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Dr Seuss would be turning in his grave reading that title. He’d be thinking “By gum what kind of imbecile rhymes ‘oh no’ with ‘solo’?!” Because I would put money on Dr Seuss being the kind of man who said things like by gum and imbecile. Although to be honest who is he to judge my rhyming skills when he rhymed am with ham, two words which to me and my heavy Welsh accent sound exactly the same. We don’t pronounce our H’s.
In case you’re sat there thinking to yourself “Is Dr Seuss even dead? I thought he was alive” just as I was while writing that first sentence, I’m at great pains to tell you that he died of oral cancer in September 1991, at the grand old age of 87. Very sad.
But while we’re on the subject of one of the greatest non-medical doctors to ever walk this planet, let it be known that his first name was Theodor. People called him Theo. That’s cute.
I don’t exclusively travel solo. Oh no.
See what I did there?
I’ve travelled with friends, with friends of friends, with acquaintances, with complete strangers who carry Tazers on domestic U.S. flights, with a boyfriend, with a not-quite boyfriend and I’ve even travelled with an ex-boyfriend.
If someone wants to come on a trip with me, so be it! They can come along for the ride, I have no qualms with that. But I’m always more than happy to go alone – and mostly I do – simply because
I’m the funniest person to have ever walked this planet and never get bored of my own company because why would I? I’m awesome! I’m comfortable enough with my own company not to always need someone there alongside me. And if I wanna go, I will go.
I’ll be honest though, there are three times, occasions, moments, call them what you will, on every single trip I take when I stop and find myself thinking “Damn, I wish George* was here!”
to stop me buying useless crap
Some people were blessed at birth with a filter when it comes to buying things. Some people are able to stop and ask themselves “Do I really need this?” before spending their hard-earned dollar on something that has about as much use as a canary that can’t sing. Me? I am not one of those people.
I’m not talking about things that actually may come in handy one day like clothes or shoes or pens that write in 6 different colours. No, I’m talking about the things my mother would refer to as ‘useless bits of tat’, proper useless stuff that you wake up the morning after and think to yourself “Why? Just why?”
A fine example of this is last summer when I went to California for a few days, visiting both Universal Studios and Disneyland in quick succession. An expensive couple of days, I hear you say. Yeah, it was. And it was made even more expensive thanks to my blatant disregard for my own bank account and unfortunately impulsive decision-making skills.
Was it really necessary to spend $19.99 (before tax because America is just silly like that) on a plastic cup shaped like Homer Simpson’s head? Did I really need to buy an iron-on patch of the Gryffindor coat of arms? It doesn’t even say it comes from Universal Studios on it! For all anyone knows it could have come all the way from China via a late-night eBay spending spree.
If they were absolute must-haves in my life then sure, even now I’d be able to justify it. But no justification can come when I don’t even know where the patch is, and Homer has been haphazardly shoved at the back of a cubby hole in my kitchen, away from the prying eyes and sticky hands of my niece and nephews. I don’t want them touching Homer – “He’s not a toy” is what I insisted (to myself more than to my stepfather who wasn’t even listening). Yet I don’t even touch Homer. I haven’t touched him since we left Universal Studios, other than to shuffle him from one bag to the other when in transit.
Then there’s Disneyland. I spent near enough $100 between Disneyland and Downtown Disney, and other than my super awesome Minnie Mouse cap (way more practical than a pair of ears, despite the extra $5 on the price tag) I have absolutely sod all to show for it. A $5 box of chocolates fell into my basket simply because they had the Seven Dwarves on the packaging and I’m a sucker when it comes to Grumpy. They were nice enough, though. At least I think they were. I only ate two before accidentally leaving the rest in my hotel mini-fridge on check out. Bye bye $5.
There are so many other examples I could make:
⋆ The $15 Miami t-shirt I purchased at the airport during my layover back in 2013. I wore it once and then completely forgot about it until last week when it re-emerged from the depths of my seriously neglected wardrobe along with a short bout of nostalgia and one utterance of “I remember this t-shirt!”
