Are you worried about travelling on your own and are your fears preventing you from visiting your dream destination? Nottingham-born Jayne Seagrave has written a book that might help you overcome your concerns.
Jayne now lives in Vancouver and travels on her own for business reasons. Her experiences have inspired her to write Time to Take Flight: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Safe Solo Travel.
“I’ve targeted a market of women aged over 45,” Jayne told me. So who is the book designed for? “It could be for a woman who didn’t travel when she was younger because she couldn’t afford it or did not have the opportunity,” says Jayne, adding, “Now they see their sons and daughters trekking off around the world and think ‘I’d like to do that.’ They might have the disposable income to do it now. Perhaps they have a spouse who is reluctant to travel, so they have to go alone.”
Jayne practises what she preaches. She takes separate holidays from her husband because they have different interests, although they do go on breaks together. While Jayne’s husband had been attending a sporting event with his mates, she’d been to Yosemite and a Shakespeare festival. “It doesn’t mean my marriage is on the rocks – we have different ambitions in life,” she says.
Jayne thinks that it is good to indulge in a holiday without the need to compromise. “You don’t necessarily have to be single,” she says. “There’s a whole growth area in spouse-free holidays.” Some would-be solo travellers are put off going abroad because they are worried about safety. “As you get older you get to the stage where you can afford to stay in a hotel with a lock on the door,” she laughs. “And with age comes wisdom. You can read people better. If something feels that it is not right then just move yourself away from that situation. When somebody talks to me in the street at home, I’m so open. I’ll show them the way or I’ll have a conversation with them in a coffee shop.” But she takes a different approach when she’s in unfamiliar surroundings. “If I’m travelling I adopt a persona – I’m almost rude,” she explains.
Jayne says that increasing age means some concerns over hassle are unfounded. “When I was travelling in my 20s in Barcelona, men would pursue me – jeering and harassing me. As a 55-year-old woman walking down Las Ramblas it’s safer. Nobody stops you!”
Jayne has handpicked places that are good for solo female travellers. “The 23 destinations that I focus on are all western cities in North America and Europe. I don’t tell people to go to Bangkok, Karachi or third world countries. These are the places that I have personally visited. This is my experience and why I think you can go without any problems.”
So where would Jayne recommend for someone who wants to experience solo travel overseas?
“Go to Budapest,” she replies. “It’s a western city. It’s relatively well priced. It doesn’t have the huge influx of tourists that you have in Amsterdam. Go for three or four days and see whether you like it. You will. And then you can do another trip.” Further afield, Jayne says Vancouver and Whistler in Canada are also good places to visit on your own. “Most cities are safe as long as you don’t hang out a long time at the railway station.”
Anyone can feel uncomfortable when dining alone. I asked Jayne for her advice on tackling that fear.
“When I travel by myself I tend to eat breakfast in the hotel or a coffee bar. That’s not difficult to do because many people are eating by themselves. Then I eat the food of that city during the day. If I am in Prague it’s goulash. In Vienna I might have three different types of cream cake. In Portland in Oregon I visit the food trucks.” Jayne suggests buying food to eat in your room, which removes your need to dine out in the evenings – something that can prove uncomfortable. “I’ll buy sushi or a salad and a bottle of wine and sit in my hotel room. If I am hungry in the evening I will go and sit at a hotel bar and have tapas, which is much friendlier and less alienating.”
Jayne says that her target readers won’t want to burn the midnight oil. “A 45-year-old women who has been out walking all day will be ready for bed at 9 o’clock,” she says.
Another common concern can be finding clean loos. “If you find a nice hotel you can be confident about the quality of the washroom in that hotel,” advises Jayne. “Always make sure that you have change to use in the toilets that you might have to pay for.” And always carry tissues. “Even in England pubs can run out!” If you want to find a clean loo out in the sticks, Jayne recommends McDonalds. “They are clean and you’ll find them in communities miles from anywhere, where they may be the only option.” Jayne always buys a coffee before she uses the facilities and she advises against using petrol station conveniences. “They are not that clean.”
Overall, Jayne thinks that solo travellers can have a richer experience. “People talk to you more when you’re on your own and that is quite nice. It’s good to get those encounters. I think some people do get a bit jealous. You see couples who have been travelling together for thirty years looking at you a little enviously because they have got nothing to say to each other.”
If you do need some company during your trip, Jayne offers practical advice. Book a hotel with a pool or hot tub instead of one with a fitness centre. “You start talking to people in a hot tub,” she says. “Swimming pools promote conversation more than fitness rooms too.” Another idea is to book onto a tour. “I was in Munich for five days. After two days I decided to book a tour to Dachau. I was with eight other people for five hours. I had the social interaction I wanted and then I went back to my hotel by myself. I had fulfilled my social needs.”
They say you should write about things you know and understand. Jayne has. But I think Jayne’s book might also work just as well for guys who aren’t as gregarious and outgoing as they are expected to be. If you dread spending time alone in an unfamiliar city, Jayne’s book could change how you view the world.
You can buy Jayne’s book Time to Take Flight: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Safe Solo Travel from Amazon and read more about Jayne’s travels on her blog at jayneseagrave.com.