Think Shirley Valentine…
For those of you that don’t know what I mean, it’s a must-see movie for any woman. Do make the time to see it if you haven’t already.
She was much better behaved than me!
Have you ever thought about going on holiday on your own?
I have been abroad on my own 3 times and survived (just about).
Would I recommend it? Yes, I would.
Going on holiday on my own was empowering, liberating and life-saving! The memories that I have made, make me chuckle time and time again. Some people find the fact I went on holiday on my own fascinating, others just think I’m mad – or sad.
What I do know is I wouldn’t be the confident person that I am today if I hadn’t done it.
Let’s take a journey together now as we work through this ‘sort of’ survival guide. I hope it sheds some light, some tears of laughter and gives you a boost!
This journey is in two parts…
During the first part, I will answer the most common questions that I have been asked by people when they’ve found out that I have been on holiday on my own.
So, here we go:
Why did I go on holiday on my own?
Holiday number 1: I had been in a 20-year relationship and it had come to an end. I started another relationship which came with its challenges and I needed to get away. I wanted to be alone, somewhere warm, where I didn’t know anyone and I could just exist whilst I gathered my thoughts.
Holiday number 2: I had been through a violent relationship and I needed to gather my thoughts again! I travelled within one week of the relationship ending.
Holiday number 3: I broke up from a long-term relationship and that involved losing my job. I needed thinking time and time to work out my next move in life. I travelled within two days of the relationship ending.
Note: Holiday number 3 was to Aiya Napa in Cyprus. Approximately one hour travel time from Syria which I didn’t realise was a war zone. My family were convinced I was going to return in a body bag!
Tip #1: Don’t go on holiday near a war zone. Check the latest news before you book your trip or get on the aeroplane!
How was I feeling at the time of all the holidays?
Emotional! For me, all 3 holidays was an emotional roller coaster. You could say I was running away, but I needed to, it was my coping mechanism each time.
Holiday number 1 began with a few nerves and excitement. Once I had packed my suitcase the excitement kicked in but getting to the airport and checking in on my own made me a little bit anxious.
To start with, I couldn’t find the long-term car park and I was late for my flight – no flight pre-drinks! I tried not to hyperventilate due to nerves as I got on the aeroplane.
Tip #2: Do make sure you know where you are going and allow enough time when it comes to leaving your car at the airport.
When I finally sat down on the aeroplane, I thought to myself, ‘what have I done?’
I hate flying for starters so I waited, grey-faced for the drinks trolley to travel through the cabin. Two white wines and two bars of chocolate later I began to chill.
Tip #3: If you are a nervous flyer, make enough time to get to the airport and have a drink to steady your nerves.
Once the aeroplane landed at my destination, having watched the struggling families during the flight, the sense of freedom travelling alone was wonderful. My children were with their dad for the week so I was off ‘parental duties’ for 7 days.
I was free, free to go wherever I wanted!
When I arrived at my plush 5-star hotel I thought there might be a party vibe but no, just honeymooners and wealthy pensioners! I realised my hotel choice was wrong and I was disappointed even though the facilities were awesome.
Note: I made this same mistake on holiday 1 and 2.
Tip #4: Learn from my mistakes.
On day 2 of my Shirley Valentine holiday, having done everything I possibly could within a mile radius of the hotel and throughout the hotel, it suddenly dawned on me that I was actually ‘alone’. I was surrounded by happy couples and the joyful sense of freedom I had felt at the start of the holiday turned to loneliness.
That night, the tears gushed from my eyes as I sat in my luxurious room holding a small bottle of cheap Vodka – listening to Whitney Houston and vowing never to try and ‘find myself’ again.
The following day I became a bit angry with myself for being so ungrateful and eventually snapped out of my sunken mood. I socialised more in the hotel and those I talked to and told my story to said they admired me for being brave coming on holiday on my own and I started to feel good about myself again.
Yes, I was brave – forget the expense, the tears, the sunburn and dodgy waiters. I was brave and bold according to my new found friends – the happy honeymooners and the wealthy, elderly pill poppers (no disrespect intended that will soon be me!).
Tip #5: It’s ok to cry in your hotel room alone and hold a small bottle of alcohol.
I ventured forth with my new found strength and spent the evenings in the hotel with the newly-weds, the pensioners, the randomers and the hotel staff. I became the volunteer for the events at the evening entertainment and I sat at the bar with my crossword book, drinking cocktails, laughing with the staff and enjoying my freedom once more.
At the end of the holiday, when I got off my return flight, I felt like there were a hundred wild horses running through my belly. I had done something major on my own and survived – just about!
Note: Talking of evening entertainment, don’t miss part 2 of this journey where I tell you about the night I met a Cypriot Michael Bolton.
What did I do to plan for the holiday?
I didn’t really have much time to plan for any of the holidays. I booked the flights and hotel separately for holiday 1 and 2, checked some of the reviews, packed my suitcase and off I went!
