Rocking solo in London Town 

Ok so last weekend saw my solo visit to London to view The Killers in Hyde Park. I’m a massive fan and as they hadn’t toured in four years I booked my ticket once presale started. I booked my BA flight into Heathrow after much deliberation. I thought I would get it cheaper but in the end prices for flights to Standsted, Gatwick and Luton weren’t enticing me enough once you factor in having to take a train then the tube. 

Landed on a beautiful day to 28 degree heat. Got my tube alright and luckily enough the picadilly line went straight to the station I needed. I booked a hostel in Kensington beside the park. The only thing was the gig ended up being the exact opposite side to where I was staying. 

My flight was slightly delayed and the tube takes approx 60 minutes to get to Kensington. I then had to walk fast and follow googles directions to my hostel as quickly as I could due to a booking for a tour that was to begin quite soon. 

Kensington just screams money. Everywhere I looked Landrovers decorated the streets, white pillared residences gleamed and children with bonnets happily walked with their parents. I was shocked that a hostel would be in this area but it was. It was a good one too!

Astor Hyde Park was a great choice. Not only was it close to the park, the staff were friendly, the dorm was bright and airy and security was important. I checked in ok but as my room wasn’t ready I locked my bag pack away in a luggage room before racing to catch my tube to Covent Garden. 

I looked online at free walking tours and settled on Sandemans as it got good reviews. I later discovered a friend used them in Paris and was quite pleased with them. I made my 1pm booking with a minute to spare. Though in the end we ended up waiting a few minutes before we began. The large group was split into two and introduced to our guide. His name was Angus and he is Australian. He had studied Shakespearean theatre and this stood well to him as our guide. There was never an issue with hearing him and he had an entertaining way of telling us the history of the places we stopped. As I said it was a beautiful hot day so the walk at times was sweltering, at any chance we could we took shade. It was a royal tour so we visited St James Palace, Prince Charles residence, Buckingham Palace and Westminster. The walk took about 2/2.5 hours and my feet were very sore at the end. However I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though it is free a tip is welcome. After the tour I realised I hadn’t eaten for about 8 hours so I grabbed food and cider in a pub Angus took us to. 

Afterward I made my way to Oxford Street as I had to pick up a gift for a nephew. On my other occasions of visiting London I purely went to shop so I had been on that street a lot. However I never noticed its proximity to Hyde Park before. Don’t get me wrong it’s at the very bottom of the street, but still only ten minutes walk. I decided to walk there as it was so nice out and get my bearings for the gig the next night. On my way I passed Selfridges which had a different meaning to me after watching the tv show! 

The park was full of bars and activities thanks to BST who were hosting the festivities over the couple of weeks. Only for my feet were blistered from walking and I was exhausted I would have spent more time there on Friday evening. Instead I decided to walk back to the hostel to get an idea of the walk for the next night. 

Back at the hostel I made friends with girls in my room and went to a nearby pub for a drink. The hostel was hosting a charity night in aid of Grenfell tower with live music which I thought was a nice touch. Was also a good way for people to mix.

The next morning after breakfast I was indecisive about what I wanted to do. I ended up walking to Kensington Palace and queuing to get in. A tip though would be to book ahead and skip the queue as even though I was very early there was still a thirty minute wait. I spent about ninety minutes wandering about the exhibitions. I enjoyed the Diana one the most. Some of the talks gave a good insight into the history of the palace. I left the palace and looked around the gardens which were beautiful. 

I then decided to spend the afternoon doing nothing! The weather was gorgeous and I was tired, so I lay on the grass reading. There’s so much going on in the park though, I recommend a visit. 

After grabbing food and beverages in the local newsagents I went back to my hostel to clean up for the concert and meet one of the girls. We walked with the crowds to the concert. The park was set up well for an outdoor gig. The bars were a long wait as usual. I am not a fan of being too close to the stage as I always get stuck behind tall people! We got a good spot near the merchandise at the back. The Killers as always put on a great show. My only complaint is that it went by too quickly! 

