I’ve travelled to nearly 50 nations, lived and worked in six different countries and combined a long term career break with shorter adventures, holidays and weekend escapes. As a result my own travel personality, style and preferences have evolved with each experience and I have met many other travellers (and travel personalities) along the way.
With the introduction of affordable and far-reaching airlines, the availability of information on the internet and the increased acceptance of work-life balances, travel has become more accessible for those with a desire to see more of the world. But not everyone is suited to all types of travel.
There are two types of “armchair travellers”. The first tend to live vicariously through TV documentaries, blogs and travel magazines, and have no desire to leave the comfort of their own home. They are genuinely interested in the outside world, they appreciate the great outdoors and they are usually quite open-minded and tolerant of other cultures. They simply view travel as a noun rather than a verb. The second type of “armchair traveller” is also known as the ‘dreamer’. They think they want to travel, they think they want to see the world, they think they want to change their lives – but they really don’t. They are constantly making excuses as to why they can’t travel such as “I have too many commitments, I don’t have the money, I don’t have anyone to travel with or I don’t have the time”. When you talk about your favourite travel destination, they are the ones who are most likely to respond with a hint of bitterness as they say “I am so jealous”, “you are so lucky” or “I wish I had your life”.
When you return home and find yourself unable to stop talking about your latest travel adventure, the armchair traveller is not just being polite when they ask “how was your trip”. They are genuinely interested and provide a great opportunity to hang on to the memories of your experiences just that little bit longer.
Similar to armchair football managers, they can sometimes become an unjustified and slightly irritating ‘expert’!
MOST LIKELY TO SAY (with a sigh): “I wish I could visit Africa one day”
MOST LIKELY TO PACK: Nothing! “Armchair travellers” aren’t going anywhere.
MOST LIKELY SEEN: At the local store buying this month’s National Geographic Traveller magazine
MOST LIKELY TO BE FRIENDS WITH: The “All Rounder” – they can live vicariously through their adventures
MOST LIKELY TO BE IRRITATED BY: “No-one” (if they are the first ‘type’) and “everyone” (if they are the second ‘type’)
AM I AN “ARMCHAIR TRAVELER”? I think it’s fairly safe to answer that with a resounding NO!
The stereotypical “backpacker” is under the age of thirty, wears the same t-shirt every day and only stays in hostels - but the reality is a little different. “Backpackers” are born through choice or necessity. You are most likely to be a “backpacker” if you are on a long term travel adventure such as a Gap Year or a Career Break as funds are limited when you want your savings to stretch as far as possible. Solo travellers are often “backpackers” as they find it easier to meet other people in hostels and guesthouses. Sometimes a particular location is more tailored to the “backpacker” and more often than not a “backpacker” has a yearning for independent travel. But be warned - carrying a backpack does not make you a “backpacker”! “Backpackers” possess a unique mind-set, a laid-back attitude, a passion for travel and a love of independence.
Whether it’s the thirty hour bus ride on dodgy roads, the bed bug infested hostel or the stolen luggage, the “backpacker” not only has a full repertoire of entertaining stories, but they are the traveller most likely to face a travel disaster, survive a travel disaster and laugh about a travel disaster over a beer.
Despite the stereotype of spending the least amount of money when traveling, some “backpackers” view themselves in the ‘travel elite’ category. They can be a little patronising to new travellers, may scorn at those who have just finished an organised tour and are most likely to start a heated debate over the merits of volunteering.
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: I am a traveller, not a tourist
MOST LIKELY TO PACK: Flip flops or Teva sandals
MOST LIKELY SEEN: Enjoying a banana pancake and cold beer at a guesthouse in Southeast Asia
MOST LIKELY TO BE FRIENDS WITH: The All Rounder who shares the travel bug and has a common love of independent travel
MOST LIKELY TO BE IRRITATED BY: The tourist. They are the traveller most likely to start the ‘tourist v traveller’ debate
AM I A “BACKPACKER”? I have been a “backpacker” on the majority of my travels, through both necessity (during a 15 month career break when money was stretched) and choice (when I have craved that feeling of freedom I associate with getting back to basics). I have no doubt the majority of my future trips will continue to involve backpacking, I love it.
The “tourist” is often labelled in a negative way – sometimes this is unfair but sometimes it is justified. Tourists come in all shapes and sizes. A “tourist” may be someone on a beach holiday who is taking a day out to see a local attraction. A “tourist” may be someone who takes European city escapes every chance they get and likes to ‘tick’ the local ‘must-see’ attractions. A “tourist” may be someone who is keen to see more of the world but doesn’t have the confidence or desire to venture far from the beaten track. A “tourist” may be making the most of a business trip to a location they haven’t visited before and wants to see the best a place has to offer in limited time.
Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world and needs ”tourists” to survive. “Tourists” provide much-needed income to developing countries, they keep hotels in business and a wide variety of jobs are created as a result of the holidays they book.
