The sound of nearby accordion music floated through the warm early evening air. The balcony doors of my hotel room were open, letting in the last of the late summer sunshine lazily reflected off the house tiles across the medieval street. The crunch of biscuits was the only jarring note in this simple scene of Portuguese utopia.
Well, actually, it was one of my favourite dinners of my long weekend in Lisbon. I had visited a few scrumptious restaurants, discovered local delicacies and spent one evening listening to the melodic rhythm of Fat Freddy’s Drop Ska, as delicious Banh Mi were devoured. But, a handful of lemon cookies washed down with lemonade whilst relaxing on my bed represented the best of solo travel – exploring all of the places that fascinated me without having to worry about someone else getting bored, and then selfishly eating the ridiculous dinner I fancied.
Sure, solo female travel seems to have become a buzzword on almost every travel blog under the sun, but it makes my heart happy to see women empowering themselves and taking courage to be independent. Solo travel isn’t for everyone for a variety of reasons, but if it’s something that interests you, why not follow that path?
My first ever (adult) overseas trip was solo, nearly a decade ago. As a clueless 18 year-old I boarded a flight to Singapore (*cough* no idea about visas *cough*), moved to England knowing only 1 other person, spent 10 Christmas days in Bath with strangers and 10 days in Prague exploring on my own.
The practicalities that made me feel safe in all of these locations & reassure my family?
- Picking a boutique, central hotel
- Traveling during daylight hours to & from the airport
- Catching the metro directly from the airport to my hotel (usually one of the reasons I select it)
- Doing small group tours to destinations not easily accessible by public transport*
- Ensuring there was a small grocery store nearby for biscuits, I mean drinks
- Wearing a cross-body handbag smart enough to look more like a local than a clueless tourist
- Keeping in constant contact with my family (including one laughing call when I was locked out of my hotel for 2 hours)
- Not wandering around late at night (though I won’t even do that in London) keeping to well-lit, busy areas
- Knowing where I was going & nipping into doorways to check maps or just refer to my smartphone to look more local
- Leaving the details of my flights, hotels & whereabouts with family
Many of these aspects are taken into consideration for any trip I book, no matter who I’m with, but they seemed even more important when prancing about Europe on my own.
Since I’ve been away there are a few times I’ve found myself with an empty tummy & an hour or two, and ambled towards one of my favourite London restaurants on my own. Practice you know. I’ve found that armed with a phone (and social media) to scroll through, and a Kindle to keep myself entertained, waiters/waitresses haven’t treated me any differently to popping in with company.
There was one exception, I popped into an east London establishment for a quick bite of brunch on my own. Presenting myself at the early hour, despite a plethora of empty tables, the receptionist insisting on seating me either at the bar or along the kitchen service “to be able to chat with the chefs”. I kinda scratched my head at this – why would I want to chat with these (kindly) strangers or want to stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise empty restaurant? Not being able to convince her, I left and found myself an alternative meal.
PS. Actually, my greatest ever challenge probably occurred when I was about 11 – in New Zealand, we do a fundraiser once a year called the 40-hour famine, where we are sponsored and don’t eat for 40-hours for the World Vision charity. I decided to go one better and try not speak for 40 hours – and if you know me, you’ll understand the challenge this represented. I lasted 12 hours before I forgot, spoke 3 words and then practically taped up my mouth for the remainder.
PPS. Funnily enough, whilst in Lisbon I actually ended up making friends with another girl
travelling solo, all the way from Australia who put up with all the
teasing, fancied a day dashing around Lisbon and having dinner with me one of the
PPPS. Apologies for the meandering nature of this post.
PPPS. And apologies for the meandering nature of the footnotes.
Have you ever fancied solo travel?