The next day I checked out of the hostel and started walking with my bag pack. I decided to walk towards Harrods as I had never before seen the famous store. As it was a Sunday morning it wasn’t open but I felt like it was a box ticked. I still had time before making my way to the airport so I decided to fit in St Paul’s Cathedral. I didn’t mind the fact that I wouldn’t have time to go inside and explore. The main thing I wanted to see was the steps, as these were the storyline for the homeless lady in Mary Poppins selling pigeon food for “tuppence a bag”. After walking the circumference and marvelling at the detail in the architecture I noticed a fancy bridge down the street. A geeky part of me really enjoys architecture and engineering so I ventured towards it. I’m glad I did as the bridge went over the Thames river towards the Tate museums. From there I got to see Tower Bridge in the distance. Another box ticked off my tourist list. 

On the bridge I took a moment to enjoy the moment and to be proud of myself for another solo trip that I greatly enjoyed! I made my way back to the tube and to reality unfortunately. Though I always look forward to getting home to Izzie!


Phuket; The first stop on my Thailand Vacation

Ok so flying solo wasn’t too bad, I just didn’t dwell on the fact that I was alone. I watched movies & dozed off when possible. After customs in Bangkok I grabbed my luggage & headed upstairs to check in for my flight to Phuket. (By booking separately I saved time & money) I had booked a later flight in case there were any delays so I was expecting a 4 hour stopover, however the airline asked if I would like to check in for the earlier flight so that was a bonus. The one thing I noticed was how there were signs with power banks everywhere. You have to carry these in your hand luggage & not in your check in. They are strict about this.

I didn’t prearrange transport to the hostel & though I did look at ways to save money on getting there, I ended up getting a cab. It cost 800 baht but after nearly 20 hour travelling & the humidity enveloping me from every direction I didn’t mind paying it. It took about 40 minutes to get to the hostel.

On the drive I was amazed at two things;

  1. The electric wires running from post to post & the quantity of them grouped together
  2. The scooters, multiple passengers facing all directions with no helmets to be seen

Safety obviously not an aspect in this country.

The driver had to ring the hostel for directions. I had booked Bearpacker Hostel due to the reviews on Hostelworld & the proximity to Bangla Road & the beach. I also wanted a private room which they could offer for approx. €20 a night. The reception is bright & airy but before you step in you have to remove your shoes & be buzzed inside. Security is a big thing in this hostel. There are signs everywhere warning of penalties to any guest sneaking a non-guest inside. Check in was easy & I was shown to my “room”. Each floor is named after bears & come equipped with male & female bathrooms. The floors also have washing machines beside the bathrooms. My “room” was more like a pod at the front of the dorms. I am small (5’2) so it wasn’t much of an issue for me, though it could be claustrophobic at times. However if you are over 5’6 I recommend the dorms. I have to say the aircon was very good & effective compared to others I encountered, also the locker provided was large. After getting changed into a bikini & shorts, I made my way upstairs to the pool. There is a lady serving food from the kitchen in the common area up there, beers in the fridge & a sofa in front of a tv. Outside there were tables and chairs, the pool and bean bags on the decking. There was nobody there so I decided to explore. 

I headed down the street, past the various women offering massages, fast food restaurants and made my way to the beach. I found a place on the sand and took in my surroundings. The weather was overcast but the beach was still busy, many traders offering goods or refreshments, however once you say no thank you they move on. I like this as I hate being rude to people. I stayed about an hour before moving along. The beach wasn’t spectacular at all, nothing I haven’t seen before in Spain. This is most likely due to tourism taking over.

I was quite tired after traveling so I headed back to the hostel. Though there was people in the pool this time there was no effort at making conversation. They all seemed to be in groups. Though I tried initiating conversation, I was politely answered and that was that. I got some food of the lady in the hostel, it was nice and also only about €2 for dinner. I then headed to my room to FaceTime home (wifi was good here) then fell asleep early enough. 

