A selfie on my way from Venice to San Marino City


solo traveller

hitting the road on my own


To travel alone or not to travel alone? It's a burning question for anyone who has been seriously bitten by the travel bug - and whose friends, annoyingly, have not. Sometimes your desires and those of others do not coincide. It's an inevitable fact of life. The last time I'd travelled solo was when I flew to Barcelona where I worked as a TEFL teacher for the summer. That was back in 2003. Over a decade ago. Eleven years ago. Pathetic ago. Time for the lonesome to shove and break new ground - literally and personally.

Luckily, I have survived for many years travelling with people - always being part of a pair. But then the inevitable happened: I wanted out and nobody else did. What do I do? Do I suck it up and ignore the travel pangs? As some of you may be able to testify, this can be a soul-crushing experience - depressing, even. 2014 was the year it happened to me. I was at a cross roads of massive proportions. I want to see the world - and the reality is I am not going to see it sat on my arse in England, am I? I had holidays coming up and the thought of doing nothing worldly with them was crushing. One night I'd reached the proverbial fork in the road - flights to my chosen destination on my dates were filling up quickly. Pushed by a burning desire to see the world and the pressures of the international airline marketplace...I booked...two trips, not one!


spain, switzerland & liechtenstein, kuwait, moldova & transnistria

Oh my what have I done?! Not one to do things by halves, I decided to jump in with both feet and see two places I'd had my eye on for a while. First up was a trip across Switzerland and into the lesser-known but equally beautiful Liechtenstein to bag my 55th country, followed by, just over a month later, a city break to Kuwait City on the Arabian Peninsula - that makes country number 56 if you're counting. I half expected to throw in the towel and chicken out on the morning of departure - despite the sums I'd now paid. But, reliance on others is never a good thing - and it was about time I proved myself as a solo traveller after all this time... Switzerland and Liechtenstein were perfectly safe - and a great way for me to get used to the practise of travelling solo and a chance to cut my teeth closer to home before going to Kuwait. Having dealt with the 'solo travel demons' on my first independent voyage, I found Kuwait to be a breeze (the warm welcome I received certainly helped). As it stands I am amazed and proud, in equal measure, that I travelled to both of these places completely on my own. It suddenly opens up a world of new possibilities!

I was to travel solo once again in order to see a country in eastern Europe I had wanted to see in years. This was a trip to the very fringe of the continent, two capital cities which elicit only a faint murmur of recognition in the consciousness of most travellers. Consequently, both are a little unprepared for foreign visitors. Any tourist industry found here is almost exclusively geared toward the domestic market with its primary concern being the getting out of locals, not the welcoming of aliens in. This, however, is advantageous - an opportunity. Rarely visited means authenticity - the chance to experience places without the distorting, and homogenising, effects of mass tourism. Indeed, even the travellers' bible Lonely Planet, in its 480 page Guide to Eastern Europe, offers only a paltry 21 pages for both countries combined. In this Destination Chronicle I hope to go some way to redressing this imbalance and help, in my own insignificant way, to raise the profile of these two very interesting places. A visit to Moldova and a cross-border foray into its estranged neighbour Transnistria really is dipping your toe into an untrodden, and arguably unspoilt, Europe. It was a journey I did on my own and absolutely loved, renting an apartment with a small kitchen in central Chisinau as my base. Moldova and Transnistria were, respectively, my 69th and 70th countries.


san marino

San Marino is a coy and reticent little thing, ensconced, as she is, high up in the Apennine mountains. She is not easy to get to if you happen to be based anywhere other than her immediate environs. She has no railway station nor airport. My journey from Venice Lido to San Marino City went thus: bus to water taxi dock at Lido SME (5mins), a vaporetto to Piazza Roma in central Venice (40mins), the People Mover monorail on to Tronchetto (10mins), a FlixBus coach down to Rimini (4hrs 20mins) and a taxi up to San Marino City (35mins). As you have probably noticed I relented and jumped in an expensive taxi to complete the journey. I wimped out as there was no guarantee I would get a seat on the much cheaper, but much busier, shuttle bus and I couldn't face queuing in the heat for a seat which may but may not be mine. My journey back would skip the coach and instead involve a direct train from Rimini to Venice's Saint Lucia Ferovia station on TrenItalia which made the return leg a bit easier.

Despite the annoyingly indirect route needed, I was determined to tick off this micronation - said to be the oldest sovereign state in the world and the country with the oldest legislature still in force today. It is an enclave surrounded by Italy - and a nation which guards its sovereignty and independence fiercely. Don't commit the faux-pas of referring to people here as Italian or San Marino as being part of Italy. You'll be met with a swift and justified rebuttal. San Marino may sound like a beach resort but it is a country with its own flag, postal service, legislature and government. What San Marino lacks in size it makes up for in passion - and as the old adage goes, size isn't everything. To put it in context, San Marino is a country the size of the city of Leicester in England's midlands. 


frequently asked questions answered

What if something goes wrong? You can't live your life like that. Just take all the necessary precautions and keep things sensible. Have telephone numbers to hand, keep your phone charged and don't take any silly risks. Travel always, by definition, includes at least some risk - wherever and with whoever you travel.

Won't it get lonely? You'll find people are more friendly and approachable when you're on your own. They are more likely to speak to you, too. It is worth bearing in mind that travelling in a duo or trio can 'shut down' conversation with new people. Being on your own is an opportunity. For those quieter moments, take your ipod/pad/phone. For a really sociable time, book yourself into a hostel, rather than a hotel.

Won't it work out more expensive? It often is, but doesn't have to be. If you're on a budget, cut your cloth accordingly. Many hotels offer single person discounts, but often things that would be split two ways now have to be paid in full.

How do I get amazing photos of myself - do I do selfies all the time? People are often very obliging - just look like a helpless loner with your camera and some people even offer to take a photograph of you. If not, just ask. Consider taking a light-weight camera tripod with you. I picked mine up on eBay for £6. They are particularly good if you are going to places where people may not be around to help you out. Better still, try a selfie stick. In certain countries, bear in mind it is best to approach the man, rather than the woman, to take photographs for you.


Solo Travels (clockwise from top left): With the teachers at English Summer in Spain, Overlooking Vaduz in Liechtenstein, A selfie in front of the Kuwait Towers, In front of the old Soviet Circus in Chisinau, Moldova.



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