End-of-year exhaustion

Anyone else utterly exhausted? I am! Wow, 2010 has been a long year. A good one and a very busy one. But I am glad it’s coming to an end. Although 1 January is just another day, there’s that mental shift: that you’re starting over fresh.

Just barely hanging in there at the moment, I have to work really hard not to snap and lose patience. I’m trying to plough through my last few projects to get then wrapped up before the break, and when they don’t go smoothly, or a client calls with ‘just one more little thing’, I want to scream. Continue reading

Priorities, obligations and guilt

I really am persona non grata with my family at the moment. Why? Because I’m not joining them all for Christmas in the cold, dark, wet UK – I’ve booked myself a trip to Egypt and Dubai for three weeks.Pyramids, camels, sphinxes – here I come. Continue reading

Travelling on your own

With my holiday imminent – I leave this weekend – I’ve been excitedly telling everyone about it. The most common questions I’ve had are ‘Why Istanbul?’ and ‘Are you going on your OWN?’

You can read about why I chose Istanbul here. And yes, I am going on my own. I’m single, none of my friends can travel with me right now, and actually I LOVE travelling solo.

You get to do exactly what YOU want to do. No compromising on which sights you see. You decide each day what you want to do, and then you do it. That hugely famous museum too crowded? Blitz through it and go and find a good coffee spot. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to accompany someone round a museum who wants to examine each artifact in minute detail, when all you want to do is give it all a quick once over and then escape the crowds. Had enough for the day? Just pop back to your hotel for a nap – no ‘come on, let’s just go and see one more church/gallery/etc.’

I’ve also found that travelling solo means I meet many more people than when I’ve travelled with someone. Maybe solo travellers are more approachable, or maybe we make an effort to be friendly and chatty so that we have people to talk to. When I returned from a round the world trip a few years back, I had many more email addresses and contact numbers than a coupled-up friend who had done the same route 6 months earlier. And I am still in touch with a few of the people I met too.

I also love flying on my own. OK, I hate flying but at least if I’m on my own, I can close myself off into a little iPod/in-flight movie cocoon or take a sleeping tablet and just zone out. There’s also a better chance of finding more than one seat to spread out in.

Sure, there are downsides to solo travel – going to a restaurant solo can be awkward, romantic sunset cruises are less romantic when it’s just you. Plus it’s more economical to book a double room and then share the bill. But on balance, if nobody else is available to travel with me, I’m extremely happy to go it alone. Are you?

The perfect vacation for a single thirty-something?

I’ve been trying to figure out where to go on holiday for a while now. Yes, there’s that cooking trip around India in January I’ve got my eye on, but that’s AGES away, and I need a break ASAP. I want to go somewhere I’ve  not been before; somewhere a little exotic; not too far (i.e. 18 hour flights are not my cup of tea); and the kind of place where there will be plenty to occupy me (i.e. Zanzibar would be nice but I will get bored and quite possibly lonely sitting around the pool/on the beach (I don’t do sun anyway) for a week).

I spotted some great deals from Emirates in a travel newsletter I subscribe to and in a flash, inspiration hit me. So this week I will be booking a trip in early October to Istanbul, via Dubai. A good friend moved to Dubai earlier this year with her fiance who I haven’t met yet, so I am really looking forward to spending a few days with them and exploring the over-the-top weirdness that is the UAE.In an airconditioned environment, of course!

I’ve wanted to go to Istanbul for about 15 years and while I’ve been to the coastal regions of Turkey before, I’ve not been to the capital. I love the whole east-meets-west thing and the amazing history of the place. There are so many beautiful buildings (mosques, palaces, museums, etc.) to explore, and I’m looking forward to a day cruising the Bosphorous. I also can’t WAIT to hit the Grand Bazaar. I am a haggler of note and love the whole bargaining thing. It’s not about ripping off the stall holders, but engaging in friendly negotiations, all done with a smile and glass of apple tea. Stallholders will walk away from a sale – they never sell at a loss. I’ve had practice in Morocco, other parts of Turkey, Fiji and South-East Asia so I’m looking forward to practising my bargaining skills again in Istanbul.

Oh – and a few months ago I started a belly dance class (more on that in another post) so I shall be taking the opportunity of an Arabian adventure to stock up on jingly hip belts and maybe even attend a local class while I am away.

So… sights, beautiful buildings,  a touch of the exotic, jingles and shimmies, shopping and time with a good friend: doesn’t that sound like the perfect single thirty-something holiday to you? 🙂

Road trip!

I am sooo excited. Tomorrow I set off with two girl friends, SM and DV, for a week long trip up the coast. We’re taking the scenic route, which I’ve not done before, and are planning on stopping off at a number of quirky one-horse towns along the way.

I just booked our accommodation for tomorrow night in a quaint guest house in a town that is known for its port wine. Hmm – could be fun! Doing the accommodation research was so easy thanks to the Internet… what did we do before it?! The bit I like best is seeing what other visitors have said about the places. If only there were online reviews for everything (men? :-D).

So I’ll be getting up very early tomorrow, which is *not* my favourite thing, but it’s for a good reason this time. The two friends I am going with are good fun and we’ve planned a very relaxing week of visiting little towns, popping in at local organic markets, doing a little bit of sightseeing and a lot of reading, napping and chilling out. Not sure how we’ll be seeing in the New Year, but I’m sure something will come up.

One of the things I like best about road trips is farm stalls. I LOVE farm stalls. They always smell of home bakes and cabbages and dried fruit. There are always a few flies buzzing around but funnily enough that doesn’t put me off (as opposed to spotting one in my local supermarket). I’m always tempted by the jams and preserves and home-made rusks but usually never really buy much more than a snack and cold drink. Oh, and a bag of pistachios, which are the best nuts to eat on a road trip because they take so long to shell… keep you busy for miles.

I’m going to be unplugging and going offline for a week but watch this space for stories from the highway when I get back. Happy New Year!