With my knowledge I have now, having done 3 holidays alone, I can give you some advice to help you plan if you go away by yourself:
- Obviously get time off work and someone to look after the kids, pets or parents! Don’t just go AWOL
- Set a budget, read reviews and ask friends for advice or recommendations
- Think about safety! Don’t go on holiday near a war zone (who would do that?)
- Decide what kind of atmosphere you want in the hotel and at the location
- How close do you want to be to the beach or to be able to do sightseeing?
- Think about transfers from and to the airport
- Would you like to hire a car? (don’t forget your driving licence)
- Would languages be a problem for you? (always make an effort to speak the language of the country where you are staying even if it is just hello, thank you and goodbye)
- Do you need injections? (I should have had some for staying in my third hotel)
- Check to see if any friends or family will be in the location at the same time as you, just in case there was to be an emergency or you need some company
- Make sure your passport is in date
- Don’t forget insurance!
- Apply for an E1 11 card if you haven’t got one
- Take photos of your passport and your luggage just in case they get lost
- Use luggage labels and put your mobile number on them
- Write on a piece of paper your travel details and put it in your suitcase just in case your label comes off
- Put your hotel details in your phone
- Put a piece of paper with all your details on, in your pocket or bag just in case you lose your phone and luggage! (it happens)
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes to travel in, forget top model glamour. One holiday I went dressed in a blazer and jeans looking for the new man of my dreams. It was pointless. I got overheated, spilt food and drink on my white jeans and felt like an idiot with everyone else in flouncy summer dresses or skimpy shorts! (holiday 3)
- Make sure you have checked your home for security issues and get someone to move in whilst you are away if possible. Especially if you are going to share your holiday snaps on social media
- By all means, share photos of your holiday on social media platforms but make comments like, ‘I hope you are being good at home and you’re not throwing parties every night!’ Talking as if someone was living in your house
- Invest in a personal alarm if you are really concerned about your safety
- Make note of emergency phone numbers in the country you are going to be staying in
- Take sexy underwear (you never know!)
- Take precautions (you never know!)
Tip #6: Make a list before you go and check it twice!
Tip #7: Buy new sexy lingerie.
What did people think about me going away on holiday on my own?
Attitudes and opinions varied massively.
These are the comments that I got from friends, families and strangers:
- You’re brave!
- I wouldn’t do that, how sad going on your own
- Haven’t you got any friends?
- What are you escaping from?
- How amazing, would you do it again?
- I would love that! I could do exactly what I want when I want
- Who is having the children? Don’t you feel bad?
- Won’t you be lonely?
- I would love a break from the family!
- Did you feel safe?
- I wish I was brave like you
- Are you mad?
- A table for one?
- Did you miss the kids?
Of course, I missed my kids but they were with their dad and they were happy.
One of my many hilarious holiday moments was when I met a Julio Iglesias look-a-like who told me I was the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Find out more about that in part 2.
Tip #8: If people judge you for going on holiday on your own for whatever their reason, do remember, it is ok to have time to yourself.
You can be a good parent and have some freedom
Did I get lost?
Of course, I did, quite a few times…
Once I arrived at my resorts I was always keen to get out and explore. Part of the exploration sometimes involved a cocktail and then an enthusiasm to travel further afield due to a second or third cocktail. At that point, it would have been easy to struggle to remember where my hotel was or even the name of it.
I decided, after one scary episode, that I would write down the name and address of my hotel, so, when I used a taxi I would show the driver the piece of paper with the address on it and there wouldn’t be a misunderstanding. I would actually arrive at my hotel, not another one that sounds the same!
Another thing I started to do was take photographs of road names and buildings and re-track my steps checking I was going the right way by looking at the photographs on my phone. I must have looked like an idiot doing that!
Getting mugged – be aware of people around you whilst you keep looking down at your phone!
Tip #9: Use Google maps if you get lost!
What did I take with me?
Everything I wanted to and far too much!
If you are going somewhere really hot, don’t pack tight fitting clothes. There’s no need to take 3 pairs of skinny jeans and long sleeved tops to hide your bat wings!
Here is a list of things that I found particularly helpful on my holidays:
- A notepad and pen!
- A hand-held fan
- A flannel and face wipes
- Lip balm
- Anti-histamine – for bites but also handy for swollen lips from cheap Vodka
- Headache pills
- Aloe Vera or aftersun
- Spray on sun protection to reach the places that you can’t
- A little loose black number
- Pretty, flat sandals – walking everywhere in heals on your own isn’t recommended – you need to be able to run!
- A personal alarm if you’re worried
- Anti-bacterial hand gel and wipes
- Diarrhoea tablets
- Constipation tablets
- A sarong to hide those ageing imperfections
- A waterproof wallet to go around your neck whilst in the water to store your phone and money
- Magazines, book and or a Kindle
- A pack of cards (a quick game of Strip Poker at age 40+ is interesting!)
