An Olympic-sized excuse to see the world

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15 August, 2012 - London EyeTravelers: Alissa

Budget: Midrange ($1000-$5000)

Where did you go? I went to Iceland, England, and the Czech Republic: 22 days total! My first ever solo travel trip, first trip across an ocean, and first trip longer than two weeks.

I was very nervous but ended up having a fantastic time.

4 August, 2012 - London, Women's Olympic shooting

What did you do? I’m a huge huge huge Olympics fan and have long wanted to see the Olympics live. When a college friend living in London said she’d be interested in visitors, well, I decided to make things happen! Other than getting tickets for shooting and canoeing (because they were cheap), I arrived with an open schedule and just kinda winged it.

28 July, 2012 - London

I saw a show in the Globe, toured Windsor Castle, and explored a few museums. But a lot of time was just spent walking around London people-watching or looking at buildings or riding the tube. My friend also convinced me to do an overnight trip to Bath.

31 July, 2012 - Prague

I decided to schedule a nine-hour layover in Iceland on the way (to go wander about town), and also fly to Prague for four days to visit another college friend. I did a few tours, walked around town taking pictures, and visited the Terezin concentration camp.

10 August, 2012 - Needham Market to Framlingham

For some reason I also got the idea in my head to do a bike trip, and some Googling led me to a small company in Suffolk. (I highly recommend Cycle Breaks!) They make sure you can fix a flat, give you a bike, VERY detailed maps, and an emergency cell number. Then you pedal from town to town to find your suitcase at your new hotel each night. I had downloaded a bunch of podcasts before leaving, but never once listened to them. Seeing the countryside filled with sheep, goats, farms, ruins, castles, and ancient churches kept me entertained for five days.

10 August, 2012 - Framlingham

What would you have done differently? Don’t get me wrong, I had a FANTASTIC time, and as a solo traveler I wouldn’t have changed a thing. But I wish I had a travel companion, or that I would have been less shy about making friends with other travelers. I did some things with the friends I was visiting, but most times I was on my own and there’s something about bonding through shared experiences.

That said, it’s not deterring me from scheming up my next trip — whether I can find a travel buddy or not!

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What’s your best travel advice for other offbeat travelers?
Save money on food by picking up fruit and rolls at a grocery store. Or figure out what the locals do for cheap “fast food” — in England, apparently this means lots of sandwiches. I think I only ate in a restaurant five times on the entire trip.

7 August, 2012 - Bath

No matter where you go, there’s so much you can see or do that is free or at least super-cheap. People-watching, window-shopping, free museums, wandering around historic locales, and some cities have free tours (I used Sandemans in both London and Prague).

5 August, 2012 - London, Women's Olympic marathon

Photo scavenger hunts are free, too! Since it was the Olympics and many people were in patriotic dress or carrying flag, I made up a game to take pictures of people from as many countries as possible — some at the events, but also in random places like the tube or the Harley Davidson store. This required eagle eyes, a camera quick-draw, some covert shooting-from-the-hip, and required some Googling later to brush up on my flag knowledge. It was a lot of fun and I got 65 different countries!

Comments on An Olympic-sized excuse to see the world

  1. This looks like such an awesome trip! And good on you for doing it on your own. I love travelling with my husband but also like the sense of freedom and capability that I get from travelling solo. I wish I had more time and money to indulge both these loves.

    • It was definitely one of those, “Geez, I’d love to be able to travel WITH someone, but I don’t know if I’ll ever have another opportunity like this. So gosh-darnit, I’m going for it!” And I’m so very glad that I did.

  2. As much as I appreciate the company of a travelling companion, I have to say that I absolutely LOVE travelling alone. There is something so wonderful about being the complete master of your own destiny. It’s such a luxurious thing to be fully in charge of all decisions without having to consider anyone else’s opinion.

    Your bike tour also looks like so much fun!

    • I’m that challenging combination of a quiet introvert who loves being around people. I prefer company to being alone, but it’s hard for me to get over that initial hurdle of talking to new people. I wish I would talked to more folks, because all of the people I DID talk to while traveling (well, they broke the ice by talking to me) were so very awesome.