“Tourists” are sometimes afraid of getting off the beaten track and miss out on amazing local experiences as a result. They are often reluctant to move outside their comfort zone, are less likely to understand cultural differences and most likely to return from a holiday dissatisfied. Unfortunately these reasons sometimes prevent “tourists” from being responsible travellers and create a negative stereotype of travelling westerners.
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: The local food was terrible (after eating at their hotel)
MOST LIKELY TO PACK: A Guide Book
MOST LIKELY SEEN: Standing in a queue for three hours, to visit the museum the guide book suggests is a ‘must see’ destination.
MOST LIKELY TO BE FRIENDS WITH: Other “Tourists”
MOST LIKELY TO BE IRRITATED BY: The Backpacker – although it’s unlikely their paths will cross
AM I A “TOURIST?” Do I behave like a “tourist”? I hope not. Am I a “tourist”? Yes – we all are at times whether we like to admit it or not. Some destinations are particularly geared towards tourism and putting on a ‘tourist hat’ for the day can result in unexpected, memorable experiences. “Being a tourist” is a great way to see the highlights of a destination when time is limited.
The “All The Gear With No Idea” traveller focuses more on being a ‘traveller’ than actually having a ‘travel experience’. They may have the right gear with no idea how to use it or they may have the right gear for the wrong location. Unlike the “backpacker” who can travel for a year with one small backpack, this traveller often packs too much and usually forgets the most important and useful items. Common examples of the “All The Gear With No Idea” traveller is the amateur photographer carrying a Canon 5D and shooting in the fully automatic mode. It may be someone with high tech binoculars in a safari outfit in Africa, who forgot to bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Or it may be someone walking around in a sexy bikini top in a Muslim country. I once met a woman in Cambodia travelling with a suitcase without wheels, containing two pairs of jeans, a long-sleeved denim shirt and covered shoes. This may have been fine for a city break in Europe but it wasn’t too practical in the 40 degree humidity where you take your shoes off every time you walk inside, and are constantly moving your luggage around buses, tuk tuks and guesthouses.
They can provide some entertaining moments for other travellers!
Traveling with the wrong gear has the ability to turn someone into the worst type of traveller – the Complainer.
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: The men are so sleazy in this country (as she is dressed in gold hot pants and a small top revealing her midriff – true story at the Valley of the Kings in Egypt!)
MOST LIKELY TO PACK: A tripod, extra batteries, three lenses, laptop, iPad, binoculars, mobile phone charger, adaptors, ear plugs, sleeping mask - but forget comfortable walking shoes
MOST LIKELY SEEN: In the local Kathmandu store buying every travel gadget available
MOST LIKELY TO BE FRIENDS WITH: The Tourist – they can compare ‘must see’ locations from the “Tourist’s” guide book with their ‘must have’ gadgets
MOST LIKELY TO BE IRRITATED BY: The “backpacker” who has brought ten times less luggage but has everything they forgot to bring
AM I AN “ALL THE GEAR WITH NO IDEA” TRAVELER? Not on purpose! However, there have been times that I have arrived at a place having forgotten something essential, or realised I have packed inappropriate clothes. But this is usually the result of packing with a hangover rather than having “no idea”.
The “All Rounder” is born to travel. Being outside their comfort zone actually becomes their comfort zone. Being away from home makes them feel more alive, they love to learn about other cultures, and are inspired by different people and lifestyles. They often have hobbies such as photography and hiking, keep in touch with local friends they meet along the way and are the travel type most likely to have their own blog. They are always planning the next trip and have found ways to make travel a regular part of their lives by balancing longer term adventures (such as career breaks) with weekend city escapes. The “All Rounder” can usually adapt to all travel styles and has often travelled as an independent backpacker, been on organised tours, and stayed in both hostels and 5-star hotels. The “All Rounder” lives to travel and is always looking for ways to make it a bigger part of their life.
The “All Rounder” is often a great source of travel information. They have usually visited a diverse range of locations from developing countries to modern cities, have experience with independent travel as well as organised tours and are pros at finding ways to interact with the locals and get off the beaten track whilst still seeing the highlights of a destination.
The “All Rounder” views all trips away from home as a travel adventure and as such, they do not always make the best holiday companions. If your ideal holiday is lying on a beach, sleeping late, and not venturing outside an all-inclusive resort, the All Rounder is probably not your ideal holiday companion.
