21 December, 2018

As the year draws to an end, we’re looking back at our pick of definitive Flashpacker moments in 2018. From soaring through Himalayan skies to traversing the deserts of Jordan, these are the magical moments that left you, our solo explorers, feeling breathless and inspired with the spirit of adventure.

Read on for epic travel stories and tales of discovery, from 18 Flashpackers who didn’t settle for the status quo. 

These are the brave travellers who said no to saying, “not yet,” said no to waiting another year. The ones who dove right in and said, “let’s go.”

With 2019 creeping around the corner, let inspiration guide you to write your next chapter.

Where will your story take you? Let’s get stuck in.

1. “After reaching the summit at 5,000 metres this morning, we celebrated with beer and a lot of champagne.”

Imagine traversing the perilous pathways of the Himalayan mountains: snow-capped peaks shrouded in mist, dirt-track roads, valleys that descend to unimaginable depths. This is what the best travel stories are made of – and as Keith can tell you, the experience is priceless.

After the ultimate test of endurance and inner strength, Keith’s adventure was rounded off with a champagne brunch at 5,000 metres in the Himalayan skies. What a breath of fresh air. 

 

2. “The roof of the world is where giants live.”

 

Tony joined Keith on the epic Everest trail in Nepal, and his own experience is a testament to the transformative power of solo travel. He speaks movingly about how hiking the Himalayas helped to lift his depression, and how he found solace in the most spiritual of places:

“I feel renewed. If anyone asks me for advice on how to cope with stress, anxiety or depression, I’m going to say: “pack your bags, get on a plane, find a group of strangers, and see the world.”

 

3. “Flash the Himalayan hound scouts for danger.”

 

Connecting with the natural world through solo travel is one of the most powerful ways to nurture self-love – especially when you have Flash the dog trotting alongside you for company. 

We love Flash the hound’s pensive gaze, as he studies the Himalayan valleys below. So much that we thought he merited his own entry.

 

4. “There is something so calming about soaring in unison with the Nepalese eagles.”

 

Like Keith and Tony, Belinda embraced the spirit of adventure in Nepal. She faced up to her fears, daring to soar through the skies by paragliding in the Himalayas.

“I was so nervous before running off that mountain and free-falling through the air but there is something so calming about soaring through the sky in unison with the Nepalese eagles. My knuckles were white the entire time. I eased into the flight and I screamed with excitement as I tumbled through the air in swift movements.”

The process of embracing fear is a powerful mechanism for creating change. This is what psychologists call entering the ‘liminal space’, where old boundaries dissolve and new horizons are drawn.

Belinda’s experience in Nepal is a perfect example of the life-changing nature of solo travel.

 

5. “I was captivated by the vivid saris of every colour under the sun.”

 

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The next day we journeyed to Jaipur in Rajasthan. Jaipur is famed for being a colourful city, and as soon as we crossed the border I was captivated by the vivid saris of every colour under the sun, with a clear preference for bright yellows, deep oranges and burnt reds (pic 1) we stopped off at a textile factory (pics 2-4) where I spent all my money ? keep an eye on @chantalmakesthings for a full recounting of that experience. Then it was back on the bus for some beers (pic 5) before heading to our hotel in Jaipur, the Narain Niwas Palace (pic 6) where we ate dinner in the gardens while watching some traditional dance and puppetry (pics 7 +8) #india #jaipur #colourfuljaipur #rajasthan #travel #travelbug #wonderlust #picsworthsharing #adventuresworthsharing @flashpack

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Further west in Jaipur, Chantal fell under India’s enchanting spell, navigating the city streets in a maze of colour and texture. As she puts it evocatively:

“Jaipur is famed for being a colourful city, and as soon as we crossed the border I was captivated by the vivid saris of every colour under the sun, with a clear preference for bright yellows, deep oranges and burnt reds. We then stopped off at a textile factory where I spent all my money ?.”

Solo travel possesses a unique magic: through showing us a whole new world of colour and beauty, we’re reconnected with a childlike sense of awe – one that is dulled out of us in the workplace. Embrace solo travel to immerse yourself in the awe of life.

 

6. “There is no place I’ve ever been that puts on a storm like Sri Lanka.”

 

Moving south to Sri Lanka, Laura shifts the focus from human to animal. Her perceptive photography captures a monkey’s apprehension just before a storm breaks out, and her attentiveness to the subtleties of nature make this one of our favourite travel photos of the year.

“Seconds after I took this photo there was a loud clap of thunder. All the monkeys were scrambling to the tops of the trees and looking at the sky while the dogs were running around and barking like mad. Animals always know when something is about to happen.”

Laura illustrates that travel stories don’t have to feature people – some of the most powerful memories of adventure are shaped by our furry friends.

 

7. “I’ve finally found someone who eats more than me!”

 

Over in Myanmar, Morag was moved by her encounter with the elephant sanctuary, which rehouses elephants who have been rescued or retired from the logging industry.

