Fancy travelling alone in 2019? Grab inspiration, as some well-known names share their own favourite solo travel experiences with Flash Pack – and reveal their top tips
Get healing in Mexico
Explorer and adventurer Laura Bingham is best known for leading the world’s first descent of the Essequibo River in Guyana, South America, among her many successful global challenges
One of the travel experiences that has particularly stayed with me is when I was living in Mexico. I arrived there alone and within three days I had found a job and a place to live. I remember there was a tramp that lived on the corner of my street and every time I passed him, he would always have the biggest smile on his face. His daily smiles and morning waves brightened my day so much.
I also remember taking a walk around the markets most afternoons, trying my best to speak Spanish to all the vendors, and they were all so patient with me. Mexico is one of the kindest places I’ve ever been, with a beautiful healing atmosphere.
If you’re looking for somewhere new to try this year, Bali is another beautiful and welcoming place; the Andes in Ecuador are truly stunning, but the people aren’t as receptive to travellers, so take cash and plenty of food.
Read more: Wild swim the Yucatán Peninsula
Another favourite of mine is Guyana where everyone is lovely. The King William lodge, run by Fay James, is an ideal immersive experience for jungle life – and she’s an incredible woman who will teach you everything you need or want to know! I can also highly recommend kayaking the Essequibo with her!
When I’m travelling alone, I always have a small padlock with me, so that I can keep my bag secure during the day and my tent safe at night. I also carry a long-cord type lock, so I can attach my bag to a tree or a hostel bunk bed. I keep my phone, passport and cash in the same internal pocket of my rucksack, which is firmly secured to my body. Safety first when travelling.
But the most important piece of advice is listen to your gut. The only precarious situations I’ve been in is because I’ve ignored my gut. If you don’t feel safe, get out, move… Doesn’t matter who you offend; you probably won’t ever have to see them again, so who cares. Better to be safe than sorry.
Want to know more about what Laura Bingham is up to? Check out her latest adventures.
Find your Finnish zen
As the new presenter of Channel 4’s A Place in the Sun, Jean Johansson is going to be travelling on her own rather a lot in the coming months. Not that she’s complaining, mind…
For me, there’s nothing better than getting lost in a busy city on your own, or lying on the beach with a book with no one else around. I once had two days in Manhattan while I was waiting for my husband to join me. I went to see a Broadway play, walked for miles and miles around the city, sat in Central Park with a book and spent a day exploring Brooklyn and taking the subway, which are things I’d never done. I’m a wanderer; I love to walk around alone.
Read more: Break free in summer-time Finland
That said, I always have podcasts downloaded to my phone, so that I can deal with any delays waiting for luggage or airport transfers etc. I also never go anywhere without my portable steamer! I’m often on location and sometimes hotel rooms don’t have irons. So, I always have my trusty steamer to make my outfits look good as new on A Place in the Sun.
I think Australia is a good destination for solo travellers as you meet lots of other independent travellers and can hook up with them for a day or two or get tips on cheap hostels, safe places to stay and so on. I find when you’re travelling alone, people love to talk to you and connect.
Going to the beach alone is wonderful too. This summer in Finland, I drove out to a secluded beach and it was almost like meditation; it was so quiet I just lay there with my thoughts. I had all my favourite tunes on, and I kept running in and out of the water and enjoying my swimming. I love the tranquillity and peace of the Finnish Archipelago; it’s so peaceful and quiet, it puts you in a totally zen state.
When travelling alone, the most important thing is to always be safe. Always have battery on your phone, turn your location on and let someone know where you are; social media is great for that. Use your instincts, judge people as you would at home and always plan ahead.
Jean Johansson presents A Place in the Sun, which goes out every weekday at 4pm on Channel 4.
Always follow your gut
One of Britain’s best-known adventurers, Ben Fogle has braved some of the toughest challenges on the planet. Here, in an extract from his new book about climbing Everest, he provides some wise words for other intrepid explorers
Life is about the pursuit of your own dream. You must follow your heart and your soul. There will always be an excuse and reason why you shouldn’t. It is so easy to become a slave to the norms, the expectations of society. The key is to be true to yourself. To be who you are, not what other people want you to be. Individuality is the spice of life.
