Going solo

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

On International Women’s Day, Kaye Holland says that every woman should travel alone at least once

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure.”

The intrepid British explorer Freya Stark may have uttered these sentiments a century ago, but her words still ring true today.

I should know. I took my first trip alone – the ubiquitous gap year Down Under – at the age of 18 and haven’t stopped travelling solo since.

There have been spells living and working abroad on my own in the Middle East, China and the Cayman Islands, stints pursuing the digital nomad lifestyle in Colombia, Hawaii, America, Argentina et al and too many holidays and city breaks – most recently I prescribed myself two days in Tbilisi,  Georgia – to mention.

Sometimes I have travelled solo simply because I’ve been single, friends and family haven’t fancied my choice of destination, our finances didn’t match up or our annual leave wasn’t compatible. Mostly, however, I’ve travelled alone because I love to.

When I step, solo, off a flight, I get to try a new, different life on for size. Nobody knows if I have been dumped, sacked or succumbed to London’s winter gloom: I can become who I want to be.

Tango time in Buenos Aires, Argentina

In Buenos Aires, that was a tanguero (tango dancer) and, accordingly, I would rise in the afternoon to work, before grabbing a bite to eat and heading to a tango class around 10pm. After the class, I’d go onto a tango club to milonga the night away, arriving back home and climbing into bed circa the very Argentine hour of 6am.

In India and Sri Lanka, I’d lower myself onto a yoga mat for my very own Eat, Pray, Love moment and in Hawaii, I would rent a surfboard. I may not be Hawaiian but when I was riding the waves off the world-famous Waikiki shoreline, with the sun beating down on my back, I was able to pretend that I was.

When abroad alone, I adore waking up when I want and eating and drinking what I want – although often I find that I am only on my own when I choose to be. That’s the thing about flying solo: you’re much more approachable when you’re on your own than in a couple or a group. 

Hawaiian Nights

In Japan, I ticked off Kyoto’s temples with Ruth – a Scottish woman who is still a friend today.  I hiked up Diamond Head in Hawaii with a strapping American military man who I met when collecting my backpack off the carousel at Oahu airport.

In the indigenous north of Argentina, I ate empanadas and explored the gorgeous Cachi valley with the lovely Laura, a German lady on her own adventure.

Cachi calling

I swam from island to island in the South Pacific Ocean with Thomas, a Swiss solo traveller, and had many crazy nights in Beijing with Americans, Amanda and Geraldine, who have become two of my closest friends.

Remote working in Argentina

For my next adventure, coronavirus notwithstanding, I’m planning a solo weekend in Seville – where the sunshine and tapas will, I’m sure, go down a treat with this Vitamin D deficient Londoner.

My message? Don’t be scared to travel alone for flying solo teaches us as much about ourselves as it does about the different lands and diverse cultures we encounter.

Certainly my solo trips have changed my life for the better and stayed with me long after I returned home.

So go. Now. Or in the words of Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Words and pictures: Kaye Holland

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