      And definitely going my own speed and being able to pick whatever I wanted to do — or not do — was pretty darn fantastic. 🙂

      • I am the opposite. I am so so awkward with acquaintances but I can talk to any stranger and their mother at the drop of a hat. I traveled solo for 3 months around E Asia, India and southern Africa, and met so many interesting people. I definitely had experiences I never would have had (10 feet away from Congolese and Zimbabwe dictator while they’re dancing? yes) traveling with my fiance. In fact, we did travel together to a similar region a couple years later and it definitely was a less spontaneous experience.

        • Wow, that sounds like a fantastic adventure! I’m super jealous of people that can strike up conversation with anyone — not a skill I have, but one I’m interested in developing.

  3. Bike tours! I never knew of such things! I will have to look into doing that for my future Ireland trip that is going to take a couple years to save up for. It sounds like so much fun!

    • I’ve done city bike tours in Paris and loved it – a bit of a different way to see somewhere.

      Whenever you go to Ireland, download the Storymap app. You navigate your way around Dublin with stories on video and audio at certain landmarks. Lots of fun.

  4. I also love travelling alone. Sure it sometimes feels lonely, but it just makes the experience more intense for me.
    Actually, my very favorite way of travelling is alone with a dog (or two 🙂 ). They’re always happy to go wherever I go, I have a travelling companion that never gets on my nerves, and it still forces me to communicate with strangers. Actually, a dog is a really good conversation starter, too.

    • It’s funny, when I was writing this profile I hestitated admitting that I would have liked travel buddies. Because I know so many people that love traveling alone, and there’s swaths of internet out there dedicated to solo travel, and I didn’t want anyone to think that I didn’t feel complete or didn’t have one of the best experiences of my life just because I was by myself.

      But when asked what I would have done differently, I was drawing a blank. Everything about the trip was so freaking awesome. Other than, you know, staying forever and never coming back, the only thing I could think of was that I would have loved to have brought all my friends so that they too could have experienced the fantasticalness.

      But who knows? If I had been traveling with friends, I might have filled out this profile with the thing I wanted to change being that I would have preferred traveling alone so I could have freedom and go at my own pace. 🙂

      I guess, in summary, solo travel = awesome. Sharing time and experiences with friends = also awesome. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

  5. I was in London for the Olympics too, and it was buzzing! In fact, a lot of what you’ve said resonates with the MASSIVE (5-month) trip that I took last year – my longest ever trip away, and all by myself too! Travelling alone IS awesome, especially when you want to spend three or four days just in the one museum (did you check out the Victoria and Albert museum? I could live there) but it does get lonely. My solution to meeting people (apart from through working, as I had a few jobs over there) was to go on package tours. People often seem to feel like these will restrict their freedom or something, or that it’s not real travelling somehow, but I met so many new friends and had such a blast on every tour that I did. I think the key is to pick the slower tours that focus on a specific region or country, that way you get a good feel for a place and you’re not being rushed all over Europe. I did bus tours through Britain, Ireland, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and all over Spain, and now I have friends from all over the world who I can go and visit when I go travelling again.

    Now I have to get back to work so I can save for my next trip!

    • Ohmigosh, the V&A museum! I went there on the afternoon of the last day of my trip and was like, “Why wasn’t I here every single day?!??!” Especially the Heatherwick exhibit. Incredible.

  6. As someone who’s going to the Rio Olympics in a few years, this post actually helped me get some ideas on how to keep an already expensive trip from going super over budget (as I’m planning to go mainly for the Olympics and am getting Opening Ceremony tickets one way or the other). I will now being adding research of what the locals eat in Rio to my to-do list for this trip. 🙂

    • Oooo, I’m so excited for you! I’ve never been to London before, but I’d imagine that cities are at their best during the Olympics so it’s a fun time to visit. And regardless of what tickets you get, remember that both marathons and the bike road races would be out on the streets so I can always see those for free. 🙂

  7. Your photos look like my honeymoon photos! We went to Prague and London! We have that picture of us in front of that tardis in front of Earl’s Court tube station, and at platform 9 and 3/4. I am glad you enjoyed your trip! We did as well!!

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