Daniel Brown shares five of his best tips for the adventurous lone traveller. If you’re heading off on a solo journey soon, read on. Here we cover trip planning, keeping your important documents and valuables safe, battery power and tech, dining solo and more…
Even though the trend of solo travelling is becoming more popular, it is agreeable that venturing alone without a companion is daunting. Luckily, there are clever tricks anyone yearning to be a lone traveller can make use of to feel more comfortable along the way.
I believe everyone can benefit from trying on the ‘lone traveller’ hat at some point in life.
Many swear that travelling solo can be likened to experiencing religious enlightenment!
Not only are you able to fully rely on your own judgements and ideas, but as a lone traveller, you can do whatever you please all throughout your journey.
A pretty liberating thought!
Of course, with all the freedoms of being a lone traveller, come the drawbacks. Some of these, concern safety and overall wellbeing.
To make things easier, following are my practical tips which will empower you to book your solo trip.
You might also enjoy our feature in Get it Magazine on how to choose your own solo adventure, including interviews with two of our fave bloggers. Read it here
The very first tip after you have decided to venture out solo, is to remember to take some time and extra effort to plan the whole trip as thoroughly as possible.
Spontaneous travel is great, but when a co-pilot is not there to help you out, you will want to have a plan to fall back on.
Make a list of all the must-have items you cannot travel without. But remember, you’ll need to pack light. Heavy bags and luggage will slow you down, and it may be uncomfortable to carry extra through a crowded airport or bus station.
Next, double check the bookings, such as the taxi, the means of transportation and accommodation.
Something I was taught is to try and memorise maps as accurately as possible. It’s helpful so you don’t have to be reading a map in public (potentially looking lost), or if Google Maps fails, as sometimes it does.
Plan, book, and get ready for the time of your life. You inevitably make friends, whether you’re heading off on long term travel, a wellbeing retreat or city tours.
Make copies of your documents
The most important thing you should bring with you when travelling is a case which contains all your personal documents. These will include your passport and photo ID. It is certain that there is nothing as stressful as getting your documents lost or stolen.
To make sure that your most important documents are safe and easily accessible, it is recommended to scan them before leaving home. The best way to do this is to make copies and store them online, for example, in Dropbox. Make sure your connections are safe though. In another article we talk about using a VPN to make sure your privacy is protected when travelling, surfing the web and accessing personal files.
If you know where document back-ups are, you can rest assured that in the worst-case, there is a quick solution to save the day.
It’s important to invest in quality equipment to keep you connected and safe on your journey. Don’t forget local power adaptors for the places your’e visiting, a portable WiFi hub can be helpful, and back-up battery power is essential.
A new favourite of ours is the slim and sleek Zippo HeatBank that doubles as a hand warmer in cold weather. Pretty neat, and lasts for ages (choose three or six hour packs).
Keep your valuables safe
Another common fear when travelling alone is getting your belongings stolen. No one can fully relax and enjoy time swimming, for example, without letting go of the fear that a stranger will slip away with your personal possessions.
You could carry with you quality waterproof containers that can go into water. These double as food containers when you’re travelling and saving on buying out all the time. Alternatively, you can leave your money and valuables in the hotel room, but use a safety deposit box if possible.
With hotels, it is important to take extra precautions. It is not uncommon for things to be lost even when they are in the drawers, seemingly safe. A smart tip to ward off thieves from your room is to hang up a “do not disturb” sign after leaving your room.
Coming to London? You might be interested in the chic but great value Point A Hotel in Shoreditch. Take a look at our review
Also, by leaving the television turned on, anyone is able to trick potential thieves into thinking that you have not left in the first place.
The best bet to keep your money and fancy jewellery safe is to only carry enough money with you for food, taxi, accommodation and tours. Leave all the luxurious bling-bling behind.
As a matter of fact, it is best to not put on fancy necklaces, rings and earrings. Don’t attract unnecessary attention – better safe than sorry.