MOST LIKELY TO SAY: I have just planned my next travel adventure
MOST LIKELY TO PACK: A laptop to update their travel journal or blog whilst on the road
MOST LIKELY SEEN: Taking a career break
MOST LIKELY TO BE FRIENDS WITH: The “Backpacker” (whilst on the road) and the “Armchair Traveller” (once they return home and want to keep talking about their adventures to anyone who will listen)
MOST LIKELY TO BE IRRITATED BY: The “Armchair Traveller”, as they can’t understand why someone doesn’t want to explore the world as much as they do
AM I AN “ALL-ROUNDER”? Yes. Travel is in my blood, it energises me, it inspires me and it’s a big part of my life. I backpack, I join organised tours, I travel on my own, I stay in hostels, I stay in 5 hotels, I explore cities, I hike in the great outdoors, I travel for work, I travel for pleasure, and I am always thinking about my next adventure.
The last time I paid a visit to Sin City was when I was 10 years old, approximately 13 years ago, to visit relatives. As one would guess, I wasn't able to partake in any wickedness the city is known for. I made up for that with my recent trip to Vegas.
I had covered the basics of Las Vegas in 2000; touring the Strip, seeing Sigfried & Roy's white tigers, going on the New York, New York roller coaster, taking in the light show on Fremont Street, and the like. This time around, yours truly got to see a whole lot more of Las Vegas. Unfortunately I can't share everything with you, (what happens there stays there, remember?) but will be happy to tell you my travels and tips!
Our hotel view-love those mountains!
My three-day trip first began when my boyfriend and I (whom I will refer to as 'S') got a good price on a hotel not too far from the strip. They had a great deal going on at check-in where for $50 dollars you could pick two tickets to a large variety of shows, plus get 2 free buffets and $50 worth of playing money at the Luxor. Sounds awesome, right!? Like any deal, it was mostly too good to be true, as we had to endure a 1.5 hour spiel about time shares. But, we got an additional free lunch out of the offer, and once the presentation was over we were on our way (and feeling pretty good we didn't cave and buy).
For the show, we chose Cirque du Soleil's Mystere. I had previously seen Saltimbanco and loved it, and wanted to add another Cirque show to my plate. Mystere was interesting, for lack of a better word. The acrobatics were amazing, but I was a little thrown off by the theme-and the adult baby that kept making an appearance throughout the show. Don't get me wrong, it was a great show, but I probably would not go see it again. After the show we decided to take a stroll down the Strip and use our gambling money at the Luxor. I had forgotten how much fun it is to see the hotels and all that they offer! In the casino, I decided to try my hand at Black Jack, which I had never played before (or any card games, for that matter). Both me and S ended up ahead, so we erred on the side of caution and decided to stop. It was so much fun though-I can't wait to play again! After that, we headed down to the buffet area and I was overwhelmed at first. Sure, I'd been to a buffet before, but nothing like that. I spent a good five minutes planning my strategy and execution, and quickly decided salad bar was out. Who was I kidding, I was going to end up with five desserts anyway, so no need to have salad take up any space. Even after all that planning, I ended up taking those desserts but not having room for any of them. Later, we decided to go out on the town. I foolishly wore a pair of black heels that night that I hadn't worn for over a couple hours at a time, and by this point I'd been wearing them all day. So naturally, by 9 PM, I wasn't up to much walking. I decided to power through it as this was our only night to live it up in Vegas. We went to a couple bars but realized it probably wasn't the best night to go as it was a Wednesday night during the off-season, and there were not many people around. That didn't stop us from having a good time, though. After an hour or so I suddenly remembered that I had to check off one of my Bucket List items: dancing on the bar at Coyote Ugly. Ever since I had seen that movie I promised myself I would do it one day. Not wanting to disappoint my 12 year old self, we went to New York New York and visited the bar there. It was not very crowded and I wasn't so sure about getting up there anymore, and I kept waiting for a good song to come on. Finally after about 5 subpar songs, I decided to just get up there. I danced around to a stupid 80's song and came back down. Sadly, it wasn't up to my expectations, but I was glad to be able to check it off my Bucket List! Next time I'll have to visit the real Coyote Ugly-Hogs and Heifers Saloon, and maybe then I'll feel a bit more satisfied.
The Strip At Night
The next day, we got up early and went back to the strip. We had originally planned on going swimming, but as luck would have it we were there during an unseasonably cold streak, so we decided to visit as many hotels as we could and do some exploring. With so many different themes and activities, it's hard to pick a favorite hotel! I really liked the style of the Venetian, with the indoor canal and gondola rides available. It let us have a small taste of what Venice might be like.
When I was 10, I remember walking into the MGM and having that feeling of being overwhelmed and in awe of the sheer size of everything. This time around, I was starting to wonder if I'd get that feeling again. We had stepped inside nearly every hotel on the Strip and while I admired every one of them, I still hadn't gotten that "feeling". Granted, I was about 4 feet tall back then so everything looked bigger-but still. Finally, the lobby of the Luxor changed my view-it was huge! I was a happy camper and glad to have the feeling of awe back.
