Non-fiction books


Why Travel Solo?

Posted by Yvonne Barlow on Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why not?

Many people want to travel but, when they raise the topic among family and friends, they don’t hear enthusiasm. Instead, there are excuses like, “Oh, yes, I would love to go to Borneo, Brisbane, Bali, but…we need a new garden fence, a new car, I don’t like foreign food, don’t want vaccinations, hate flying…”

There is always an excuse. Some people say they want to travel but, let’s face it, they will never get around to it. My question is why should you wait for others to join you when you could do it alone?

All you have to do is get out there – make the move, meet new people, see amazing sites, view another way of life. Do not let your friends’ lack of enthusiasm or your fear of going alone hold you back. It is time to decide, “Would I rather make this trip, set off and explore, or stay at home and talk about it.”

To me, the answer is easy – life is short, this day isn’t coming back.

But setting out on a solo trip is not for the fearful. Recognise in advance that it is going to be lonely, you might get lost, something could go wrong. The important thing is to figure out how you might overcome these problems. Also be aware that you may face every single one of these occurrences just by staying home. I’ve taken train journeys near my home that have been laced with suspicious co-travellers, I’ve had missed connections and bad food and no one to commiserate with, share complaints or even laugh with – all in my own home territory.

Know that you can overcome these problems. If you feel lonely, watch people, call a friend for a chat or distract yourself by reading a book. If you get lost, ask an older person for directions, go to a café where you can discretely pull out a map. Something goes wrong, quickly figure out what is the worst thing that can happen and figure out how you will tackle it. I once lost my suitcase in the Middle East – it was on a bus, the driver had announced a ten minute break and I was in a queue buying coffee when he drove off – early!  I quickly figured out that it wasn’t the worst case scenario, I had my purse and my passport on me. But I didn’t tell the bus inspector that. I lied and told him that my passport was in my suitcase on the bus (wrong, I know, but I knew it would make him act). The inspector radioed to the next bus station and someone was there to rescue my bag and keep it in a locked office until I could arrive there on the next bus.

However let’s start by being honest, solo travel can be lonely, especially when watching a group of people at dinner, laughing together, or a couple of women at a girly lunch. My advice, watch them, enjoy their laughter, and later you will value those times with your own friends. And you can always pick up your mobile phone – a few buttons pressed and you can be chatting away to those who know you, laughing at your adventures, speculating on what will happen to you tomorrow. The conversation is likely to end with your friends wishing they were with you, and you feeling more than a little proud of your achievement.

Travelling solo will make you more independent. I no longer feel self-conscious about eating alone, although many people do and they take a book or journal to read over their meal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this. Reading is a perfect distraction. However, through the years, I’ve learned to be quite brazen and I sit upright at my little table, enjoy wine with my meal, and watch those around me as though they were a show put on for my entertainment. I wonder about their stories, their backgrounds, relationships – and use my imagination to fill in the gaps. If the surroundings are not so interesting, then I pretend a companion has left briefly to visit the bathroom – I eat alone and carry on.

So, my advice is that no one should deny themselves the chance to travel because they fear doing it alone. Whether it is because your husband doesn’t want to travel, your friends can’t afford it or haven’t made it a priority; you should not sit at home saying, “I wish I could go to…”

If you need inspiration, try reading Daisy, Daisy by Christian Miller. She was a grandmother when she set off on her first solo trip. She says that for her entire adult life she had always needed to tell her family where she was and how she could be reached – whether it was her mother, her children, her husband. But when she reached a time in life when her parents were dead, her children were wrapped up in the lives of their own children, and her husband was fully occupied, she knew it was time for her own trip and she cycled alone across America.

Dervla Murphy started out by cycling from London to India and has covered much of Asia and Africa in her almost fifty years of travel. She is honest and sometimes brutal in her travelogues – something I relish. Dervla says she never tells her family her route or where they should expect her to be at any given time. They can’t help her if she gets into trouble, she says, so she keeps to her own pace and her own rambling route. I love reading her journeys, a truly inspiring woman.

But even more inspiring perhaps are the women who took off across continents in previous centuries – without a guide book, a map and often with very little advice. These women ventured out with enthusiasm to see what was out there and they are my role models. When I feel life is turning a little dull and a general discontent stirs within me, I reach for their stories and soon I am planning a trip far away, often a solo one. 
The Travel Solo Guide comes out January 11.

Tags: "travel solo" "dee maldon" "dervla murphy" 

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Yvonne Barlow Editor and people watcher. I love non-fiction and the ex-journalist in me believes a good novel can never match the human story.