Do not be afraid of solo dining
Many people are anxious to dine alone. It’s common to feel like sitting solo in a restaurant makes you seem desperate or ‘sad’. But, it’s not uncommon to witness people sitting by themselves, enjoying a coffee or a meal and reading a book.
So, let go of the irrational fear and embrace solo dining! If it is too uncomfortable to go to a fancy dinner, consider a smaller coffee place or coworking cafe and opt for a counter seat or a seat at the bar.
To keep yourself occupied, take some reading materials with you or maybe a laptop to do some research about the local must-see things.
All in all, travelling alone can be a truly empowering and a unique experience. At the end of your trip, you will certainly feel like a changed person full of new experiences and interesting stories.
We’d love to hear your stories and tips – drop us a line in the comments below.
Guest post by Daniel Brown, image by Levi Bare
Flavia Munn is a London-based health journalist and yoga teacher, and friend of travellivelearn.com. Last year she sought affordable Yoga retreats and found her self on an adventure to Turkey.
If you’ve ever thought of combining international travel with the chance to further your creative or spiritual interests, then read on for Flavia’s best tips and details on why you need to do a yoga retreat in Turkey…
When did you travel?
During May (2015) for seven days.
Affordable Yoga retreats: why Turkey?
Life had been really busy and I knew from past experience that this kind of break away was exactly what I needed to reset and relax.
Most people probably decide on a holiday based on destinations they want to visit, but with yoga retreats I think it’s fair to say many students base the destination decision on what kind of yoga they want to practice and with which teacher.
I booked my trip through Free Spirit Yoga because I had heard many good things about the company. I made my final decision based on the description of the teachers who I carefully cyber-stalked (‘researched’) beforehand.
The teachers were Zoe Martin and Gary Ward, of Yoga Leicester who are inspired by the teachings of the legendary T. Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V Desikachar.
They also brought their very sweet baby daughter along, who entertained everyone at mealtimes! I liked the description of Gary and Zoe’s yoga on the Free Spirit and their own website, particularly their emphasis on yoga’s therapeutic qualities and working with movement, breath and sound. I thought they looked like kind, friendly people – a warm smile can be a deal-clincher when deciding who to spend a retreat with, particularly when travelling alone. I also liked the idea of having two different but complementary teachers.
Where exactly did you go?
The retreat was based at Grenadine in Dalyan, about an hour or so drive from Dalaman airport (about a four-hour flight from London Stansted).
Grenadine Lodge is situated on the outskirts of the small town of Dalyan and within a conservation area. Photos simply do not do the location justice. It really is peace and paradise on earth! Imagine waking up to the sounds of nature (OK, sometimes the birds were interspersed with a dog barking but not an aggressive one). Then you wander across the dewy lawn to one of the two yoga shalas (or huts) for an hour and a half’s yoga – a more energetic style taught by Gary in the morning – before a traditional sweet and savoury Turkish breakfast, eaten beside the pool which is the focal point of the garden.
Next up is the highly stressful decision of what to do with the rest of the day – a lounge beside the pool ordering fresh salads, ice creams and juices; or a 15 to 20 minute walk into town to the shops and market and where you can catch a river boat to the Iztutu turtle beach. Or you could have a hamman, a traditional Turkish bath, which includes a good scrubbing.
For those who have never been to a yoga retreat before, what’s on the itinerary?
How much yoga you do on a retreat is entirely up to you. Don’t feel you can’t come as you don’t think you’ll be able to do two classes a day (which can mean three or four hours of yoga a day).
The yoga is at both ends of the day – before breakfast and before dinner. Gary’s morning class was energetic while Zoe’s evening one was soulful. They both were on the same theme of that day, based on the chakra system. The body’s seven chakras – or energy centres – is a common and effective theme for retreats.
How you spend the time in between is entirely up to you. There are many options for group trips, be that to a hamman bath or the twelve island boat trip, or a massage or other holistic treatments in the solitude of Grenadine Lodge (all very reasonably priced).
Want more on wellbeing travel? You might like to read about how to book a wellness or creative retreat🧘♀️
Personal highlights from this retreat?