The Luxor Lobby
That night, S told me he had a surprise for me and of course a thousand things were running through my head; A helicopter ride over the city? Tickets to a sumo-wrestling match? A life size sculpture of me made out of candy? After all, this was Vegas and virtually anything could be possible. He led me to the Mirage Hotel and there he surprised me with tickets to the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show. I had wanted to see this show SO BADLY and had a hard time trying to contain my excitement. After jumping up and down and making a bit of a scene, we waited in line for the doors to open. Finally we were let in to the lobby and it was awesome, it was decorated exactly like I imagined it would be; tons of colors, fun props and of course, Beatles music.
Walking into a Beatles Wonderland
We were then led to our seats and I kept wondering when the guy would stop walking and point us in the direction-he kept getting closer and closer to the stage and I started getting more and more excited, until we were directly in front of the stage in the first row. I looked at S and thought there must be some mistake-I had never been this close at a show before. It wasn't a mistake, so I sat down and thanked my lucky stars-and S-and waited for the show to begin. It is hard to describe the whole show, and I don't want to give anything away, but it was honestly the BEST show I had ever seen in my life. If you love Beatles music, or even like it somewhat, you have to see this at some point. It showcased a good 20 songs, and every song had its own theme. There was so much going on, and I would say it was a 4D experience. I was amazed throughout the whole show, and didn't want it to end. If you ever have a chance, GO SEE IT!
After the show, we headed back to the hotel to get a good night's sleep, as we had to get up at 5 AM the next morning! We had purchased tickets for a bus trip to the Grand Canyon and Skywalk, and while I was excited it was hard to be enthusiastic about anything at 5 in the morning. Since we purchased the tickets online, I wasn't sure what to expect about the whole thing, but once we got to the tour headquarters I felt more at ease. They gave us more detailed information and sent us off with coffee and a granola bar. Our bus driver was great-really funny and knowledgable. We drove through Las Vegas and the surrounding counties until we hit the Hoover Dam. I hadn't seen it before, so it was nice to have a few minutes for pictures.
After that, we got back on the bus for another two hours. I hadn't realized how far away the Grand Canyon was from the Vegas area. I had always assumed it was pretty close but it is actually a good 3 hours away. No wonder this trip was designated 12 hours on the website! But, our tour guide had great commentary along the way and entertained us pretty well. After a long and bumpy road, we had finally made it to the Grand Canyon! It was definitely worth the drive as it's not very often you get to see a view like this:
The Grand Canyon experience was different than I imagined. I had always pictured it as being very sunny and hot, while climbing up and down various hills and spotting tourists on donkeys every now and then (blame it on the movies, or maybe I just totally made all that up in my head). It was a tad different, as we were there in November in the coldest week they'd had (low 50's), and it was cloudy and windy. Also, I didn't spot any donkeys. However, the weather didn't change the amazing view of the Canyon, and it was truly spectacular. It definitely put things into perspective for me, seeing something so naturally breathtaking. I also never knew how close you could get to the drop-offs as there are no barriers! You could literally fall right off! Every time I got about five feet from the edge I got a little dizzy and a big adrenaline rush and decided to knock it off and be sensible. S and I had a really fun time with our mini photo shoot and have some great pictures to show for it.
We also had tickets to the Skywalk, which is pictured above. It's built so it juts out approximately 70 feet over the edge and the drop from the Skywalk to the ground below is between 500-800 feet. The floor is made entirely of glass. Camera's and any other personal items are not allowed on the Skywalk, so if you want a picture you have to purchase one. There are a couple photographers on the walk that take multiple pictures of you in different poses. We ended up choosing one that looked like we were about to fall off the ledge. Yeah, a bit cheesy, but you just gotta do those things once in awhile. We were able to stay on the Skywalk for about 10 to 15 minutes. If you ever visit the Canyon, I would say spend the extra money and get a Skywalk ticket, it was definitely worth it and added a unique perspective of the Canyon.
After the SkyWalk we had one more trip to the Hualapai Ranch, a Western/Cowboy themed place not far from the Skywalk. The brochure said there would be a "Wild West Show", so again, I got excited thinking it would be like the movies; an old fashioned cowboy quick draw. It may have been because we were there during the off-season, but it looked more like a ghost town than anything else. There wasn't any type of show to see, but there were little stations set up where you could throw a tomahawk, learn how to rope, and quick draw. We tried our hands at roping and it's a lot harder than it looks! I was a little better at the tomahawk throw-and a little better than S. :)
It wasn't perfect, but at least I hit the board!
We ended our trip with a red-eye flight back home, very tired but happy we could fit so much in our 3 day trip. Las Vegas has so much to offer, you definitely can't see it all in one vacation. I can't wait to come back and make some more memories! What's your favorite Vegas memory?