⋆ Tiny little miniature versions of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Coliseum and Vatican bought as mementos from the 3-day trip to Rome I took with Erasmus friends during my Year Abroad. They’re on my bookshelf. Not on display or anything, they’re just there because I don’t know what the heck else I’m supposed to do with them.
⋆ 7 identical key-rings I brought home from my first trip to Peru back in 2011. I went overboard on that trip and came home with about 20 chulo hats, 3 Inca chessboards, a ceremonial knife, way too many sets of panpipes and 2 CDs demonstrating the best of Peruvian panpipe music. Every man and his dog got a gift that year. Anyway, the key-rings are crap quality, fall apart way too easily and haven’t even made it out of the little plastic bag in which they came.
⋆ I brought home 15 toothbrushes from India for no reason other than they were between 30-5op a pop. Colgate and Oral-B I’m talking about now, mind, the fancy stuff. So yeah, if anyone wants a toothbrush between now and 2100, I’m your gal. Easily the most stupid and pointless purchase ever made.
Trust me when I say the list could go on and on. It may even warrant its own blog post some day, who knows?!
In my head having someone travelling alongside me would be like having my very own not-so-pocket-sized Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder. They’ll be there to be all “Woooah now, hold your horses! That is an unnecessary and somewhat rash purchase. Maybe you should sleep on it and if you still want it tomorrow, we’ll come back”. I won’t want it tomorrow. Never do I ever still want something the next day, but I also don’t like listening to my own advice.
I have no self control. Thus, I need someone to be my self control.
to take droolworthy photos of the back of my head
We all want photos of ourselves in front of the beautiful temples we’ve been to, or the stunning beaches on which woe suffered insane heatstroke. We all want proof that we were there.
I don’t know about you, but I feel hella narcissistic when it comes to showing my holiday snaps to people back home and there’s like 623 consecutive selfies of my sweaty red face because I just couldn’t get the damn angle right to get the landscape in.
Which is why the back of the head shots are so perfect!
We all know what kind of shots I’m talking about and if you say you don’t then you’re probably a bit of a fibber and I wouldn’t wanna leave you alone with my house plants! Just kidding, I don’t have house plants.
I’m forever lusting after the backs of women’s heads on Instagram.
Seriously, though. There are a bunch of female travel blogger influencer people who are super well-known for the pictures they have of the backs of their heads. And sometimes the back of their whole bodies. You know, the walking off into the distance kind of shot.
Just think about Murad Osmann, more commonly referred to as the Guy Who Photographs His Wife Around the World who, quite literally, follows his wife around the world taking her photos in nice places. You may not have known his name before reading it in the previous sentence (you’re welcome for that) but you probably would have seen his work doing the rounds at least once before.
Mr Osmann and his wife aren’t the only ones milking the back of the head thing for all it’s worth, though. There are dozens and dozens of well-established bloggers who have a whole bunch of photos taken in the exact same – or very similar – style as the back of the head power couple that is Mr and Mrs Osmann.
Then there’s that girl who had her friend pretend to be a crazy stalker, taking the exact same photos in the exact same places, mostly of her from behind. We all know who I’m talking about but I’m not going to link because I refuse to be a pawn in her fame game.
I’m not knocking these people. (Not for the photos, anyway. For the lying to everyone just for a few extra Instagram followers, hell yeah I’m knocking that!)
On the contrary, I want to be them.
I don’t care if it’s cliche or cheesy or massively overdone.
There’s just something about the back of your head (or body) in a travel shot that makes you seem so much more mysterious than the front. It makes everything around you in the shot look so much more mystical and interesting.
When you think about it it’s absolutely genius.
It’s the kind of shot that ANYONE can pull off.
Normally one to avoid rating people’s looks on a scale of 1-10, for the sake of getting my point across I’m going to do just that right now.
Facing forward I’m a 7. Maybe an 8 on a good day if I use the fancy make-up ordinarily reserved for fancy occasions (like my graduation, or that one time I went to Pizza Express).
But from behind?!
I’M A NINE-POINT-FIVE BABY!!
Which, to be honest is the closest I’ll get to a 10 without going back to India.