The location was divine and the entire group was friendly and funny. In fact, I spent many times laughing to tears! More seriously, it was an incredibly supportive environment and while Zoe and Gary were also on hand for anyone who needed to talk, the amazing staff at Grenadine would literally sort out anything you desired.
The yoga, of course too. It was a different approach for me and I loved it.
The twelve islands boat trip was stunning. We had a boat to ourselves and we could jump into the sea for a cooling swim, and had delicious barbecued food on board.
One big lesson you came away with from this particular trip?
Suspend your judgement. I was a bit uncertain when I saw most of the group were of quite different ages to me and many knew each other from Leicester, but I put that aside and I was right to do so as they were so much fun and incredibly welcoming, warm people.
How many retreats have you been on?
This was my third yoga retreat. Previously, I’ve booked through Yogatraveller and have been to Morocco and Gozo (Malta) with them. I chose the first trip to Gozo based on their website and emails I’d exchanged with Michael Moroney, who runs the business with his yoga teacher wife Michelle. He was very helpful and put at rest any apprehension about travelling alone.
What tips do you have for people who are interested in seeking creative, yoga and/or meditative experiences around the world?
Do your research and ask questions – this gives you an idea of the kind of people who run the retreat and whether it’s for you or not.
I’ve recently booked two retreat centres in India based solely on Tripadvisor and other review sites, and my email exchanges with the teachers who run them.
As a yoga teacher, why do you think retreats are a good idea?
They give you a chance to try something different. I never go on a retreat with a teacher I already practice at home with – no offence to them but I like to use retreats to try a different teacher and approach.
Retreats give you the time and space to explore your practice, learn and develop in a supportive, relaxed environment. I’d attend a retreat three or four times a year if I could (work and finances permitting).
Top three essential items required for a trip to Turkey?
Mosquito repellent, sun cream and a good camera.
What’s next on the travel bucket-list for Flavia Munn?
At the end of March I’m off to southern India for six weeks. I’m very excited about this! It will include two yoga retreats – one in Goa and another in Kerala. In between these, I’ll be cycling around the region including stopping a couple of days in Mysore, which is the yoga capital of India and the home of ashtanga which was taught by Sri Pattabhis Jois until his death in 2009.
I’ll be writing about my experiences on my website flaviamunn.com – do check it out and let me know what you think!
Your advice for a first-timer who is keen to try a yoga retreat but tentative because they feel inexperienced?
Just go for it! You won’t regret it. You will only wish you had done it sooner. I’ve only ever met lovely, friendly people on retreats and had truly amazing life-changing experiences.
Would you recommend this experience in Turkey, and why?
Definitely! The yoga was suitable for all – those with no experience, plenty still for the more experienced and a safe and supportive environment for people looking personal development or healing.
Where can we find you online?
My website and blog is flaviamunn.com and I’m @flavers on Twitter.
Lorraine Dawson decided to learn Spanish a few years ago, after harbouring a desire to do so for many years, but simply never having enough time to begin.
She didn’t let living on the Gold Coast in Australia deter her, and went about finding classes and tutors who could enlighten her on how to learn a language at any age.
Last year Lorraine finally had the chance to put her skills to the test on a visit to Barcelona.
We think she is a wonderful example of someone who overcame fears and challenges of learning a new language, particularly as a mature student, so we have asked her some questions on how she did it, what she’s up to now and her advice for others who might like to try…
How to learn a language at any age
Why did you choose Spanish as the language to learn?
Four years ago (2012), after being retired for six years, and at the age of sixty eight, I looked up the U3A (University of the Third Age) website to see what courses were on offer, and to my delight, ‘Learning Spanish’ was one of them, so I decided to enrol.
I had been misinformed about Spanish being the easiest language to learn, which is why I chose it! I actually never had any specific language in mind.
When did you start studying?
When I turned 68 I decided it was time to stop procrastinating and enrol. Signing on for my first Spanish course was an achievement in itself. To say I was a little nervous and anxious would be an understatement.
