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Friday, August 13, 2010

Woman Wandering Solo: Pat Gulliford

I'm excited to announce Women Wandering Solo, a new series of guest posts that inform & encourage women who don't have travel partners to go ahead & take the trip anyway. There are so many amazing places to see in the world, & experiencing them solo could wind up being the best way to do it. To learn how you can share your own story with us, click here.

Below is the very first Women Wandering Solo contribution, written by Pat Gulliford of Phoenix, Arizona. 

I never liked solo travel until…

I am a woman who lives in the Southwest US and am currently in my mid 50s. Until my early 30s I did very little leisure travelling - I would mostly travel for business or to visit family. I didn’t particularly enjoy the solo business trips.

When I first started traveling for leisure, I was married and traveled with my husband. Even after I divorced, I would always invite friends or family along on my trips. So it was only fate that led me to try solo leisure travel.

How I learned to love to solo

Back in the early 1990s a friend and I decided to travel to Vancouver. Suddenly my friend had a family emergency come up and had to back out of the trip at the last minute. Usually I would have cancelled the trip at that point. After all, it was to be my first trip to Vancouver and I didn’t know a soul there. However I was totally stressed out at work and realized that I needed a vacation in the worst way. So I went to Vancouver by myself and ended up having the best time. Since then, I have taken several trips by myself.

If I had not gone solo I never would have…

• Biked in Stanley Park and done the Grouse Grind in Vancouver

• Listened to the rich Patois spoken in Jamaica and challenge myself to understand it while soaking up the rich culture and tasty cuisine. Escovitch fish, mmm—best fish dish in the world in my opinion.

• Hiked through a rainforest in Honolulu

• Seen the breathtaking scenery as I drove along the Snake River across the border from Idaho into Wyoming

• Tried a vegemite sandwich courtesy of my new Kiwi mates on a ski vacation in Aspen (hated the sandwich, liked the people!)

Tips for traveling solo

Read the chapter on traveling solo in the book Living Alone and Loving It by Barbara Feldon. Yes it is that Barbara Feldon - the actress who played Agent 99 in the TV show Get Smart. I would agree with her advice that you should try out solo travel initially by going somewhere safe and predictable. After you get used to it, you can try out more exotic locations.

Know your travel style and plan accordingly. One reason I didn’t like solo business trips is that it meant eating dinner at restaurants alone. I’ve tried techniques like bringing a book to read, but it is just not my preference. So now whenever I travel solo for leisure I try to make it so that I can eat and interact with other people, such as eating dinner at a bar.

Try shared living accommodations such as hostels or university dorms. Not only will it save you some money, but it will also allow you to socialize and meet fellow travelers. Also, if I am staying at a hostel I will help cook and share a communal meal with the other guests.

Savor the benefits of flying solo. There are no compromises that need to be made - you are in the driver's seat and in control of your travel experience.

Finally, don’t wait for fate to push you into taking that first solo trip. Just go.


scott said...

Nancy and Pat, excellent idea and post! Fun to read and learn from others experience!

Scribetrotter said...

Exactly, just GO! I hummed and hawed for years before deciding to backpack in Africa for six months. Once I bought that one-way ticket to Cape Town I felt absolutely liberated. I wondered how I'd last six months with no fixed plan and not that much money... and I eventually came home three years later, having worked my way up Africa, across Asia and hopped around to a few other places in-between. It's the best thing I've ever done for myself!