I’ve travelled solo to 50 countries – this is what my first group adventure taught me
I’m from Brazil and first travelled to Europe aged 22 to do an internship in Switzerland. I ended up doing a lot of Interrailing, which was my first taste of solo travel. I went by train everywhere from Spain to Portugal, France, Holland and the UK. It was a good way to ease myself in, since Europe has such good infrastructure and is relatively safe to move around alone.
I then moved to the US for a bit, before setting up home in London in 2006. That was when I started to regularly travel alone. At least once a month I’d arrange a solo weekend, looking for new cities that were a quick and easy flight away, like Vienna or Paris.
I usually had a short list of things I wanted to do in each place, but I resisted the temptation to plan things inside-out. I liked to just rock up and let serendipity play its role, leading me to new restaurants, experiences or groups of people. I liked to get under the skin of a place, and would often find a cafe in which to sit and watch the world go by.
All in all, I’ve clocked up 50 countries on my solo travel list
On top of that, I would also plan a couple of bigger solo escapes each year. I’d head off somewhere more far-flung, like Asia, the Caribbean or South America. I think in some ways, I was trying to recreate the vibe of my home country. I was looking for places that were laid-back with lovely beaches, people and tropical weather – just like Brazil.
I loved Costa Rica, for example, because it’s all about nature and mountains but with a really warm climate. It’s also small and safe to travel around. The Philippines has incredible diving locations, which I embraced wholeheartedly. I’m quite into adrenalin sports and diving is absolutely my thing.
All in all, I’ve clocked up 50 countries on my solo travel list over the last two decades. People always say to me, “You’re very brave or I couldn’t do that as I’d be too scared or lonely to go alone.”
Malaysia and Japan are both great to visit as a female solo traveller
Yet for me, it’s one of the best ways to travel. Of course, I’m careful and take precautions when needed. I hired a driver for a week when I travelled alone to India. But flying solo, you can do everything on your own terms.
You get to sleep, eat or extend your trip as you like, without answering to anyone else. And some destinations are actually easier to explore on your own. For example, Malaysia and Japan are both great to visit as a female solo traveller. They’re very calm and secure places – and you can meet other people easily.
I’m naturally pretty outgoing. I speak English and Spanish fluently and find it quite straightforward to make friends as I go. I think it helps that I’m a woman alone, too. People don’t see me as a threat and are more likely to open up to me. So, I get taken in by other couples or groups that I meet along the way.
On a group adventure, the whole thing was taken care of
That said, there are certain locations that I’m less comfortable travelling alone – and Turkey counts as one of them. That’s why I decided to travel for the first time on a group trip with Flash Pack earlier this year.
The whole experience opened my eyes as to how much time I waste planning a trip on my own. As a solo traveller, I always have hundreds of questions going on: “How do I get from A to B?”; “Is this a fair price or should I shop around?”; or “Where’s a good place to eat?”
On a group adventure, the whole thing was taken care of and I had the luxury of having to make zero choices. It was nice to be able to pass all the logistical details over to Flash Pack. I could put all my focus on the actual activities, as opposed to planning as I went along.
Hot-air ballooning above the chimneys of Cappadocia was magical
It really helped to have our guide, Sefa, leading us, too. He went above and beyond, pouring energy into all the experiences on our behalf and arranging unique and authentic moments that I wouldn’t have been able to do alone. We had a home cooking experience in a local family’s garden in the village of Çamlık at one point, which was fantastic.
On the Turkey trip, I had plenty to occupy my adventurous side, including my first experience paragliding along the coast by Fethiye. It was very peaceful to be floating hundreds of feet in the air, overlooking the sea. And hot-air ballooning above the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia was quite magical, too. We had just the right weather for the sunrise ride, and the ancient landscape – bathed in a golden glow – was quite something. Quad biking in the desert was fun, as well.
In a group setting, you spend a lot of time interacting with other people. It helped that everyone was open-minded and willing to hang out together. My roommate was lovely and we still keep in touch on WhatsApp.
On the trip we were spoiled
The boutique hotels stood out for me, too. Travelling alone I wouldn’t normally stay in fancy places, like the hilltop Nisanyan near Ephesus or The Marmara Pera in Istanbul. But on the trip we were spoiled.
In future, I’ll continue to travel solo, but I’ll also weave in more group trips when it comes to destinations such as Jordan and Morocco; places that might be trickier to navigate alone.
Until Turkey, I didn’t realise how much headspace was needed to plan my own solo trips – it was all I was used to. Now that I’ve experienced the alternative, I’ll definitely be back for more.
Brazilian solo traveller and adventure-lover Letícia Bevilaqua lives in São Paulo and works for a tech start-up. She travelled with Flash Pack to Turkey.
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Images: Flash Pack & Unsplash