The next day was similar. I spent a few hours at the beach, walked up Bangla Road and grabbed a cider, then went back to the hostel. Again failing to get proper conversation out of other guests! I gave up and spent my time reading and texting home. I had a nap before getting changed and heading back to Bangla for dinner and to watch Manchester United play terrible football. I went to the Aussie sports bar and I have to say the chow mein was lovely. Though I wasn’t finding Thailand as cheap as what people made it out to be by any means. For example most bars that served wine were charging €5 per glass. Cider (if served) was €2/3. Your best bet is beer if you can drink it.

I headed home wondering if I would ever make friends, also looking forward to the day ahead where I was being picked up early for a trip to the Elephant Sanctuary. I had to email them to confirm booking as luckily enough I had looked online where they mentioned they were having issues. I would recommend doing this if you booked well in advance. 

I was collected early and I was the first. By the time we got to the sanctuary we had an Australian family of 4, a solo young English girl, an English guy and his Polish girlfriend. For the first time in days I had conversations with people!! It was already a good start. They even shared mosquito spray with me. We had an introduction about the sanctuary and where our fees were going (€70 approx). We then were asked to help prepare the sugar and bananas before we went to meet the elephants. There were a few babies and they were very cute, but at the same time when one runs toward you get out of their way!! We got to feed them, pet them then bathe them. They were never tied up. We got a small lunch, a group photo then headed on our way. A good experience I have to say. 

After I returned from the sanctuary I headed up to the bean bags to chill out. After a while I started conversation with two Swedish girls and one engaged properly with me thank god. We had a few drinks when more people came up and when the two girls left I got to join them. They invited me on their night out and I gladly accepted. Everyone was ten years younger but when talking about travel and experiences age doesn’t seem to matter. We went to Bangla road and tried a few bars. It is an experience, very commercial and full of drunk tourists! I was so happy though to be mixing with people and having fun.

The next day, some were hungover so they remained in bed. Some of us went to the pool and spent the day chatting. I went off for a while to book my accommodation in Phi Phi which took forever as most hostels seemed to be party hostels which I’m too old for and the hotels weren’t getting great reviews either. Finally chose one and booked my transport at reception for the following morning. That evening I joined others for a meal on the beach which was nice then had a walk whilst paddling my feet. We got a few drinks and headed back to the roof for an hour before saying our goodbyes.

Overall I have to say it was tough at the beginning and Phuket wasn’t what I imagined Thailand to be like. Very touristy and commercial, not like paradise at all. However I was warned and some people like that. Everyone has different opinions.I didn’t  rent any bikes during my trip and maybe if I had I would have seen more amazing places. The hostel was lovely and would stay in it again. If like me you have a hard time getting people to engage, keep trying with different people. It isn’t you! Some people just rather keep to their own groups.

Not long now, adventure awaits

Soon enough I am heading off for my first ever adventure holiday!! I am no longer solo as a colleague heard about my trip and asked if she could join me. Whilst I said yes a part of me couldn’t help but feel dissapointed that I was no longer trying solo travel. However I remind myself that I had booked it with solo in mind and for nearly three months that was the intention. I feel the fact that I was willing was a big step in itself so I cannot beat myself up over it. Plus I am already planning solo trips for next year, the destination to be decided. 

My partner in crime for this trip also needs to be brought out of her comfort zone. A little older than me she realised she needed to start putting herself first and living her life so if I can help with that surely that exceeds my own need for going solo.

I’ve planned a lot of activities that I am normally too scared to try. Hopefully I don’t chicken out!! These include paragliding, ziplining, white water rafting. Other activities included sand surfing, trekking, mountain biking and horse riding. Very excited about it all and nervous at the same time.
I have a feeling this trip will change me so it will be interesting to see how!

First step towards solo travel

Solo travel is something I never considered until the start of this year. I’m pretty independant but to travel on your own is quite scarey. However as my priorities have changed over the years in comparison to my friends, it has become my only option. I came to realise I needed to accept my hand I had been dealt and try not let the things I can control in my life be pushed aside by my fears or others opinions. Travelling was always something I was interested in, I even studied travel and tourism for a while after school. I happily went to Spain, Portugal etc for many holidays, but after a while I wanted to go further. 

