I’m not sure what made me decide to do it, but one day I decided to quit my very stable and well-paid job, pack my bags and travel Asia on my own for four months. I wanted to see more of the world at my own pace, to my own agenda and write all about it. Within 6 weeks of making my decision, I was on a plane to Vietnam with nothing more than a guide book to South-East Asia, a new camera, a pad and pen and a vague idea of where I wanted to go.
The first morning I woke early in my small hotel room in Hanoi and felt a cold fear at the thought of four months stretching before me, not a companion in sight. I remember thinking, I’ll just stay a week and then go home. The knowledge I could do this gave me the courage to book a couple of day-trips and by day three I’d jumped on a train north to Sapa and found myself trekking through paddy fields and sleeping on a mattress in a barn.
For four months I travelled through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. I threw away my itinerary on day two and let my travels unfold before me naturally. In that four months, I spent five days alone – two days at the beginning of my trip and another three when I took myself off into the Cameron Mountains to get some time alone to write.
When you travel alone you become open to new experiences. You make friends that may become life-long friends, you surprise yourself with your courage and you enjoy just what it is you want to enjoy.
I won’t pretend it’s not daunting, because going solo always is, no matter what you are doing. However, if you are open, you will never truly be alone. I know loads of people who holiday alone, sometimes they just go on a city break, others join a group holiday or go on a creative holiday, my sister books into surf camps, while another friend always chooses activity holidays, like trekking in Scotland. No matter what it is you want to get out of your holiday, there is a holiday out there for you and you don’t have to go solo.
This morning on Ireland AM, I gave some tips on travelling alone, recommended companies who cater specifically for solo travellers and gave you some ideas for your big adventure!
All information from the slot is posted below.
Top Tips for travelling alone
- Group Travel – this is a great option for those not wanting to travel alone. You choose where you want to go and then book the group holiday so you are never really alone and get to meet new people. These holidays are often tailored for solo travellers and the single supplement is factored into the overall costs. Recommended companies: http://www.saga.co.uk
- Creative holidays are a great way of combining a hobby with a holiday. You get to go somewhere new, meet like-minded people and focus on your passion, whether it’s food, photography, painting, walking, trekking, skiing, scuba diving or writing. There are many companies that cater specifically for these types of holidays and the majority of people will be travelling alone. Recommended Companies: Frui –www.frui.co.uk and www.creativeholidays.com
- Activity holidays –There are many companies who run tailored activity trips from trekking in Scotland, canoeing in Sardinia to walking the Camino or skiing in the Alps. This is another great way of travelling alone, but being with a group and spending time out in the open with people who have similar interests. Recommended companies: www.sunway.ie and www.keadventure.com and http://www.wildernessscotland.com
- City Breaks are a great trip if you are travelling alone, as there’s so much going on, you’re never really alone. Lose yourself in a museum, shop to your hearts content, eat when you want to, visit the sights you want to and there’s nobody there to say no or dictate your day! Look into the singles events taking place in the city while you’re there. Cities like New York, Barcelona, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Berlin are great cities to travel alone to. Recommended company: www.fusionescapes.com
- Plan – If you’re planning a big solo adventure be sure to take precautions – let someone know your itinerary and when you are heading into remote areas, expected to return, who you are travelling with etc. Leave a photocopy of your insurance, visa card, passport and tickets at home.
- Look at the different resources online. There are many websites set up to introduce solo travellers and also companies that specialize in solo holidays, so you have a hassle free holiday to destinations where there will be other solo travellers so the perfect combination of a solo trip and the chance to meet other people. Recommended companies –
A community set-up to allow exchanges occurring between individuals and groups. This allows you to travel around the world on a budget as you are put up for free by a host and it’s a great way to really get to know the culture.
ADVENTURE – VIETNAM
Asia is a popular destination for those looking for adventure and many travel alone to this part of the world. The Vietnamese are quite conservative and while they may be surprised at you travelling alone, especially if you are female, but they do tend to leave you alone. However, there are so many travellers following the same route that once you get on the road, it is almost impossible to remain alone. Travellers befriend each other, finding themselves moving along the same itinerary and most people are very open to becoming travel companions.
My first solo adventure was through Asia, starting in Vietnam. I was not prepared for the shock factor of a/finding myself completely alone in a different country b/ Such a different culture. After a day or wandering aimlessly around the little streets around my hotel I decided to book myself on two day-trips to ease myself into the holiday.
