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Leenane (Ireland)_15June 2014_feature

Going Solo…like a boss

Tenele Conway

Being a travel agent I come into contact with dozens of new people every week.

As anyone who has been in a customer service role knows, the public can make you laugh and they can make you want to cry and on the worst days they can make you question your entire existence. But every now and then you come across a person that you feel a real connection with, someone who inspires you and reminds you what you most love about your job. Recently I met one of those people, her name is Janet and her solo trip to far eastern Russia reminded me why I am a travel agent.

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

Janet only started travelling four years ago. Her first big trip to Peru and the Galapagos in 2013 was the tipping point for her future travels. Janet had broken the seal and there was no going back from that point. She followed up South America the following year with back to back trips, a walking holiday in Ireland and an expedition cruise to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica with Christmas spent at Iguazu Falls. In 2015 Janet explored well off the beaten tourist trail in Madagascar with a stopover in Thailand. 2016 saw Janet on another expedition cruise this time in the New Zealand sub-antarctic.

Salisbury Plain (South Georgia)

Salisbury Plain (South Georgia)

This was followed by the trip that brought Janet and myself together, only a few months ago and mentioned above, an expedition cruise of far eastern Russia and the arctic circle and before she even set foot on the plane for that trip she had already booked her 2018 trip to Miami and Cuba and well as a trip for later in 2018 that will see her cycling in Northern Thailand. These major trips have been interspersed with trips to Paris, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Some for work, some for pleasure and all completely solo.

SO WHAT?

Okay, so I hear you thinking, ‘what makes Janet so special? Lots of people travel!’ When you get down to it there isn’t anything special about Janet (sorry Janet). Yet here she is, on the plus side of fifty doing what many women wouldn’t dream of doing.

She goes out into the world, on her own and she lets it get under her skin. You only have to talk to Janet for ten minutes to know that travel has changed her, she has seen some of the most remote places on earth, she has eaten whale meat with the Inuit, she has observed lonely icebergs adrift in endless oceans, she has photographed some of the rarest animals on the planet and she has done it all without someone to hold her hand.

Breaching humpback (Chechekuyyn Strait)

Breaching humpback (Chechekuyyn Strait)

This may not seem special to some, this is 2017 not the 1920’s after all. The bras were burnt a long time ago and women no longer need permission or to be chaperoned. Yet despite the modern age, we live in Janet is an anomaly. In her own words, Janet states that “I don’t think that solo travel is for everyone and I have friends who I know wouldn’t contemplate it in a million years…and think I am a bit odd for heading off on my own!” Her words ring true of my experiences. With the hundreds of travellers I meet every year and the many thousand I have met over my career I rarely encounter solo female travellers, less than a handful a year.

I have however met many women who delay adventure hoping to find the right travelling partner, those who stop travelling when their husbands die and a surprising number of women who won’t even go to the movies alone. For Janet and other bold female adventurers out there, there is no place too remote, too hard to get to, no experience beyond her physical limits and being female and over fifty is no excuse to watch the world from the couch, travelling partner or not and I guess that does make Janet special.

She has opened the door, the one that leads to a world of possibilities and she holds the key that helps her put fear and insecurity aside to go out into the world alone and I want to share with you the secrets that make adventure closure than you may think.

How to have a solo trip of a lifetime

Define your travel style

This is a big one. Just because you don’t have a travelling partner doesn’t mean you have to be the next Amelia Earhart (we all know how that ended). Janet and I share a passion for small group travel. Janet has these thoughts on small group adventure travel “ I like organised, small group travel (such as the Galapagos and Madagascar holidays where there were about a dozen in the group and a fantastic knowledgeable guide to accompany us); organised walking – such as the holiday in Ireland where accommodation (B&B) was all laid out and bags were transported and you were just issued with a map and left to walk as quickly or as slowly as you liked to your daily destination, and expedition cruises where the absolute maximum number of passengers is less than 100.

So, in a sense, although I may start out leaving home on my home, I am inadvertently accompanied on the actual holiday by a group of previously unknown, but like-minded travel companions – and this I enjoy because you can share experiences, feel quite safe, know that itineraries/accommodation etc are all taken care of and also know that someone has planned the travel to maximise the best things to see and do – and often permit you entry to places that the average tourist may not have access to or even know about”. Small group travel is just one option for solo travellers, I would recommend talking to a good travel agent to find out all of your options.

Peru

Peru

Find your motivation for travel

As individuals, we all have different motivations and reasons for travel. Finding and prioritising yours will be the key to having fulfilling travel experiences. This is where being a solo traveller is a huge advantage. You can travel solely to satisfy your whims. Janet has found her motivations “I live a solo lifestyle when I’m at home so solo travel is just an extension of how I like things to be; and I feel very comfortable about it. The sorts of trips I prefer, and hence seek out, are nature/wildlife ones, I like to soak up the atmosphere of a country, both its landscape and its culture away from the beaten track and crowds of people.

Accept doubt and move beyond

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Fears and doubts are a part of life. There was a time in my life that I was taking multiple international trips per year and yet I was still getting nervous in the lead up. It is normal to have fears but it is not letting those fears stop you that is the key to being a bold adventurer. Hear them and then shelve them, in general, they aren’t helpful and they will hold you back if you let them fester. I recommend accepting fear as a part of the journey, it may be a little macabre to say it but a little fear can often remind you that you really are alive and that can’t be all bad.

Embrace your solo-self

It can be daunting to be alone, without a close companion to share your experiences it is easy to feel adrift but trust me, the more you do it the more you will come to appreciate your own company…and there will be a whole lot less arguments about directions along the way. You might even surprise yourself, the first time I boarded a plane, completely solo I felt nothing but empowerment and true freedom, I know Janet feels the same and guess what, you might too but you will never know till you step out there, into the world, and give it a go.

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When it comes to travel a picture can tell you more than words ever can. These images were all taken by Janet on her many adventures and should be enough to inspire even the most trepidatious would-be solo traveller.

All photos: Janet Gorst

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Tenele Conway

Tenele Conway is a veteran of the Canberra Travel industry having worked in retail travel stores around the city for well over decade. Taking full advantage of the perks of the job she has travelled the world primarily at the expense of others and when she isn’t zip lining in Guatemala or cruising the Nile she is bringing together her two passions of world cuisines and travel on her blog www.hungryplanetblog.com. With a cookbook collection worthy of an episode of 'Hoarders' she sees a future as a travelling cookbook author, look out Rick Stein. More about the Author

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