Travelling solo can feel like a scary prospect. Having just returned from travelling solo on my Catalunya cycling holiday, I can vouch for that. I’m not used to travelling alone; I usually have at least my husband with me, if not the children and I’m not good when it comes to meeting new groups of people. What do you do when you’re faced with a group of a people you’ve never met before?
Filled with trepidation and huge excitement, I started packing for five days away from my family – the longest I’ve been away from my husband and my two children (four and eight). The itinerary said ‘pack comfy clothes for cycling’. Having never been to Catalunya before, never mind in September, this didn’t help much. I wasn’t sure of the terrain, the roads, the weather, the bikes we’d be riding or the fitness of the other people who would be travelling with me.
Knowing that others were also going to be on the trip, one of the big things for me was the packing. What if I pack the wrong stuff? What if everyone has amazing gear and I turn up looking totally out of place? So inevitably I ended up stashing my case with the full 15 kg allowance and hoping I had everything I needed for both the cycling, the sight-seeing, the evenings…and for feeling accepted. Silly, I know. Does anyone really care what you’re wearing? Does it really make a difference as to whether they speak to you or not? Of course not, but about to embark on my first solo travel I suddenly felt like I was about to have my first day at a new school and I wanted to fit in.
I expect, even those more experienced in travelling solo confront these kinds of emotions too. Yep, OK, I was a little nervous. Actually, I was more than a little nervous. I didn’t sleep for the two nights before leaving, wondering just what was in store for me on my first cycling trip abroad and worrying about how my son would cope without me. He’s four and has just started school; I thought he’d have a fit when he heard mummy was heading away for nearly a whole week. He didn’t. And of course he coped – without any problems whatsoever! I’ve been abroad with work before but I’ve always been attending conferences where the need to actually converse in any detail with other people has been fairly limited. I’ve mainly listened to speakers and then made some small talk before heading to my room to work and meet deadlines. But my #CatalunyaExperience was different. We were together, outdoors for 14 hours a day…and it was the best fun! So here’s my top tips for travelling solo and meeting up with a bunch of people you’ve never set eyes on before!
Break the Ice
That first moment of saying hello to everyone is always the hardest but throw yourself into it! Don’t be shy. No matter how nervous you’re feeling, put on a brave face, walk in with a huge smile, introduce yourself proudly, shake hands, do the polite cheek kiss thing if that’s what works for you, give a friendly hug…or stick with the smile. Whatever. Everyone is feeling as awkward as each other so be the one to break the ice! What’s the worst that’s going to happen? If you go in for the cheek kiss, you might end up bashing faces, knocking noses, going for the same side…at least you’ll have something to laugh about! It happens to the best of us and it will be something to amuse everyone. If all goes to plan, or even it doesn’t, well, either way, you’ve broken the ice and you can enjoy a big sigh of relief that the first encounter is done!
OK, so I packed enough stuff to last me two weeks. I was only away for five days. I was right on my travel allowance limit but I was definitely covered for all eventualities and I was really glad. I had clothes for the evening, clothes for cycling, clothes for just in case, clothes for swimming, toiletries, make-up, sun lotion, wet wipes (that’s the mum in me), my camera, my mobile phone, my laptop, and every charger possible including power banks. But I forgot one thing! I took the wrong adaptor, which at the time felt like a big ‘faux pas’ as I didn’t realise until it came to digging one out of the bottom of the suitcase that first evening. Then major panic set in! As a blogger, on a press trip, power is kind of essential! So double check which one you need and make sure you take the right adaptor!! Thankfully, the lovely Vicky from the brilliant Vicky Flip Flop Travels had a spare one she kindly lent me for the evening until I could get my hands on a more permanent one. Clothes? Well, yes, I took too many! Half of them didn’t even leave my case, but I had them there all the same!
If you’re meeting up with a group of people you’ve never met before, just remember you’re all different and that’s a good thing! For that very reason you will not stand out like a sore thumb. Be prepared, yes, but most importantly, be you. And smile.
Take clothes that you feel comfortable in, wear what feels right for you for the occasion and you’ll slot right in, in your own lovely way. You’ll all be from different backgrounds, you’ll all have done different things, some of you will be very different indeed, but inevitably you’re all there for one reason. To experience wherever it is you’re travelling to because you want to be there. I was lucky, my fellow solo travellers and I all had a couple of things in common. We’re bloggers (one big conversation starter right there), we enjoy travelling and we like cycling. So look for the common denominators and get stuck in.
Take a Deep Breath, Dive Right In…and Relax
You’re there to enjoy it. My tactic is usually to ask lots of questions. People like to talk about themselves, right? It shows you’re interested in them and if they’ve got anything about them they’ll ask you questions right back. And then before you know it, you’ve got a conversation on your hands! Whoo! Now you’ve probably made a friend or two and you can relax!
Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Fool of Yourself
Look, you might never see these people ever again so if you make a fool of yourself so what? On the other hand you might make a life long friend. What have you got to lose?
Savour the Silence!
It’s inevitable there will be silences at some point. Just because you’re not talking to each other non-stop doesn’t mean everyone hates you. Savour the silence! It doesn’t have to be awkward. Somebody will break it, even if it’s not you. Silence is definitely OK. There’s always people watching to be done! Travel is a time to enjoy a change of scenery, absorb your surroundings and find some space to breathe. Enjoy it!
My #CatalunyaExperience was amazing. I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you later this week. If you can’t bear the wait check out my instagram feed to see some of what I got up to!