Seven invaluable lessons for conquering solo travel

After several journeys of travelling alone, with friends, family or colleagues I categorically conclude that nothing beats travelling alone. It is the only path to genuine adventure and the only way to make a natural connection to a place. If you’re considering a solo trip here are seven useful tips to consider:

1. Create yourself an alternative identity

When travelling alone create yourself an identity that has nothing to do with your personal life. Many people can only exist in social circles of their own design. They are accustomed to comfort zones with no risks attached and find it difficult to understand why anyone would choose to travel alone. Add to the mix  female solo traveller and you become an object of envy, intrigue, fascination, admiration and even bravery (I have experienced all of this).

When I travel solo I become Girl Travels World. Her story is interesting and adventurous enough to keep curious folk on all inclusive holidays intrigued for hours. It’s perfect if, like me, you loathe intrusive personal questions.

2. Talk to locals

Local people who live in a place know a great deal more about it than you, your guide book and travel agent all put together. Talk to locals. They will offer the best advice, give you insider tips and negotiate a better deal than you ever could.

This was how I discovered motorcycle taxis in Bangkok over 10 years ago. I made friends with a girl in the local beauty shop (we are still friends) while getting a head massage. During our conversation about all things Thai I mentioned that I’d love to watch a Muay Thai fight. She sprung in to action and organised a motorcycle taxi (it belonged to her cousin) to race me through rush hour traffic in Bangkok to Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. A fight was scheduled to start in just 40 minutes. My bike taxi got me there in time to watch the spectacular traditional Thai ceremony that precedes a fight. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and it turned out to be one of the most memorable travel moments of my life. There was no way that I could have been so spontaneous if I’d been travelling with a companion.

You must however, exercise good judgement in these situations and not risk your safety. This is something you will get better at the more you travel.

3. You do not need to be an expert navigator

Maps, apps and satellite navigators are great tools for helping us find our way around. I regularly use one or all of these. However, don’t forget to use your natural instincts. I often find myself with absolutely no idea where I am. It is not necessary to always know exactly where you are. Travellers live for these moments. They are pivotal to any story-teller. This is when (in my experience at least) something remarkable happens.

I was once lost on the cliffs of Dubrovnik, Croatia and found a tiny opening in a rock with steps leading down to a small beach. It turned out that this is where locals went to during the summer months. There was a make shift bar, a place to park bikes and a secluded beach which couldn’t be accessed any other way. The best part of this story? Drinks cost a fraction of what they did in my five star hotel. And no, it’s not in any guide book on Dubrovnik.

4. Notice the beauty in small things

It’s easy to admire a historic fountain, a majestic waterfall or an iconic sculpture. But when I’m on my own, I notice smaller things – brightly coloured petals strewn all over the pavement in Colombo, children in a class room as I walk past a building in Madrid, a charred kettle on an open fire in the desert in Doha. When you don’t have to share your time, accommodate different schedules, visit attractions or search for souvenirs you make a more authentic connection with a place. Give the next place you travel to your wholehearted attention and it will captivate you.

5. Don’t go to places where your experience is created for profit

Experiences such as shopping malls, party places with never ending revelling or theme parks  do not cater for solo travellers. If you go to these places on your own you will feel isolated because they are geared towards group travel. There is also little in the way of authenticity because the experience is contrived and run for profit. As a solo traveller, you’re likely to be bored and a great deal out of pocket.

6. Do go to distant places which are well explored

Begin your journey in places with well established travel communities. Many parts of Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) and also parts of Europe remain popular and you are likely to meet others on a similar journey. I travelled from Monaco down the coast to Cannes, Marseille and all the way to the border of Italy on a solo trip a few years ago. I met hundreds of solo travellers on that trip – a Canadian yoga teacher, a Texan school teacher, a Taiwanese musician and many other interesting travellers. We ate, socialised and partied together. I am still friends with most of them all these years later. So even though I was alone I had the assurance of others around who were doing the same.

Moreover, these established routes have been welcoming lone travellers for generations and cater well to their needs. Eating alone, drinking alone, walking around on your own are unlikely to warrant a second glance. Once you master well trodden paths you will build confidence for exploring more remote places.

