Browsed by
Category: Uncategorized

Why I Choose to Fly the Solo Flag When Travelling

Why I Choose to Fly the Solo Flag When Travelling

In the past, my solo trips have attracted a variety of responses ranging from “You’re so brave!” to “It would’ve been more fun if you took someone with you!” and “Didn’t you get lonely?” However, for me, choosing to travel solo has benefited me in ways that I could not have imagined.

As an introvert, I recharge my internal batteries by taking time out alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with friends and family and I have great fun when I do so – but I find it tough to be around people 24/7. A solo trip just provides an extended opportunity to re-energise – and have fun along the way! Due to the fact that I actively enjoy alone time, I very rarely experience loneliness.

When travelling, I tend to stay in backpacker hostels which provide plenty of opportunities to meet other travellers. Although, I like to head off travelling on my own, meeting new people is one of my favourite aspects of travel and I sometimes opt to spend a day or so sightseeing with my new travel buddies or even travelling with them for a few days. 

As with everything, solo travel has it’s downsides. There are some experiences that are best shared with friends – such as when I visited a 3D art museum where each piece of artwork was a backdrop for you to take exciting pictures. I ended up getting creative with a selfie stick and precariously balancing my camera on different ledges until I met a kind group of travellers with whom I could exchange picture taking duties with. Occasionally when things don’t go according to plan, the presence of a friend or family member would be most welcome, however, being able to deal with the situation myself gives me a sense of achievement.

So far, I have found that after a trip, I have returned home full of energy and with a clearer mind. Having the time away gives me breathing space and time to think and refresh myself – and I always walk away with amazing memories. Although my first experience of solo travel was a little terrifying at first, I knew it was something that I wanted to continue doing and I’m very glad I did!

Although it may not be for everyone, if circumstances permit, I’d highly recommend solo world wandering. It has forced me FAR out of my comfort zone and has also given me the chance to develop my own travel style. As long as I am able to, I will continue to take solo trips and I’d encourage everyone for whom it’s a possibility to challenge themselves and try it at least once!

 

 

 

A New Beginning

A New Beginning

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to say WELCOME to my new blog!

Please sign up to get notifications of new posts by email if you wish.

Thanks for stopping by!

Happy Travels

Linda

Running Through Airports: Getting my travel act together

Running Through Airports: Getting my travel act together

I have often been described as having a ‘relaxed attitude to time’ when it comes to social events. However, when travelling, a minute can mean the difference between getting on your plane, train or bus or being left stranded.

On the morning that I was leaving for my InterRailing trip, having stayed up for most of the night getting documents ready and packing and repacking my bag, I was exhausted – and the trip had not even begun! My mum and sister were accompanying me to the airport and we had planned to leave the house at by 7am in order to allow enough time for me to complete the baggage drop and security procedures and have some time to relax before my 10.20am flight. However, at 8am we still had not left the house! By this point, I was in a rather panicked state and managed to forget my European Health Insurance Card, – only realising when we were halfway down the road to the tube station! 

I quickly ran back home to get it and we ended up getting to the airport 15 minutes before baggage drop was about to close. After running down several moving walkways, I made it to the check-in desk. My printer had run out of ink the previous night after printing the details of my travel insurance so I had been unable to print my boarding pass. Thankfully the airline printed it for free!

I said a quick goodbye to my family and hurried off through security only to find that the flight had been delayed by 40 minutes. I was able to have my relaxation time after all!

You would think that after that experience I would have planned my time more effectively. However, on the night before I was due to fly to Thailand, I ended up staying up all night (again) – packing and repacking my backpack. I didn’t sleep until the early hours and my sister had to collect my malaria tablets and travel money! We ended up leaving for the airport an hour later than planned and I arrived at baggage drop 3 minutes before it was closing!

Again, I said a quick goodbye to my family and hurried through security in order to make it to the boarding gate in time! 

The wake up call FINALLY came on the way home from Thailand.

On the morning of my last day in Thailand, I checked out of my hostel, left my bags in the storage area and set off to buy presents and souvenirs and enjoy a final day in Bangkok. After spending most of the day whizzing around on the sky train from one market/shopping centre to the next, I was exhausted! 

For some reason I thought it would only take an hour to get from the hostel to the airport (I don’t know how I came to that conclusion) so I thought that if I left the hostel by 5pm, I would be at the airport by 6pm with plenty of time to check in, pass through security and relax before boarding the plane. However, it didn’t quite happen like that.

I arrived back at the hostel around 6pm (an hour later than planned) grabbed my bags and then ran down the road to the train station. I would’ve taken a taxi but it was the height of rush hour and the traffic literally stands still.