Our teacher was a Spanish-speaking lady called Trinidad, who comes from the Canary Islands. There were about fifteen people in the class, twelve of whom had already been studying for a year or two, and some already knew another language, apart from English. There were three of us who were beginners.
I would be lying if I said I found it easy to start with. We had typed sheets from which we worked, and at first I didn’t know where I was. For the first year I felt embarrassed that I could not answer the questions or translate the reading, which was in Spanish.
This was compounded by the fact that except for the beginners, everybody else could. I realise I had unrealistic expectations about how quickly I might grasp the language, but that is how it was. It was hard. One of the ladies who started with me dropped out after a few weeks, and the other one dropped out of the class after the first year.
Can you explain a little about the steps you’ve taken through the process of learning Spanish?
I went for one hour a week, and we did not go in the school holidays. We had homework. The first year was the hardest.
The second year was better. Our teacher went overseas for four months, and did not continue teaching at U3A. She decided to teach the class at her home, and we were separated into an intermediate class, of which there were three of us, and an advanced class.
The two ladies in my class have sons who live in Spain, and had married Spanish girls, so they decided to learn Spanish to be able to converse with their daughter-in-law and their families.
I progressed much better in the second year.
Once we were separated into an intermediate class where there were just the three of us, I felt more comfortable being with people who were on a similar level to me in the learning process.
Almost all of the people in the two classes were retired school teachers, whereas I had left school at fifteen. I would forget what a “conjunction” was, but I just asked to be told again, whereas the retired teachers didn’t forget these sort of things.
What did you gain out of actually having the chance to be immersed in the language in Barcelona in 2015?
I went to Spain with my son for five days and I made sure every day that I was there that I spoke Spanish as much as I possibly could, even if it was just asking for a cup of te con leche, por favor (tea with milk please). It was such fun.
When I arrived at the hotel, I informed the staff on reception that I was learning Spanish, and that I would be attempting to speak to them in their language, and would they please correct me when I was wrong.
They found this quite amusing, and were happy to oblige. My son was impressed with how well I was doing in learning Spanish. Being amongst the Spanish people inspired me to want express myself in their language while I was there, and I found they really appreciated the fact I was making the effort.
I won’t insult your intelligence by saying it is easy to learn a language at any age or at my age, but I have gained so much from trying. I have made it a personal challenge.
I keep telling myself, “You can do this, I AM doing this, and I will not let it get the better of me.” I am most determined about it. You don’t always remember what you have learnt, but that is OK, other people don’t either.
What are your best tips on how to learn a language at any age, for anyone keen to get started this year?
I would highly recommend to anyone considering learning a second language, to go for it. It really gives you quite a boost when you see that you are capable of doing it.
Don’t worry if it seems hard and you think you will never get it. It does get easier with time! If you are a senior like me, I am sure it helps with your memory, and what an achievement that you are getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Just do it.
What do you think you personally have gained from pursuing the learning of a language, despite not travelling all the time?
I have made wonderful friends from the people in my class, especially my Spanish teacher, who now teaches me how to cook Spanish dishes, and always brings to dinner a bottle of Sangria which she has made.
The class have had social outings to restaurants where Spanish is spoken, and we have people from Spanish speaking countries come to our class to converse with us. I find it all such fun, and we have a lot of laughs, especially at our mistakes. Just get involved and you will get so much out of it.
Meet more of our travelling friends: why not take a wellness trip to Turkey, or find out what it’s like living as an expat in Serbia.
How to learn a language at any age – start here
If you’re reading this then you can get started online now. You could try:
Signing up for a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) – see what’s on offer at Future Learn, iVersity, edX or Coursera – it’s free!
Top apps to help you learn on the go include Duolingo, Babbel, MindSnacks, Basuu, and Memrise.
A helpful places to start on working out the best way to learn Spanish for you is featured here on hobbyhelp.com
Or see if any of this software is helpful – here’s a recent guide compiled by PCmag.com.
