Traveling the world is great. You can see exotic places, make fantastic memories, tell incredible stories, eat new food, learn new things and meet wonderful people. Traveling is one of the most amazing things one can do with ones life. Nobody has ever said they regretting traveling. Not only this, but it also help you understand how this crazy world around us works and operates.
But traveling solo is one of the worst things you can ever do.
I suppose there are worse things you can do, like commit murder, but when it comes to seeing the world, doing it solo is lonely, awkward and dangerous.
Take for example, my time in London. I had forgotten to restock my money belt before my adventures around the city and I foolishly "donated" £40 to "the children" of a gypsy woman in exchange for a little purple flower. Had I been with somebody during that time, the lady might not have stopped me and I may have actually been able to visit the Tower of London. Or at least somebody would have explained to me that I was making a terrible mistake.
Another reason why traveling solo is terrible is the eating experience. I've been to a plethora of restaurants around the world, from food trucks to fish-ball kiosks to themed restaurants to cockroach infested temples. The food has gone from everywhere from incredible to absolutely horrid, but with nobody with me to experience the food and culture with me, I may have well been eating cereal in my apartment. The stories are great, but how can you explain a Frankenstein themed restaurant full of monsters, zombies, skeletons and a crazed doctor as a host to somebody who has never experienced it? Not to mention it is sometimes incredibly awkward to be a minority skin colour in a restaurant!
Getting lost in foreign cities is another of the greatest things about traveling because you can discover quirky, off the grid things other people don't often see, like the Aventine Keyhole in Rome or the sewer surfers in Munich. But after taking the wrong train in Paris and winding up 45 minutes outside of the city, or having to follow a bus around Rome for several hours because you don't remember where your hotel is, or you end up in the wrong hotel all together, or you wind up at the Hudson River instead of the East River in Manhattan, or being stuck outside during a typhoon, or for some reason having an bio-hazard truck full of several armed soldiers stop feet from you... you really wish you had somebody there with you.
There's the additional threat of being robbed, mugged or kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. Some parts of the world are not safe, and violence can break out at any time, like Eastern Europe, the Middle East or parts of Mexico. Some people target tourists specifically, with special attention to solo travelers. I realize the world isn't always dangerous and that the media love to hype things up, but sometimes it's best to be safe and do research before going into questionable countries or dangerous parts of cities.
Another is photographing yourself in front of the world's greatest monuments, like the Eiffel Tower, or the Statue of Liberty. Selfies are great at working around this, but a selfie in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa isn't nearly as impressive as a full bodied picture. It also is very difficult to make it look like you're pushing the tower back up, while holding the camera. Being with a group can remove this problem.
The last reason why, in my opinion, is what happens when you come home. When you come back from somewhere, may it be Cuba or Scotland or Rome or Cairo, you come back with a clear mind and a heavy suitcase; the opposite of what you left with. All the drama you left behind feels like they're eons past. But the drama, the stress, the cultural ignorance and everything you needed a vacation from is waiting for you. The worse part of traveling solo is this: coming home with nobody to relate to. During my Contiki tour, Flip called this the "Post-Contiki Depression". This depression is common, and can have devastating effects if you have nobody to talk to. When you travel in a group, you can at least connect through social media or letters and help numb the pain. When you travel alone, there's nobody but your pictures, your pamphlets and your memories. Within a week these memories will fade and it will seem as if your trip was a dream. Traveling with somebody can remind you that the world is much bigger than your cubical, that there's much more to learn and see, and that the world is waiting for you.
People will tell you traveling solo is the best way to travel, but as somebody who has traveled in groups and by myself, in over 12 countries, the memories of my time with my new friends are something I know will never fade. These are my best memories, and I would have never made them if I traveled solo.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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The past few weeks have been really busy for me, with a lot more time at the office and a lot less time travelling. Thankfully, the weekend is just around the corner and with it comes the possibility of a two day vacation. Having traveled to Lac La Ronge earlier this month, I've been thinking more and more about these short trips and how rejuvenating they can be.
Unfortunately, I haven't done as much travelling around Saskatchewan as I'd like, so I wasn't sure what the best places to visit were. There were of course the obvious choices such as Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw, but I wanted someplace remote, yet somewhat close. For this project I approached some of my fellow travel bloggers and I got some ideas of what to go do and see for a weekend. I went through their ideas and came up with this short list of 5 weekend destinations in Saskatchewan.
Thanks to TELUS' incredible network, sections of Saskatchewan that once never had coverage can now be fully explored while still being connected to your mobile device. No matter where you travel in Saskatchewan -- or even in Canada -- this summer, you can rely on TELUS' mobile network to keep you connected.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.