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Getting Out of My Comfort Zone and Travelling Solo

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone and Travelling Solo

Old Feb 16th, 2014, 03:11 AM
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Getting Out of My Comfort Zone and Travelling Solo

I am a single 57 year old female with a lot of energy and have been doing a lot of soul searching the past couple of years. Raised the family, worked my butt off over the years with tons of overtime and have decided it is time for a little bit of fun!! Can't find anyone interested in having some adventures so as scary as it is, I am ready to try a solo trip to Ireland. I have been searching the internet for some small travel groups and have come across Vagabond Adventures of Ireland. Wondering if anyone has any experiences with this tour group or any other Ireland tours. I just don't want to see Ireland, I want to experience it. Scared, but excited to take a step out of my comfort zone for once in my life, but want to travel safely. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 04:33 AM
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Well I'm not sure you'll find this very helpful but my advice would be to NOT go to Ireland. The 'best' things to experience are small towns, castles, coastal scenery. Those things are not well served by public transportation and renting a car solo is not a good idea. Most of western Europe has a fabulous train network and you can get everywhere easily and inexpensively. I've done lots of solo trips and its a great way to travel (I also travel with my husband and with friends, which I also enjoy).

If you are not really set on Ireland consider going instead to England or France or Italy. Ireland without driving yourself would probably be best with a tour, but that's not really 'independent' travel and there are lots of drawbacks to tours.

For inspiration re solo travel just type 'solo' in the search box.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 04:56 AM
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You could try asking over on Tripadvisors Irish forum where you will find lots of female contributors who travel solo and have a great time..

Vagabond are a good operation with 2 legs, The main company and Driftwood which is aimed at a slightly different mind set. Paddywagon are another decent company but I tend to say you need to be under 50 in mind and body for their tours.

You could always just use public transport and take local tours from places like Galway and Killarney along with Dublin. for a taste of Ireland I would suggest having a base for a few days in a non (or less) tourist location. Of course a lot depends on when you plan to come over and how long you will have..

Just like guide books different Forums give different takes so along with this and the already mentioned above try asking on Ireland Yes which also has solo female travellers,,

Check out the recent trip report from Green Dragon http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...eland-2013.cfm

Of course self drive will give more options. and face it if you can drive at home there is absolutely no reason except self doubt that would stop anyone driving here.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 04:57 AM
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Hi Solotreker,

Welcome to Fodors. You will find many like-minded folks here who journey solo. My travel experience did not start out that way but evolved over many years. Now I like it!

I would not be totally discouraged from including a tour also. In recent years I have stayed 5-6 six days in a large city (London or Paris), then joined a tour out through the countryside. The combination worked well for me. If you click on my name, you will find lengthy trip reports of these solo excursions. Most travelers on this board spend a great deal of time researching those points of interest they wish to explore. Be warned – you can never do it all!

Travel is a very broadening experience – so go for it and don’t hesitate to submit your queries/concerns to this forum. Good luck.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 05:12 AM
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I've taken tours and traveled on my own. My first trip at age 20 was on my own with a guide book; no internet in those long ago days. I made tons of "mistakes" but if I had to do it again I would, definitely. Lots of people (particularly women) travel on their own at every age. We have a poster on this board who is almost 20 years older than you and she travels on her own all the time. I also remember one poster in her 80s who travels solo. I'm sure there are lots more but these two come to mind immediately.

You can't experience the "real" country if you're in a group. You're coddled and herded along. The real country is found by staying in small establishments (pensions or B&Bs) and exploring more than the major cities.

When people speak about "traveling safely" I often wonder what they mean as they never identify what is unsafe to them. If you're from the US and live in or near a major city you're far from safe. Europe does not have nearly the physical crime that the US does nor the gun ownership.

I've been on many trips to Europe, both with friends, on tour groups, and on my own, and the worst that happened was that I was almost pick pocketed once. That's the type of crime that is most likely to happen. Not bodily harm.

I've only been to Ireland once so I can't speak as to the likelihood of using public transportation to get anywhere but it doesn't seem that it's easy to do (based on reading about Ireland). I would rent a car but I've rented cars in plenty of countries, by myself, where I could not read or speak the language and got along fine.

If you've chosen Ireland because the people speak English then that's not a good enough reason. People in Europe who deal with tourists all speak English. The young people all speak English.

