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How I’ve learnt to love travelling on my own
There’s still a bit of a ‘Billy no mates’ stigma about travelling solo - not least in your own mind - but don’t let it hold you back.
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It’s taken almost a lifetime but I’ve belatedly discovered the joys of travelling on my own. Of course it’s not that uncommon these days but I come from a pre-backpacking generation when women didn’t generally take off and travel the world.
Neither my ex-husband or late husband were great travellers - so I was fortunate to end up in a job that enabled me to explore the world - or the wine world at least. Being work-related, though, I was invariably part of a group, on a schedule and rarely extended the trip as I’ve done so marvellously with my recent visit to Brazil.
Of course it’s natural to think that travelling with a partner or a friend is preferable to travelling on your own. There are less comfortable moments to be sure. Dining on your own is admittedly less fun than eating with someone else and as you may have read from my experiences in the summer you’re sometimes patronised or tucked away somewhere inconspicuous as a solo woman but you don’t have to put up with that. Sit at the bar, if you can, where there’s always something going on to watch and enjoy.
You also need to overcome your anxiety that you’ll be more vulnerable to petty crime or unwelcome advances but one of the advantages of getting older is that you don’t tend to have guys leering at or hitting on you. And that kind of stuff can happen in your home city too.
The big - and I mean huge - advantage is that you can go exactly where you want and spend your time doing exactly what you wish without worrying if your companion is enjoying themselves or is bored because you’re lingering too long at an exhibition or have had enough of the beach. You can eat when you want to eat in the type of restaurant you want to eat in. If you want to splurge - or skip a meal - you can.
More important than any of this though is that you open yourself up to experiences you’d never have if you were chattering to a pal or even in a group where you will most likely bond with your fellow travelling companions and not get to meet the locals. Remarkable things can happen if you let them
You also get time to think about the direction your own life is taking and to be comfortable with your own company which is a great life skill and one, as I say, that’s taken me a while to discover.
If you still worry if you might be lonely, you can of course join a group. There are loads of singles holidays but unless you’re going to a particularly risky destination I would try and make your own plans.
To do that you might have to step outside your comfort zone, particularly if you’re a Brit. Ask friends or even social media followers if they know anyone where you’re planning to go. Take up invitations without questioning if they’re genuinely meant. When casual acquaintances say, ‘look us up if you come to New York or Rome or wherever’ take them at their word. (In the case of Brazilians, who are impossibly generous they mean it! I visited Paraty because I put out a tweet asking if anyone had any recommendations for Brazil and a Brazilian cookery teacher Paula Neubauer (getpickledsomerset.com), who lives near me in Frome but whom I hadn’t previously met urged me to go.
OK, I’ve got quite a few followers but even if you haven’t, just follow your nose - or even ears. I heard some beautiful music on my last day drifting through my hotel window and just pulled on some clothes, headed up the street to find where it had come from and found myself in an artist’s studio, chatting about his work. (Fortunately he spoke English but there’s always Google Translate!)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t travel with your friends and family - I still love to do that - but add solo travelling to your travel plans for the coming year. Even if you’re in a relationship there may be places you’d like to go that your partner wouldn’t.
So do it. Life is short. Embrace it!
Do you - would you - travel on your own? If so where have you been and what made it work for you?