Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Solo Travel.

These two words have loomed over my few weeks leading up to my trip:

Solo. Travel.

Let's begin with the best way to start any trip. UPGRADED FLIGHT!
Thank you British Airways for the last minute upgrade from truly the VERY last seat on my overnight
flight to the private World Traveler Plus cabin. I got all sorts of extra goodies, like socks,
special headphones, a toothbrush, a fancier menu to choose from, and a welcome beverage.
This made a world of difference for my solo flight fears.

Let it be known that I had not slept in a bed by myself for more than one night in YEARS
(other than the two nights I spent solo while Devon was in Prague Hospital). So a full eight nights
on my own started to feel overwhelming the closer I came to my departure.

Some solo travel tips:

1. DO everything in your power to make your life easier. You won't have a partner to carry your
bags when you get tired or need one of your hands to pull something out of your pocket.
I managed to pack everything I needed for two weeks into two carry-on bags. Although I would
have had no problem on this flight, sometimes British Airways collects carry-on rolling suitcases
and requires that they are checked if it is a very full flight. This happened on our return flight to
Greece and our bags ended up getting lost. I couldn't chance that while on my own, so I
consolidated. Yes, I have to hand wash and hang dry some socks, undershirts, and underwear,
but it is completely worth it to walk off the plane and get to my next destination.

2. DO pay extra for safety. I had a one night stay in London before heading over to
Stratford-upon-Avon. I chose a 4-star hotel with 24-hour desk service. It was just a 10-minute
walk from Paddington Station, which was incredibly convenient for the short turn around I had to
get to S-u-A. My room was a closet, but for $90 it was worth it!

3. DO NOT rush. After I settled into my hotel room I decided to check-out the neighborhood,
Hyde Park, and find a bite to eat. I took the time to walk a bit of Hyde Park. I reminded myself to
slow down and literally stopped to smell the flowers.

4. DO make plans to meet up with a local friend, if possible. I was very lucky that my high school
theatre pal Maria was in town before she headed to Sicily. Meeting with her for an early dinner
and walk around some of Central London helped ease the initial loneliness I was feeling, and
also gave me some confidence in navigating the city.

5. DO treat yourself. After almost two very full days of traveling, I settled into
Mercure: Shakespeare Hotel in Stratford Upon Avon to find that once again, I had been
upgraded to a much larger room than the budget room that I expected. 

I hadn't eaten all day, and I am only just  becoming comfortable with eating alone in public. The thought was that I would grab something
and bring it back to the hotel room. But then I passed Hathaway Tea Rooms ... I had been
waiting to have tea for over a year, and I decided to just do it for myself! I have the most delicious gluten-free tea in my own private back tea room. It was quiet, relaxing, and I felt no need to rush!

6. DON'T be insecure about being a tourist! I couldn't wait to see the Gower Statues.
I spent a good amount of time examining each one.

I think Falstaff is my favorite.

I then took my time examining each character's corresponding mask and the flowers that represent each of their genres.
I found myself openly crying at this site. AND I DID NOT CARE.

7. DO be adventurous. I had seen a sign for live music outside a bar near my hotel. I
figured if I was going to have dinner alone, I might as well hear some music.
After I ordered my glass of wine, I realized the bar had not food.

The barkeeps offered me a banana though! Lamplighter ended up being the best decision for

my first night in town. The crowd was small, the music was great, and the barkeeps made me feel very welcomed. I found that the conversation was easy.

I was even invited to sit with a father and son at their table! I didn't ever feel uncomfortable-

just genuinely interested in getting to know these locals.

By the time I got to my first day of classes, I already felt fulfilled by my solo travel experience
and was ready to meet my classmates. I had stopped by the Institute the day before my classes
started and received a rundown of the place, which made the first day feel a bit less

Happy solo travels!

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