Wednesday, September 30, 2009

28/09/09: Contributor to Running In Heels Feelgood Playlist

The tracks that uplift you when you're down and give you a shot of motivation to take hold of life once again!

Drops of Jupiter – Train

This is ‘my coming home from travelling song’ that I always put on my iPod as I walk through the arrivals door in the airport. For me it perfectly encapsulates how you feel when you arrive home after experiencing new things and I absolutely love the opening line ‘Guess who’s back in the atmosphere, Drops of Jupiter in her hair hey hey hey hey.’ The song is written from the perspective of the guy who was left behind and though he’s kind of cynical about what she experienced ‘when she was looking for herself out there’ he’s still there waiting for her nevertheless. A beautiful song.

28/09/09: Travelling Solo?

Holidaying on your own: the pros, the cons and the best ideas for travelling solo

Travelling Solo?

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Lonesome?

‘Table for one?’

If that phrase strikes dread in your heart it’s time to think again. Nowadays travelling alone has never been so easy… or fun! So why isn’t everyone doing it you ask?
You might find the answer hidden in the words of the not-so-great Akon: ‘lonely, I’m so lonely’. Oh dear. The fear that you’ll spend your days alone is one of the main reasons people don’t like to travel alone. But, unless you’re planning to spend your time in a remote hermitage far off the mainland, I can almost guarantee this won’t happen.
If you want a break from the world, travelling alone is the perfect way to find time for yourself. Or, if you’re simply travelling alone because you can’t find someone to travel with, don’t worry! There are a million ways to find friends and fun along the way. Here are some hot tips to get you started:

Accommodation

The key to travelling alone (and I may be stating the obvious here) is to be sociable. Hostels are a great way to meet people and make friends. Try sites like hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com and check the reviews to see what people say about the atmosphere of the place. Hostels that organise nights out are ideal if you want to get to know people quickly. Even just hanging out in the kitchen or lounge area gives you the chance to meet and make friends with fellow travellers from all over the world.

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Extreme couchsurfing

If you want to get to know a place and its people a little better you could consider couchsurfing. This is a great (and free!) way to travel. All you have to do is fill out a profile on the website and then search for couches in the area you’re planning to travel to. Then, pick your favourite person in the area and send them an email asking to stay. Most people have a limit set on how many nights a guest can stay so don’t outstay your welcome! Keep in mind as well that you may not be sleeping on a couch. In the world of couchsurfing anything goes: from the floor, a blow up bed, or (as in one of my more memorable experiences) a prison bus! Most hosts are eager to hang out with their guests so don’t treat this as just a place to stay. Think of it as opportunity to make new friends and to get to know the real life of wherever you’re staying.
If the idea of turning up to a complete stranger’s house to spend the night scares you, try looking at the events happening within the couchsurfing community you’re travelling to. Lots of cities have active communities who meet up regularly so invite yourself along.

‘What do travellers do all day?’

This quote comes from one of my favourite books about a young English guy who is doing a gap year. He poses this question after spending all day lounging about his hostel. Don’t be this guy! Get out there and discover what there is to do…

Sightseeing

Sightseeing alone can be a depressing business especially if there’s no one beside you to discuss just how small the Mona Lisa really is or whether Spanish or French guys have sexier accents. For this reason a bike tour is a great alternative to the traditional bus tour (where you’d have no one to sit next to) or walking around alone. People tend to be a lot chattier on bikes, not least because battling against the traffic tends to break the ice! One excellent company is Fat Tire Bike Tours who do tours in Paris, Barcelona, London and Berlin.


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Become a wwoofer!

Volunteering

If you fancy getting involved in something and meeting people while travelling, volunteering is another option. There are thousands of different ways to volunteer, depending on what you like doing. Here are a few suggestions:
Teach English: A couple of companies run immersion camps in Spain that look for volunteers to work as English teachers for them in an informal capacity. You don’t need any qualifications apart from being a native English speaker. You will get your food and accommodation for free in exchange for spending all day chatting to people who want to improve their English. Two companies who run immersion programmes are VaughnTown and Pueblo Ingl├ęs.
Go wwoofing: If switching heels for work boots doesn’t turn you off, wwoofing is another option to consider. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and is an organisation that assists those interested in working as a volunteer on an organic farm. Almost every European country has a wwoofing organisation. You pay a membership fee and once you are registered you can browse the list of farms available and email the farms to ask for a few days/weeks work. It’s voluntary and generally you receive food and accommodation as payment.
Work at a festival: Another good idea if you’re travelling alone if to volunteer to work at a festival. For example, the Great British Beer Festival is staffed completely by unpaid volunteers and you get benefits like free accommodation, entrance to parties, etc. But that’s only one festival, many more look for volunteers. Try websites such as Festival Volunteer. Who knows who you might meet? I’m thinking music festivals and Kings of Leon personally, mmm…


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Skiing in a group means there'll always be someone to pick up you up...

Go in a group

You could also plan your trip within an organised group so you have a readymade group of people to hang out with. Companies like First Festival Travel and Top Deck Tours organise group trips to festivals, sports events, skiing and snowboarding holidays and lots more. Given that the prerequisite of these trips is that you are able have a good time you can’t go wrong!
Or alternatively, consider signing up to a boot camp or for group lessons in whatever activity you’re interested in – snowboarding, windsurfing, or horse riding to name just a few options. Like bike tours, learning something together means that you break the ice straight away and can lead to having brilliant fun and making great friends!

So there you go, being a lone traveller doesn’t mean being a lonely traveller so get out there and start your adventures!