Monday, 28 May 2012

Going Dutch?

Photo: KLM planes (ANP)

I found this today and think this is truly inspired idea, especially for the solo traveller!

What do the readers think?  Is this just the airline version of Internet dating?  Rather hide away in a book?  Watch a host of movies and TV shows?  Or, are you keen to meet fellow travellers, with a little something in common, as you while away a 14 hour flight?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Gets me every time...

I spotted this video at the end of August last year and must have watched it hundreds of times!  I find it really inspiring and acts as a brilliant reminder why travel is so great (plus the music on the video is pretty cool too).  The different places, the people and the experiences are what make strapping on a backpack so much fun.  The video was made by STA Travel and stars Aussie actor Andrew Lees.  Jealous doesn't even begin to cover it!  I want to be flown around the world too!  STA Travel, you know where I live... :D 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

My First Time...

Day one of my first solo trip!  What a place to start my travels!

Back in 2005, I had just secured what I thought was going to be the job of a lifetime.  This was my first graduate position, after many applications, and was to my mind a job where I could forge a long-term career.  My initial reaction was one of joy at getting the job, but then came the mild panic.  My problem?  I hadn't travelled to the places I wanted to travel to; the places where I had wanted to spend a significant amount of time exploring and sauntering through.  Seeing this as my last big chance before being tied down to a 9-5 routine along with all the financial committments that come with a new life, I looked round at my friends and thought, "Crap!  If I'm going to do this, I'm going to have to go alone!"  As all my friends had other things going on, I faced a choice: stay in the UK before starting my job or fly solo to my chosen destinations, Australia and New Zealand.  I took the latter option and haven't looked back since.

Having taken the first big step, booking my flights; I thought to myself, "What the hell am I doing?!"  This was reinforced when I waved my family off at the airport to embark on my 10 week trip.  As I stepped off the plane in Sydney to be sniffed out by an Aussie Customs dog for the possible 'fruit traces' in my bag, helped a drunken women off the floor at the baggage carousel, after she had tried to lift her bag in a heavily inebriated state, before being dragged along the conveyor belt, as well as maintain my constant 'spider watch', in case I should be suddenly be pounced upon by a funnel web or a huntsman; I knew then that the trip would bring me lots of experiences.
Back in Blighty, I had consciously booked myself into a large dorm room, at the hostel in Sydney, with the hope of throwing myself into the mix as soon as possible and stave off any of the loneliness of solo travel.  It worked a treat!  Within 10 minutes of being in the room, I bravely began a converstaion with the lads across the room who were planning to go for some beers in the bar downstairs and got an invite to share a few VBs with them.  And, from then on and throughout the whole trip, I met some absolutely amazing people.  Some were fleeting encounters, where friendships were formed only for a night or two, but others were much more long lasting.  The Dutch friend I made on a sailing trip in Australia and the Irish trio of girls I met in Wellington are people I consider to be very close friends who I have visited often in Amsterdam and Cork, as well as welcomed here.  What surprised me most was the fact that I ended up fending off some of the friendships I encountered on the road off...I got bored of the constant interaction with people and craved some time alone every now and then.  The fact that this happened in my first port of call, Sydney, worried me a bit.  A weird feeling especially considering my fears at the beginning of this solo trip about being a sad, lonely Billly-no-mates with a massive backpack strapped to my back.

My thanks must go to Louise.  A friend who I met temping in an office.  Her tales of her year long trip round Asia and Australia got me excited and keen to see and do all the things she had on her travels.  Her encouragement gave me that push needed to take this memorable trip.

If you have taken a long solo trip, you'll know what I mean when I write here.  If you haven't I hope I can inspire you with my blog posts, much like Louise did during our achingly dull days as temp workers to get out there, even if it does mean by yourself.  I hope you feel brave enough to act on that urge to travel.  There will be ups and there will be downs...but, I promise you one thing, you won't regret it!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Budapest - Life in the Bubble

The brilliant Szechenyi Baths ( - a must see for any visitors to Budapest!

I thought I would kick off with a post about a fantastic place I stayed at recently, in the beautiful city of Budapest in Hungary.  When I'm looking for somewhere to stay, being a complete Yorkshire tightwad, I always tend to look at hostels first.  Having secured some bargain Ryanair flights from Manchester I then went searching for accommodation.  As a solo traveller (and one who isn't too bothered about getting off my face every night) I wanted to stay somewhere where I could a) get some sleep and b) socialise with some fun and friendly travellers.  I knew The Budapest Bubble ( was going to be a good choice after reading the comments about the two people who run this relatively small hostel...(and the prices weren't that bad either).  Both Olga and Gabor are absolutely fantastic fun and soooooooo friendly.  At every turn they proved an amazing ability to get everyone involved in hostel life; so much so, it felt like I was staying in a friend's apartment during my stay.  On top of this, they made sure that their guests saw Budapest at its best both day and night!  For the solo traveller, nay...any traveller, this place is perfect!  Get booking!

Going Solo

Contemplating the next Ozujsko and sladoled as I sit on Zlatni Rat beach on the island of Brač in Croatia.

Going solo...a scary prospect for most of us.  The thought of being the only person, the singular, the solitary is often viewed in a less than positive way.  Never more so than when that lone traveller grabs their oversized backpack or hefty suitcase and decides to explore somewhere new.  I want to change that.  I want 'alone' to be seen positively; the single traveller as the trailblazer, forging the path ahead with confidence as an exclusive adventurer who, far from being the isolated soul, is the hostel common room conqueror, the bar vanquisher, but most of all excited about going out there and exploring your own lonely planet.

"Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement." (Alice Koller)