Friday, June 26, 2009

Seven tips for dealing with loneliness on the road

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: travelling solo is one of life's greatest experiences. While there are numerous reasons why you should hit the road alone, the downside is that you run a greater risk of experiencing feelings of loneliness than you would travelling with a partner or friend. I recently complied my top seven tips for how to beat loneliness when travelling for MSN NZ and thought I'd share them here.

Keep busy: The best way to overcome loneliness when travelling is to keep busy. Some people like to write or read, but these in themselves are very introspective and lonely pursuits. I find it's better to plan a couple of days of full-on sightseeing. Set your own itinerary and pack your day completely seeing all the local sights. You'll be so busy trying to locate the next destination on your tour or working out the public transport system you won't have time to be lonely.

Go for a walk or run: Doing some exercise is an excellent way to keep active and clear your mind of any thoughts of loneliness. Going for a run or a long walk will not only raise your spirits, but also give you the opportunity to explore areas of a town you may not have seen.

Go to a local bar or coffee shop: Grab a book or your journal and head to a bar or cafe. Find one that is frequented by locals and then deliberately choose a seat where you can maximise your chances of striking up a conversation with other patrons. Most people enjoy talking about themselves and what's important to them, so this is a great way to learn a little more about the local people and the place you're in.

Join a tour: Travelling solo is a fantastic experience, but it doesn't mean you have to spend all your time alone. Whether you take a day-trip or a join multi-day tour, getting out and about with a group of other travellers is a great way to meet people.

Volunteer: A sure-fire way to meet other people is to find work as a volunteer. Whether you help out in a soup kitchen or teach children at a local school you'll not only keep loneliness at bay, but you'll also enhance your travel experience by making a greater connection with the community.

Stay in a hostel: While staying in a hotel with your own private bath and room service might be a tempting option, it can also be very isolating. Hostels on the other hand offer plenty opportunities to interact with like-minded travellers. What's more they're only a fraction of the cost. Most hostels have communal television or computer rooms - some even have bars. So you never know, you might even make a new friend or find a travel buddy for your next adventure.

Communicate with the world: With so many gadgets and gizmos at our disposal these days, it's certainly not hard to stay in touch with family and friends when you’re on the road. Whether you reach for a pay-phone to call home, send a text message on your mobile or log-on to the internet to catch-up with your friends on Facebook or to update your blog, connecting with friends and family is a good way to beat the loneliness blues. A word of warning: just make sure you don't allow technology to get in the way of making real connections with real people.

Get a good night's sleep: One of the biggest sources of loneliness is over-tiredness. At the same time, over-sleeping can also make you tired and lonely. So make sure you get around eight hours of sleep each night and be careful not to hide in bed all day.

Happy travels!

Picture: Taking it all in, Malolotja Nature Reserve, Swaziland

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life is a highway

This last week I've been planning my itinerary for my upcoming trip to Africa which got me reminiscing about the greatest travel tradition of all – the humble road trip. Road trips of course aren't merely about the destination. Their appeal, as is often noted, lies in the journey itself. For me it's the people you meet, the dinky little one-horse towns you stay in and the experiences you have along the way which makes them so memorable. So as I prepare to hit the road again I thought I'd share a few of my all time favourite journeys (all tried and tested of course!):

Route 66, USA
Distance: 4000km
Route 66 is arguably the most famous highway in the world. No other stretch of asphalt has been eulogised so frequently and fervently by movies, songs, books and television shows. In fact, Route 66 has been mentioned in so many songs it’s earned the nicknamed the 'Rock 'n Roll Highway'. Starting in Chicago in Illinois, America’s 'Mother Road' crosses the country through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending at the beaches of Santa Monica in Los Angeles, California.

Trans-Fagarasan Highway, Romania
Distance: 90km
Said to be one of the highest roads in Europe, the Trans-Fagarasan Highway charges up and over the crest of Romania's Fagaras Mountains. Climbing up to 2000m, the dizzying road twists and turns its way between the jagged peaks of the country's highest mountains - the Moldoveanu (2,543m) and Negoiu (2,535m) - and passes through its longest tunnel (887m). If that’s not enough, you also can stop at the castle of Vlad the Impaler, the revered prince from the Middle Ages who inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Great Ocean Road, Australia
Distance: 243km
Recognised as one of the world’s most scenic drives, the Great Ocean Road hugs the rugged south-eastern coast of Victoria. Starting in Torquay, it stretches westward past the windswept limestone pillars of the Twelve Apostles, to the historic seafaring village of Warrnambool. Built as a memorial to the 'Diggers' of World War I, the rough-hewn road winds along cliff tops, up breathtaking headlands, down to the edge of beaches, across river estuaries and through lush rainforests offering panoramic views at every turn.

Route 62, South Africa
Distance: 450km
I have to admit I have a real soft spot for this road trip. Often overlooked by motorists who tear up South Africa's N2, Route 62 is a stunning inland alternative to the much-hyped coastal Garden Route. Showcasing some of the country's most magnificent scenery, the road, starting just outside Cape Town and running to Port Elizabeth, meanders through scenic spa towns, past vineyards and fruit farms and over breathtaking mountain passes. It's also reputedly the longest wine route in the world with 69 wine farms dotting its path...I'll drink to that!

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Africa calling

By now you all should be aware of my affection for Africa. So it should come as little surprise to learn that I am about to pack my backpack and return to the continent in August. After my mammoth world-wind adventure last year which took in three continents and seven countries including Tanzania, Cuba, and the United States, this time I’ll be devoting my entire three month trip to Africa taking in Ghana and South Africa with a possible side trip to Namibia.

While much of time in southern Africa will be spent catching up with old friends, in Ghana I will be updating the 5th edition of Ghana: The Bradt Travel Guide for author Philip Briggs. So for eight weeks over August and September I'll be driving, bussing and bush taxiing my way around the entire country covering everything from the busy streets of Accra and the string of forts and castles that line the former Gold Coast to the lush mountains of the Eastern Highlands and game-rich savannah of Mole National Park in the north. It's been a few years since I was last in Ghana – I stopped by briefly on my way to cover Togo and Benin for the 5th edition of Lonely Planet's West Africa - so I'm really looking forward to reacquainting myself with the country. If anyone wants to join me for my latest wild adventure, drop me a line!

Bookmark and Share