males and females. One: you meet guys (and I’m not saying this as a dating service). I’m saying it as a safety thing. In Cusco, for example, it is not safe to walk around at night by yourself – male or female, but it’s even more dangerous for women. I was lucky. I met two guys in my dorm room, plus a third in the hostel who would walk with me if we went out at night.
Fourth tip: don’t be afraid to extend yourself. You are going to meet people if you like it or not travelling solo. Someone on their own is more approachable and you will quickly find people sitting with you for dinner or grabbing a drink with you. Be open to this. I met some random people this way – an Israeli vegan who spoke fluent Thai, for example. We would probably not be friends at home, but we had some interesting conversations and his Thai definitely helped me.
Fifth: plan, plan, plan, but don’t be afraid to go with the flow when you start meeting other travellers (it will happen I promise). In Bangkok I could avoid the annoying taxi guys because I researched from the comfort of London, the airport and the ground transportation. Avoiding taxi touts soon became second nature.
I also soon learnt that many times it just makes sense to go with the flow. I was going to travel to North Thailand by bus for a day or two. I met two guys about to tackle a three-day biking tour. I found myself renting a motorbike. It was some of the best travelling I did and not in the plans at all.
Finally if I can encourage you to take the plunge into the world alone there is one reason and really one main reason to do it – you get to do what you want! If you want to stay in Turkey for a week you can. If you plan to go to Cambodia over land that’s what you will do. And I promise you will have fun, meet people who want to do the same thing and discover things about yourself and the world you never knew.
Visit my website www.robynswanderings.com and remember send me your photos and stories about travelling. These can be mere photo references to Bermuda from your travels or stories about your latest trip. You will be featured in a column and on my website.
Next week: now that you’ve travelled solo … how to pick a travel companion.