“They are not treated like circus performers for tourist entertainment but are instead loved and well cared for. Wildlife encounters (and obviously food) are one of my favourite aspects of #travel but it is so important to do your research and consider the impact your actions have on the world around you.”

Here at HQ, we strongly believe that ethical tourism is the way forward. Find out here how we plan to transform the face of solo travel. 

 

8. “The food was incredible. The locals cooked us lunch over an open fire in bamboo.”

 

Just over the border in Thailand, Annie found herself in foodie heaven. 

Thai food is celebrated the world over for its delicious flavours and ingredients – but imagine having it cooked for you in the middle of the rainforest, over an open fire, in freshly-chopped bamboo canes. As Annie can tell you, this is a truly unique experience.

The hollow of the canes are filled with chicken, pork and rice, as open flames engulf the exteriors for a smoky, bamboo-infused feast. The food is then eaten with chopsticks whittled from the remaining bamboo. Deee-licious!

9. “Oh boy, those stars were beautiful. We slept to the sound of waves crashing on the shore as a lullaby.”

 

Further east, Shinta uncovered paradise on earth.

With its luminous blue waters, rugged coastline, secret beaches and hidden caves, Palawan in the Philippines is dreamily beautiful. Shinta’s description captures its essence perfectly:

“The tranquility, the slowness of pace, the do-nothing day if you’d wish. Those are what staying at Ginto island campsite appeals to me. I finished 2 books during my 3 day visit. I ate so many delicious meals, being pampered and catered to on daily basis. Life was so slow, yet so peaceful. I love the serenity.”

Solo travel isn’t just about smashing the comfort zone – sometimes we just need a deep chill.

10. “We were cradling hot chocolate beneath the stars, waiting for sunrise.”

 

Imagine ascending a live volcano under the cover of darkness, guided by the moon and stars.

Picture the vast night sky as you sit at the mountain’s edge with your new friends, cupping a steaming hot chocolate just as dawn begins to break.

This is exactly what Lucy experienced, on the peak of Mount Batur in Bali.

From exploring shipwrecks to encountering the sacred power of the Tirta Empul water temple, Bali left Lucy – and many other Flashpackers here – feeling blessed and inspired this year. Such is the power of solo travel. 

 

11. “Being blessed by a priest on the beach was more powerful than I could ever have imagined.”

 

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On Day 11, a blessing by a local priest on the beach at sunset with my #flashpack family was more powerful and emotional than I could have ever imagined (please note the extreme determination on my face as I try to keep it together). . According to @mr._yogi_bear : An old saying in Bali says “do not laugh too loud when you are happy and do not cry too hard when you are sad”. Things always come and go in our life; good things bring you joy, bad things give you lessons learned. Stay positive and let the nature do the rest. . I will cherish this moment forever, and was so grateful to have shared it with you Yogi, T, @mzarebel , @rosygort , @dan1ella_w , @garymatty88 , @soph_sportsmore , @andy_needham , @skyworld1983 , @glennages , @swanieson , @jomacphail , @jessroylives & @coracaofrio78 ❤️ . . . #bali #indonesia #blessed #blessing #bestbalicrew #inmyhappyplace #picsworthsharing #adventuresworthsharing #bestvacationever #sunset #lastday #allthefeels #emotional #AreYouREDee

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Like Lucy, Krista’s solo travel moment of 2018 took place in Bali. 

After ascending a volcano, snorkelling around shipwrecks and experiencing the full force of a tropical storm, Krista’s adventure was rounded off with a blessing from a local priest. Here, she shares the valuable life lesson that Bali taught her:

An old saying in Bali says “do not laugh too loud when you are happy and do not cry too hard when you are sad”. Things always come and go in our life; good things bring you joy, bad things give you lessons learned. Stay positive and let the nature do the rest.”

Krista perfectly brings to life the spiritual power of solo travel, and the way it can reshape our mindset.

 

12. “Into the wild I go, losing my way, finding my soul.”

 

From shipwreck snorkelling to barefoot island life, Anna was similarly left feeling rejuvenated by her time in Bali, and filled with travel stories.

She left Bali with something uniquely precious and priceless – the gift of friendship.

From the small group of like-minded travellers to the breathtaking new experiences, this sums up the solo travel experience in one lovely image.

This is Flash Pack in a nutshell.

 

13. “12 days. 9 strangers. Beautiful Bali.”

