Emma Somers is a 32-year-old mother of one. She first went solo travelling at the age of 22 and hasn’t looked back since. In this guest blog, she shares her first-hand tales of travelling the world…
I love travelling!
Exploring new destinations and new experiences are the highlights of my year whether I’m holidaying with my young family, or with friends, or on my own. But it’s the last of these – solo travelling – which gives me the most unique experiences: the vast majority positive, some negative.
Travelling on my own is liberating – I feel independent and more adventurous. Travelling solo means no discussions about what you’re going to do today, it means not thinking about what I can or can’t do because I have other people to consider; you just get up and go! I’ve also found it can be a lot cheaper and I’ve managed to do things that I otherwise wouldn’t have as a result.
In amongst all this there have been moments of eye-rolling frustration and discomfort – but I’m aware that I haven’t ever been in a situation where I’ve been afraid. I’m going to go back to this point later-on because it saddens me that I should even have to make it, but first I’m going to talk about my 3 most favourite solo travel experiences and what I learned from each…
It might not be the most exotic place to start, but when I travelled solo for the first time, I wanted to dip my toe in the water rather than dive in at the deep end.
I loved exploring the tiny village of Mousehole where there were honesty boxes on garden walls from people selling cheese scones, homemade bread, free range eggs and vegetables.
I ate on my own at excellent fish restaurants, where, for some reason I felt better looked after than when I eat out with my family! I took plenty of walks in between doing nothing and spent a lot of time relaxing with a book. I also watched a production of the Pirates of Penzance in an open-air theatre and took 1-2-1 bodyboarding lessons at Fistral Beach.
And here’s what I learned…
When I travel solo, I can do as much or as little as I want. It’s sometimes good for the soul to be thoroughly selfish and do whatever you want without having to think about other people. Taking a book made me feel less alone, plus gave me a reason to be sat in the corner of a country pub by myself!
New York in winter is simply spectacular. Walking round Central Park, shopping at Macy’s, wandering around Times Square of an evening – they might be tourist clichés but they are fabulous experiences.
I felt very at home travelling along on the Big Apple as there were lots of other solo women just going about their business. You don’t look or feel out of place as most people are so bound-up in what they’re doing that non-one bothers you.
I didn’t do much beyond enjoying the atmosphere of the city (and eating way too many cronuts) but on the off-chance I popped into the box-offices on Broadway and managed to grab a cheap theatre ticket for a show.
What I learned…
Travelling solo can save you money and open doors – when I went to the theatre box-office, there were only single seats available – couples, families, groups etc… tend to book their seats well in advance and they cut the price of last-minute tickets to fill every seat possible. If I wasn’t travelling solo, I wouldn’t have seen Wicked, on Broadway, for peanuts (relatively).
Okay so my Gold Coast adventure wasn’t entirely solo – I headed out with friends but stayed on for an extra 4 days as I just hadn’t had my fill of the sunshine and exceptional Australian hospitality.
I took surfing lessons, visited a Koala sanctuary and watched a lot of sunsets with a glass of wine and a takeaway next to me.
I also surprised myself a little. I’m afraid of slides and not the biggest fan of heights, but I took the decision on a particularly hot day to head to the Wet’n’Wild water park – and I loved every second of it. I went down every slide, sat in the wave pool – the works!
What I learned….
I’m more adventurous when I travel solo. I don’t know if it’s because there’s nobody I know around to judge my reactions – or whether I’m secretly desperate to impress people back home with wild tales of adventure. Whatever my subconscious driver, all I know is I feel much fiercer and more independent when travelling by myself.
Female solo travel is on the rise – a British Airways survey in 2018 found that 60% of UK women are planning a solo trip in the next few years, and 16% of them were jetting off solo in the next 3 months.
It’s great that more women are exploring on their own, but there is definitely a wholly wrong belief that still exists that women are ‘brave’ for travelling alone. I have had a handful of bad experiences.
One experience that springs to mind is effectively being chaperoned around a Madrid museum by a man who for some reason thought I needed some company and to have all the exhibits explained to me. Firstly, I live in Spain and I’m fairly fluent and secondly, I was perfectly happy to be there alone. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be there in the first place. I never felt threatened but every time I tell friends or family about this, you can guarantee that someone will say something that starts with “he could have been a ….” And then, usually, “What if he’d have followed you to your hotel? Or “Why didn’t you tell security?”.
What I find frustrating here is the increased concerns that everyone has when they hear about women who travel alone. The kind of thing I mention above is nothing in comparison to the attention I’ve received in the UK – but swap the museum for a bar and people laugh it off.
Yes, there are risks with travelling solo as a woman, and yes, sensible precautions should be taken. But these aren’t any different to the risk and precautions I take when I’m at home – I lock my doors at night just the same. I’m not ‘brave’ for travelling solo, but I do absolutely love it and I’ll continue doing it at every opportunity I get!
Do you love travelling solo? We’d love to hear what you love about it and about your best experiences in the comments.