Although in recent years I’ve largely travelled alone, my first steps into the big wide world of foreign adventures (with my parent’s safely on the other side of the world) were within a group environment. Traveling as a group can be fun, there is always someone to talk to, and there can be a lot of variety, meaning that usually there is never a dull moment. Travelling as a group can also be a little stressful, with added logistics, politics and the formation of cliques, especially among larger groups. Here are some ideas to help keep the chaos to a minimum:
Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth
It is a fact that having a lot of people in one place, with limited space and facilities can be very stressful. It’s nice to be inclusive when planning a trip, but there is a point when it is wise to limit numbers – accommodation and transportation are usually the deciding factors. Think about what you are trying to accomplish – 2 weeks doing practical volunteer work lends itself to different numbers than inter-railing around Europe (e.g. 4 people building a school in Kenya? 20 people cramming onto a Deutsche Bahn ICE and expecting to sit in the same carriage, let alone near each other? Think again!). Have a reasonable idea of how many people on the trip is practical, and comfortable, and stick with that number.
Hong Kong & China 2008 - My team had a really good sense of humour and kept positive even when our accommodation in Guangzhou fell through and we had no idea where we would be staying.
Two’s Company. Three’s a Crowd
Trust me. In certain situations this works (e.g. you are all family, have hung out as the Three Musketeers for years, you’ve somehow managed to make a ménage-a-trois work, etc.) but generally it’s something to avoid. Typically there are either two situations: someone gets left out, or the “third wheel” begins to piss one or both other people off. While prime numbers are good for making majority decisions, it probably sucks to be the one ending up on their own (refer to Walter, Gary & Mary’s trip to LA in “The Muppets” for a case study).
Sharing is Caring
I recently stayed in a hostel in Rio de Janeiro and was driven crazy by Dutch travellers (particularly f the female variety) each taking 30 minutes in the bathroom – twice a day! If it’s important respecting fellow traveller’s need for facilities and space when you don’t know them, it is even more important to respect those you are actually travelling with. Limited number of electrical outlets? Even more limited number of socket converters? That means the person spending hours on their laptop (You fly half way around the world to use a laptop? ) can kick that habit and let other people charge their phones and cameras, and use electricity for more important things than checking non-essential emails and playing solitaire for hours on end.
If there are introverts in your group, allow them time and space to unwind alone. If someone has a case of Dehli Belly, maybe consider that you taking hours in the bathroom might actually be making their plight worse. If someone is jetlagged, give them time to sleep it off. Offer to help out with chores like cleaning when you leave and washing up rather than letting the same person do it all the time. And never, ever, EVER walk across someone’s futon with your dirty feet (Because I DESPISE sleeping in a gritty bed!).
Before going to China we spent time getting to know
each other through various activities such as playing
sports on a surprisingly sunny Scottish beach
Before you go try to get to know everyone a bit better, especially the people you don’t know so well, whether be going for a drink together, having a pizza and movie night, fundraise as a team (if you are doing some kind of voluntary work) etc. It breaks the ice for sure, and might give you an idea of other people’s personalities, needs and quirks before you go.
By this I don’t mean culture shock from being in a different country, but culture shock from being among people from different backgrounds can arise too. In Swaziland I was the second youngest person on the team (the youngest was there with their parents, and the oldest was a 79 year old woman there with her daughter!) while in China I was the second oldest person there not leading the team (and most others were still in high school). Different generations (particularly older generations) can have very different outlooks, which can be frustrating, especially if they don’t give you an easy time for being young (or credit for having more experience than them).
Then there can be problems caused by different social, educational and religious backgrounds – the list goes on. Basically anything in the country that can give you culture shock, you can probably also find in your travel group (if it is a very mixed group, or you are the odd one out). The best thing is to realise you have as much to learn from your fellow travellers as you can learn from the foreign culture. Be open, be flexible, talk and share what you are thinking and feeling.
Imagine the amount of time it takes for one person to take a good group photograph. Now multiply that by a factor of the number of cameras in the group. Add a few extra minutes in for good measure. Now multiply that by the amount of things you’ll want to photograph while away. The answer? A lot of wasted time.
For that reason, limit the number of people taking photos at any time. To keep happysnapping to a minimum, assign a few people to be responsible for photos each day. Take 20% of the total number of cameras with you. If someone has a good camera and is really into photography, let them take most of the photos (but also give them the opportunity to be in some of them as well). Also as a guide, the person photographing EVERYTHING (usually repeatedly) is probably not the best photographer – a good photographer has an eye for a good shot, and so will only take photographs when they have a good shot. This means you get a smaller number of consistently very good photos that you can use, rather than endless bad photographs not even worthy of Facebook.
Remember the Outsiders
Be aware of people not interacting much with the rest of the group or seem a little withdrawn. Check they are ok, and give them plenty of (varied) opportunities to join in. Do things that can involve the whole group. Include them in conversations and invite them to give their opinion. Even ask them what they would like to do. They might just want some alone time, but they might also want to be involved but are struggling to interact with the rest of the group, perhaps due to strong personalities, unfamiliarity with people, in-jokes or activities, or simply being shy.
