Among the things I enjoyed most about my extended period of time off over Christmas and New Year was having the time to catch up on some reading.
I don’t necessarily mean just books – although, that too – but also all the great content I come across online and bookmark for later reading. I’m fairly careful about who I follow on Twitter and Facebook, so when I see a blog post shared or a one-line summary of a linked article it will almost certainly pique my curiosity. BAM! there it goes, sent to my Instapaper account where it might never see the light of day given the volume of stuff I add to that list every day.
That’s why it was only very recently that I finally read a post from my friend Jackie’s travel blog dated late 2015, about her experience travelling solo for the first time. It struck a chord because it’s something I’ve been mulling over myself for a while, to the point that late last year I decided that if I did one thing for myself in 2017, it would be to take a trip somewhere by myself.
Now, I’m no stranger to the world of travel. And I’ve flown solo plenty, including numerous US trips and even a round trip to Australia that was practically longer than my stay on the continent. But, with the exception of that time I was meant to be following Ryan Adams around the UK only for him to cancel the tour and me to go anyway, I’ve always had somebody to meet me at my destination airport. Even on that occasion, I met up with or stayed with friends in each of my city stops.
When you work full-time, your travel options are quite tightly restricted by the amount of annual leave that you are entitled to. That has to include planned holidays: the annual one with family, for example; or a trip to see my sister. Against that backdrop – and with the important caveat that I’m lucky to have people who love me and want to spend my leisure time with me – taking time for solo travel seems almost selfish. And yet, it’s something I keep coming back to.
There are a few reasons for this. One is, as Jackie alludes to, the idea that travelling alone opens your eyes to who you are and what you are capable of. I’m quite a solitary person anyway and I enjoy my own company, but I’m sure that even I would end up striking up conversations with strangers if left to my own devices for a few days. I’ve mentioned before that I do my best writing on trains and in hotel rooms at night, and I’m sure I will enjoy this even more without the distractions of company. And, as much as I’ve always taken opportunities to explore on my own whenever I’ve travelled with others, I can’t help but thrill at the chance to really take in a place on nobody’s itinerary but my own.
Recently, Expedia asked me to put together my travel “bucket list” to welcome in the new year. While some of these are completely impractical for solo adventures, don’t be surprised if one of them makes it into a blog post around here soon.
Croatia unexpectedly crept to the top of my travel bucket list last year. That’s partly down to the ease with which it can be reached from the UK, with cheap flights and package holidays easy to come by – but also, almost certainly, has something to do with how gorgeous Charlotte made the country look on her own visit towards the end of last year. While Dubrovnik stole her heart, it’s the vibrant Zagreb I’m more drawn to – plus I really, really want to see the Museum of Broken Relationships in situ, ok?
While I’d happily take a solo trip anywhere in Italy – in fact, you could even say I’ve managed to cross off a tiny bit of the country on my own already – it’s no secret that I’d love to visit Sicily and trace the roots of my family name. Besides, after three decades of having to spell my surname out to taxi companies and delivery drivers, I think I’m entitled to a cheesy selfie grinning by the road sign for Ferla (pop. 2,622).
A very tired blogger in Singapore Airport, 2008
Time to get a little more exotic. While I’ve technically set foot in Singapore, thanks to an airport stopover on the way back from Australia (turns out they really, really don’t like you taking photos of their printed-out takes on international newspapers), it can’t be the same as visiting the city-state itself. Landing in the bay airport at night was one of the most breathtaking sights of my life and one that I would happily see again – plus, you’re talking about a city that reveres its cats! What’s not to love?
Yes, that was another one from my Christmas reading list.
There’s one trip I’ll definitely be taking on my own some day, just because I would bore anybody daft enough to come with me to death. As any fan of my all-time favourite show will be able to tell you, the first five seasons of The X-Files – plus last year’s terrible revisiting – were filmed in Vancouver, Canada; and while I doubt there are any guided tours of the show’s locations available anymore I daresay it would be easy enough to put my own together with a little research…
My friend Lilit, who is a travel writer for Conde Nast and quite literally #goals, turned me greener than usual last summer when she got a place on the first US cruise to Cuba in over 50 years. I admit that there’s something incredibly tacky in the desire to visit a place that is seen as relatively unspoiled by globalisation (see also: North Korea) but it’s a desire nonetheless.
Thanks to Expedia for inviting me to share my travel bucket list. As ever, all views are my own and unbiased.