Some chap with too much time on his hands estimated that there are around 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards sent each year – one billion! Seemingly mine have been getting lost in the post. Every. Single. Year.
So no offence St Valentine, but you kinda suck.
Read more: Being single makes you a brilliant traveller
But, instead of whining about the woes of being single, this year I will stand up tall, brush the metaphorical dust off of my shoulders and channel my inner goddess – think Beyoncé, think Mariah, think L’Oreal… parce que je le vaux bien [insert sexy French accent].
So to continue in this vain, here is a collection of inspiring travel stories from some awesome women that decided to go it alone. We hope it will give you the oomph to get going yourselves… so for the love of singledom, get yourself travelling people!
Name: Diane Howell
Profession: IT contractor
I started travelling later on than most people that I knew, so at the age of 27 I kicked things off with my favourite country – America. I booked a trip for 10 weeks of camping all the way around the US, starting and finishing in NYC. I decided to head out on my own because I had no commitments back home, no man, no mortgage and no huge social life as my friends were all in couples. I took my mate along with me when I was booking the trip in person, just to give me the confidence to go ahead with it and to not back out. So we went along, I paid for the trip and that was that, I was to leave in 7 weeks time! Once I had left the shop the realisation of what I had signed up to and the dread of it started to kick in! But there was no going back and that was the push I needed. It was totally out of my comfort zone, but I couldn’t let that stop me.
It turned out to be an amazing trip seeing parts of America that I’d never heard of and meeting some cool travel mates – I never wanted it to end. However, it was a rather expensive way to travel so my next trip to the US was different as I decided to get a job as a camp counsellor and because I loved the experience so much my next 3 summers were spent having the time of my life in a Summer Camp in Michigan. After my third summer (in which I also worked at Band Camp for extra money) I went onto New Zealand and then eventually onto Australia as that seemed to be the route that everyone else was doing. Whilst enjoying my working holiday visa in Australia I accidentally got a job on Heron Island! I didn’t mean to, I had been searching online for jobs in Melbourne, saw it and applied for it, had a phone interview and the next thing I know I’m being asked when can I start and what boat will I arrive on! As I got off the boat I was absolutely stunned at what I saw in front of me; turquoise water, silicone sand and sting-rays leaping out the water to say hi. It took a while to get the grin off my face… although early morning shifts in reception took care of that! I spent my days-off snorkelling above the Great Barrier Reef off the beach and out on the fishing boats, with Saturday nights spent enjoying all-you-can-eat seafood buffets = heaven. I ended being away from the UK for 2 ½ years, arriving home on Christmas Eve in 2006.
More recently, for the times when my BFF’s either can’t afford the bigger trips I want to do, when they don’t want to go to places I want to go or for when they are holidaying with their partners, I look to travelling solo again. For long-haul holidays that are off the beaten track (for example when I went to Burma), going on a group tour with a company like The Flash Pack was perfect – luxury boutique hotels and backpacker’s activities in a country that’s new to welcoming tourists. It would have been tough going trying to plan that kind of trip by myself, so I let someone else do all the logistics and hard work. I merely rocked up and had an amazing time!
There are so many good things about travelling solo; not making sacrifices, not having to worry about what anyone else wants to do, just doing whatever you want to do next. Also not knowing who you’re going to meet and what effect they could have on your life; from making amazing friends to simply suggesting where to visit next. It’s a great experience.
Diane’s travel tips
- I keep a copy of my passport scanned and in my gmail (as well as the usual photocopy with my belongings)
- Use the credit card you intend to use whilst on holiday in the airport – it tells a story to your bank so they don’t suddenly stop it working when they see the unusual activity abroad. It’s also an excellent excuse for airport shopping !
- Dehydration sachets – for when you don’t want to drink too much water (if you’re going on a long drive) and your body needs more than water especially if you’re sweating!
- Book it and dread it – it makes you go beyond your comfort zone but it’s so worth it!
