It all started when I realised that I was never going to go if I waited for someone to go with me. A casual five solo trips later and I’ve not only visited some of the most stunning countries in the world, but also learned a thing or two about myself on the journey.
When I first moved to Dubai from the UK, I promised myself that I would use it as an opportunity to explore this part of the world. My goal? To visit a minimum of four new countries a year. Unfortunately, most of my friends take one annual holiday - crushed in amongst their 15 trips home, that is - which makes it almost impossible to organise trips with pals. So... I brave it on my own.
Two-and-a-half years ago, after doing a grand total of three yoga classes which had been spread across the entire 28 years of my life, I decided to book my first solo trip; a yoga retreat in Goa. I very cleverly opted for the quietest retreat in the whole of India - talk about easing myself in - with absolutely no one for company other than the yoga teacher. I spent the first three days crying. I’d never spent so much time alone and it was pretty intense. Needless to say, I was over the moon when confronted with another human being who joined the retreat on day four.
After the retreat, I headed down to Agonda to a little beach-hut hotel that I’d booked for two nights. This was when it really sank in that I was flying solo. On a retreat, your entire day and any excursions are pre-planned, and you’ll spend meal times with other people there or with the folk running it. When you’re on your own on a normal holiday, you have to figure things out for yourself.
On my first day in Agonda, it took me over 6 hours to build up the courage to go and eat at a restaurant I’d read about and was desperate to go to. I was ready to eat my arm by the time I got there. Usually, nothing gets in the way of me and food, but as stupid as it sounds, dining alone (Pret A Manger doesn’t count) for the first time was one of the most anxiety-inducing things I’d ever done.
When I got back from Goa, I had a newfound inner confidence. If I could eat a meal by myself in a restaurant, I could ruddy well take on the world, couldn't I? My first solo adventure taught me that I could not only dine alone, but I could just be alone - and that it was ok. In an age where we’re constantly ‘connected’ and every man and his dog is suffering from constant FOMO, it was an odd but exhilarating feeling.
My second solo trip was the most memorable of all. Jordan showed me the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen and gave me a proper appreciation for travel. I felt so grateful just to be there. Two days in and I was dining in caves with men who had lived in them just a few years earlier. On day three, I found myself climbing up Burdah Arch in Wadi Rum... granted, I wished I’d gone to the gym a few times beforehand and maybe done a hike or two to prepare myself, but by the time I got to the top I couldn’t believe that I was there, by myself, in this insanely beautiful country, pushing myself out of my comfort zone in every way possible.
Solo trip number three took me to Bangkok. For this getaway, I decided to book a hostel to give myself a better chance of meeting fellow lone travellers. Upon arrival, I quickly realised that I was only the second-oldest person in the entire hostel and soon learned that these were some of the bravest, most adventurous and open-minded people I’d ever meet. They were the kind of people I wish I’d been more like when I was 21; the sort who think "sod it", quit their job or leave university and head off by themselves to see the world. They had an infectious energy and enthusiasm for life that I couldn’t help but admire.
4. Sri Lanka
In March, after the death of a close friend, I found the self-help books weren’t working and decided I needed some proper time out, so I booked an intense retreat in Sri Lanka. I’d read dozens of reviews online about how the monks and meditation at this particular place had changed so many people’s lives and - being a bit of a weirdo - I have a strange obsession with monks. For me, that made it the obvious choice. Five days of yoga sessions, mediation with monks, silent walks, massages, chakra balancing and lots of other ‘healing’ helped get me in a clearer state of mind to be able to come to terms with losing a friend.
That brings me to my last solo trip just last month, Zanzibar - the island that showed me beautiful untouched turquoise shades of the Indian Ocean while giving me a history lesson. I spent my time seeking out hideaways in the beautiful hotel I was staying in and got through three brilliant books while hanging in hammocks tucked away in the gardens. For a slap back to reality and some much-needed perspective, I visited Stone Town and learned about one of the world’s last open slave markets, promptly leading to me turning into a complete mess whilst standing in the middle of a church that was formerly used as a slavery auction site.
Travelling alone is always a scary experience. Most of the time, it’s not even your safety you’re worried about, it’s simple things like spending meal times alone or wondering if you'll be judged for ordering an entire bottle of bubbles to yourself. But I refuse to let the fact that my friends might not be free stop me from travelling. My solo adventures have helped me in so many ways; I can solve problems like no other, can chat to pretty much anyone, I’m braver now than I’ve ever been and one of the most independent people I know... all because I forced myself out of my comfort zone, brushed all the anxiety and fear aside and just cracked on.
Photos: iStock and Instagram