 

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Thank you @flashpack for the gift of my new family ❤️ and an adventure like no other. ??? ✨ 12 days. 9 strangers. Beautiful Bali. Secret ingredient: Nova, our shining star guide. @ekonovatriana To begin, add fly high yoga and a balinese cooking class. Next, mix in temple bathing and chasing waterfalls. Slowly combine hot springs and sunrise mountain trekking. Don’t forget a dash of room service wine delivery to taste and let sit for frequent spa treatments as needed. After some shipwreck snorkeling, split half of the mix for some R&R. To add extra spice, the second half can ferry over to Gili for sandy beaches and barefoot island life. Blend a variety of walking tours, temples, spiritual blessings and sunset meditations to bond together again. Along the way, add daily PFTs, sunrises, serenades, dating coaching, sunsets, dining until closing, learning to talk to strangers, tequila table dancing, proper vocabulary lessons and samaa-samaas! #imissmybalifamily #familyphotos #theresajungleinbetweenmylegs #marriedbyaccident #startyourengines #stagedunstaged #matchingfamilywardrobe #fallingintotemplebathing #EBBs #firsttimefacials #ineedyourface #teamworlass #baliplaylist #playsuit #usesomebody #supernova #oneteamonedream #flashpack #bali #indonesia #family #picsworthsharing #adventuresworthsharing

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We just love Anna’s Balinese recipe for happiness. From tranquil temple bathing to ascending a mountain at sunrise, with local cooking and yoga thrown in, Anna conjures an image of the perfect paradise escape.

 

14. “We danced, chanted and called each other family.”

 

Meanwhile, over in PeruCienna crossed off a major bucket-list milestone this year by ascending the epic Rainbow Mountain. The experience was made even more special by meeting members of the local Quechua community.

As she puts it, “we were overwhelmed by their hospitality and love… what a humbling and heartwarming experience.”

Cienna brings to life the human aspect of adventure travel through the way it connects us to people on the other side of the world.

Such formative travel experiences allow us to recognise our shared humanity and celebrate both our similarities and our differences.

15. “We drank whisky on the rocks with ice from the glacier.”

 

Further south, Violette joined our Flash Pack group tour in Argentina, from the urban charms of Buenos Aires to the ethereal glaciers of Patagonia.

Whisky on the rocks with fresh glacier ice? Yes please!

It will be hard to ever top *that* drink! • Whisky on the rocks with ice from the Perito Moreno Glacier ? ? ??”

With vast expanses of pristine landscape and snow-dusted crags, Patagonia is breathtaking in its wild beauty – and Violette’s photography captures its essence perfectly.

16. “I lost myself in the serenity of nature.”

 

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The sun was high in the sky when we started our hike through a portion of the Dana Biosphere Nature Reserve, the largest nature reserve in Jordan. The air was dry and the trail was dusty, leaving a thin layer of dirt on every exposed surface of your body and clothing within minutes. It wasn’t difficult as the 10 mile trial was almost entirely downhill! We crossed paths with very few people the entire way, which was nice to be able to lose yourself in the serenity of nature. Here are some of the children from the local village who came running to our guide as we were nearing the end of the trail. #danabiospherereserve #jordan – – – – #flashpack #picsworthsharing #travelphotography #worldtravel #travelbug #beautifuldestinations #liveyouradventure #justgoshoot #inspiredtraveller #culturetrip #rgphoto #lonelyplanet #worldnomads #TLPicks #TravelStoke #lovetheworld #TheGlobeWanderer #passionpassport #TravelAwesome #bbctravel #ig_myshot #wonderful_places #instapic #instapassport

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Over in Jordan, travel photographer Andrew turns his lens to the landscape and people he encountered on our Flash Pack adventure.  

From the ghostly vision of Petra illuminated by candlelight to the rippling dunes of the Wadi Rum desert, Andrew’s photography gathers the most epic sights of Jordan. 

Here, he evokes the experience of hiking through the Dana Biosphere Reserve.

 

17. “A secluded little place to enjoy the lowest point on earth.”

 

Like Andrew, Deb was enamoured with Jordan. She fell in with a group of like-minded strangers – who would soon become firm friends. (Scroll down to listen to the song they made of their trip!)

A seasoned solo traveller and Flashpacker, Deb first joined us in Myanmar last year. After the joy of finding new friends and exploring new places, she returned to join us in Jordan.

From the canyons of Wadi Mujib to the vast calm of the Dead Sea, Deb’s descriptions breathe life into a land of timeless beauty and precious memories. 

18. “We grew strong, because those walks were f***ing long.”

 

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One of those really great days ?#canyoning #Flashpack #picsworthsharing

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And last but not least, our final travel moment of 2018 is – ‘The A-Team’ by Musiqua.

Introducing our first Flashpacker band, these guys came together on our Jordan trip. They had so much fun that they immortalised the experience in a Gloria Gaynor-esque ballad. Think ‘I Will Survive’ infused with cheeky desert mischief.

Interested in Jordan? Just listen to the song for a taste of a Flash Pack adventure in Jordan:

And you see us, jumping off rocks

There’s not enough time to get all the bloody sand out of our socks

We’ve swum the sea at sunset

And had great times, though we’ve just met.”

Listen to it here

Experience is the greatest gift

solo travel stories from 2018

From the United Kingdom to Costa Rica, Machu Picchu to Sigariya, our Flashpackers have formed enriching experiences through solo travel.

Transcending borders and language barriers, these Flashpackers have forged meaningful connections and lasting friendships across the globe. Such is the magic of a solo trip.

Check out these 3 epic adventures to embrace solo travel:

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Tropical blue seas, dense rainforest and the vibrant cities of Cartagena and Medellín – Colombia is simply enchanting.

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