Name: Laurel Waldron
Profession: PR manager
I don’t tend to have a particular travel style as such; I just try to do it as much as and with whoever I can when the opportunity arises! I’m very lucky that I have a number of different friendship groups, all with different tastes and travel ideas, so in the last few years I have had no shortage of amazing trips with great friends, whether it’s a spa trip to Ireland, a 30th birthday in Budapest or a beach and clubbing week in Ibiza with a big group of girls and guys.
While every single one of my trips has been life-changing to some degree – how can they not be? – the one that stands out for me is a press trip I took to Rhodes for work in 2012. It was only three days, I almost didn’t go, but I will forever be glad I did; the only other person on the trip was Pippa, at the time working for a wedding magazine. For about five minutes when I arrived and saw my enormous bed and private pool, I remember thinking how it might be nice to have a guy there to share it with, but as soon as I met Pippa we cracked open a bottle of wine and I forgot all about it. She’s been my best friend ever since. This time last year we were preparing to spend an incredible week in Antigua with her friends and family for her wedding, something that will be a treasured memory for many, many years to come.
The best thing about being a single traveller? You don’t have to answer to anyone, you can do whatever you want, see what you want to see, totally march to your own tune. I actually enjoy being by myself sometimes and would much prefer it on a holiday to dragging around someone who doesn’t want to do the same things as me. I recently visited New York for the first time and, while I had two friends from Minneapolis fly out to join me for a few days, I relished having the first couple of days by myself to explore this phenomenal city.
Laurel’s travel tips
- My biggest travel tip is definitely to plan, plan, plan. Especially if you don’t have much time somewhere, really think about what you want to do. Before I went to New York I marked all of my must dos on a map and decided which areas I was going to visit day by day; there’s nothing worse than arriving somewhere, spending days wondering around overwhelmed at your surroundings and then only realising when it’s too late that you’ve missed out. Other than that, travelling in comfort is an essential; I’m a really light sleeper, so am never without earplugs, an eyemask, a travel pillow and a cosy wrap, even on short haul flights (and long car journeys…).
Name: Ellie Medlock
Profession: Events production intern
It was always my dream to live in Australia, at least for a year. So when I finally finished my 4 years of university, it was first destination on my list and I ended up in Sydney just in time for New Year’s Eve. For the first 4 months I travelled and lived with a good friend who knew me inside out; she knows everything about me from my boy-type to my shoe size – she is my ultimate wing woman. However life happens, circumstances changed, and she left for Adelaide to complete her dream to work on a farm (something we had always planned to do together).
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I was alone for the first time and it was both terrifying and liberating all at once. For once I could make decisions based on my own ideas and needs. But I was worried whether I was the only one thinking of these ideas? What if I never found someone to share my future memories, worries, or guy troubles with? But hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back on it I shouldn’t have been anything less than unbelievably excited about my new found freedom. You see, something funny happens when you travel alone… you realise you could never actually be alone, even if you tried! I met so many more people in those next 8 months than I would have ever done with my friend. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have enjoyed my experience had I been with her, but I definitely wouldn’t have taken advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves to me in the same way.
I ended up meeting another gal – who I eventually completed my farming with – and she introduced me to even more people that I ended up living with, and the list goes on. I worked in a hostel both on the Gold Coast and on Magnetic Island which was great for me because it forced me to meet and interact with new people every day. It was a great way for me to settle into wherever my wanderlust had taken me that month.
“I’ve always been a strong believer of the old phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’ and (without sounding too clichéd) fate was again my guide and I had the best year of my life.
Ellie’s travel tips
- Stop worrying. The decision to travel alone is the hardest bit, but that’s when then the fun starts
- Don’t be afraid to say yes (and no!). Being solo makes it all about what you want for once
- Get a backpack with wheels!
Name: Louise Hales
Profession: Lecturer in Nurse Education at Queen’s University Belfast
I can’t say I have a particular travel style as it’s changed over the years but I was always interested in travelling and one of my first dreams as a teenager was to go to South America (still haven’t been!) and as soon as I could I left Northern Ireland and headed for London. After travelling in France and Greece with a boyfriend I wanted more when we split up so went off to live in Stockholm for 3 months. I’d met some Swedish girls in London so managed to hook up with them and had the joy of living in the beautiful old town area. It was a great adventure and I proved to myself that I could be single and travel.
