Early 2017 I vowed that I would manage to get a trip in that would a) take me further afield than a normal holiday and b) provide an unforgettable experience. Having grown up in the Middle East and already covered most of Africa in my 20’s, I’ve always wanted to visit South America or India. Being realistic, I knew I’d only be able to take 10 days off and with South America needing more time, India it was!
I did all the usual research, chatted to people who have been, tried to remember where they’d suggested and looked into the best places to visit. When thinking about what I wanted from the holiday, I listed the usual: relaxation, bit of beach, good bit of sun, mixed with some hot, smelly, getting down and dirty with the locals. Travelling alone is always a learning curve and looking back, there are totally bits I would tweak, however, with the help of a great travel company my trip 100% ticked all the boxes.
I’m normally organised when it comes to packing and due to the nature of my job, I don’t manage to relax until I am at the airport, safely checked in with a large glass of wine in hand! This is when I finally have time to get excited about the trip ahead!
I had planned for India to be no different, key essentials bought the day before, bag packed and a relaxed, leisurely trip to the airport. But I am going to be honest, this trip could not have been more different: I only realised my flight was on the Saturday rather than the Sunday, one hour before I was due to be at the airport. As you can imagine, mad, hungover panic and tears ensued and I threw anything and everything into a bag and made a mad dash to the airport. I was not the organised, prepared and confident traveller I wanted to be. Lesson learnt, always check the date you fly at least twice in the run up to departure.
After getting over the fact that I was a total idiot for making the fatal error of f**king up my departure day, I then enjoyed the holiday suitcase surprises that almost defined my trip! With no long lightweight trousers, I had to do a local tour of Cochin and the temples in my, best described as, pyjamas which were purchased at Deptford market over 3 years ago and should never be seen in public, mainly because they look like the trousers all the people who have found themselves wear in India. NOT a good look, even if you have found yourself in India. You can see these on Instagram, you’ll instantly agree. I enjoyed a hike, yes a proper 4 hour hike, through the tea plantations in Munar in white trainers which are far from suitable for trekking in, and, on reflection far from suitable for India in general. Looking back, the best packing error was a Nike vest which I wore for a yoga session on the beach, I wouldn’t have minded until the hotel manager asked if I could pose for some snaps for their website. Shoot me, I wanted to die. I wanted to explain that I was deeply sunburnt, or as we call it in my family had a Ham Head, when your face is so pink your head looks like ham. After reluctantly agreeing to be in the pictures, a table with a Swan towel and coconut was placed in the foreground and with hair piled on top of my ham head I diligently posed for what seemed like an endless stream of pictures in which I looked horribly butch and burnt in. The vest is now in the bin, never to be worn again.
The main price I paid for the lack of preparation was only having the 10 songs that you are allocated with your iPhone on my phone. With only a select handful of downloaded podcasts, all of which I have listened to before and no good internet enabling me to extend the limited list. It was these and a total of ten U2 songs which I enjoyed for a 5 hour drive, each way, to the tea plantations and back down and every evening in my room pre dinner. On the drive, the songs almost sedated me into a trance which made me totally, well almost totally immune to the terrifying driving and near misses that made up the drive. Bono, you mean more to me than I ever knew you would!
I was travelling solo for the next 10 days, a thought that was as exciting as it was intimidating. As I enjoyed my glass of wine at the airport I had both sisters on the phone explaining they were there if I needed a chat at any point. With this and a handful of good friends doing the same I was confident about enjoying the next 10 days for what they were meant to be; relaxing, time for myself and taken at a pace I enjoyed. I took with me my trusty trio of books; a Marian Keys, this is always a must, an autobiography, this holiday choice was Steve Jobs and finally a book which a friend recommended called The Husbands Secret. A great read if you’re heading off anytime soon.
The best bit about solo travelling, which I hope doesn’t make me anymore unbearable to work for, live with and be around, is that the entire trip is all done on your time. Bliss! You can enjoy eating, sleeping and moving when it perfectly suits you, no need for discussion or compromise at any point. At no stage on the trip did I feel that I needed someone with me, of course there were moments I would love to have shared with family and friends but at no stage was I lonely, worried or regretting the decision to holiday solo. My decision was almost confirmed when I would also see couples at dinner both sitting on their phones not chatting or looking bored.
Looking back, I am so pleased I braved a solo trip, it is something that I didn’t really think about beforehand and I’m glad I embraced it for what it was. I enjoyed lots of ‘me time’, have great memories and experiences to share and would encourage anyone to head off solo if they have the urge.
Something to note is that the Indians I met were incredibly hospitable, friendly and kind. I want to thank all the people I met for making my trip such a success, perhaps without their kindness and care I wouldn’t have felt so relaxed.
Bring on the next adventure!