Travel can be an exciting prospect, but I wonder how many of us have (or are willing to) dive in head first and travel around the world solo?
Since my recent layover in Paris, this thought has been playing on my mind. I didn’t exactly travel to Paris alone, but rather with 24 crew just like me, seeing as the Airbus is huge and there is practically an army of us on each flight! The layover, however, was a different story. I arranged to meet up with some other girls from the UK. They were running a bit late. Red flag number one for the day. After they arrived, the unanimous decision was to catch a taxi. Red flag number two for the day. I love, love, LOVE to catch public transport on my layovers (or even on holidays, much to James’ disgust). It is often the cheaper option, and whilst it takes a bit longer, it is the best way to immerse oneself in a new culture and country, to do it like the locals do! After we arrived in the city (and I very reluctantly parted with 15 or so Euros) it was time for some breakfast.
Again, I wanted to meander the streets of Paris and journey far, far away from all of the famous land marks as possible in order to feast on a true Parisian petit dejeuner. I had envisaged croissants, a chocolat chaude and a glass of orange juice with fresh jams and gorgeous butter. My traveling companions were feeling more like a bacon and egg Mcmuffin or similar. Don’t get me wrong, I like the odd Maccas run after a big night, but we were in PARIS! The fact that they wanted eggs made me want to cry! So after I found us a cafe where no one spoke English (this is when you know somewhere is good) and we had to rely on my long abandoned French, I was satisfied. Until they wanted to sit inside the cafe because they felt the weather was too cold. In Paris, in SUMMER! Perhaps living in Dubai has softened us all, and anything below 20 degrees is arctic, but I was wearing the least amount of clothing and could have happily sat on the pavement enjoying the cool breeze, something we are so often deprived of, as we live in the Middle East after all.
We went back to the Eiffel tower where they wanted to go up to the viewing deck and take in the views. Seeing as our allowance wasn’t too extravagant, I decided to give it a miss and we went our separate ways, after all the little red flags that had popped up, I figured it would be best to journey out on my own..after all there would be no one to please except myself! So here are my tips for travelling and exploring solo;
1. Take the Plunge
This was the best decision I had made in a long time. After I walked away by myself, the sun came out and I wandered around near the Eiffel Tower just taking photos and soaking it all in. It was kind of nerve wracking at first, but it was worth it. The best part about asking fellow tourists to take pictures is that you will most likely never see them again, and so it doesn’t matter if you pose a bit here and there!
2. Be Prepared
As per my Rome post, it’s obvious that I’m not the best map reader, and when it comes to directions sometimes my guesses are a bit way-off. Ok a lot way off. But as long as you have a map, a calm mind and a bit of patience, there is nothing that asking a few locals won’t fix! The best place to get free maps from is obviously your hotel or hostel. If this is not an option for you, (like me, I forgot to grab a map before we left) then I recommend getting one off the Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour Stands (or on the bus itself) they are free, and even if you decide not to participate in the tour, the map is yours to keep!
3. Ask Questions
One of my weaknesses whilst travelling is perhaps not asking as many questions as I should. Information booths are there to be used!! Locals usually don’t mind answering stupid questions if you smile and look genuine. Being a girl usually helps, too 😉
4. Keep Calm!
After walking for a few minutes (ok 30) in the direction I thought that was towards Notre Dame, I realised that perhaps I didn’t exactly know where I was going after all. I stopped into a bistro, had a Croque Monsieur and asked the owner for directions. It turned out I was right around the corner, but I was starving and starting to get stressed, so the food and wifi were a welcome break for me to recharge before navigating the metro back to the hotel again. As it turned out, I bought a ticket, found the platform…and boarded the wrong train. Luckily, I realised before it was too late, so I simply hopped off, and hopped back onto the next one after consulting the board on the platform. The good thing about Europe is that most of the metro systems are easy to work out (if I can work them out then anyone can!)
5. Trust Yourself
Be your own best friend for a day, or a couple. Talk to yourself, listen to music, treat yourself. Trust your gut, if you don’t feel you should go down that deserted alleyway, then it’s probably not the best idea! Learn to listen to your body and what you want. If it’s one thing I’ve learnt from this job; if you’re hungry, EAT! If you feel tired, have a nap! Your body is the only place to live, so you should probably take care of it. I believe in being healthy and balanced, but I have a massive sweet tooth too. Just like food, travel is about balance. Do toursity things, see monuments…but also stop, people watch, soak up the atmosphere, the sights, smells and (of course) tastes of the new place you’re in! Life is short and precious and so why shouldn’t we?
I hope these tips will help/ inspire anyone who is thinking of travelling alone . The next time that I have days off, and no one is home or around, I think I will try these out again too! Happy wandering! xx