No need to worry. The Roaming Renegades as a travelling pair are still going strong, but circumstances came about which resulted in me (Nic) taking a solo trip over to Switzerland for a long weekend. Having never travelled solo before but at the same time confident in my ability to do so given our well travelled wanderings I set off looking forward to not only a new country and all that would bring but also a new travel experience in itself. Here are my reflections on travelling solo:
Where and why?
In my current situation I had no real desire to travel on my own or any real need to be honest. I mean, I am one part of the Roaming Renegades after all, we are travelling the world as a married couple and love the idea of experiencing the world together. I often said how lucky I was to find someone who wanted to see the world with me but that my wanderlust and need to travel was so strong that I would have gone either way. That statement is still true but I think I maybe rushed to assume travelling is just travelling alone or not.
But circumstances came about which meant I would be travelling to Switzerland on my own. To cut a long story short basically Shorty (Paul) had been invited to a stag party in Switzerland by one of our best friends. Although I am a part of this social group the fact I am female meant I couldn’t go (this is why we didn’t have stag and hen parties and just did something together!) I was pretty upset because not only was I being excluded based solely on my gender but I would also be missing out on a country I had wanted to visit for years.
So what to do about it? Well I decided than instead of stay at home and be annoyed and argue about gender politics, traditions and sexism…I would be an independent woman and take my own trip over to Switzerland! I think if something bothers you then you have to take steps to do something about it or get over it!
In the process I had a totally new travel experience and learnt a lot about myself by travelling solo for the first time!
General reflections on travelling solo:
One of the things I love about the relationship me and Shorty has is the way in which I can just go and do this on my own. That as much as we are meant to be together we can comfortably spend time apart too. I love more than anything to share experiences together but I think it’s healthy to have some alone time too.
Often for me that involves wandering around Manchester on my own on my days off, exploring the city and my mind at the same time. Sketching, taking photos and just clearing my head. So the concept of travelling to another city in a different country and doing a similar thing didn’t really worry or scare me too much.
One of the things I came to realise in the weeks leading up to the trip is that if I really wanted too I could have roped in some friends or family to come with me. But a big part of me wanted to try it out on my own. I didn’t want to be dictated to by someone else’s schedule or budget, to have to compromise what I saw or did, and I also wanted to prove to myself that I could travel solo as well.
Interestingly everyone else seemed more worried than I was. It’s strange because most of the people I know who have gone travelling have gone solo, so me taking a long weekend trip on my own despite being something new to me didn’t feel at all like a big deal! I was keen to challenge myself, my bank of travel experience and also step outside of my travel comfort zone too. I didn’t really feel too nervous about it either.
I came to realise that one of the big factors in solo travel is the differentials, the place, the culture, your own circumstances all combine to make a unique experience and reflection upon solo travel itself. The fact I have travelled so much with one particular person means I miss them specifically, if you are single and have only ever travelled alone then your perspective will be quite different!
Basel itself is also not exactly a backpackers haven, it’s a beautiful place but the scene is very different to the travelling meccas of South East Asia and as such the opportunities for socialising are minimal. Most people in Basel are not travelling long term either and just like me on this trip are not so worried about making friends given they are on short trips. All this adds up and I imagine my first solo travel experience would have be vastly different given alternative surroundings. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though!
How did I feel then about travelling solo? Mixed to be honest, I experienced every emotion possible over this weekend and I expected nothing less. I am an emotional person, I reacted to things both in ways I did and didn’t expect. I loved and hated it, I felt much more and also much less confident and self assured at the same time. I felt free to do exactly what I wanted without compromise, and yet being alone also made me hesitate and question things I would never have done when travelling as a couple.
What I liked about Travelling Solo:
Not compromising for others
Both me and Shorty like to travel in much the same way and that’s why we work so well. But every relationship involves compromises. He gets frustrated with me faffing about taking photos and his constant need for rest and food messes with my schedule!! When travelling with others we can often end up following someone else’s path which can be really frustrating, this weekend I just did what I wanted and when!
Confidence and Independence
When you are travelling on your own it can be a real boost for your confidence, you realise how much you can rely on yourself and that if you want to do something or say something then you just have to do it. Being independent can really make you stand taller and in pushing you out of your comfort zone benefit you in so many ways. You also have to get over your embarrassment in taking selfies or asking someone to take your photo if you want a picture of yourself somewhere, I found that as time went on I really stopped caring if about taking selfie in front of people!