This heady mix can build the spirit and cement the foundations of confidence, and believe me, with confidence you can achieve anything. The confidence of belief and trust in yourself is half the battle. Together they help build an armour to approach life with zest and energy.
Read more: Hike the Everest trail in Nepal
My life has never conformed. It has been as unstructured as it has been un-contemporary. Individual and unique, I have always tried to follow my own path, rather than stick to the most well-trodden one.
Uniqueness and individuality can come at a cost. Risk and failure. Sacrifice and discomfort. But with it come the riches of experience and fulfilment… My legacy to my children is to be true to who you are, not what society expects you to be.
Ben Fogle’s new book, Up: My life’s Journey to the Top of Everest, co-written with his wife Marina Fogle and published by Harper Collins, is out now.
Do your research properly
Founder of the popular travel blog, Be My Travel Muse, Kristin Addis is an internationally renowned expert on solo female travel who has travelled the world mostly on her own
As a woman who generally travels alone, one of the things I often think about is female inequality in solo travel. I definitely notice in a lot of countries I visit that women don’t have the same rights as men. For example, I don’t enjoy having to cover up and sweat due to modesty beliefs in some countries while the guys get to wear tank tops and shorts.
Read more: Conquer the peaks of Peru
Yet, while it sometimes feels unfair, there are benefits too. I find that as a solo female traveller, locals take care of me more and I am shown a lot of kindness by people because they’re concerned for me being alone, even though they don’t need to be.
In any event, the best thing is to be as prepared as you can, so I always research carefully in advance using websites such as Rome2Rio, WikiTravel and Travelfish. Alternatively, for destination-specific advice, I usually Google the destination plus the phrase “travel blog” and see who else has written about it before.
In summary, solo female travel isn’t nearly as uncommon as it once was, and you’ll meet plenty of other solo-travelling ladies on the road who are just like you!
Grab inspiration from Kristin Addis’ latest adventures on Instagram.
Try solo cruising
As a busy actress, TV presenter and writer, Julie Peasgood travels often on her own for work. She is also contributing editor for Cruise International magazine
For people looking for travel ideas for this year, I would definitely recommend trying solo cruising – it’s the new big trend, with cruise lines finally focusing properly on the solo traveller. Single cabins are on the increase on both new and reconfigured ships, more and more companies are reducing or even waiving surcharges, and considerable effort has gone into creating bespoke get-togethers for passengers travelling alone.
Read more: Come surfing and learn yoga in Morocco
My own favourite solo travel experience was a trip to Marrakech. I loved wandering round the labyrinth of fascinating souks, with no one to tell me I was spending too much or taking too long! And contrary to the warnings I received before I went, I actually felt safe at every turn.
In fact, wherever I am, I adore browsing markets – and always enjoy the experience much more when I’m alone.
My best piece of advice for someone travelling on their own for the first time would be to get the Talk & Translate app on your mobile – it really is invaluable. And if you want to meet fellow travellers, I find it’s easy to get chatting whenever I ask for directions or recommendations for good cafés.
Read more about Julie Peasgood’s travels on her blog.
Put France on your radar
Best-selling author Stephen Clarke has written many books on France, including Paris Revealed, the Secret Life of a City and Talk to the Snail, the Ten Commandments for Understanding the French, and is a renowned expert on the country
The great thing about solo travelling in France is the French. They respect people who know what they want, and that applies to solo travellers par excellence. So if you want a table in the sun, in the shade, or half-and-half, you just have to say so – politely, of course. And if they’ve got it, you’ll get it.
Even if you don’t speak French, just wish everyone “bonjour” (or “bonsoir” in the evening), and they’ll be as helpful as any traveller could want.
Solo travellers in France face the usual perils. Dark streets can be dangerous, and it’s not wise to take selfies near Parisian landmarks unless you have strong fingers.
