Sketch, cycle or house-sit

FEEL like a break but have no one to go with? Four Aussie travellers reveal the best holidays they’ve done on their own.

SKETCHING HOLIDAY – Fiji, Europe, Australia (Jan Johnston, widow, 62 )

Travelling is different now, since my husband died. In all the ads for travel, everyone’s always in pairs, so I never know if I’d fit into that. I find it helps to have something to do.

I’m not one for sitting by a pool for 10 days; I like to have something for show for my holidays. I’ve done four sketching trips – one to Fiji and three in NSW – and they’re a lot of fun. Our guide, Erin, gives tuition but it’s not heavy.

Sketching is not about creating the best picture; it’s about capturing a scene or a moment for yourself, for your memories. We mostly sketch what we see – a marketplace, a coffee shop, beautiful scenery, our food – so we can remember everything. My sketchbooks become fantastic travelogues.

The groups are fairly mixed but mostly on the mature end of the scale. Some are widows and some are married women who don’t mind going away without their husbands. My next sketching trip is to Italy, where eight of us are staying in a big country house in Tuscany.

Before that, I’m going to England for the first time on my own. It’s a challenge but I’m actually looking forward to it.

Erin Hill Sketching runs week-long holidays twice a year. Ph 0412 141 223

nicci

CYCLING TRIP – Thailand (Nicci Douglas, single mum, 42)

I saw an ad for a bicycle tour from Bangkok to Koh Samui and it really appealed to me as I wanted to travel around Asia – an area my ex wasn’t interested in. I decided to ask my dad if he would look after the kids so I could travel, and he was happy to help out. The first time travelling without my children felt weird, but you get to do things your own way, so that was fun, and I definitely came back a more relaxed person.

The scenery was absolutely amazing, and it’s an easy ride if you have some level of fitness. There’s plenty of stopping to see things and eat and the guide and driver were excellent.

I’m not really good at travelling solo but on this tour I felt very comfortable and met some great people: some couples and a few others on their own. Everyone socialises but there’s no pressure to meet someone. Because you’re up early each morning and cycling all day, there’s no partying, so it’s a non-threatening environment.

I wouldn’t want to go on one of those big bus tours where everyone’s drinking all night.

Grasshopper Adventures has guided bike tours in Asia, with no single supplement. Ph 9016 3172

HOUSE-SITTING – Australia (Hayley Skeggs, single, 28)

House-sitting is a good avenue to travel around the country with little overheads, while getting all the comforts of a hotel in a comfortable home.

If I did it by campervan, it’d cost $200 a week just to stay in the caravan park.

I do basic household chores, some gardening, collecting the mail, and most places have pets to look after.
Mindahome_Hayley Skeggs2
I enjoy setting my own routine and seeing regions I wouldn’t normally visit, like suburban and rural properties. I’ve looked after places in the Northern Rivers and Clarence Valley on the NSW north coast, Sydney, Byron Bay, the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Mackay and Mareeba in north Queensland.

Sometimes it’s only for a few days but I’ve stayed in some places for months. Longer stays give you the chance to immerse yourself in the community and even get a job.

I’m currently working in the local pub at Mareeba, which is a great way to get to know the locals. I use the Mindahome website and find it’s very worthwhile, as I can choose the locations that fit in with my dates. Ultimately, my goal is to explore all of Australia.

Mindahome membership costs $49 a year.

COACH TOUR – Europe (Peter Mood, single, 48)

I’ve done several coach trips with Trafalgar and Contiki at different stages and ages during my life.

All the tours were made more enjoyable by the expertise of the tour managers and travel directors. They made it much easier to trust in the knowledge that everything was taken care of and nothing was a hassle.

The trip I am about to do, Trafalgar’s “Highlights of Bohemia”, will allow me to see a different side of Europe that I’ve long had on my bucket list: A Danube cruise in Budapest, the Wieliczka Salt Mines in Krakow, and the history of Berlin. Even though I am going solo, I’m in a group where everyone is like one big family. There is always the option to spend time with someone new, but at the same time I can book my own private room where I don’t have to appease someone else.

One of the most beautiful yet understated things about solo travel is the ability to chart your own course, make your own history, tell your own story and be a part of the story of others.

I really enjoy meeting so many wonderful and exhilarating people. If you choose to travel solo, you have the opportunity to get to know the locals, thus getting to know their culture and lifestyle and, most importantly, make new friends. I think it’s the best way to enrich your life, with no barriers. Life is too short to wait for someone else to be ready to go overseas.

Trafalgar operates escorted coach holidays in Europe and the Americas. Ph 1300 663 043

Trafalgar_Peter Mood 3

FIRST PUBLISHED IN ESCAPE, SEP 2014

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