Several years later my marriage broke up when I was pregnant and then I was no longer travelling solo but with a daughter in tow. We’ve had some fantastic adventures together. One of our best trips was with a friend and her son. The four of us went to the beautiful Greek island of Paxos.
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My friend convinced me we could hire one of the small boats and sail round the island. She took the controls and we all clambered aboard. The water in the gorgeous horseshoe shaped bay of Lakka was calm and all seemed well but as soon as we hit the sea the front of the boat reared up and my friend seemed to have no control whatsoever. The kids were screaming and so was I. My first thought was life jackets. While my friend tried to keep the boat on control I rummaged about and found the life jackets. I told the kids to put them on and looked at the two that were left – one in good condition and one that should be binned. What should I do? I reasoned with myself that she was a better swimmer so I put the good one on and sheepishly offered her the other. We decided we couldn’t go on and had to turn back into the bay. Panic does things to people’s ability and my friend was steering us in circles rather than going straight but we eventually made it back to the serenity of the bay.
Once safely in the bay, we decided to take a moment to compose ourselves and so threw the anchor in the water. As we did this it actually fell off! We decided boats weren’t for us and phoned the owner of the boat who came out to get us and to look for his anchor. Once back on dry land my friend went to the nearest bar and ordered herself a double whiskey. We all still laugh about our boating fiasco.
The best thing about being single is being able to choose a holiday that ticks all my boxes. If I want a beach holiday I’ll have it. If I want to go to New York I can do what I want to do, whether that is buy 10 handbags in Canal Street, roam around the many markets or hire a bike and ride round Central Park. I work hard so I deserve to treat myself too.
My daughters 18 this year so I’ve just booked a tour to the Great Wall of China, Beijing and Hong Kong. So exciting! It won’t be long until she’s flown the coop and I’m already dreaming of other destinations when I’m single and solo. I’ve several friends teaching English in Vietnam and Hong Kong so who knows, maybe I’ll join them!
Louise’s top tips
- My top travelling trips would be to bring a suitcase big enough for a little souvenir shopping. If you’re limited for time, want adventure, company and security then book on a tour rather than going completely alone.
Name: ReeRee Rockette
Profession: Entrepreneur, blogger & salon owner at Rockalily Cuts
“When I was at university I found my 4 years quite a struggle to stick with. I loved my placements, but hated the lectures and coursework. As a way to break up the time into more manageable chunks, I volunteered and travelled in the summers and Christmases when I could afford to do so. In my 20s I felt a constant desire to explore and experience new things. With hindsight I often think I was looking to run away from myself somewhat, but eventually worked out that you take yourself with you, wherever you go… I guess most 20-somethings feel a little lost. I ended up doing four experiences in my 4 years; a volunteer placement/experience in Kenya, a volunteer experience in India and two summers as a literacy teacher for a charity in New York.
“I had travelled alone on trips before, not only in Kenya, India and New York, I was also an aupair in Germany, had worked in Greece and was even in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit and was evacuated to the Superdome (an experience which is a story in itself). My travelling alone wasn’t exactly by choice, I just didn’t happen to have friends who had the same goals as me. I refused to let the fact that I didn’t have anyone to go with be the reason for not going. When I was 24, admittedly I had become a little bored of travelling alone, so decided to organise a trip to Kenya with a friend. But then she dropped out at the last minute! I knew I’d be ashamed of myself for not going and for allowing someone else to dictate my life, so… I decided to go anyhow.
“I went out to Kenya with a charity that I sponsored a child through – Out of Afrika. I met the child I sponsored, visited her school and home and volunteered in a college that was run by the charity as well. On this occasion, I actually worked with the staff rather than the children, teaching them computer skills. I worked with the lecturers in the morning and then in the afternoon with the groundsmen.
“I have great memories of when I set the groundsmen up with email accounts! It took hours, as we only had one very very slow computer that would connect to the internet, but I knew that it was a great opportunity for them. They didn’t speak English and had literally never touched a computer before! We don’t ever realise it now as it’s so part of our everyday life, but using a mouse is a very tricky skill to master!