The journey involved taking one branch of the sky train to a central stop, changing to the other branch for a few stops and then taking the airport rail link from one end to the other.
By the time I reached the starting station of the airport rail link it was approaching 7pm and the next train wasn’t due to arrive for another 10 minutes!

My flight was at 8.40pm and I was meant to have completed the check-in and baggage drop process by 7.10pm. At 7.10pm, I was still on the train and was no where near the airport. My relaxed approach to time had finally caught up with me. 

After shoving my newly purchased souvenirs into my rucksack, I started panicking and thinking of contingency plans and the inevitable phone call home to explain to my family that I had missed the plane, would be spending the night at the airport and would have to put a large dent in my finances to buy a ticket home for the next day. 

On the train, I had spotted two fellow Brits who were also flying back to England that evening with the same airline. However, I saw from their boarding passes that their flight wasn’t leaving until 10pm and they were simply doing the sensible thing and getting to the airport early! I wondered if the airline would allow me on to that flight.

I arrived at the airport at 7.30pm – twenty minutes AFTER the check-in/baggage drop for my flight had closed. Of course ‘Departures’ was on the fourth floor. With all of the running and panicking of the last 90 minutes, I was exhausted but somehow managed to muster up the strength to run up four escalators, finding myself at the entrance to the departures hall. 

I spotted the information desk and dived towards it before blurting out ‘Where’s the Emirates check-in desk?’ 

‘It’s in Zone T’ said the lady behind the counter.

I looked up and saw that I was standing in Zone A.

Time for more running. 

This time I was dodging trolleys, suitcases, backpacks and small children.

When I arrived at the desk, thankfully there wasn’t a queue and I looked at the lady behind the counter and asked in a childlike voice ‘Is it too late to check-in?’

‘What time is your flight?’ She replied.

‘It’s supposed to be 8.40’ I said trying to display my most hopeful look.

‘Let me check’ she said.

She then proceeded to make a phone call and I waited nervously hoping that in a minute or so I would be celebrating rather than crying!

She hung up the phone.

‘It’s fine, you can check in’ she said.

The biggest grin spread across my face – and I couldn’t thank her enough! If it wasn’t because of my heavy backpack I would’ve leapt a foot into the air!

The debacle of that evening was the final wake up call. 
I had the most amazing month in Thailand but missing the plane, being left stranded there and having to put a large dent in my bank account in order to get home would’ve been far from ideal. 

My next adventure is several months away but I have already started planning and organising my packing list and other bits and bobs because, as I have found, last minute packing and re-packing is bound to lead to stress and panic…and a whole load of running!

My Love/ Hate Relationship with Backpacker Hostels

My Love/ Hate Relationship with Backpacker Hostels

When I announced to my friends and family that I would be taking a solo interrailing trip which would involve staying in backpacker hostels, I was met with a number of raised eyebrows (and not just because I had chosen to go solo).

My family and close friends will testify to the fact that I can be a bit of a clean freak, (hair in the bath tub causes my blood pressure to rise) so they (and I) were concerned with how I would cope sharing a dorm room and bathroom with strangers. However, I knew I would not be able to afford the trip if opted to stay in hotels the entire time. I also wanted to challenge myself and have the opportunity to meet other travelers so I booked myself into an eight-bed mixed dorm room in my first destination – Prague.

The Good

My favourite thing about staying in hostels has been the opportunity to meet other travelers. I remember the exact moment that I caught the travel bug. I was sitting in the dorm room in Prague chatting to two lovely girls from Slovenia and they were telling me all about the natural beauty of their home country. I instantly added it to my ever growing wanderlust wish-list and starting planning how and when I would visit Slovenia.

In Ko Lanta in Thailand, I ended up being in the same dorm room as a lovely lady from Belgium. We had both decided to go to Phuket the next day and so we decided to travel together. In Phuket, we stayed at the same hostel and went on a tour which included a visit to Maya Bay (where ‘The Beach’ was filmed). In Vienna, I stayed in a hostel that even had musical instruments available for guests to play!

There have been many occasions where I have had the opportunity to meet and hang out with other travelers but sometimes it is the staff that make my stay at a hostel memorable. In Bangkok, one of the staff members hung out with the guests every evening and took us to parts of the city that we would never have discovered by accident; including the awesome Bangkok train market with all of its vintage trinkets. In Ko Lanta, the staff were so friendly and welcoming and they went above and beyond the call of duty. When my camera and phone drowned in my bag after a bottle of water leaked, they drove me to a repair shop. In Barcelona, a staff member carried my bag up the stairs after seeing how exhausted I was after the crazy journey from Nice. In Chiang Mai, one of the staff members even bargained with the tuk tuk/ songethaew drivers on my behalf!

