Eleven years ago, I sat on a bridge the quaint little village of Shere, Sussex, England. I'm happy and relaxed two weeks into my first overseas trip. But I didn't begin that way. I was determined to go but very nervous. You see, if I wanted to do it, I had to go alone.
I'm so glad I was brave and made the leap. I saw so many wonderful things and had the best holiday ever. I later found out that Shere had been used as the setting for a couple of romantic comedy movies at least. What fun it was to see the pub, where I had eaten lunch, in the movie The Holiday. I relived memories eating a delicious meat pie with crisp pastry in that charming Old English pub.
If I'd been too scared to leave home I wouldn't have the memories. I was scared before going, it was nerve raking at times but it was absolutely worth every minute. I have some tips to help you make up your mind to just do it.
Decide where you want to go.
There's no point going somewhere for the sake of it. You'll never press the next button on that flight you're looking at. It has to be your heart's desire. When I went to England it was because I'd wanted to go for twenty years. I got married instead of travelling and the bug never left me. In the mean time I became a huge Jane Austen fan and I wanted to visit Chawton, where she lived, and see Bath where my favorite of her books, 'Persuasion' is set.
Take a solo holiday in your home country first.
I didn't start of my solo travels with an overseas trip. I worked up to it by accident. Most people don't know this about me but I get anxious just leaving the house. It took an invitation to a wedding across the country, that I really had to be at, to travel alone. I boarded the plane from my home city of Melbourne, Australia to Perth, collected my luggage, hired a car and navigated a strange city to my accommodation all on my own.
I wasn't calm but on high alert most of the time, however I think that is a good thing. You need to be more aware when travelling alone. There isn't a second set of eyes to help locate the things and places you're looking for. I found my own way to the wedding and enjoyed a brilliant evening with family. So glad I did it. The next day I drove through Perth on my way South to have a couple of nights in Fremantle. The hire car was great because I had everything with me on the back seat within easy reach, snacks, drinks, maps and information about where I was booked in for that night.
I learned that I could have a wonderful time alone in a country where I understood the language and it was still using a currency I was familiar with. I learned to deal with the mechanics of managing my suitcase drop-offs and pickups and filling out hire car contracts and gained confidence in making decisions on my own.
Plan your trip.
For each holiday I've taken alone, I always have everything booked before I leave home. I spend a lot of time researching on line to see where I want to go and what the attractions are. I book my hire car if I'll need one, train tickets and or airport transfers, and all the accommodation. I also download maps of where I'm staying and what I will be doing.
Make sure you have your phone sorted for travel. Check with your company to see what the costs will be to keep using your own phone for google maps, texts and calls. It may be cheaper to buy a new sim card on arrival and use your sim just until you get it.
Be alert and know where your things are.
Money is important when you're alone, you have to have back up so I keep most of my money in a money belt under my clothes.
I take my wallet and passport in a smaller bag that I take to the loo with me when I'm on the plane. When walking around looking at the sights, be it Fremantle, Australia or Milan, I wear an across the body bag and have it always in front of me. I never have it at the side or worse still on my back. Backpacks maybe easy to carry but never have valuables in them, like your camera or phone, because they're too easy to slit open by thieves. When having a cup of coffee or lunch in a cafe keep that bag on your lap. Don't take it off and put it over the back of a chair. Far to easy for it to get swiped.
Take a bus tour when you first go to a foreign country.
England isn't really that foreign to an Aussie but, it has different money, there's the British Accent to get used to. It also has really busy roads and is much more densely populated. The benefit of joining a tour on arrival included being met at the airport by the tour company, so no trying to find a cab or navigate public transport. Secondly I got to see a lot of London as we drove. I became familiar with the roads getting ready for my self drive holiday when the tour finished.
A tour guide is a valuable resource. They can answer any questions you have and will help you find anything you need. You don't even know what you'll be asking until you're there. Your curiosity will be ignited and it's great to have someone who knows all about where you are and what you're looking at.
The Tour took me to some really amazing places that I wouldn't have thought to go, like Stonehenge. It was more amazing than the photos on line show. Also we went to Sir Walter Scott's house, Abbotsford, so totally charming. I absolutely loved the bus tour that over delivered on expectations. I chummed up with a couple of other women travelling alone on the tour, in the evening we'd all talk about what we'd been doing that day. Excellent and I highly recommend this.
Be adventurous, well what is adventurous for you.
I'm not suggesting bungy jumping, I mean doing what is scary but not unreasonable. Like driving in London. This was more challenging that I like to admit. But I want to keep it real. After the tour was finished I picked up the car a short walk from the hotel I stayed in. I felt like it was the first time I'd driven a car. I got used to it fairly well but it never felt like driving around Melbourne. It was also better though because it was exciting. I had to do it so that I could visit Jane Austen's house and walk around bath for as long as I like. Later I got to sit in the Jane Austen Center tea rooms without having to rush and catch the tour bus.
First night of driving around Jane Austen country on my own I parked my hired Fiat and took a photo. We'd survived. It was the days before selfie sticks so I don't have a lot of me in my photos but I have glorious memories.
I went from Melbourne to Perth then I went to England and after that I took a huge leap and went to Thailand. It wasn't really a huge leap but it certainly felt that way.
Thailand was an adventure. I saw an elephant during the drive from the airport to the hotel. Oh my word, I was way out of my comfort zone. But the things I had learned about being a solo traveler really helped. I knew that fear was really a friend. It gave me adrenaline to be alert and excitement to experience something completely new. I came home feeling so grateful for the opportunity to visit a land where the people are so nice and helpful.
To sum up, do your research and take every precaution. I didn't go out at night alone and was always alert and careful when traveling but oh the wonders I've seen. For me it was absolutely worth the effort, to feel the fear and do it anyway.
The Scottish Billionaire's Secret Lover was inspired during my solo travels in England. So who knows, you might even get inspired to write a book.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, recusing roses and planting new ones.