Think about what Isabel has recommended, determine if you really want to visit Ireland or explore some other country, buy a passport, ticket, a couple of guide books, a small suitcase and get on the plane. You'll never regret it!!
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 05:16 AM
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Yes, consider "semi-solo", my made-up word. Handle the basic arrangements yourself but take half-day or longer guided tours from your city base. That approach allows the chance to mingle with like-minded visitors while preserving independence, especially your own choice of restaurants. The best development during my six decades of travelling by myself is the Internet. Carrying whatever access device you choose -- small laptop, Smartphone, tablet -- will keep you connected through your room's WiFi when the day's activities are over. (Uh, wheels on luggage was a great development too.)
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 05:33 AM
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"I just don't want to see Ireland, I want to experience it."

I've been on a number of foreign tours, several pleasurable or letting me see or do things I'd have struggled to manage myself. None, BTW, in a country where everyone speaks English as their first, or co-equal, language. None came within a zillion miles of letting me "experience" the country.

We obviously all have different expectations of what "experiencing" a country means. But a tour group's a tour group, and however hard its organisers try, you're in a bubble, consisting entirely of other tourists, almost all the time.

There's no cultural bias in Ireland (at least outside a few places in the larger cities) against single women going into pubs, and none at all against women travelling alone and starting up conversations with those sitting around her (or against others starting up conversations with her). Especially - and please don't misunderstand this - if a woman is of what the Catholic Church calls "canonical age"

As far as I'm concerned, the best way of experiencing a country is to live, work, study, have an affair or do a project there. This isn't just quibbling about what "experience" means, or points-scoring: it's that I can easily understand you might be happier on a tour - but you're very likely to come away feeling frustrated if you really thought you were going to be anything other than a spectator.

It very well might be easiest to be a spectator the first time round, and I'm not disparaging that. Just warning you, if you really want something else.

I'd suggest you'll feel slightly less of a spectator organising this yourself (in many ways nowhere on earth, even in North America, is more user-friendly for a North American adult woman than Ireland). You might have to accept seeing less - but you'll feel more involved.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 07:43 AM
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For those who are unfamiliar with tours like Vagabond and to a greater extent Wolfhound tours, these are Not set in the mould Coach tours like the CIE type, pack them in, ship them round affairs.

These are get off piste a little, mix with the natives tours which do need a bit of a more adventurous nature and quite possibly more is gained as a result. Definitely more of an experience than the Ireland by coach window tours.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 08:00 AM
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Thank you, Tony. This is good information. I looked at the long Wolfhound program and what I didn't like was 1 night stays. Vagabond does not give a detailed itinerary on their site. But both groups have interesting itineraries and the short programs can be taken in conjunction with a DIY portion of the trip.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 08:03 AM
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Hello...I don't get the responses above...this poster is not asking whether she should just go alone no tour she is asking about going on a tour but she will travel alone. It is a good idea...she has done research and found a company and is asking about that company or others. Note to OP...I think you may get better input by putting the name of this company in title of your post. I would also recommend checking other travel forums and search for the name of the company...just google too...I think you are exactly on the right track but can't tell you much about this exact company or others similar. Good luck.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 08:12 AM
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So...on Ireland forum at Trip Advisor just as I thought many people talking about Vagabond...seems favorable. If you have not gone there check it out. If you open a thread as you have here you will just get everyone's input in general on solo/vs tour and you are really not interested in that (at least that is how I read your question). Maybe you are already over at TA. You can also private mail people over there who are usually happy to share more detailed info or answer specific questions about what they post. Again...good luck.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 08:13 AM
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Hello Lois. The OP was ambiguous. When I think of traveling solo that means without a group tour. I interpreted her post to mean that she was thinking of either going solo or with a group. Why would she be concerned about traveling safely if she's with a tour group?
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 09:22 AM
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Hi and Welcome!
I have combined small tours with my solo travel, and it has turned out to be quite pleasant. I went to Turkey and stayed in Istanbul alone for a few days before and after joining a 15-person group to travel into other areas of Turkey. On that trip I was much older than the other travelers but they were a blast to be with and could not have been nicer to me. Another trip in Asia I joined a smaller group for several days - and they were my age - but a completely different mind-set....so while we LOOKED to be the same - it was not as much fun.