 

The Bad

Due to the fact that I am quite selective when it comes to choosing hostels, I haven’t had too many bad experiences but I have stayed in at least three places where hygiene levels were rather low.

The first dirty hostel I stayed in was in Lyon, France. I had a couple of days to kill before heading to Nice so I decided to visit Lyon. The city itself was great and I hopped around on the underground to all the must-see sites in just one day. The hostel on the other hand was a different story. There were only two hostels in the city – one had glowing ratings and the other didn’t. So of course I found that the clean hostel was full when I made my last minute decision to visit the city.

I arrived to find staff that were indifferent at best if not downright rude – along with very poor quality internet, broken wooden lockers, a dirty kitchen, a smelly run down bathroom and a stairwell that stank of urine. The whole place was in desperate need of cleaning and renovation. .The luggage storage area was basically a jumble of suitcases and backpacks and when I returned to retrieve my backpack, I  had to climb through the mound of luggage because it had ended up all the way at the back. The hostel’s only redeeming feature was the balcony from which you could see a spectacular view of the city.

That hostel had a rating of around 75% so I knew it wouldn’t be great but I would expect a hostel with a rating of 90% or above to be pretty decent. However, when I arrived in Chiang Mai, I discovered that this is not always the case.

I arrived early after travelling on a sleeper train and was told that I would have to come back later because it was too early to check in unless I wanted to sleep on a top bunk. I decided to wait for a bottom bunk but when I came back all the bottom bunks were already gone!

I followed the staff member upstairs and was greeted with carpets that looked like they hadn’t seen a vacuum cleaner for several months. There were tents in the hallway and on the roof and the first time I climbed onto my bed I cut my finger on a small sharp piece of metal that was poking out. Every time I or the person on the bottom bunk moved the entire bunk bed shook! There was only one plug socket in a room of eight people and most of the bunk beds were on the verge of falling apart. There were no blankets on the beds and I found out from another guest that we had to retrieve them ourselves from the washing line on the roof!

But the bathrooms…they were the worst.

The first time I took a shower there was a cockroach was crawling around. It drowned but was left dead in the drain for several days. The drains were so clogged that after a shower the water didn’t drain out and I would be left standing in at least 10cm of water whilst getting dressed. The shower was over the toilet and the whole bathroom looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for at least for at least a month. There was no door on the room containing urinals so there was a strong whiff of urine every time I walked past.

If I hadn’t booked for 4 nights I would have left straight away. I woke up on my last day to find that they had FINALLY cleaned the bathrooms. The only good thing about this hostel was one of the members of staff who was friendly and helpful.

I wanted to extend my time in Chiang Mai but I couldn’t stand that hostel any longer so I left to check into another one.

After Chiang Mai, I took a short trip to Pai. All of the hostels had ratings of around 60-80% so I wasn’t expecting them to be super clean but what I wasn’t prepared for was the nighttime temperatures. The hostel was situated in the mountains and all of the rooms (single huts and dorm rooms) were made of bamboo. The beds were also made of bamboo. From the early evening onwards, the cold wind from the mountains caused the temperatures to plummet to single figures and by night time, I was wearing most of the contents of my backpack in order to stay warm underneath the TWO blankets I had obtained from the hostel. Going out in the evenings involved committing serious fashion crimes (socks with sandals)!

Thankfully that is the extent of my hostel horror stories but others have spoken of worse experiences such as their belongings being stolen and bunk beds actually falling apart.

I’ve learnt what type of traveler I am

My experience with hostels has generally been positive and the ‘not so great’ experiences have definitely been outweighed by the opportunities to meet travelers from all over the world.

However, staying in a particularly bad hostel (such as the first hostel in Chiang Mai) tended put a slight dampener on that part of my trip. I enjoyed Chiang Mai so much more after moving to a new hostel.

Through these experiences, I have learned that I am not a ‘hardcore’ backpacker who can just stay anywhere regardless of the standard of hygiene. I have also learnt to really pay attention to the reviews and only book a hostel for one or two nights at a time and extend if necessary. That way, if I’m not happy I can move.

But overall, I absolutely love staying in hostels and will continue to do so as long as I continue travelling.