But there are so many conveniently-located and reasonably-priced hotels, and such good transport networks, that you should never need to be traipsing around uncharted neighbourhoods at midnight unless you really want to.
The best thing about solo travel in France, though, is that no one will think it’s unusual. And being French, they’ll probably have a strong opinion about where you should go next, and exactly how you should get there.
At which point, you just say merci beaucoup, and decide for yourself.
For more on Stephen Clarke’s latest books, visit his website.
Hire a bike to explore
Founder of the online travel resource, A Girls’ Guide to Travelling Alone, award-winning travel expert Gemma Thompson helps other solo travellers to plan their trip, stay safe and make the most of their adventures
Research is an important part of any trip, and for me it’s all part of the fun. It builds excitement, and you can work out how best to spend your time.
When I’m looking for a hotel or Airbnb, I always makes sure it’s in a safe neighbourhood, and within easy reach of the places I most want to visit. Once I’ve narrowed it down, I even check out the address on Google Street View. This is great as it allows me to see that I’m in a safe area; plus, I’m already familiar with the surroundings when I arrive, so I’m less likely to get lost.
One of my favourite things to do when I’m travelling alone is to hire a bike to explore my new surroundings. I can cycle at my own pace and not worry about holding someone else up, and I’m free to stop for a photo (or gelato) as many times as I like.
Alternatively, taking part in a group class or tour is a great way to connect with other solo travellers – especially if it’s something slightly out of your comfort zone. I find this makes people bond a lot quicker!
Read more: 5 great reasons to travel with strangers
For instance, I spent three days on a tour exploring Kakadu National Park, in Australia, with a group of 12 people, most of whom were travelling alone. We ended up supporting each other along the way, and I felt like I had met some wonderful people whilst having an unforgettable outback adventure.
Tune into Gemma Thompson’s podcast for more travel tips.
Don’t forget your accessories
British musician Mr.B The Gentleman Rhymer shot to fame with his own unique genre of ‘Chap-Hop’. Since then he has travelled the world, from Banstead to Berlin, Norway to New York and the Edinburgh Fringe to Glastonbury
My name is Mr.B and I travel the world (but, if we are perfectly honest, mostly the UK) performing what I call Chap-Hop-Hip-Hop – as if it had been invented by George Formby, Noel Coward and Chuck D. Anyhoo, I thought I might quickly give some insight into the essential items and gadgets that I always carry with me when travelling solo.
1. A notebook and pen. I favour the little A6 Muji notebooks, as they are compact and fit in my suit pocket rather nicely. Freehand writing is always the best, at least to get ideas down.
2. Kindle. As controversial as they may be in the publishing world, they certainly beat dragging a load of books around if I’m away for a while. Again, they slip into a suit pocket.
3. Teenage Engineering PO-33. This Swedish company touched by genius has created the world’s smallest sampler and sequencer. I love nothing more than sitting on a train making beats with it.
Everything else one needs is more than likely on one’s field telephone, as us Chap-Hoppers might call it. Pip-pip!
Mr B has just published his first novel, Roast Beef: A Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer Novel, billed as a ‘Hip-Hop P.G. Wodehouse’ sort of caper. More info here.
Get solo travelling with these three great escapes
Tube down Palomino River in Colombia
… in the depths of the jungle wilderness. Plus, discover Medellín, “city of eternal spring”, kayak across a reservoir and learn to salsa over rum-tasting in Cartagena.
Join a walking safari in Tanzania
See Africa’s incredible wildlife up close with a dawn bush walk across the open Savannah. Follow up with bucket-list game drives and a dreamy day’s sailing around the island of Zanzibar, and you’ll be set for life.
Island-hop the Philippines beaches
Spend two days glamping on a secret cove in the Bacuit Archipelago, with a private chef and beach barbecue at the ready. Then, quad-bike your way across the Chocolate Hills and go paddle-boarding down Loboc River.
Images where not stated: Flash Pack and Shutterstock