Holidays seem like uniquely social endeavours, but can you still enjoy them by yourself? Jessica Cripps shares her solo adventure in Portugal.
The solo traveller is no longer such a rare occurrence. One in five have travelled alone on a leisure trip to another country, according to the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study. Women who travel alone – dubbed ‘Wander Women’ – are also on the rise.
Is it possible to travel alone and have fun doing it? Is it easy to keep safe? Won’t travelling alone conjure up that unfortunate side effect – loneliness?
Bogged down after deadlines and bored of Bristol (I know, who knew that could happen?), I found myself inclined to explore the trend. I impulsively booked a weekend trip to Faro, Portugal for under £50 – by myself.
I absolutely was not lonely.
Faro, however, is beautiful no matter what the weather
Let me paint a picture: Faro is the Capital of the Algarve coast in Southern Portugal. In summer, it is a sweltering hub for tourists who want to sip cocktails with a dazzling view of glittering, shimmering ocean. However, as I had elected to visit in December, it was as you’d expect: rainy.
Faro, however, is beautiful no matter what the weather. Even gloomy skies can’t disguise the glistening water of the marina. The sprawling, cobbled streets are still surprisingly easy to navigate, and the touristy areas often give way to streets of intense graffiti that give a bright, urban edge to the otherwise white-washed town.
I had booked into Le Penguin Hostel, which was in the centre of town. Anyone who has tried travelling inexpensively will already know how invaluable hostels can be, and not just because they are a cheap buck. Yes, they seem to exist in a torrent of rumours about theft and annoying roommates – but the reality is that they are a guaranteed way to meet people in a laid back environment.
‘make eye contact when you clink your drinks, lest seven years of bad sex befall you’
Le Penguin was a hive of international culture. The drinking games saw almost every continent of the world represented and competing to drink each other under the table.
International slang and superstitions (‘make eye contact when you clink your drinks, lest seven years of bad sex befall you’) were swapped in the same way you might share a cigarette at Analog. It’s amazing how many jokes about Englishmen, Irishmen and Scottish men can be swapped around a table with, you guessed it, an English girl, an Irish guy and a Scot sitting at it.
the hosts convinced us that, once there, we would be undressed, given robes and condoms, and told to go nuts
It wasn’t all fun though. Eating alone with only my phone for company on the first day was the only time I felt lonely.
The low season also meant most of the museums were closed, so I instead I made my own fun. A new friend with a vintage camera provided entertainment in an abandoned square one afternoon, while another morning I spent wandering around looking for the best street art.
Chatting with the hostel hosts disclosed some of the best places to visit after hours. Many bars in Faro don’t open until after midnight, when the sleepy town suddenly comes alive with the murmurs of music. However, the suggestion of the evening bar Fabrica dos Sentidos revealed an edgy warehouse rammed with artwork and bean bags, blasting house music until closing time.
Beware of pranksters though. En route to Fabrica, the hosts convinced us that, once there, we would be undressed, given robes and condoms, and told to go nuts. Thankfully this turned out not to be true, but the looks on our poor, fresh-faced faces were priceless.
Solo travel resulted in one of the most rewarding weekends of my life
Solo travel resulted in one of the most rewarding weekends of my life. If your finger is hovering over that ‘book’ button, go for it. You never know until you try it.
Have you ever taken a solo trip? Tell us about it!