I would have loved to travel Australia but none of my friends wanted to so I saved for my apartment instead. Going alone never occurred to me as it was too far, I would be afraid to set up base alone and my parents would be in a constant nauseous state until I came home. 

What is actually funny about this was that at 22 I actually travelled to New York alone. My friend was living there and as I felt it would be a once in a lifetime trip, I booked my flight. It never felt solo as I was meeting someone over there. However she was working so I toured the city for a couple of days on my own. I LOVED IT!!  I wasn’t sure what eating alone would be like but it was grand, I took a book with me as this was before iPhone days! It was extremely freeing being able to go and do whatever I wanted without compromising with anyone. I took selfies before they got a name, laughing at my gigantor head as opposed to the Statue of Liberty. I also tried taking them whilst nobody was watching as I was embarrassed! Now that I am writing this, I never gave myself credit for that trip. I think I just didn’t feel I was alone as I had my friend there in the evenings and at the weekend. However I did wander around one of the most famous cities in the world on my own and encountered no issues. 

This year I decided I was writing a bucket list of places I wanted to see. I want to have no regrets in my life and by that I mean regrets that I have full control over. Certain things happen against your control so you can’t change them. Travel was something I could change. I put on it places I had never been before and when I book trips there I can cross them off. I have a fabulous godmother who also loves to travel so I have two city breaks booked for August and December. 

My main trip took me four months to get the courage to book. I had priced everything and came up with an itinerary that suited me, I got so excited. Then when I went to book the flights I froze. My heart raced and I let my fear win. So I didn’t book. I swore I would book it in a few weeks but prices went up so that gave me an excuse. I looked at going to another place where a friend of mine was interested too. I researched it for weeks but it just never had the same pull for me.  I think the thought of doing this on my own was something I actually wanted to prove to myself. If I can do it then the world is my oyster. I will no longer have any excuses to not see other cultures, apart from money of course!

A couple of weeks ago I finally pressed the book button for my ticket to Peru. My palms sweated and as the button was going around to confirm the booking part of me wanted it to not go through. I felt sick for an hour afterwards. Then I started to feel proud of myself and got butterflies of excitement. I can do this. Sure I am going to shit myself when it gets near but I think it will be the making of me. I head off in October and it’s only for two weeks so if I hate it I won’t be there long. I am booking onto a bus where I can meet bag packers and see different parts of Peru before going to Cusco. From there I hope to do a jungle trek instead of the inca trail. I left it too late to get the permit plus it was more expensive. The trek I want to do has biking, hiking, rafting and ziplining. Not to mention proper beds so no camping!! It has so much adventure and life experiences even if it’s only for a fortnight. 

To prepare for my trip I am reading so many blogs about solo travel. My favourite is Notwedordead as she overcame a hard time in her life and turned it into something amazing. I am also welcoming any advice people want to give me so feel free to leave comments here or on my Twitter @dgayson 👍🏼😊

If Nancy from 50 Ways To Kill Your Mammy can do everything in her 70’s then I can grow some balls and do this in my 30’s!!!

Trying new things

So last year I made the decision to try as many new things as possible and that has continued to this year! It made me feel great to do stuff I had never tried before and gave me a great sense of achievement. For so long I had felt low in myself, I doubted a lot of stuff about myself and my life that to actually do something I set my mind to and complete it, well that just helped build back up my confidence. I can do things by myself, I just needed a reminder.

These things do not have to be monumental huge events like climbing Everest or running a marathon (though they would be amazing, I know my boundaries!). They can be baking a cake or cooking a meal you have never tried before. Go for a walk alone or even to the cinema. Take that course you always wanted to try but keep telling yourself it’s not the right time!

