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Travelling Solo and Loving It.
Mountains on Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
I guess I learned to enjoy my own company when I was a trainee nurse in a country hospital in the 1960’s. It was a relatively small hospital, and most nurses were busy working on the wards when I had my days off. Occasionally I would find someone to spend the day with, but the country girls often went home to their families – with my family 300 miles away I visited them rarely.
Solo I would shop – there was little else to do. I would walk down town, ramble along the main street, stop for coffee and cake, and when tired wander back to my room in the nurses’ home and play jazz music or write letters.
Later on, I saw no problem being on my own, though for many years I had a husband and children to be with all the time.
My first foray as a solo traveller came about quite by accident – I was contracted to write something and sent from Australia to Ireland to do research. I can remember the fear and trepidation in the weeks before my departure. Me alone! Could I do it? I had no choice and with heart beating loudly in my chest I boarded the British Airways flight at Brisbane International and a day or two later after travelling via Auckland, New Zealand, Los Angeles and London, I arrived safely in Dublin. Mmmm. Maybe I can do this.
For the next few weeks I drove around the countryside on my own in a lovely rental car – each day marvelling at my accomplishments!! Soon it was back home to Australia after a few days in London and Los Angeles. I learned that solo travel was ok. That was in 2005!!
In 2007 I enrolled in a TESOL course to learn how to teach English to Speakers of Other Languages, and before I had completed the course I had an unexpected offer to teach in China. As it turns out I did not travel on my own as there were two other teachers contracted from Brisbane to the same university, so the travel to the mysterious east was not a solo journey, but once there I found that if I had to wait to find someone to accompany me, I would have wasted a lot of time, so I learned to venture on my own into this amazing countryside where I spoke almost no Chinese and often found that not many folk spoke English.
I often laugh at myself and my adventures. Often too I amazed at the way I strayed into places that many of my friends would not go – though I am pleased to say, quite safely as it turns out.
If it was a choice of going alone or not going at all, I chose the former. I would catch the bus or train, ride my e-bike, walk – anywhere that I thought would be interesting. One weekend I caught a bus from Shaoxing to Hangzhou, then a plane to Xi’an, and spent the weekend there exploring much of the history including the great wall that surrounds the city centre, and the amazing archaeological dig which is still ongoing of the famous terracotta warriors.
I returned to China on two more occasions – yes, solo – teaching at the same university that had been my first placement - and I also spent three months teaching English in South Korea. Again solo.
When I returned to Australia mid-2010 and decided that my marriage had no future I did some house sitting while returning to university. A couple of years later with another degree I set out on another amazing adventure.
This time, despite the doom and gloomers, trying to scare me that I would not be safe, I drove around Australia for five months. On my own, in my car – a Mitsubishi Lancer! No big 4-wheel drive or caravan to tow. I stayed with friends and family, and in caravan park cabins. At no time was I fearful, and after 5 months arrived back in Brisbane safe and well.
My next step was to find somewhere to live as I was really “over” living out of a suitcase, and found a little duplex to the north of Brisbane in a quiet little beachside township.
I have “itchy feet” again, and am contemplating a return trip to China. When my sister heard about this and that I would be travelling via Singapore, she asked if she could come with me. I had to consider this.
My sister and I live thousands of kilometres apart and the last time we lived under the same roof for any length of time was way back before I started nursing. She and I are quite different. A suggested visit to Bali a few years ago didn’t eventuate because she wanted to sunbake around a pool in Kuta and I wanted to explore Ubud and beyond. Discussions went nowhere as we could not agree.
Perhaps we could this time.
When I explained that as I have been to Singapore on several occasions I didn’t want to spend a lot of time there, she decided to venture on to Shanghai with me. Negotiations are still under way. I await her decision.
I have had discussions with several friends re the solo travel vs travelling with friends/family, and now have heard all sorts of stories. It is not easy for two or more companions to agree on everything. Compromises are essential. It IS easier to arrange things when you do not have to negotiate every detail.
I did some travel with my husband once upon a time – but not always easy. Like many men he liked to go from A to B (if driving) with few interruptions. He would have had more than conniptions if he had been with me on my round Australia journey as I stopped frequently to explore, take photos and rest. I didn’t need to get to the pub at the end of the day for a beer. I could ‘smell the roses” though I certainly did not see any in the great outback. My journey was just so enjoyable.
I am looking forward to spending time with my sister, although with a little trepidation as I hope we can enjoy the journey without too many challenges. She’s not a traveller – so it will be a new experience for her – as will having to negotiate with a travelling companion.
The Benefits of Solo Travel.
Clearly the greatest benefit is that YOU make all the decisions.
I am an early riser, so I can, without worrying about disturbing anyone, grab my trusty Canon camera, and go seek great photo opportunities in the early morning. Sunrise photos have different light - and as less photographers are up at/before dawn, my photos can be unique.
I can choose when and where I want to go, when and where I want to eat, what tours I want to take.
I like my own space and love being in a hotel/motel room alone and making my own choices about everything.
If I don't sleep I can put the light on and read a book without worrying about disturbing a room mate.
I don't get woken by a room mate snoring, or making noises in the night.
The Disadvantages of Solo Travel.
There are disadvantages.
1. You can't safely sleep in airports with your luggage as a thief can take your belongings while you sleep.
2. If things go wrong you have to sort them out yourself.
3. If you get sick - you are on your own.
4. It can be lonely. (I don't enjoy dining on my own, and actually consider the risks of dining alone or going to a bar on my own. Walking back to my hotel on my own can be risky in some places, just being alone sometimes can be risky.)
5. With two folk in a hotel room it is cheaper per head. Solo travel is more expensive.
6. Four eyes are better than two - yes, sometimes having a companion means that you notice more things which might be helpful. He/she might see something to your right while you are focusing on what is to the left of you (or behind, or in front)!
7. You don't have someone to mind your luggage when you need a toilet break.
8. If you are driving you don't have another person to listen to funny car noises, help you back out of difficult places etc.