However - while most of traveling alone is a breeze - there are a couple of advantages to occasionally having other people with you. One is the obvious - it gives you someone to talk to. The other is that it eases the stress of having to figure out some of the regular logistics, such as how to buy tokens for public transportation, which bus to take, which gate at the airport? Just two brains are better than one sometimes - and if you make a mistake, at least you aren't alone!

My daughter did the same in Ireland. Spend a lot of time alone on either end of a tour. And she met friends for life along the way.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 09:37 AM
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"renting a car solo is not a good idea"

If you've spent most of your life driving, why on earth would it matter?

I hear Ireland offers very beautiful experiences.

For thirty years, my business has taken me all over the world. And for almost as long, I tacked on extra days to my work trips to give me a chance to explore on my own. I did meet up with friends when those opportunities were available, but for most trips I had the extra time to myself. And I loved it. Still do.

I'm not burdened by fear. I've made my share of travel mistakes, but nothing unbearable ever happened to me. With the right attitude, you can overcome almost anything.

Life is far too short to let it pass without experiencing your dreams. Good luck.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 10:28 AM
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maybe she is looking for a combination which would be good too..don't know...up to her to sort out.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 11:10 AM
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Solotreker, I think flanneruk has given you the most balanced and real response of all so far.

If you truly want to 'experience' a place, NO tour will ever give you that. You must travel independently and slowly to meet that objective.

That said, if you would feel more comfortable for this first 'adventure' in being in a group then fine. No doubt you will enjoy it but just don't set your expectations at a level a tour cannot deliver.

If all goes well and you see the shortcomings of a tour group that first experience may well let you see enough to know you can go it on your own next time.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 12:06 PM
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"renting a car solo is not a good idea"

If you've spent most of your life driving, why on earth would it matter?

Well for starters she would be driving in unfamiliar territory and it is more difficult to both drive and navigate (read the map, read road signs) at the same time, not to mention the temptation to look at scenery. I've driven in Ireland (and England, France, Spain, Italy, etc.) and it IS a bit different from driving in the US - the way the roads are marked, the number of roundabouts, etc. The fact that you need to know the names of towns along your route rather than just route numbers. Things like that. Difficult, not terribly, but it is different.

Roads in Ireland are much narrower than in most of the US. And we haven't even mentioned yet that, assuming she is from the US, they drive on the OTHER side of the road! I actually thought it was kind of fun, but I'm sure glad I had someone else in the car to help me remember going through roundabouts, turning, etc. To help watch for traffic. Stuff like that. And I've driven in England/Ireland several times and I still wouldn't do it alone if I didn't have to.

Just saying, I think solo traveling is wonderful, but much less stressful if you don't have to drive, especially the first time.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 01:28 PM
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"it is more difficult to both drive and navigate at the same time, not to mention the temptation to look at scenery."

There are challenges for sure, but those who seek adventure can prepare. And much depends on rural vs. urban driving. I've driven solo in Japan (insane decision). At least the road signs won't be in Japanese.

Having another person along doesn't guarantee a good navigator sitting next to you. It's far more dangerous to have a back-seat driver sitting next to you, yelling wrong directions. And then there's the arguing afterwards. No thank you.

These days a Garmin can be a worthwhile investment for a solo traveler.

As for tours, I'm not a group girl. I love a great tour guide, but I'll only invest in private tours. Having the guide to yourself is so enriching.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 02:04 PM
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Are you fully committed to joining a tour? Many of us are women who have found traveling solo to be a great indulgence -- I love it! You might find some inspiration in the trip reports on this thread:
http://www.fodors.com/community/trav...collection.cfm
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 03:13 PM
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Congratulations on your decision to step out on your own & see the world.

It's quite a while since I was in Ireland, and I didn't do any group tours or use public transport, so my comments will probably be of limited value to you.

However, I can say that if you're a competent driver in your own country, you ought have no trouble driving in Ireland. By competent, I include experience in driving on narrow roads with lots of twists & turns, hedges and some one-way bridges. Or at least a willingness to slow down & do so, not expect every road to be a multi-lane freeway.

I travel solo, but occasionally take small-group tours for a day or 3 for special interest excursions.

This might be something for you to consider. If you have the time, you could spend a few days in a town/village in a b&b, or rent a flat /cottage to give you a flavour of that area, and take short tours to explore.

As I said, I can't comment in specific tour companies in Ireland as I didn't use any - but I saw a great deal of the south, and a little of the north, driving myself over about 6 weeks.
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