Don’t invite a known clique to be part of your group – it should be all or nothing, simple as that. Likewise inviting a loved-up, young couple to be part of a group of singles can also be a bad idea (as if claiming the double bed, spending all their time together and not interacting with everyone else was bad enough, don’t even think about the consequences of a lover’s quarrel, let alone a break-up!). Let couples go on couples’ holidays and strong cliques go on holidays by themselves. If a clique forms while away, don’t panic too much (unless you are all out there for months) – people do have their preferences of whom they get on well with. As long as you get them mixing with other people and it doesn’t become a problem, you should be fine, at least until the end of the trip.
Be gracious, overlook imperfections, laugh things off, don’t make a big deal about insignificant things… etc. Take a deep breath, count to ten and relax. As we say in the UK “Keep Calm & Carry On”.
Sometimes taking a moment doesn’t work and tempers can still flare up. Deal with conflict as soon as possible, long before it flares up. Talk. Try to see it from the other person’s side. Take some time out if need be. And ALWAYS be the first to say sorry. Forgive and forget – it’s not worth your trip being ruined.
Malta 2010 - A bike trip with some guys I knew
Ultimately choose wisely who you take with you. The person with the fiery temper or the serial drunkard causing all sorts of problems? Probably not a good idea. The really disorganised one or the girl who always brings too many clothes? Think again too. Or at least be aware of their behaviour before you go, and don’t be surprised if they let it all hang out when free from the confines of home. And remember, even if you don’t pick wisely, it isn’t forever and do your best to enjoy it while it lasts.
Fortunately for me, I've not had a particularly difficult time traveling in a group. Perhaps I've been lucky, but getting to know each other and having a good sense of humour have definitely helped gel the group together. Certainly I've had a much easier time than my siblings when traveling (my brother in particular has some horror stories).
There's no point worrying about having a bad time. Most likely you will have a good time with a group of people, and never a dull moment for sure. But do bear in mind some of the pitfalls that can occur. By thinking ahead and identifying potential problems before they occur, you can avoid any mishaps and make sure your trip is an enjoyable one.
When I typed “solo travel” into Google today, it returned 60 million hits – yes, 60 million! As the world grows smaller through technological advances and travel becomes more accessible, solo travel has increased in popularity. The internet is full of information both from and for solo travellers, but what is it really like to travel on your own and is it for you?
I began my solo travel career a few years back through both necessity and desire. Initially I began to travel on my own in response to the life changes my friends were experiencing. People I had travelled with in the past were now getting married, starting families or, as is often the case when you live in London, returning to their Antipodean homes after working holiday visas expired. Other single friends were burnt out by demanding careers and wanted to spend the little time off they had relaxing on a beach, not backpacking through a developing country.
I was also reacting to a lesson many of us have learned the hard way – close friends do not always make great travel buddies. When your friend wants to lie by the pool each day on a trip to Sri Lanka and you want to join some locals on a day trip to a tea plantation and elephant orphanage, you realise being great drinking buddies in a London pub does not make you compatible travel partners.
Travelling solo is not for everyone and it helps to understand the travel personality of yourself in addition to those you are considering travelling with. You may be more suited to travelling in a group but that doesn’t guarantee a perfect travel experience if you are travelling with someone more suited to solo travel.
Are you a solo traveller? Maybe the points below will help you decide.
Going solo wasn’t just a reaction to my circumstances. I was a thirty-something single, independent female who was starting to realise you only get one shot at life. Put simply, I was growing selfish and didn’t want to compromise my travel experiences. Going solo allows you guilt-free selfish moments and also helps you stick to your own budget. Remember the Friends episode where half the group wanted to go to a rock concert but the others couldn’t afford it? Travel can cause the same tension if you have different budgets and you inevitably have to compromise. You may choose to take that balloon ride over the Serengeti without your travel partner because you can afford it and don’t want to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But do you really want to stay in the 5* hotel you can afford on your own when you travel buddy is sharing a dorm at the hostel on the other side of town?
How do you see and do everything you want when you are travelling whilst staying within your budget? You travel solo!
Some people feel suffocated by a travel itinerary whilst others need a planned approach to a travel experience. I sit somewhere in the middle. Travelling solo not only allows me the luxury of setting my own itinerary, it lets me change it along the way. I am a very keen amateur photographer and I am not surprised to learn photographers usually prefer to travel on their own. There is nothing worse than missing an incredible sunset because your travel buddy wants to catch happy hour at the local bar. Or patiently waiting for someone to move out of the frame of your shot as your travel partner impatiently stands beside you ready to move on.
How do you get to the best places at the best times or return to a place a number of times to capture that magical shot? You travel solo!