For me I tried the following:

  • A concert solo- ok when I booked a ticket to Brandon Flowers last year I figured it wasn’t too expensive if I decided not to go. The reason I booked was because I’m a huge fan and the last time he came I thought my ex would surprise me with tickets but he didn’t and it sold out. I always regretted not going. Also we went to a concert before and I basically was left alone as he went off to find a friend that went solo and kept him company instead of his fiancé! So I kinda had done it before. The concert was the night before I went to San Fran and I was a bit nervous going alone but it worked to my benefit. I got closer to the stage as the bouncers pitied me! I got to enjoy every minute as I had no one else’s enjoyment to worry about and no one was trying to talk to me. Great concert and I realised I would rather go solo than miss out on an artist I want to see again 👍🏼
  • So my next thing was (as per my San Fran post ) testing out driving in America. I have to say I felt sick even though I am a confident driver. The highways are crazy, like 5-6 lanes and big massive trucks over taking you. I hated every minute of my first day driving, I couldn’t wait to reach LA from San Simeon so getting to the hotel was the best relief ever 😅. However the next day when we had a break I decided to give it another shot. I reasoned with myself that it was like being a learner driver and I just needed practice. So I continued to drive for the next three days. I drove up to Griffith observatory, to Venice Beach and then to Las Vegas. By then I didn’t want to return the car, I loved it. I didn’t give up and I easily could have. I got to see more of LA than I would have without the car and I now know I can drive on the opposite side of the road and survive!
  • Horse riding was next. I always wanted to do this since I was little but never had the opportunity. My friend Kate sent me an offer of a 2 hour horse trek for half price so we snapped it up. When we got to the stables we got nervous looking at the height of the horses. Typical that we got put on the two biggest ones when we were complete amateurs 😂. The rest of the group had a clue what they were doing, I always seemed to be at the back of the trail. But I loved it! My horse was great and didn’t bolt. I was sore the next day but so happy I did it finally. I’m actually hoping to book to do it again this summer. 

Ziplining- I booked this with my friend and my sister thinking it would be quick and easy. Not a bit! It was like an obstacle course in the trees. We went to zipit in Tibradden wood, Dublin which you book in advance.

I was the last of my group to start so they had gone on ahead before I had to do the zip line part. It took a few minutes for me to grow some balls, luckily no one was behind me! I finally did it and it felt great. It was a long line too. When it got to the other lines it got easier to throw yourself off the platform and trust the line will hold you!! Probably the hardest bit was at the end where you have to base jump to finish. My sister who is normally fairly balsey, nearly wet herself with fear! When we did it, we laughed at how silly we had been. We were totally safe in the harness, we just had to trust it

  • Croagh Patrick is something that never crossed my mind. It was on my friends bucket list so I said F it I’d join him. It was a horrible day in August which is a pity as the views are amazing from what I’ve seen on Instagram. It also made it so much tougher climbing up with hailstones beating against you (yep i did say August!) and the rocks wet as you try to climb. However after nearly two hours of me moaning I reached the top! I realised that I didn’t give up, I stuck with it and I could do it. I swore I would never do it again, especially as on the way down I fell at least 4 times!! However I am thinking about it again as I feel like I missed out on the view 🤔

Finally the scariest thing I did last year was tell somebody that I liked them. This may seem immature to some but it was a huge deal to me. I always chickened out as I grew up. I don’t have the biggest confidence in myself and my last relationship made things worse. However I really liked this guy, to the point of babbling infront of him and my hands shaking when I was near. I’m a grown up ffs and it had to stop! So I did it, not face to face as I didn’t think it would be a good thing for either of us, but by message. I got a reply after what seemed like days but it was only hours and it was a positive response. It wasn’t anything definite but it gave me hope and made me glad that I did it. Nothing came from this, date wise, but I didn’t regret doing it. This guy I liked wasn’t repulsed that I liked him, which shocked me. It gave me hope that maybe I could find someone nice and they may like me too! Also I got an answer instead of hanging around wondering what if?. I finally began to feel like I was getting control of my life again 😊
So that was my new things of 2015! I have a couple of new things done this year so far but I have a list I still need to complete. Hopefully my trip later this year will tick off a lot of boxes so that I can fill you in.

Life is for living people, try new things. If you don’t like it don’t do it again. You have a choice, you are in control of your own path. Just have as few regrets as possible 😉