My second day in Vietnam was spent on a boat sailing around Halong Bay, passing small floating villages, sharp limestone rocks jutting up from the calm sea, surrounded by a heavy, forboding fog. It was spectacular. My third day I visited my first pagoda – Perfume Pagoda and I remember, as we chugged along in a small wooden boat, across a little lake decorated with lily-pads and reeds, listening to our guide tell us the history of the ancient building, I knew I’d done the right thing. I knew travelling alone was not a mistake, it was the best thing I’d ever done. Below are the highlights of this wondeful country, places not to be missed.
Highlights of Vietnam
Hanoi – stay a few nights in Hanoi – walk the city, visit the French Quarter, go to the park early, go on the back of a motorbike taxi, visit the Perfume Pagaoda and take a boat around Halong Bay
Sapa – do a trek in the mountains – this is one of my favourite memories from Vietnam
Hoi an – get clothes made in Hoi an – bring your own clothes to be copied or bring photos of what exactly you want
Hue – visit the incredible citadel and take a boat trip along the river
Mui Ne – Chill out on the quiet beach. There’s plenty of cheap accommodation and great for kite-surfers
Nha Trang – for partying
Saigon/Ho Chi Minh – Vist the French Quarter, learn the history of the city at the Ho Chi Minh City Museum and The War Remnants Museum, be amazed at the stunning Jade Emperor Pagoda, take a boat trip on Mekong Delta and squeeze into the Cu Chi Tunnels
Fly to Hanoi (no direct flights) from €700 return with www.cathaypacific.com/and www.vietnamairlines.com/
Hotel Accommodation- From €20 per room per night
€1969 – includes flights, 10 nights accommodation, some meals, transfers, english speaking guide and some daytrips
Trailfinders – www.trailfinders.ie
€1699- Includes flights, 7 nights accommodation, transport, some meals, guided sightseeing
Creativity is often viewed as a luxury, however, to indulge your creative side is one of the most refreshing and inspirational things you can do for yourself. ‘Creative Holidays’ are fast becoming the new trend, with people of all ages opting not for a holiday on the beach, but rather holidays where they focus on painting, writing, photography or whatever their passion is.
France has a plethora of creative hide-outs – photography and cookery in Provence, art and writing in the Montagne Noir and cooking in the Canal-du-Midi. I have done several of these types of holiday and find them one of the most rewarding holidays. You get the gift of time to focus on your passion, you meet people with similar interests and best of all, you enjoy life at a slow pace, doing what you love. Some great spots in France include:
La Souqueto, France
Run by a former Irish food journalist, Petra Carter has created a little haven in small village 50-minutes from Carcassonne. Accommodation is in a beautifully restored house and courses are run from the B&B including cookery, painting, photography and for the first time – French.
The weekend cookery courses are intense with a packed schedule as Petra takes you on a journey of taste. You don’t follow recipes, but rather you develop the creative side of cooking, working with flavours and building up your very own recipes from here. There’s a week long Simply French cookery course where you get to visit producers – goat farm, vineyard, beekeepers, olive press and learn how to make the perfect French dishes for every occasion.
The French course is run by Dublin-based Shireen Marcus who will teach you chic French, take you to all the local hotspots – markets, city, boat trip on the Canal-du-Midi and an antique fair.
Or simply book into the B&B from the end of March on, pack your easel, books and camera and surround yourself in Petra’s creative haven, using the artists’ studio or roaming the stunning countryside.
La Muse is at the heart of a tiny hamlet north of Carcassone in the mountains. Surrounded by stunning forest close to the canal du midi it is a retreat for all creative types – artists, writers, photographers etc. Workshops are often run during the Autumn and Spring.
- You can rent a room in the main house, where facilities such as the large library, studios, outdoor terrace are shared. Alternatively, you can rent the adjacent 3 bedroom house or 2 bedroom cottage.
- The retreats run for between 1-3 weeks and allow you to immerse yourself in your own creative work, whilst visiting local villages, enjoying local food, wine and culture.
- Very relaxed environment, surrounded by creative people who offer inspiration. The hosts –John & Kerry organize trips into Carcassone and impromptu dinners and offer guests incredible support and advice on their creative projects.
- La Muse is the creative hub of the area and often host art exhibitions, readings etc.
- Workshops are run during the year – yoga, photography, writing etc.
Getting there: Flights Direct to Carcassone from €19 one way with www.ryanair.com
La Muse Prices From:
Three week retreat from €850
One week retreat from €395
Mews House (3 bedroom house) from €1000
Two-bedroom Cottage from €850
La Souqueto Prices From €800 per course – all inclusive of accommodation, wine, food, courses, transfers, trips
Frui Holidays – 50% off selection of UK creative holidays