Vivien Fallows is the author of Travels with George, an epic story of solo tripping and adventure. Here, Vivien shares her Top 10 Tips for travelling solo.
Travelling solo isn’t just for gap year students. Having admired the intrepid adventures of a younger generation, it was my turn for some solo fun:
Planning and time: scour travel guides to plan your route and identify highlights. Travel brochures and advertisements can help you estimate how long a similar trip might take. Build in some flexibility, being independent you will be able to linger in places that appeal, or move on if they don’t.
Passport and visas: ensure that your passport is valid for six months upon your return to the UK and that it has sufficient blank pages for entry/exit stamps. If visas are needed, apply in plenty of time.
Insurance and finances: check that your travel insurance covers you for the countries to be visited and those adrenalin-pumping activities you just have to try. It is also worth checking if ATMs are plentiful where you are headed; running short of cash in the back of beyond is not to be recommended.
Medicines: some countries prohibit the import of certain medicines. If this is of concern, see the www.nhs.uk site under ‘can I take my medicine abroad?’ Check immunisation requirements and the need for mosquito repellent. Personal hygiene: if you have specific requirements, be sure to take your products with you, as they might not be available.
Clothes and shoes: being on the move simplifies matters as no one will know you’re juggling three t-shirts and a couple of pairs of jeans. Consider extremes of temperature, from sunhat to waterproofs to warding off the evening chill. Shoes are easy, just walking and relaxing options plus swimming if you’re sharing watery escapades with sea urchins.
Luggage: pack all your belongings in a bag/case that is portable and manoeuvrable. Lying spread-eagled on the pavement is not a good look.
Accommodation: arriving at a destination bleary-eyed, late at night with no idea of where to stay is not the best idea. Booking your first night will allow you to venture forth in the morning, refreshed, looking like the experienced traveller that you really are.
Technical bits and bobs: to keep in touch, read your e-novel or navigate your route and check that you have the right adapters to re-charge your gadgets. Less technical, a paper map is a good resource for when the GPS fails and a notebook for scribbling down what you saw, where and when. If you hire a car, keeping an eye on the fuel gauge is also recommended.
‘A table for one?’: find your voice…you don’t want to sit by the loo or kitchen door. Reading material slows down the solo-eating rate and if a nocturnal picnic in your room appeals, a plastic plate and basic cutlery can be handy additions to your luggage. And don’t forget the bottle opener.
Memories: Take time to sit and enjoy your surroundings; the sights, smells and sounds will fuel your memories, as will the weird and wonderful conversations had along the way. Remember to pack a sense of humour and a dollop of patience. Irrespective of the planning, things can sometimes go awry. My coping strategy was a philosophical shrug and a cold beer. Finally, trust your instincts and have fun.
Travels with George is available to buy from The Book Guild, Amazon and all good bookshops.