Retirement means no more clocking up annual leave for holida...
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Remember Jill? She went to the UK in January for her first ever solo trip, and booked an airport transfer on Jayride.com. Now that she’s back home in Australia, we caught up with her to see how her trip went.
‘London is a fantastic city and I honestly could have spent a few extra weeks there, I loved it so much. When I first arrived at my hotel, I was keen to get exploring right away, and I knew Buckingham Palace was nearby. So I went on an evening walk, and in five minutes I was there. To stand in front of the palace, to have made it to London on my own, I felt elated. It was a big moment for me.
‘After that, I visited the English countryside, staying with family who live near Canterbury. The Canterbury Cathedral was a real highlight, as it’s such a grand building. I visited Whitstable too – it’s a dinky little seaside village on the northeast coast of Kent where they farm oysters. It was just gorgeous to wake up by the sea and explore the quaint little shops.
‘What I really couldn’t get over though is how old everything is in England compared to Australia, and how much history lies all around you. Behind one of the old pubs in Canterbury there’s still a ducking stool used for women accused of witchery! They’d strap the poor women in and dunk them into the river to ‘test’ if they were witches or not. It was wonderful to be immersed in so much history.’
The impressive Canterbury Cathedral is hundreds of years old
‘If I’ve learnt anything from this trip, it’s to always organise my transport from the airport to the hotel, because you never know what might happen.
‘In my case, I was so stressed out and distracted about getting through passport control and customs, and being on my own, that I left one of my bags in the pocket of my airplane seat, which had a lot of important things in it. I had to go back to find the airline staff to tell them I needed to collect my bag, and in my stressed state of mind, told them it was a green bag, when in fact it was pink! They kept telling me they found a pink bag, and I told them it couldn’t have been mine! I was so embarrassed, but that’s what happens when you’re stressed. Then I had to line up again for immigration and customs, and once I got to the end of the huge passport queue, I was told I’d actually been waiting in the wrong line the whole time – I was with all the English people returning home, not the tourist line. I wanted to pull my hair out at this stage. I was so worried that as I was now running late for my airport transfer, and hadn’t bought a SIM card for my phone yet, my transfer driver would leave without me.
‘So, you can imagine my utter relief when I finally made it through to the arrivals hall to see my driver from Silver Shuttle Airport Shuttle Bus, waiting in plain sight with my name written clearly on a big board. I could have cried. I told him, “Boy, I am glad to see you!”’.
‘Oh, I would have found a bench in the airport to sleep on – honestly, I don’t think I could have coped with dealing with all that stress and then trying to navigate my way across London to the hotel. Nope, that just wouldn't have happened. It was so nice to leave the stress at the airport and get to the hotel with ease.
‘And the best part, there was complimentary cheese, crackers and wine at my hotel, which I felt was very well deserved!
Jill said she loved the city of London so much, she could have stayed there for much longer
‘The whole experience made me realise that I needed to be on the ball a bit more. I’m so used to travelling with someone else who can tell me where I need to be (and which passport queue to line up in!) so it was a good lesson in learning to take note of signs, learning to be assertive and ask for help, and realising how easy it is to make mistakes when you’re feeling stressed.’
‘Yes, I was certainly reluctant and nervous to use the Tube on my own. But I did a bit of research before leaving, and it’s actually incredibly easy to use! Once I understood the northbound and southbound system, I used to Tube to do so much of my London exploring.’
‘Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for directions. Once upon a time, I would leave that to someone else. But this time I had to learn to ask for help when I needed it.
‘Eating on your own can sometimes feel like a challenge – most of the time I was fine, but it’s hard to go to places like pubs without feeling a little lonely. But it’s also a good opportunity to try new things, or go to places you wouldn’t if you were travelling with someone else. The best meal I had, would you believe, were the most delicious pasties that were sold at Victoria Station for about £3. I kept going back for more, and would sit opposite the station and watch all the people go by. It was great, and not something I would have done if I were travelling with other people, as we’d simply go to a restaurant.
Jill said learning how to use the Tube in London was easy
‘Do your research and ask friends before you go so you have some idea of where you want to stay and what you want to do. I was recommended a hotel by a friend who had lived in London for several years, and it was the perfect London base – close to a station and to some of the main sights like Buckingham Palace. Having that local insight really helped me pick the perfect hotel.
‘Invest in some good footwear! You’re on your feet all day walking and exploring, so invest in a pair of comfortable shoes, and make sure you wear them in before you leave.
‘And one last thing… let yourself live for the moment. You’re in charge of your own pace, your own itinerary, so soak it all up! Be kind to yourself too – sit down and have a coffee, have a break, and slow down if your body tells you to.’
'Well, my 60th birthday is coming up and it’s the same year as my daughter’s 30th, so we’ve been planning a joint trip to Hong Kong to celebrate our milestones. But, after this trip, I think I’ve caught the solo travel bug, so maybe I’ll leave her at home and go on my own!
If you want to know a bit more about solo travel, check out our blog from a pro-solo traveller. Like Jill, you can also take the stress out of navigating a new place by booking an airport transfer on Jayride.com. Search and compare hundreds of transfer companies today.