Most solo travellers I’ve met agree that going solo is the best way to meet people. Not only are you more likely to approach other people when you are on your own looking for company, but you are more approachable yourself. It makes sense right? Who are you more likely to strike up a conversation with - the intimidating group of friends travelling together or the person sitting on their own?
How do you meet people when you travel? You travel solo!
An extension of the previous point, travelling solo makes it a lot easier to make local friends. What is a group of ‘travellers’ called? Tourists! Ok, I made that up and I am generalising, but I have often found locals more likely to treat me as a tourist when I am with other foreigners. I get a very different reaction when travelling on my own and have had some unforgettable conversations with locals who have approached me simply to have a chat.
How do you increase local interaction when travelling? You travel solo!
It’s often said that the best way to get to know someone is by travelling with them and there is no better journey of self-discovery than the one you take as a solo traveller. Not only do you have more time on your own to reflect and relax, you will also inevitably face situations that help you understand more about what makes you happy, what your strengths and weaknesses are and what (or who) irritates you. Travelling solo not only increases self-awareness but it also creates the opportunity to change. Having to face challenges on my own whilst travelling – the bag stolen in Bolivia, needing medication for infected insect bites in Uganda, missing my plane in Copenhagen – has helped me face challenges back home with more patience and less stress.
How do you create self discovery opportunities? You travel solo!
A phobia is an irrational fear. I have an irrational fear of mice. Many people have an irrational fear of eating alone. I don’t know if this particular fear has a name, but it should because it’s so common. There is something about asking for a table for one that sends a shiver of fear through most people. They are convinced the conversation around them stops as they are led through the crowded restaurant to their table, as couples and groups throw them sympathetic looks. The sound of the waiter clearing the extra place at the table seems to echo around them and many would prefer to grab a sandwich at the local supermarket to eat in their room, than repeat the experience the next night.
How to face this challenge? My kindle is my dinner companion – it doesn’t take up too much space, it doesn’t tell me long and boring stories, and it doesn’t reach over and steal my fries!
This is the hardest part about travelling solo for me. I have lost count of the breathtaking views, serene sunsets and comical encounters that I can’t re-create after the event. Whether it’s sharing a moment with someone special, laughing for days at a ‘had to be there’ moment with someone who was actually there, or having a healthy debate over the pros and cons of volunteerism after visiting a local project, having someone to share travel experiences with makes it just that bit more special.
How to face this challenge? The age of technology that we live in let’s me share experiences in my blog, by postings photos on Facebook and through emailing friends and family. It’s not as good as the real thing, but sharing and connecting with like-minded people who weren’t there is the second best option.
There’s no way around it – it is more expensive to travel on your own, especially with accommodation where you can’t split the cost with your travel partner.
How to face this challenge? The issue of increased expense is offset by the flexibility solo travel gives you. I may not be able to split the cost of a hotel room, but having the freedom to stick to my own budget helps me manage my finances a little better whilst on the road.
I have rarely felt unsafe when travelling on my own, but the fact remains that safety is a risk for solo travellers. Travelling on your own in some countries (parts of Africa for example) can feel like wearing a target on your forehead inviting trouble. Solo travellers in other countries (especially females) may find themselves the subject of unwanted attention. The most common issue for solo travellers is not having someone to watch their luggage whilst they run to the toilet or to buy some water. Falling asleep on a train makes them nervous when there is a stranger next to them who can reach over and grab their Ipod.
How to face this challenge? Sometimes you just have bad luck and are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But using common sense can help reduce the likelihood of these ‘bad luck’ moments. I always check out the ‘safety and security’ advice issued about the country I am heading to (both Australia and UK governments have excellent online safety advice) and am sensitive to the cultural differences I may face. I don’t take chances – life is too short.
I almost didn’t include this in this list, because I can honestly say I’ve felt lonelier at times back home than I have when I’ve been travelling on my own. But loneliness is a possible side-effect of solo travel and some feel it more than others. If you don’t enjoy spending time on your own at home, chances are you may struggle with travelling solo.
How to face this challenge? Overcoming this challenge will be easier for some people than others, because it often involves reaching outside your comfort zone – approaching strangers, enjoying your own company for example.
Regardless of your thoughts on the TSA, they are here to stay. So we have to deal with long check in lines, bags being scanned and searched and ever changing rules on what you can and cannot take on board flights. There are some things you want to make sure to include for your carry on bag in case things go wrong or so you can have them when needed.
1. Any electronics you don't want to wind up missing or stolen. Thieves still target checked in bags so put cameras, laptops and cell phones in your carry on.
2. Take your medications in your carry on. I am not talking about aspirin or other over the counter drugs but any prescription medication. You don't want to arrive at your destination to find out your luggage is lost and your stuck trying to find a way to get your meds. As a side note be careful with medications, some countries look at certain medications differently so make sure your name is on the bottle. You don't want to be sitting in an interrogation room trying to explain to some customs official why you are smuggling unmarked medicine into the country.