- A ring just in case you want to pretend that you are married
Tip #10: Split your money up and hide it in different places. I can’t tell you the good places where I put mine because I don’t know who is reading this – a potential thief?
Was it good people watching?
It was great! I had all the time in the world to look, listen and learn!
These were my observations:
- The dad that loves his family but would rather be at work instead of dealing with naughty toddlers
- The little babies who bobbed in their floatation devices – splashing, screaming and spluttering on mouthfuls of pool water
- The toddlers in their pull on nappy swimwear
- The toddlers running around the pool caked in thick white cream or fully covered in what look like mini wetsuits
- Little girls admiring each other’s pretty swimsuits, bikinis and funky towels
- Little boys with their inflatable toys getting great joy in bashing a sibling or diving to the bottom of the pool and staying down far too long for comfort
- Teenage girls checking out the other teenage girls, checking out the teenage boys!
- New friendships being formed through holiday clubs
- Holiday romances
- Teenagers overindulging on alcohol whilst their parents weren’t looking or didn’t care
- Groups of teenagers standing around by the pool tables, sitting at the computers in the foyer, standing in groups in the disco checking each other out
- Mums refusing to take sole responsibility and saying ‘ask daddy’
- Adults starting to drink alcohol as soon as what seemed acceptable, which was normally 11 am!
- The readers
- The talkers
- The smokers
- The loud groups
- The Hen parties
- The Stag parties
- The sunburnt, overweight man sitting holding a pint at 11 am!
- The sunburnt woman wearing a bikini that was far too small for them
- The parents who seem to be forever handing out cash so the kids can go and buy things
- Young couples on their first holiday together having saved all year to pay for it
- The Honeymooners
- The retired couples tolerating each other
- The exhausted grandparents!
- The family that has no control over their kids!
- The singletons (like me)
- The ‘hanging on’ family friend
- The family with the nanny
- The designer family
- The ‘I hate my husband’ family
- The ‘I hate my wife’ family
- The ‘I dislike my kids’ family
- The people that stare
- The entertainment team
- The staff
- The randomers
Was I chatted up?
Yes, I was and what an experience!
It appears to be common practice in Cyprus and Corfu that as soon as a man realises you are alone they feel it’s their duty to come to you and express their feelings of desire (obviously not all men in the country but the ones within a half mile radius to my resorts).
Stern politeness is required, their endurance and determination are impressive! Why they don’t win more gold medals at the Olympics I will never understand.
On being approached by an unwanted admirer you need to make it painfully clear that you are not interested. If there are police nearby you could express your concerns to them or if it’s in the hotel, tell the management.
If you are seriously concerned you can report it to your or any holiday rep. It would also be a good idea to take photos of the person who is harassing you and email them to friends and relatives at home (seems extreme but you never know, most of us have seen the film ‘Taken’).
If you are conscious of someone following you, go to a busy place like a restaurant, bar or hotel. Tell the staff what is happening and ask them to call you a taxi or the police. Make sure you let the hotel that you are staying in know about your experience.
I have to say I didn’t experience any annoying harassment from men of other nationalities at my resorts. If any of my readers are men from Cyprus or Corfu please see this as a compliment with regards to the fact that I am impressed with your endurance. My intention isn’t to offend you.
Note: I will be telling you the story about the Duracell Man soon.
Tip #11: Always stay with your drink, you don’t want it spiked! If someone offers to go to the bar and get you a drink, go with them.
What was it like in the evening? Was it difficult on your own?
The evenings were fine most of the time.
Always, on the second or third night of my singleton holidays, I had a moment of ‘my life is so sad, everyone has someone to love, and woe is me.’ I got over that.
Eating out was interesting walking into a restaurant and asking for a table for one always bought some funny looks.
There is an element of danger and risk in everything that we do but you can’t let your fears stop you from having fun all the time. Going out in the evening to absorb the atmosphere was exciting and I’m still here to tell the tale.
Note: The one time I did get a great big stare because I was alone was when I went to a ‘wild’ boat party. I will shed more light on this later.
Tip #12: Carry a small flannel or hanky in your bag. Sweat and sunscreen going into your eyes is not a good look. Keep dabbing that brow! And… drink lots of water.
How did I choose the holidays?
- Looking online and reading reviews on Trip Advisor
- Using a local travel agent for holiday number 3 (big mistake!)
When I refer to hotel number 3, imagine the hotel from the first ‘Inbetweeners’ movie. That was better than my hotel number 3!
All will be revealed.
This has been the first part of your ‘sort of’ woman’s survival guide for going on holiday on your own. We hope you found it interesting, amusing and helpful.
Read Part 2 to find out about my experiences.
Tip #13: Learn from my many mistakes:)