You don’t need to have model good looks to get a nice back of the head/body shot. You don’t even need to have confidence. You just need a head, that’s all! And maybe a French plait or some other kind of hairstyle that looks like a pastry.
But these kind of photos I’m talking about? The fantastic, wanderlust-inducing, juicy kind of photos worthy of being on the front page of some exotic magazine about the Maldives?
They’re 100% unattainable for me as a solo traveller.
Now before you speak, hear me out.
YOU COULD ALWAYS USE A SELFIE STICK – Yes. Yes I could use a selfie stick. But then I would have a selfie stick in the shot. Which sometimes looks bloody awesome but other times? Meh.
WHAT ABOUT A TRIPOD? – Then I would be the person setting up a tripod in the middle of some bustling street or attraction, potentially getting in everybody’s way and generally causing a nuisance. Obviously I know this isn’t always the case, but my socially anxious self can’t think of it any other way. Also, what if some miscreant comes along and runs off with my goods while my back is turned?! What then?! The insurance is highly unlikely to pay up when I admit (and I will admit because I’m one of those people who can’t really lie) that I just left it all lying about.
JUST ASK A STRANGER – I’m a huge advocate for taking photos of strangers. When you’re out and about with a bunch of friends and you’re awkwardly struggling to get a picture with all of you in the shot, I’m the weirdo that rushes over and snatches the camera out of your hand before you know what’s happening. I’m forever inflicting myself upon unsuspecting families who are too shy to ask somebody to take a picture with both Mummy and Daddy in it.
But even I know there’s a difference between “Can you quickly take my photo in front of this really cool view?” and “I want you to take my photo but from behind. It has to be the back of my head. And I’m going to hold my hand out to you in a seductive manner so it looks like we’re holding hands and I have a nice mysterious Moroccan boyfriend that nobody knows about. Oh, and I want you to stand on one leg and look at the sun while you’re doing it thanks.” It’s a bit much really.
The perfect solution to this problem is, of course, travelling with somebody you know. A friend, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a next door neighbour – basically anyone you can pay/bribe/persuade into taking the shots you so much want to have.
That way you can leave the selfie sticks, tripods and self-consciousness behind and really get working on that holiday album to end all holiday albums!
to share things with
I’m not just referring to practical things like taxis, beds, meals and the extiortionate price of that airport coffee you can’t go without because hello 5am flights and 2am wake-up calls.
I’m talking about things. Experiences and moments and memories. The non-material stuff that kind of can’t be replaced or replicated.
Sometimes something happens and it’s so freaking hilarious but other than you, the bus driver and maybe a few locals villagers herding their sheep, nobody was around to witness it. So you all have a good laugh about it there and then, and it’s nice.
Then you completely forget about it.
Fast forward a few years and something on TV reminds you of it. You laugh out loud and recount the tale to those around you. They smile politely but you can tell by the way they’re looking at you that they’re thinking “How is this funny?”
It’s a lot nicer to have somebody there that you can turn to or text and be like “Oh hey, remember when I fell off my horse in Uzbekistan and then you got food poisoning from eating a raw turkey? HA HA HA SO FUNNY” then you sit and you laugh and reminisce together and it’s bloody nice! Not only are you reminded of that unique and crazy experience, but you also feel a lot less self-conscious for laughing with someone as opposed to being sat there in a coffee shop chuckling to yourself, unavoidably giving off serial killer-esque vibes.
It’s the same on the opposite side of the spectrum too. When bad or not-so-great things happen, and you need back up!
Take when I got bitten by a monkey in Rajasthan, for instance. I was alone. Nobody was with me so nobody saw what actually went down in the epic battle between me and my monkey brethren. So everybody keeps asking what did I do to provoke the monkey? Guys, I don’t go around poking monkeys for fun I promise.
If someone was there I would have been able to save so much time defending myself against all those who seem to think I’m some sort of monkey-teaser.
Having written all of this (bit long, soz) the take away I’m getting is that I need someone travelling alongside me who’s good with a camera but can double up as both a prison guard and an accountant when needed. Must not be afraid of monkeys. Good luck me!
Are you a solo traveller? What do you think is the worst part?