More tips, this time not on the essentials but on other vectors that add value to a few solo weeks off specific to Britain.
Vector of travel:
I’m a historical chronology buff, and UK fed my lust through its impeccable museums, monuments, castles and cathedrals. I have entire timelines that I’ve drawn out in my book. Another love is to walk the streets and duck into closes and nooks at will; Europe fit the bill for that too. My third pet – the outdoors – was something I was too chicken to explore on a solo trip. At least till now. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone led to one of the best moments on the trip – climbing Mt.Snowdon. Exhausted euphoria?! You betcha!
There are a gazillion ways to experience a place. Pick a favourite and bask in it (after all, you are here to enjoy the ride); but also stretch yourself out of your comfort zone and see what happens!
Take public transport:
Europe is a walker’s delight. There are days when I’ve gone about seven hours on my feet with just a few minutes of sitting in between, and the soreness has been a sweet after burn. I’ve taken a cab just twice, and stuck to buses and trains throughout. While a road-trip gives you access to back-country roads, that is a different experience altogether (and totally worth it, is my guess) but it doesn’t fit into the grand plan of “solo on a budget”. Especially when the cars are on the “right” side of the road and come with gears, unlike anything I’ve driven before!
Get a great pair of shoes and walk. And take public transport as much as you can!
I’m known to be a go-go-go-see-see-see person, but I knew that this was a sure-fire way to burn myself out on a long trip. So I took vacations from my vacation often. I went to plays and concerts, hung out at bookstores, watched TV, cooked two meals a day occasionally and did laundry. And I can’t begin to describe how therapeutic that was. That routine is a legal way to unwind on a vacation must be a sin!
Live like a local once in a while, it makes you appreciate the days spent on foot.
I stuck to maps and guides initially, but then I let go. And it was VERY worth it! It gave me chance to stop and ask the locals for directions, and it opened my eyes to what a myth the “stiff British upper lip” was. Every single person (without exception) was extremely helpful and gave me details beyond the limit of patience that I would think they had for strangers. Some of them even turned around as they turned the corner and gave me a hands up in the right direction, and bus drivers took two minutes to point me to my destination from the stop. It was unbelievably refreshing, every single time. Not to mention, I did stumble upon local residential areas that a tourist path would never have taken me on.
Get lost, take a few wrong turns – the memories will stay with you as much as the planned trip to the museum!
I went just as winter was transitioning to spring and I couldn’t be happier about the timing. The weather was good, the flowers were out and most importantly the crowds were missing! This meant I had entire moments to myself in cavernous chapter houses, atop monuments and in corners of museums that I could have camped at. Outdoors wasn’t that bad either; after I came down south a tad from the far reaches of Scotland, the sun was out quite a bit. And in Scotland, the weather is hit or miss even in “peak” season :) I used to be enchanted with the idea of summer in Europe, but now I have redefined when I want to visit. I’d rather have her mostly to myself than share her with a crowd.
Try off-season travel once, there is a great chance it will replace summer as your favourite season to travel to Europe!
It is easier said than done, but if you’re ever faced with time and resources that even remotely bring to mind the question of traveling for a couple of months – either solo or not – then JUST GO!! Every single moment is worth it.