“Being away from home in very isolated parts of the world can feel lonely at times and I’m sure that these experiences have helped shape me… or perhaps it was the other way around due to the person I already was? At the time I didn’t think much of it, but as I’ve grown I’ve realised how unusual I was. I don’t often meet people who have been abroad so much on their own. But these were definitely character-building experiences on so many levels and now I have a real sense of pride for what I achieved. I’m not sure if I would want to do it again now that I’m in my 30s, but the important thing is that I know that I could if I wanted to. I’ve done it, and my feet aren’t as itchy anymore!
“With travelling solo, there is a certain power that comes with the ability to start with a fresh slate over and over again. For example, I remember one night I was out in Virginia Beach, having a drink in a bar on my own. Men kept bothering me, so I asked a nearby group of women if I could perch on the end of their table so the men would stop talking to me. They politely agreed the women and I ended up driving to a night club together and then they dropped me home. The nice thing was that they also picked me up again the next night to go out! It was rather empowering to have to make friends over and over, being judged but accepted. They owed me nothing, yet chose to invite me along. That’s only a small example of one of the many things I have experienced whilst travelling, but a memorable one to me.”
ReeRee’s travel tips:
- When I travelled I took a load of books and was always on the hunt for book-swap shelves. Now we have kindles, so my advice would be to take a kindle!
- When I used to stay in hostels, I found my magic weapon for finding new friends was to have a copy of a new women’s magazine on me. People would often ask to read it, or I’d offer it and it was always received with great excitement
Name: Lucy Turner
Profession: Travel expert at Flash Pack
During my 3rd year of university I completed a year abroad in Spain as part of my Spanish degree. The summer before I left for the sandy shores of Valencia I started seeing this Welsh guy – an old flame I had met when on my Gap Year. We both agreed that a long distance relationship wasn’t ideal so early on, but we went for it any way.
In Valencia I was working as an English language assistant in a secondary school. I’d often race home to Skype with said-Welshman and would decline invitations of tapas get-togethers from colleagues and weekend get-aways with the other English language assistants in the area (I know, sad right?) Then came the defining moment: we had been talking about Andrew coming to VLC to visit, in the end I paid for Andrew’s tickets as he wasn’t working at the time. The day of the flight rolled around, I was so excited and then I got a text out of the blue from Andrew saying he wasn’t on the flight and that he was sorry along with some lame excuse about what his friends would think about me paying for him.
Fuming doesn’t cover it.
I was so hurt that I couldn’t even bring myself to reply to him and still haven’t spoken to him to this day – I completely cut him out of my life. After the anger came a week of wallowing and that’s when it hit me, I was wasting time. I told myself: ‘get some damn perspective lady, you are living in Spain for goodness sake! Go out and enjoy it!’ So, I joined the Valencia hockey club that had caught my eye when I had first arrived, I took up all lunch invitations from my colleagues and even offered to give the other teachers in the school English classes. But the cherry on top of my Spanish cake – I started to travel. Between hockey matches around the region with my Spanish friends, enjoying G&Ts and Sangrias galore in every major city and watching sunrise on Malvarrosa beach after the San Juan festivities, I was having the time of my life. It’s clear to me now that my singledom certainly laid the foundations for my real Spanish experience.”
Lucy’s travel tips
- Be brave and honest with yourself. If something isn’t working out – change it up.
- Good things come from new experiences, so expose yourself to as much as you can (the broken thumb is clearly an exception to this rule!)
- Don’t forget your sun cream, even if it’s cloudy. I learned the hard way, surfing in Bali – peeled twice. Not cool.”
So, in a nutshell…
If you find yourself in a position where there is no one to travel with, be it because your mates are all coupled up or because your friends travel dreams don’t match up with yours, or even if you find yourself in foreign lands and you have to wing it solo, the only thing holding you back is yourself – what are you waiting for…?
We’d also like to say a massive thank you to all the amazing women that offered to share their solo travel experiences with Flash Pack for this feature – you guys rock!
Edited by Lucy Turner – Travel Expert at Flash Pack