7. Enjoy it while it lasts

Everything is temporary. It is not always that I will be able to throw a few clothes into a suitcase and hail a taxi to the airport. The same applies to you. Relish the time you’re able to book a flight on a whim and go forth with no real plan. It may not last forever.

*This post was inspired by Kate Maxwell’s “Seven Excellent Rules for Solo Travel”.

7 Invaluable Lessons for Conquering Solo Travel.

After several journeys of travelling alone, with friends, family or colleagues I categorically conclude that nothing beats travelling alone. It is the only path to genuine adventure and the only way to make a natural connection to a place. If you’re considering a solo trip here are seven useful tips to consider:

1. Create yourself an alternative identity.

When travelling alone create yourself an identity that has nothing to do with your personal life. Many people can only exist in social circles of their own design. They are accustomed to comfort zones with no risks attached and find it difficult to understand why anyone would choose to travel alone. Add to the mix FEMALE solo traveller and you become an object of envy, intrigue, fascination, admiration and even bravery (I have experienced ALL of this).

When I travel solo I become Girl Travels World. Her story is interesting and adventurous enough to keep curious folk on all inclusive holidays intrigued for hours. It’s perfect if, like me, you loathe intrusive personal questions.

2. Talk to locals.

Local people who live in a place know a great deal more about it than you, your guide book and travel agent all put together. TALK TO LOCALS. They will offer the best advice, give you insider tips and negotiate a better deal than you ever could.

This was how I discovered motorcycle taxis in Bangkok over 10 years ago. I made friends with a girl in the local beauty shop (we are still friends) while getting a head massage. During our conversation about all things Thai I mentioned that I’d love to watch a Muay Thai fight. She sprung in to action and organised a motorcycle taxi (it belonged to her cousin) to race me through rush hour traffic in Bangkok to Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. A fight was scheduled to start in just 40 minutes. My bike taxi got me there in time to watch the spectacular traditional Thai ceremony that precedes a fight. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric and it turned out to be one of the most memorable travel moments of my life. There was no way that I could have been so spontaneous if I’d been travelling with a companion.

You must however, exercise good judgement in these situations and not risk your safety. This is something you will get better at the more you travel.

3. You do not need to be an expert navigator.

Maps, apps and satellite navigators are great tools for helping us find our way around. I regularly use one or all of these. However, don’t forget to use your natural instincts. I often find myself with absolutely no idea as to where I am. It is not necessary to always know exactly where you are. Travellers live for these moments. They are pivotal to any story teller. This is when (in my experience at least) something remarkable happens.

I was once lost on the cliffs of Dubrovnik, Croatia and found a tiny opening in a rock with steps leading down to a small beach. It turned out that this is where locals went to during the summer months. There was a make shift bar, a place to park bikes and a secluded beach which couldn’t be accessed any other way. The best part of this story? Drinks cost a fraction of what they did in my five star hotel. And no, it’s not in any guide book on Dubrovnik.

4. Notice the beauty in small things.

It’s easy to admire a historic fountain, a majestic waterfall or an iconic sculpture. But when I’m on my own, I notice smaller things – brightly coloured petals strewn all over the pavement in Colombo, children in a class room as I walk past a building in Madrid, a charred kettle on an open fire in the desert in Doha. When you don’t have to share your time, accommodate different schedules, visit attractions or search for bargains you make a more authentic connection with a place. Give the next place you travel to your wholehearted attention and it will captivate you.

5. DON’T go to places where your experience is “created” for profit.

Experiences such as shopping malls with indoor skiing, party places with never ending revelling or theme parks  do not cater for solo travellers. If you go to these places on your own you will feel isolated because most such experiences are geared towards group travel. There is also little in the way of authenticity because the experience is contrived and run for profit. As a solo traveller, you’re likely to be bored and a great deal out of pocket.

6. DO go to distant places which are well explored.

Begin your journey in places with well established travel communities. Many parts of Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) and also parts of Europe remain popular and you are likely to meet others on a similar journey. I travelled from Monaco down the coast to Cannes, Marseille and all the way to the border of Italy on a solo trip a few years ago. I met hundreds of solo travellers on that trip – a Canadian yoga teacher, a Texan school teacher, a Taiwanese musician and many other interesting travellers. We ate, socialised and partied together. I am still friends with most of them all these years later. So even though I was alone I had the assurance of others around who were doing the same.

