Every time I book another adventure my family and friends ask the same question; ‘who are you going with?’
And (almost) every time my answer is the same…..’no one!’
I am usually met with mixed responses ranging from horror (mainly from my mother who worries that stepping outside of the Bournemouth post code will result in an unfortunate ending) to pity (isn’t it sad that I can not find anyone to travel with me). Only occasionally do people really take the time to understand and appreciate why I choose to so often go abroad alone and that I have actively made the decision to do so.
For me, travelling solo is not that much of an alien concept, and I would like to share what inspires and motivates me to explore this beautiful world that we live in on my own.
Prior to working as a Paramedic, I spent 8 years working as Cabin Crew for Virgin Atlantic and I quickly became used to being in foreign countries on my own. Yes it had its glamorous image, we were always provided with luxury accommodation and I have had some incredible experiences that people can only dream of, but more often than not I would find myself at a destination completely on my own as the other members of my crew would be doing their own thing or not wanting to do anything at all. The loneliness I often felt sitting in my hotel room on my own eventually forced me out of my comfort zone in to doing things alone as I wanted to really make the most of all the opportunities I was so grateful for being given. Soon my confidence began to grow and I found that places like New York and Dubai became like second homes to me. I could probably find my way around these cities better than my home town!
Having spent a large proportion of my working life coming in and out of busy airports I can appreciate that they can be daunting places but I have never been phased by them and for me they symbolise adventure. I love nothing more than immersing myself in to the hustle and bustle of the terminal by people watching with a cup of tea. The same goes for visiting new places.
As my interest in travel and travel blogging began to increase I found myself being drawn to fellow female solo travellers who would go on to inspire me to eventually create my own Blog. The ladies below are now regulars on my Twitter and Instagram feeds and I have enjoyed reading their insights into solo travel and their own personal achievements:
Kristen Addis (bemytravelmuse.com)
Cassie De Pecol (cassiedepecol.com)
Kiersten Rich (theblondeabroad.com)
Lauren Bullen (gypsysealust.com)
However, these are MY reasons why I prefer to travel alone:
Solo travel acts as a kind of therapy for me. I find solace in being able to get away from the daily grind of my personal and working life. If I feel that things are getting out of control or if I am having a particularly bad time then there is nothing more empowering and uplifting than taking some time out and booking a solo trip.
I found that the more I began to travel the more I began to feel completely at ease in my own company. This is something that has not changed to this day. Some people crave being social but I crave solidarity. The older I get, the harder and more intimidating I find large social situations to deal with and I will often opt to shy away from these kind of occasions preferring to occupy myself by visiting new places and trying new experiences. The thought of a large group holiday terrifies me and induces anxiety for various reasons but travelling solo gives me an inner peace that is so difficult to find. It forces me to reflect and refocus, something I have found of increasing importance due to my own personal struggles and stresses in recent months.
Personally, I also enjoy the feeling of independence and accomplishment from navigating yourself around unknown lands. Whether it is ordering a coffee from someone that speaks no English to crossing a border between countries to completing a two month trip organised totally by myself. The sense of pride I feel in even the smallest of achievements is one of the greatest feelings.
It goes without saying that travelling solo means you don’t have to compromise with anyone on what your itinerary should include. You have complete creative control on what you do. And I always like to explore. A lot!
Travelling alone does give you a certain vulnerability but it also forces you to talk and interact with people who you never normally would (something which I find difficult but try to embrace wherever possible). One of my favourite experiences occurred when I recently travelled to Istanbul. Walking down the street with my head obnoxiously in my phone I was reading some Happy Birthday messages when a polite local man assumed I was lost and stopped to ask if I needed assistance. I explained that I wasn’t lost, that it was my birthday and he invited me to join him for some Turkish tea. Hesitantly, I accepted his offer and we soon began talking. He informed me that he was pleasantly surprised when I spoke English as the amount of Western tourists visiting Istanbul had declined due to recent terror attacks and he very rarely hears the English language now. There was a certain sadness in his voice and I could not help but feel anger towards the small minority of people who do evil acts against innocent people in order to promote fear and in that moment I vowed to never let fear prevent me from doing anything I wanted to achieve. After talking to him for a little while he asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted to do while in Istanbul? I explained about my passion for photography and that I would love to be able to find a rooftop terrace to get some photos of Hagia Sofia and The Blue Mosque. In that instant he grabbed my hand and instructed me to follow him. I found myself weaving in between shops and cafes, down little alleys, before eventually stopping at a small hotel reception. He led me into the lift, and feeling a little apprehensive, I followed. As the lift door opened on to the roof top terrace my jaw dropped! I was literally up amongst the Istanbul rooftops. If it wasn’t for this kind man stopping to ask if I needed help I would never have taken the photos shown below (it was his family’s hotel). I doubt this would have happened if I had been travelling in a group. The usual common sense warning applies here and you must always have your wits about you at all times, especially when travelling alone. If something feels wrong then that is normally a good indicator that it is. But if something feels safe then trust your instincts and go for it. You never know what experience may follow or what friends you may make.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had some awesome trips recently with the girls from work which include Bali, Thailand and Las Vegas, but they only worked because we all share a like mindedness that comes from working for the ambulance service. Being part of this family forces you to forge close bonds with your colleagues as you often have to rely on them implicitly when faced with having to save someone’s life. It is these bonds that have formed some of my closest friendships and with whom I have shared some of these trips with. Witnessing tragedy and heartbreak on an almost daily basis teaches you that life should be lived to the fullest as you never know what is around the corner. This is something that is always at the back of my mind regardless of if I’m on my own or with friends.
BUT as far as I am concerned, travelling solo is the only way to truly roam free and have the experience YOU want!
Happy solo travels.