This week I’m jetting off on another ‘solo holiday’ to Romania with a small group of people I’ve never met, to enjoy 4 days of fun and new experiences – one of them being to spend a night in the ice hotel, one of my bucket list items!
I’ve always had a sense of adventure and love travel, but have never been great at doing the solo holiday thing, completely solo. The only choices open to me have been either to harass my friends so that at least 1 of them would relent and join me, or to just bite the bullet and go it alone. Since the former has rarely been successful, I’ve had to find ways of going where I want, doing what I want and with company (if I want or dont)! It’s easy to slip away from a group if you need time out, but not always easy to find good company abroad when you want it.
The solution for me has been small, independent group travel if I want to do something very different, or go long haul in countries I am nervous about travelling alone in. Last year I went to Abisko, Sweden to try my hand at another of my bucket list items – husky rides (see post below). It was unbelieveably exhilarating, but what with my regular tumbles into the deep snow, being dragged face first by my team of dogs and my muscles screaming out with the effort, I won’t be in any hurry to repeat the experience.
The other type of ‘solo holiday’ experience I enjoy is volunteering in camps/sanctuaries and national parks abroad. These are not always the relaxing holidays you dream about after long, hard months at work, but I have always found them to be fun, exciting, different and occasionally challenging – giving me an opportunity to see and do things I would probably not have had the chance to otherwise. There is also the benefit of meeting new people and sharing the experience. I have actually made some very close friends from these holidays and maintained the relationships once returning home.
The volunteering holidays are always interesting and people are usually intrigued by it when you talk to them afterwards. I don’t know why more people don’t give it a try. Last year, I worked with baby baboons and vervet monkeys in South Africa. Now that WAS an experience. It was pretty hard work and the country was in the middle of a drought, which made for thirsty work with all the heat. It certainly wasn’t a walk in the park, but the time spent cuddling and playing with the monkeys was worth it. As they get older, they are transferred to other parts of the park where the volunteers are not permitted to handle them. This allows them to slowly get used to fending for themselves before finally being released back in the wild. It was a once in a lifetime thing for me.
Later this year, I will be going to Chiang Mai, Thailand to work with old and disabled elephants. I literally cannot wait! The Elephant National Park was on a documentary on Thailand which I saw on television today. It looks totally amazing. I can’t believe I will be working with these majestic giants in a few months time. I’m a bit nervous about it – I won’t lie – probably because of their size and strength, but I won’t give too much energy to that!
If you are concerned that you’ll be the ‘oldest swinger in town’, I wouldn’t worry too much. I have never been on a group holiday where there hasn’t been a large age range of people to mix with and you can always ask the organisers about it before you commit, to make sure it won’t only be 18 year olds on a knees up!
I have promised myself that I will bite the bullet and do a solo holiday – probably next year – but it will be a beach one and somewhere where people speak English, to break myself in slowly! I’m hoping it will help get my confidence up to plan solo travels in the future, but I’m in no great rush. I love group breaks and can’t think of an immediate reason not to carry on as I have for the foreseeable future.