Tuesday, 25 June 2013

On travelling alone.

This Post is dedicated to fellow sassy solo female travellers, Kathryn and Phil.

Greetings from Gangnam.

It has been grand. More on it later, though.

Something that somebody said to me today has got me thinking about this topic, so here it is.

The conference has been quite busy, and, tonight I was looking forward to just chilling out with some of Colonel Sanders finest and a glass or two of vino. However I bumped into a few of the other conference delegates (big wigs in Diabetes) who I had previously spoken with at the conference, at the hotel. They were coming in from dinner. I asked them if they wanted to accompany me for a vino at the hotel bar.

The Prof (older gentleman) apologised, citing tiredness - indeed, he looked tired. He asked, in a concerrned, fatherly way, "do you not have any friends here?". I quickly replied "no, no, but it's fine, I have travelled by myself a lot". I gave him a big, confident smile.

I have bumped into colleagues here, but I am essentially here alone. And it really is ok. I am ok.

Travelling alone really opens you up to the world, in a way that travelling accompanied does not.

It's good, in many ways, mainly because you can run to your own timetable. Be spontaneous. Meet people. Travelling alone, far from making me frightened, has reinforced in me that most people are kind, when it comes right down to it.

I am quite good at striking up a chat with people, making friends, gaining confidences. This comes in handy.

You have to really take notice of what is going on around you. This is important for safety as well as fully enjoying the environment you are in. You meet people and do fun things that you would not be able to do normally. Some of the most fun and exciting things I have done on travels have been while travelling alone.

Right now, I am happy in my life. I text/ chat with my fella (in Paris) when I feel the need to share something. It is lovely to be able to do that, and it makes the travelling alone a bit easier.

I have been travelling at some of the most lonely and vulnerable times in my life. At those times, it really does hit you how alone you are, and it can make you feel very, very small. The loneliness can be so acutely painful that you just want the ground to swallow you up. I have been there. Oh yes. And those wines you swig to give you the confidence to meet people can be a double-edged sword. I am not ashamed to say that I have quietly blubbed over trendy bars the world over.

Sometimes, there is nobody there to save you. You float down to the bottom of whichever psychological hole you are in. There, you only have your own resources to get you out. And you get through it. I have alluded to this in my "about Cilosophy" post. My travels to San Fran and Albuquerque last year were very lonely and fraught, but the darkness precipitated a moment of clarity and a sense of worth and purpose that had eluded me for .... for a long time.

Once, when I was in Iceland, in 2011, I was so miserable. I had wanted to see Iceland for so long, but  I was so lonely and miserable I cried all day while seeing the sights. I thought "I have to get home". I had arranged to book earlier fights home. I had to cancel my last night's accommodation, and I started talking with the lady at reception. I started crying. She was so nice. I asked her if she wanted to share a pizza for dinner with me. She obliged and we had a good heart to heart. She procured me a nice (free) glass of vino from the bar. She told me that I had came across so confidently, and that she wondered who I was and what I did, when I had first seen her at check in. She was of Indian descent, and from Singapore. She had been married to an Icelandic man and they had a little girl together, but they had divorced. She stayed on in Reykjavik to be with her daughter, even though her family was far, far away. Her name, as I remember, was Geetha.

Then there is the story of my Spanish Guardian Angels.

Just after I ended it with my ex, I had an exhilarating but ill-advised holiday fling. He was cute and I did not suffer any thing that would have warranted an awkies visit to my GP.

I think, in retrospect, the trip to Dubai alone was not that great an idea. I think the staff at the hotel thought I was a hooker. Oh well. Lesson learned.

It has been hard writing this post, it has bought back a few painful memories, but it has also served to remind me of the fact that hard times pass, usually with a new strength and knowledge at the end of it.

Take care, and big hugs, and best wishes, wherever in this amazing world you are. x.


  1. I adore travelling alone. Mind you I love travel period. But it does make the adrenaline rush around the system a bit more. When I travel with friends or my husband I don't tend to venture out and I just snuggle by his side and we catch up and and are in or own microcosm in a foreign land. But security is very much key. As long as you are safe, then it gives you time for proper reflection. Also it gives you great anecdotes!

    1. Hi CSW! Greetings from Seoul!
      I agree with everything you've said. I think it is great when you are in a good state of mind, and challenging when a mess. But ultimately all good for the character!
      Thanks so much for your visit xx

  2. I have a great hate of how so much written about solo travel for women focusses on safety. Like that's the key issue and maybe we should all just stay at home with our paranoia.

    A lot of people don't talk about loneliness or bad feelings on hols whether alone or with someone. It's really hard to say I went on a holiday and had a shit time -- well unless it's OTT shit.

    I went on a trip to SE Asia with Intrepid and it was awful. Then I felt like I couldn't say it was awful because it'd cost a fair bit of cash. Man, I wanted to kill everyone on that tour group at the end of it.

    Btw I commented on your hong kong post but realised i hadn't word validated just as I was closing the window.