By Eleanor Napper
Travelling on a solo holiday for the first time was, I must admit, a daunting experience. I have never been on a holiday alone before, but the idea of it has always intrigued me. It is when I found myself about to join 20 other travellers all on a solo holiday that my mind went crazy with questions.
Would I get on with everyone? Where would I sit? Who would I talk to? Thankfully, as soon as introductions were made by the One Traveller Tour Manager, I found everyone was friendly and there was no need to be embarrassed. I guess everyone was in the same boat!
I absolutely adore travelling, and found myself wanting to go away more often than my husband. For my first solo trip, I didn’t want to travel too far from home, so settled on One Traveller’s Sicily trip –11 days of fascinating history and fine Italian wine.
It was late April and we could not have been luckier with the weather. Aside from two cloudy days, the glorious Italian sunshine was out in full beam for the majority of the holiday.
The team at One Traveller couldn’t have done more to make this the smoothest experience for a first time solo traveller. Palermo was one of the most interesting cities I have ever explored, beaming with history and culture. We were given enough time as a group to explore the city at our pace as a group, as well as a bit of time to break away and discover our own corners of the city.
A couple of the ladies and I were in need of a coffee and our tour manager pointed out his favourite coffee spot in Monreale. While the rest of the group continued their excursion around the town, we sat and watched the world go by.
On a solo holiday you will be blessed with meeting people from different walks of life, that you may never have the pleasure of meeting under any other circumstance. Over the coffee in Monreale, we discussed our own passions for travel. One lady was also on her first singles holiday, taking the plunge into the unknown after she recently lost her husband. As a couple they were avid travellers, and she wanted to keep that legacy alive.
The following days saw us travel to the beautiful areas of Cefalu, Monte Pellegrino and Mondello. I loved meandering around the medieval streets of Cefalu whilst taking in the views of the white sandy beaches and harbour.
The Norman Cathedral stood above the Piazza Duomo and, after walking round, was an ideal spot to sit back and enjoy a glass of white with a few of the other travellers.
In Monte Pellegrino, we visited the small chapel which housed the remains of the patron saint, Santa Rosalia, who had lived most of her life in a cave praying for the souls of the city.
We took a visit to the Neapolis Archaeological Park of Syracuse, which I found to be the most educational excursion out of the bunch. The ancient park included a Roman amphitheatre, the Latomie which was once used as a prison; and an ancient Greek theatre which was still in use today.
One Traveller randomly seats everyone during each included meal, giving us the chance to get to know the travellers within our group, rather than form cliques. Over a glass of wine one evening, I sat next to a gentleman who had been on many One Traveller holidays.
“Travelling alone is addictive,” he said, “Once you get over the fear of meeting the group, you would wonder why you haven’t done it sooner. For me, travel is now just as much about meeting new people as it is the destination I am visiting, and I have been lucky enough to meet some of my closest friends over the last few years.”
How right he was, sharing my experiences with people who were fast becoming friends was one of the best parts of the holiday. One morning we took a ferry to Lipari, where we were given the opportunity to explore the island on our own. As a group we chose to wander through the citadel before enjoying lunch at a lovely restaurant we found, Il Corallo.
As the trip drew to a close, we took a train on the Ferrovia Circumetnea where we were scheduled to take part in light lunch and a spot of wine tasting. The journey was spectacular as we were offered beautiful views of villages and vineyards that dotted the volcanic land around Mount Etna.
On our final night, we were treated to farewell drinks and dinner in Taormina. I glanced around the room and marvelled at the friendships that had formed.
I could hear people reminiscing over their favourite Sicily memories, to people exchanging contact details or even planning more trips together.
Unlike some of my previous holidays, this one had been totally stress-free thanks to One Traveller. They took the planning process in their stride, arranging everything, the hotels, flights, excursions and meals… The hardest part of the planning experience is choosing where to go next…. Perhaps the Deep South USA, which has always been on my bucket list.
One Traveller (www.onetraveller.co.uk, 01760 722011) offers an 11 day holiday to Sicily from £2,540 per person. Package includes return flights from London Gatwick, 10 nights’ accommodation in your own room, all evening meals, two lunches, hosted welcome and farewell drinks, travel in an executive coach and the services of a One Traveller Tour Manager. Highlights include guided excursions, a cruise through the Mozia salt pans, an excursion to the Aeolian island of Lipari, a visit to the Valley of The Temples UNESCO World Heritage Site, and wine tasting on the slopes of Mount Etna.
One Traveller offer a range of holidays to a number of worldwide destinations including the UK, Europe and North America.