Do you have a question or comment? Drop us a line in the space below, or on Facebook or Twitter.
…11 top tips on how to travel the world, and all you need to know about tech, travel and clean underwear on the road! Discover more with world-explorers, Ryan Morgan and Denyka Roberson
This past Christmas, Sarah and I decided to visit the coolest city on the Nordic block, Copenhagen. The Danish capital is a clean and dynamic metropolitan city infused with modern architecture, stunning palaces, narrow streets, canals and beautiful homes.
To make our Christmas experience in Copenhagen even more exciting and homely, we were joined by my young cousin, Ryan and his fiancée, Denyka, who for the better part of 11 months have been travelling the world, bouncing from one country to the next, across South East Asia, America, Canada, Europe and the UK.
The last time Sarah and I were experimenting on how to travel the world in a similar capacity, we didn’t have the luxury of staying in an Airbnb, or utilising the over-abundance of apps and devices available to locate economical accommodation and flights, compare currencies, and more importantly, make the overall organisation of travel less stressful.
Over a few festive drinks, (at an Airbnb, of course), we had a chat to Ryan and Denyka about all they had learned on the road, since packing up in Australia last January (2015).
Here’s the cream of what we learned from our pair of innovative, adventuring millennials.
How to travel the world – 11 top tips with Ryan Morgan and Denyka Roberson
The magic number of underwear to carry is 10! Yep, while this is an amusing piece of advice (which was passed onto them on Facebook by another world-explorer before they travelled), they’ve tried, tested and found it to be true. You can live in one pair of jeans for a week but this rule doesn’t apply to underwear, and this number keeps you going for a few days, even when it’s a challenge to get your washing done.
Over 90 per cent of their travels (and when friends have not been able to host), they’ve chosen to stay in an Airbnb – an accommodation brand name that, as travellers know well, has really come to the forefront of the industry over the past year or so. They say the quality, variety, location and price of accommodation Airbnb offers is incomparable. Two of their favourite Airbnb accommodations were in Iceland, and both offered experience as well as a roof over their heads.
One was an old van converted into a room with a double bed and a very warm heater. The scenery was exquisite, and they were positioned uniquely in front of snow-capped mountains with stunning views of the Icelandic wilderness. The other, a barn converted into comfortable accommodation set right in the middle of an Iceland horse farm. The host openly welcomed guests to feed and play with the beautiful animals, all included in the standard price of the listing.
Airbnb is based on trust and reviews. Guests and hosts are both reviewed by one another. Treat the host’s home with the utmost respect, leave it clean (like you hopefully would your own space) and communicate openly and honestly. A bad review could prevent you being invited to stay with an Airbnb in the future.
For booking the cheapest mode of transportation with the best rates they like Skyscanner, Google Flights and Rome 2 Rio.
Skyscanner – an airline comparison site featuring plenty of airlines around the world, some you probably have never heard of. Skyscanner brings them all together on one convenient space and allows you to compare based on the most important factor, price.
Google Flights – another airline comparison site with a very helpful, unique feature which allows you to view the prices of nearby cities of the region you are flying to. A slight variation in your journey can help you save hundreds, or maybe thousands of dollars off the cost of your next trip.
Rome2Rio – used to search for all types of transport; buses, trains, car rental and flights. Rome2Rio makes suggestions like flying from Dublin to Bristol then catching a bus to Cardiff which was three times cheaper than flying direct Dublin to Cardiff!
Communication and Technology
Before heading off on their grand adventure, Ryan and Denyka chose to arm themselves with two different top-end smartphones (Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G3). They decided on this route so that, for example, they could get a better response in situations where one phone’s WiFi works and the other doesn’t; the cameras work in different ways in varying situations.
Also, sometimes one phone will attract a better SIM card deal around the world than the other, or provide technical compatibility that another device cannot. All in all, this choice has helped with cost-efficiency, security, communication and image/video capture.
