Marching To The Beat Of Her Own Drum: Kiara Explains Why She Prefers Taking Solo Trips Over Traveling With Other People
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19th Jul | 8 min read
We spend so much of our lives marching to the beat of someone else's drum that it's so nice to get away and have some time to ourselves, satisfying our own passions and looking after our own requirements.

Kiara has been running her travel blog, Gallop Around The Globe ('Gallop' is her surname) since October 2013.  

When she’s on the road, you can usually find her hiking up mountains, getting lost in the cobblestone streets of her favourite cities, making friends with a furry feline or two, photographing cacti, or grazing on olives and cheese.  

At home, when she’s not working on new material for the blog, Kiara enjoys running (she recently completed her first sub-two-hour half marathon), getting lost in a good book, discovering new music, tending to her growing collection of houseplants, learning Spanish (intermittently), and attempting to re-create some of her favourite dishes from around the world, in her own kitchen. You can follow Kiara's adventures on her blog and you can also connect with her on GAFFL!

Why I Solo Travel

I think what initially inspired me to travel alone was the fact that I wanted to have an adventure that was completely outside of my comfort zone.

I prefer solo travel over travelling with a friend or a partner simply because I don't have to consider the needs or preferences of anyone else, I can do what I like on my own schedule.  Yes, that may sound selfish and to a degree, it is.  But I think we spend so much of our lives marching to the beat of someone else's drum that it's so nice to get away and have some time to ourselves, satisfying our own passions and looking after our own requirements.  

On the flip side, I won't bore anyone to death or annoy the hell out of them by spending WAY too long attempting to compose the perfect photograph or waiting for the crowds of people to walk out of my shot 😉

Case in point: I waited almost an hour to capture this shot of Girona’s famous bridge.

I also think that travelling solo really helps you to understand yourself and to grow as a person, and it opens you up to so many more experiences compared to travelling as a couple or in a group.  I honestly think that everyone should try solo travel once in their lives!

I've Met Many Incredible, Kind, Fun, & inspiring People On My Travels! 

There’s been too many to name here!  But the lasting friendships have been those people I met whilst travelling solo.  

Two of the most memorable friendships were the Japanese girl who I spent a month travelling through Cambodia with, and the Thai tour guide, who introduced me to the amazing Nan province in northern Thailand and then spent the following week showing me around his hometown, introducing me to his friends and cooking for me at his house.

How I Budget For Solo Trips 

 One of the main drawbacks of travelling solo is the cost.  When you're travelling with friends or a partner, you can split accommodation costs - which is one of the primary expenses on any trip. I kind of feel like I've outgrown dorms now, so when I'm travelling alone, I often find that I've got to pay the entire cost of a double room myself; single rooms (when they are available) are rarely much cheaper.  

The only thing I do find I save on is the cost of food and drinks - primarily drinks.  If I'm travelling alone, I might have a glass of wine or beer with my meal, but I'm not going to spend all evening in a bar - both for safety reasons and because it's not much fun on your own.  I can also quite easily last all day without much sustenance (as long as I've had a fairly decent breakfast), whereas other people I'm travelling with tend to want to stop for lunch and a few drinks along the way.

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How I Choose Where To Travel Next

I generally keep a record of all the places that are on my travel wish list and the months of the year during which it's best to visit these countries, so if I have a window of leave coming up (I try to use my leave over bank holidays and flexi changeover periods (essentially, times when I can take two accrued flexi days back-to-back)), I have a shortlist of countries that are best to visit during this time and I'll then check available flights to those countries.  

If the flights work, I'll then start putting together an itinerary and price-up accommodation costs.  Obviously, if I've only got a long weekend worth of leave then I'll be looking at countries closer to home, primarily city breaks in Europe.

I Try To Take A Trip Each month 

My general aim, at the start of every year, is to take one trip each month - whether that be a weekend away in the UK or somewhere further afield.  

Obviously COVID has put a stop to that this year, but I'm keeping everything crossed that I can resume my travels again sometime soon!  

I don't really have a usual length for my solo trips.  I've taken long weekend trips alone, six-month backpacking adventures and everything else in between!  I think it really depends upon where I'm going and what I want to do there.  I tend to avoid travelling to less safe places alone and road trip adventures are reserved for when I can get the boyfriend on board (he drives; I don't!).

Best Travel Memories

Some of my best travel memories and experiences have been from long-term trips because it's then that I really feel that I can immerse myself more thoroughly into the fabric of the country I'm visiting. I have a lot more flexibility on long-term trips and can travel slower and more meaningfully.  

A large chunk of what makes experiences so memorable is also the people you share them with, which is why I choose to put my Inca Trail trek up there as one of my most memorable travel experiences.  I couldn't have asked for a more fabulous group of people to share this 4-day hike with (and I include our guides, porters and cooks in that group).  

Of course, it also helped that the weather was amazing and the scenery along the trail exceeded all my expectations.  We ended the hike with an evening of cocktails and dancing in a tiny little bar tucked away in Cusco's San Blas neighbourhood.  Honestly, you couldn't have wiped the smile off my face on that day!

Things That Prevent Me From Travelling More

Mainly a lack of money and a limited annual leave entitlement - which I'm sure is the case with many others too.  

And, at the moment, COVID-19 is preventing me from travelling abroad at all, because the company I work for will not allow me to work from home if the country I've booked to travel to impose a quarantine rule AFTER I've booked the trip (i.e I have to quarantine upon my return to the UK).  As a result, I've been doing my best to embrace UK travel this year, and in August I was able to tick the Hadrian's Wall hike off my UK travel wish list.

My Travel Bucket List

There are SO many!!  Before COVID hit this year, I'd hoped to tick the Camino Primitivo (Spain) and Fisherman's Trail (Portugal) hikes off my bucket list in 2020.  I had trips booked to do both but unfortunately had to cancel them.  

I'd also hoped to make it to Azerbaijan, Sicily, and either Ethiopia or Madagasgar before the year was out.  

Those have all been pushed forward to next year now, but even 2021 is still looking very uncertain for travel.  

Looking a bit further into the future, I'd love to do the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp treks in Nepal, but I'm petrified of getting in that tiny little plane up to Lukla airport!  Bhutan is also a country that's always fascinated and intrigued me, but the cost of visiting has meant that I haven't been able to thus far. 

That’s just a small selection of things on my bucket list; I could reel off many, many more, but I don't want to bore you all!!

Advice For New Solo Travellers

I'd say just face your fears and do it!  Nothing is ever as scary in reality as you imagine it will be, and solo travel is a prime example of this.  

I would probably suggest trying a long weekend away initially, just to ease yourself into it.  But that's advice I didn't follow myself because my first solo trip was a six-month backpacking adventure around South East Asia!  

I would also suggest staying in hostels if at all possible (most hostels have private rooms as well as dorms), because that way you always have the opportunity to socialise with others if you feel the need to.  

Make sure you take the same precautions as you would at home (especially if you're a woman travelling solo) - don't walk around alone late at night, look after your valuables, watch how much alcohol you drink etc - but don't completely close yourself off to new experiences.  The majority of people around the world are honest and kind; you just need to keep your wits about you and use a bit of common sense. 

Try all the local foods, eat where the local people are eating and attempt to speak a few words of the local language.  You'll have a much more enriching experience as a result🙂

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