3. Take a small battery operated flashlight. They cost a few dollars at any mega retailer and don't take up any room. Trying to rummage through your stuff late at night in a new place can be a pain, especially if you stay in Hostels or you are just trying to find something in the dark.
4. Pack a change of clothes. This could be a t-shirt, extra shorts or whatever. If you have ever traveled and had lost luggage you know what I mean. A change of clothes in your carry on can be a life saver. At least you won't have to wear the same clothes for 3 days while your luggage catches up to you.
5. Things that should be common sense, but if your like me you always forget one of them. Or instead of your carry on you bury it in your checked bags. Passport for International travel, extra passport photos for getting visas and extensions, Drivers License for extra ID, ATM cards and copies of itineraries and flight confirmations. I usually go to my local bank and get $100 changed into the destination currency before I leave so I can have a little spending money when I get there for taxis, buses or whatever. And my pet peeve, bring a damn pen. Every international flight I am on no one has a pen and you know you are going to have to fill out immigration and custom forms.
While looking at the best Android apps for travel purposes there are so many to chose from. I decided to eliminate from the list city guides, hotel specific guides, airline guides and the major reservation sites. I also eliminated all specific discount apps like AAA because not everyone is a member of such organizations. I instead focused on Travel Apps that everyone could use and for the most part can use worldwide. And they are all FREE.
Tourist Language Learn
A useful translation device that offers tourist phrases for situations such as transportation, dealing with airports, buses and taxis. It also has phrases for food and accommodations, emergency situations, greetings and small talk. The APP currently translates into Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian, Polish, Korean, Japanese and Chinese.
After traveling all day and seeing wonderful sights, taking photos and being awed how do you keep track of it all so you can get it all organized? This App is pretty handy it will let you record your trip and GPS geotag photos and videos. Write notes in the journal to describe experiences, share with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more or upload to your blog.
Leaving work for the airport or don't want to leave your car parked there for weeks? What about when you arrive back at your destination? If you don't want to worry about a taxi or arrange to have someone pick you up this might be a good alternative They will provide door to door ground transportation in over 50 cities in the US and have now expanded to Paris. They offer email reservations and confirmations along with the ability to earn airline miles.
Your on vacation and and you want to make sure the weather is decent when you go to that outdoor festival or reserve that spot on the fishing boat. A good weather app is essential and this is one of the better ones. It has all of the accurate and localized weather information and interactive features that you need. This full-featured app offers forecasts updated every hour, interactive Google Maps™, and severe weather notices. It also offers weather in 23 languages and social media sharing.
You got checked in to a hotel and decided to hit the streets. I don't know about you but I like to walk around, explore the area and see what I can find. After a few hours I have to stop and kind of get my bearings, figure out where I am and where I need to be going. This little App does the trick. It is a navigation App that does not require any data traffic. When you leave the hotel you just store the location and when your ready to return pick up your phone and SpotOn will point you in the right direction. That way you can hit the Pub and have fun trying to read the little red dot after a few drinks.
I know I said no reservation sites but I had to add this one. Here you will find some places not listed on the big boys. You can find and book budget places all over the world. Choose from over 5,550 establishments and book up to 12 months in advance. Show the confirmation on your phone when you check in. It's great for when you are traveling to multiple locations and want to find something at the last minute.
Who doesn't use Skype these days? Probably one of the most essential apps you can have to stay in touch with everyone while on the road. Call computers, call others that have Skype, video chat and more. If you don't want to run up those roaming charges while out of the country this is the answer.
ConvertPad Plus is a unit converter, currency converter, measures, temperature, length, volume and more. Difference between US and UK gallon? Got it. Kilometers to miles? Got it. Dollars to yen? Got it. It will give you real time currency conversion and comes in handy anytime you need to convert anything.
This App only works in the US and Canada. I use it and it comes in handy with gas prices being what they are. All you do is hit the "Find Gas near Me" function and a screen comes up with the name, location and price. It will allow you to screen the results from lowest price to highest. You can also convert that to a GPS navigation to guide you to the location. The App can be refined to show prices of different grades of gas and diesel. It will also allow the user to report and update the system so when you are filling up you can input the most current prices. Every time you report prices you become eligible for giveaways.
I saved the best for last. Voted “Best Travel App” by TabletPCReview.com October 25, 2011 this App gives you the best offers direct from the vendors website. Along with the best offers direct from the vendors it has phone numbers for all the major airlines, hotels, car rentals and travel agencies. You can find out flight statuses, store frequent flier, hotel and rental car program info. It consists of over 700 airlines worldwide, searches rental car and hotel info in over 40,000 cities and also stores boarding pass and passport photos. This is an all in one travel app for reservations and deals direct from the vendors.