• 17 August 2016
Anita Neethling

Anita is a 22 year old South African who absolutely loves exploring! She is currently a veterinary science student, and impulsively decided to join one of our Irish Explorer tours. She contacted us on social media, and instantly we wanted to know more about her story! She agreed to share her thoughts on why she decided to do it alone and how it changed her life. She also revealed some of the valuable lessons she learned while on the road…

To travel alone is a great idea
I didn’t have someone to travel with, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from seeing the world. Knowing that I did not need a visa for Ireland, I researched Ireland tours for a couple of months. Expat Explore was one of the only tour operators I could find that does not penalise you for being a solo traveller. After I booked the tour, there was a moment where I asked myself, “What if I don’t make friends on the tour?”. I realised that sometimes being on your own might not be such a bad thing. Being alone does not equate to being lonely. We live lives that are so ridiculously busy that we often neglect our relationships with ourselves.

Anita at the Cliffs of Moher.

An organised tour is not such a bad idea (at all)
You don’t have to be worried about getting lost! You don’t need to stand in long lines to get entrance tickets for places. You don’t need to worry about where you’re going to stay, or what you’re going to do for each meal. There’s a lot of admin you just don’t have to worry about. It’s an “easy” way to travel, and if you’ve never travelled before, it makes it a lot less stressful. You get automatic travel companions and people to share stories with along the journey. You also have someone to take photos of you (which is a lot better than asking a total stranger to take photos of you). Our tour leader, Laura, was so helpful! She was always available to chat, and made us feel right at home.

If you’re friendly to people, most of them will be friendly back
Travelling to London by myself and getting on a coach where I did not know a soul was terribly scary at times! My flight to Dublin was cancelled due to fog, and I had to take a replacement flight. During the couple of hours on the airport, I made a new friend, and we kept each other company and commuted to Dublin together.

Because of the flight delay, I missed the first meeting with our tour leader. After a late dinner, my roommate gave me all the details on breakfast time and when we needed to be on the bus. The next morning at breakfast, she introduced me to some other co-travellers, and I made friends before we even got into the bus. I also loved sharing a room with a complete stranger. I got such an insight into her country, and we had great conversations. We didn’t spend that much time in our room as we were too busy experiencing the cities we were in. Making friends on tour was so much easier than I thought, and I’m still in contact with quite a few of them. I hope to visit them all in their respective countries soon!

Travelling in a group gives you the guts you need to explore to heart’s content
Had I been a woman travelling alone instead of in a group, I would have been concerned for my safety, and not been able to see as much of Ireland (not for the same price anyway). I made wonderful new friends, and I enjoyed sharing the experiences with them. Of course, there is a time and a place to travel completely alone (without a tour group), but for me personally, I’ve come to realise that there is safety in numbers, and you can still have your own space even when travelling in a group.

Travelling in a group gives you the guts you need to explore to heart’s content.
Exploring Giant’s Causeway.

There are places in the world that will leave you breathless
Ireland is absolutely breath-taking. The day we visited the Ring of Kerry was like a day out of a storybook. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this day changed my life forever. I never knew that it was possible to lose your breath so many times in one day, because of the sheer unadulterated beauty in front of you. I hope I get to go back to Ireland at some point in my life.

There is no such thing as a “perfect country”
I was shocked to hear people from first world countries complain about politics and what they’re unhappy about. Traveling helped me be thankful for so many things about South Africa. Yes, we have our problems but show me a country who doesn’t? I think we should all be a part of the solution rather than just complaining about all the problems.

It is very important to budget for your trip – especially when you are travelling alone
To be honest, I had to cut it a bit fine! I left Europe with 56 cents on the card, and a couple of Euro coins in my wallet. A couple of more Euros would have come in handy, and I know now that budgeting is very important. I found that it helped me to give myself a daily amount that I was allowed to spend. During the tour, we had a couple of chats with Gary, the bus driver, and what he told us was super informative and something only a true local would know. It’s good to know all there is to know! The food on tour was always more than enough (I gained 3 kg in one week!).

At Ross Castle, Killarney National Park.
At Ross Castle, Killarney National Park.

I learned heaps about myself and about the world
People asked me about the changes that had occurred over the holiday. I had gained a confidence, and learnt that it’s okay to be yourself. There will be people who like you for who you are. I learnt that I loved seeing scenes of beauty that words cannot describe, and that in those moments I felt so alive. We are a part of that beauty.

I learnt about how the vocabulary used in different parts of the world can be so so very different, but at the same time beautiful. I learned of more places that I want to see after hearing fellow travellers talking about beautiful places and must-see things in their own countries.

Cahersiveen - a town in Republic of Ireland
Cahersiveen – a town in Republic of Ireland

And boy, do I have stories to tell!
One of my favourite moments was in Killarney. A bunch of us were sitting in the bar after 11PM one night, when an older Irish man comes along and asks if anyone in the group is Australian. He made his way to the piano in the corner of the room, and proceeded to play – from memory – two different Australian songs, and the ever so famous “Molly Malone” song. The chords filled the the room with his pleasant baritone voice, and we all joined in song. It’s a memory I think of so fondly, and it’s something that money cannot buy and something you can never plan for.

3 tips on travelling solo

  • Keep a cool head. Things have a way of working out in the end.
  • Have conversations with strangers. People are more open to it than you think and you will always learn something new.
  • Budget before you go! Travelling alone means you can manage your spending and get the most from your trip.

Have you been on a tour with Expat Explore? Whether you have enjoyed a tour travelling alone or with your partner or friends, we’d love to hear more! Find out more about the Irish Explorer Tour Anita joined here

Questions & Comments

  1. Anita’s story is absolutely true. I traveled on my own with Expat Explore last year with Italian Delight’s Tour and also missed my first meeting and was brought uptodate with the day activities by my room mate who was an absolute stranger and who could be my daughter’s age two times over and had an great time with her. We should not limit ourselves but take the time to enjoy this beautiful world that God created for our enjoyment. I am looking forward to my next Tour in 2017.

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