Moreover, these established routes have been welcoming lone travellers for generations and cater well to their needs. Eating alone, drinking alone, walking around on your own are unlikely to warrant a second glance. Once you master well trodden paths you will build confidence for exploring more remote places.

7. Enjoy it while it lasts

Everything is temporary. It is not always that I will be able to throw a few clothes into a suitcase and hail a taxi to the airport. The same applies to you. Relish the time you’re able to book a flight on a whim and go forth with no real plan. It may not last forever.

 

*This post was inspired by Kate Maxwell’s “Seven Excellent Rules for Solo Travel”.

What’s good Singapore!

As a frequent traveller I can say that I have passed through a few airports in my time. They generally do not stick in my mind for any reason. However, as far as airports go Changi airport is a monster! It was voted the World’s Best Airport (Skytrax 2016). It’s certainly easy to see why. There are grand open spaces with sculptures, art, massage chairs and hundreds and hundreds of shops. If you really wanted to you could possibly spend a couple of days there. The single most memorable thing about Changi airport? Baby changing facilities in the men’s washrooms. Talk about progressive.

Travel and guidebooks list lots to do in Singapore. However, as with any short stay planning your time well is key because this is a great big place. I had no intention of doing everything on my list. So I chose Gardens by the Bay due to it’s proximity to my hotel. There’s a real “otherworldly” sense about Singapore. It’s certainly true here. These vertical gardens are set on reclaimed land and stretch an impressive 250 acres. They look and feels more like a feat in architecture and engineering than in gardening. If you would like a better view of the gardens you can purchase a ticket for the train which takes you up to an elevated walkway. Visitors can walk between each of the 5 vertical gardens.

If you really love gardens then by all means walk the walk.

If you like a little grit every now and again go to Chinatown. It’s vastly underrated in the guidebooks. As the name suggests, Chinatown Food Street is packed full of street food stalls. How many dumplings can you eat in an hour? Well, go find out! The food stalls are packed with locals – a sure fire sign that you’re onto a good thing.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Chinatown you will also find the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. It’s a place of worship for Singaporeans as much as it is a museum for travellers and tourists. Standing majestically in the middle of Chinatown it offers a glimpse of everyday life in Singapore.

As with all Buddhist temples you will need to be dressed modestly before you enter. Don’t worry if you find yourself in shorts like I did. Thankfully, cover ups are provided. With 5 floors filled with beautiful and curious objects there is enough here to make your entire trip worthwhile.

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The ceiling of the grand hall on the ground floor is decorated with hundreds of gold lanterns. Thousands of tiny carved  identical statues of Buddha are inserted into the walls. Each Buddha has been individually carved by a different sculptor and is marked with a unique serial number. Each room is home to colourfully decorated statues. You can purchase flowers and incense from the temple premises as offerings for the Buddha.

There is a lift to all the floors which is handy. The mezzanine floor gives a great view of the main hall below. There is also a wax works museum of prominent monks of Asia on this floor. There is an outdoor garden housing the prayer wheel on the fourth floor. The garden is a riot of colourful orchids. Flowers bloom in abundance here due to the humid climate.

The top floor houses the tooth relic of the Buddha. It sits behind a glass screen in a golden casket. There were lots of people meditating on this floor and no photography was allowed. It took me over an hour to see everything inside this temple. If you are planning a visit make sure you give yourself plenty of time too.

On a broader note, public transport in Singapore is amazing. It’s punctual, affordable and clean. So getting around any where is easy and stress free. There is an endless list of things to do here. It has the feeling of a giant theme park where the fun never ends if you can keep up. There are water parks, night safaris, bird parks and light shows. Millions of dollars have no doubt been spent constructing them. And they truly are impressive.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat! There are places I have since read up on such as Kampong Glam and Pulau Ubin that I would love to explore. Another trip might be in order!

Love,

Demi xx

Travel tip: I travelled to Singapore from Colombo on a 3 night package deal booked with Hema’s Travels, Colombo, Sri Lanka.