Ryan and Denyka will not live (or travel!) without access to cloud storage. At around $10 a month, they have unlimited Dropbox storage to safely backup everything – documents, photos, video – to the cloud. Their advice is to plan for all of your belongings to be stolen e.g. passports, visas, personal documents and photos – that’s worst case scenario. If you’re fine to access it via any computer in the world, then your worries are greatly alleviated.
Don’t get complacent about password-protecting your devices and software. They’ve had personal experience at being surprised about what thieves can gather out of the smallest bit of information that can be garnered from anything from your text messages to emails and logins. If it has the ability to be secured, lock it up!
On the other side of this, Denyka and Ryan have found that it’s really easy to ping locations back to family using functions on apps like Google Hangouts, Viber and Whatsapp. This is a terrific idea, we think, because when you’re travelling around a country indefinitely and with no set plans, it’s important that someone at a home base has a good idea where you have been and where you are. This goes beyond just checking-in on Facebook!
Making friends on the road
Their top tip? Join a local pub crawl everywhere you go! This surprised me at first, but I realised it makes total sense, because mostly people joining in are fellow travellers and soon-to-be international friends. Also, don’t be afraid to go and talk to people when you are out, because let’s face it, most people are lovely once you get chatting. They have made a lot of friends joking about aeroplane legroom, suggesting ride-shares, and even asking locals on the streets for recommendations on what to do in their hometown.
It’s not just for business people! Start and maintain WhatsApp groups as you travel, and share photos with your new friends (but do this privately, out of courtesy).
Because Ryan and Denyka have cleverly stayed in touch on Whatsapp (and also Facebook), they’ve been invited to stay in exotic places around the globe. Their new friends love seeing them again, and are proud to showcase their homeland to this friendly pair of Aussies.
They have actually based travel destinations solely on catching up with new friends they have met on the road. One thing they are looking forward to most on returning home to Australia is having their international mates come and visit.
They reminded us to prioritise what you need, and organise important belongings into one bag; that is, toiletries, clothes for the day or week. Keep your most-needed belongings at the top. Also, they split their belongings so that if a bag was to go missing, they both still have some clothes and essentials to share. Pack light, you do not need to travel with five pairs of jeans.
Over the past year, the contents of their bags has completely changed – from singlets and shorts in South East Asia, to warm coats and jeans in Europe. Remember, it’s better to pack light than regretfully over-pack it. If you desperately need something in particular, never fear, if you can purchase it during your travels.
Staying in touch
Denyka and Ryan use Facebook to search for people who live in places they are planning to visit, and have found it to be a really easy way to find friends who are either there when they’re visiting, or friends who have just been and who can share travel tips.
After all this talk about tech, what are their must-have apps (aside from Airbnb, Whatsapp and Dropbox, as mentioned above) for on the road?
1. Google Maps – Ryan and Denyka use this app religiously as it provides detailed information about an area, as well as specific directions from one location to another. Important when trying to find an Airbnb in an unfamiliar city. Thankfully the app also offers aerial and street views of properties. How many arguments do you think this prevents!
2. Maps.Me – the offline equivalent of Google Maps. Although nowhere near as many features, it will still get you back to your accommodation in a pinch. Country maps are downloaded while on a WiFi connection, to be used later while offline.
3. XE Currency – allows comparison and conversion of currencies on-the-go. They found this helpful particularly when purchasing groceries, souvenirs and the odd beverage, and is critical when you’re sticking to a budget.
4. Uber – connects drivers with passengers directly, unlike hailing a taxi or booking through a centralised service. The pair find Uber to be significantly more economical than a taxi. Also, the app tells you how many cars are in your area, and the cheapest, fastest route to a destination.
5. Tripomatic – allows users to choose attractions they want to see and creates a day-by-day itinerary for any journey. Travel books are too heavy to carry, this app is the perfect replacement.
Sarah and I collected magnets of our favourite destinations around the world. Ryan and Denyka’s tradition is a little more physical – they take photos of themselves doing handstands in front of iconic landmarks and buildings!
If you’ve found this helpful, have a tip or story to share, please let us know in the comments below.
Read about our Christmas in Copenhagen here