I could try out my German
This sounds a bit strange but as much as I feel totally comfortable with Shorty I know when I attempt to speak the local language I can feel a bit self conscious. Part of this is because we always have a laugh with each other but it does sometimes stop me wanting to try it out. I guess if I make a fool out of myself and mess it up then there is no-one around me who will remember it other than me! It was nice to put some of that German to the test!
I felt much more like a local
I felt that the way I was exploring Basel was much more like the way in which I walk around my own city. I had to interact with locals much more, I sat on public transport alone like the majority of those off to work. Wandering around on my own more people would presume I was a local too. I found this when I spent sometime along in Hamburg when staying with my cousin and its a totally different feeling and allows you to get into a different mind set and perspective too.
I spoke to people I wouldn’t have done
Being on my own I made the effort to speak to people and be more sociable than I might have been when we travel as a couple. I didn’t get friendly with as many people as I had hoped but I think the city and the general type of visitors here was a factor. I did however visit the cathedral tower with a girl called Sabine from Berlin, it was interesting to hear another cultural perspective on what we were seeing and also pick up some advice for where to visit next! I also spoke more to people working in shops or inside galleries and museums as well as other visitors as I wanted some human interaction. This was really great for my confidence and I can see that travelling solo forces you to come out of your shell!
I got time to blog
In the evenings usually we would go out for an evening meal after dark and explore the city at night. But being on my own I spent a little more time in the hostel than I would have done and what else to do but work on the blog. It was nice to feel more like a “proper” travel blogger writing as I travelled and was great to get my feelings down when they were fresh. This is something we both plan on doing when we go travelling long term.
What I disliked about Travelling Solo:
I felt lonely and missed Shorty
Although I am confident on my own and used to spending time alone when exploring my own city there were times when I did feel lonely and I wanted Shorty to be there. When you are used to a person being there with you there is a void. Not at all times and it didn’t stop me from enjoying it but I did miss the old boy!
Travelling solo is both a confidence booster and also one which at the same time can knock your confidence. At times I questioned things I usually wouldn’t, things bothered me more than they would usually, such a when a man approached me as I sat by the river eating lunch. I felt that I didn’t have that other person there to back me up in case I needed them.
No-one to share the experience with
When you travel you see and experience some amazing things and Switzerland was no different. From the breath taking views down the mountain in Lucerne and the unforgettable vista over the city from the cathedral, to the small things such as looking at all the new food in the supermarket and commenting on the details I noticed. These are the things I missed sharing with someone, turning to my side and saying “Oh look at that”.
Too much time
When you travel with someone you forget just how much time you can spend together doing nothing, sitting on a bench and taking in the views, chatting in the evening about the days events. When you are alone this time is much more empty and noticeably so. I had hoped to spend sometime getting to know people in the hostel but most were just passing through.
Someone else’s input
Sometimes compromising for another person can be frustrating, other times it can mean you get to see and do something amazing you might have missed. We often like to see the same types of things but there is always a compromise in which places we choose to visit and I did miss that input. I am also sometimes too busy doing things that I don’t rest when I should or eat at the right times. Shorty is usually the one to say hey, lets take a break and get some food. Me on the other hand I want to keep going, I realised that I maybe didn’t have that balance right when going solo!
When I was are on my own one of the things that I got the most self conscious about was eating alone. I guess this is quite personal but for me but there is a big difference between sitting in a cafe or a McDonalds for example having something quick to eat on your own compared to a proper evening meal. I felt a little limited to the types of places I felt comfortable eating in and often just took food back to the hostel.
Would I travel solo again?
Well if I had the choice I would say probably not unless I really had to. Did I have a great time in Switzerland? Yes. Did I wish Shorty was with me? Yeah, all the time! I think travelling solo is sometime we should all try at some point but I do think personal and locational circumstances contribute massively to how you feel about it.
I think also that many of the “teething” problems I had are things that over time I would get used to, not be as bothered by or just find a way around. I imagine I would become comfortable dining alone, or creating conversations with fellow travellers at hostels. I did feel that as my time in Switzerland went on I did grow into being alone…but I never stopped missing Shorty or feeling that it would still be better if he were there!
I have a new found respect for those who travel long term on their own. As much as I prefer to be with my partner in crime I do think that I could do it if I had to. I felt pretty proud of myself travelling solo and that break from the norm really is a good way to experience something new, especially when travel itself becomes your norm.