Disappointed in Dubai

Disappointed in Dubai

I was excited about the fact that my reasonably priced air fare came with an 8 hour stop over in Dubai. So when the plane landed on a sunny Thursday morning, I hurried over to passport control so I could make the most of my time there. Unnecessary extra passport checks (when everyone else seemed to pass through swiftly) and being stopped after passing ‘Nothing to Declare’ left a sour taste in my mouth, but nevertheless I continued and after being hassled by two taxi drivers and walking the wrong way down a corridor, a nice airport official pointed out where the Metro was and my short Dubai adventure could finally begin.

I arrived at the Dubai mall stop and walked down what felt like a billion moving walkways before I was finally acquainted with the ginormous sea of shops known as the Dubai Mall.The only problem was that I had arrived too early. It didn’t open for another hour. Wandering around the empty mall, I came across Waitrose (a British supermarket for anyone who didn’t know) and decided to get a few bits and bobs and a hot snack for breakfast; only I was ignored by the person serving behind the counter; he seemed to be serving everyone but me even those that came to the counter after I did.  Eventually I got my food and then headed outside to take pictures of the Burj Khalifa before going to the top.

Burj Khalifa

The ‘top’ was actually just over half way up (there was another viewing platform on a higher floor but it was way more expensive) and I wish I could say that I absolutely loved the view but that wasn’t the case. It was nice to look across the city and see the spaghetti-like roads, tall buildings and the water but I just wasn’t that excited by it all.  I don’t know if it was because Dubai had already left a bad taste in my mouth but I didn’t enjoy the Burj Khalifa in the way that I would normally enjoy such an attraction.

Spaghetti RoadsA view from the Burj Khalifa

I realised through this experience that lavish 5 star holiday destinations are not my thing at the moment.  My brain seems to be firmly in budget backpacker mode. I’m sure Dubai would make a wonderful holiday destination and maybe I’ll give it another chance and come back one day with friends or family and a suitcase and nice shoes (instead of a rucksack and not-so-glamorous walking sandals) but this time round, once my time was up, I was more than ready to wave goodbye to the extreme extravagance and say a big hello to Thailand!

My First Venture into the World of Solo World Wandering

My First Venture into the World of Solo World Wandering

The year 2012 brought about quite a lot of change in my life – I moved to a new town, started working in a different sector within in my career field and faced the prospect of losing the social life that I had spent the last year building and having to start again from scratch. As a sufferer of social anxiety, the thought of these changes brought back the familiar feelings of panic and stress.

So I decided to do something that I thought was even crazier (and would probably cause more panic and stress) – I booked myself a solo holiday to Geneva for a few days. I had been abroad before but always with family or friends or as part of a school trip. I had been to Geneva before on a school trip during my first year of sixth form but everything had been planned and organised by the teachers and we were driven everywhere.

When I arrived at Heathrow on the morning of the flight, I was full of excitement. However, when the plane landed and I disembarked and headed over to passport control, the excitement turned to full-scale fear and panic. “What on earth was I doing in a foreign country alone?” I thought. I heard people speaking French in the queue for passport control and although I had studied French in secondary school, I had never really progressed beyond a pretty basic level. How was I going to cope in a French speaking city?

After passing passport control and finding an information desk, I was directed towards the shuttle bus stop and eventually found myself at my hotel. What a relief! The receptionist gave me the free transport card that they give to all tourists for the duration of their stay and explained how to get to the centre of town – a straightforward tram journey. Maybe this wouldn’t be as difficult as I had originally thought!

I spent the next fFlower Clockew days exploring the sights, attractions and museums of Geneva including the Natural History Museum, the Flower Clock, the Jet d’Eau fountain, CERN (The European Organisation for Nuclear Research) the Old Town and probably my favourite of all – Mont Salève – located just across the border in the French Prealps. From the top of this mountain, I could see across the entire city. Lake Geneva looked like a stunning sheet of blue. After taking a mountain of pictures (excuse the pun), I had lunch in the restaurant overlooking the view. This is where I realised that spectacular views and natural beauty are two of my favourite aspects of travel. I also took a boat cruise on Lake Geneva for three hours and visited the nearby municipality of Nyon in order to visit more museums including the Roman Museum and Lake Geneva museum as well as Nyon Castle. The latter was a rather rushed visit because I arrived 45 minutes before closing time!Nyon Castle

View from Mont Saleve

Although I had been worried and apprehensive about the trip, when it came to the time to pack my bag and head back to London I was sad to be leaving. After the initial panic about being alone in a foreign country, I soon relaxed and realised that there was nothing to worry about. The language barrier was not as much of hurdle as I had originally thought and it was pretty easy to get around by public transport. The whole experience taught me to have faith in my own decisions and to go for things even if I’m scared petrified.

J d'Eau Fountain