Travelling solo at 50+

Travelling solo at 50+

Things that we do quite happily in our twenties, such as travelling abroad on our own, can present more problems as we get older. In the past, I would take out travel insurance not really considering the possibility that I might fall ill. Now I inspect the policy to make sure all eventualities are covered. Likewise, if something went wrong when I was younger, it didn’t really faze me. I remember as a student arranging to meet a friend of a friend to end the year in the Alps. When I got off the bus she wasn’t there and I had no way of contacting her. I waited for an hour and then found a taxi to the station where I caught a train to Lyon. I wasn’t due home for another three days and nobody knew where I was at that moment yet it all worked out fine. Today endless scenarios of ‘what if?” play on my mind before any trip. I’m not a huge fan of package tours, preferring instead to travel independently, but I thought the time was right to give it one more try.

I realised that finding the right hotel and location were key to enjoying the holiday. I already knew I wanted to visit Crete, it was just a question of where. Online forums on Facebook helped and I knew I didn’t want to go to any of the heaving tourist resorts that are a mecca for those wanting to lie on the beach all day and drink all night. In the end, I narrowed my choice down to Eastern Crete as I wanted to visit the leper colony island of Spinalonga as well as the Palace of Knossos.

Lots of research later I came across a little gem of a resort called Sisi. There is a beautiful inlet fringed by palm trees and according to all the feedback, it was a quiet laid-back place. I booked the holiday and then had nightmares in case the reports were false, wondering if I would be kept awake by traffic noise and returning drunks and resolved that if it were the case I could always book myself into a more luxurious hotel for a night.

When the plane was delayed by a couple of hours thanks to a group of four lads being taken off the plane for questioning ( I think they might have started on the duty-free a bit early) I was beginning to have second thoughts about a package tour. On the other hand, it did mean that the company sorted out our transfers so no frantic emailing needed on my part. it was after midnight when I finally got to my hotel. I was the only one staying at that particular hotel which surprised me and then I started to wonder why. I received a lovely welcome from the staff and after a phone call home, I went straight to sleep. I slept like a log and only woke up early because I’d set my alarm for breakfast. I went straight to open the shutters to the balcony and gasped – there was a sea view and palm trees outside my window. It was absolutely idyllic.

 I was in seventh heaven when I discovered that the breakfast area overlooked the very bay that is the iconic picture of Sisi. It was hard to tell the exact location of the hotel from the online details but the palm trees around the cove were the ones in my hotel garden.

I didn’t feel at all uneasy having breakfast alone especially since most of the guests appeared to be older couples or singles – again pure luck on my part that the feedback about it being a quiet hotel had obviously attracted like-minded people.

Suitably fuelled for the day, I set off to explore the area. I spent a couple of hours walking around, taking photos and passing the time of day with anyone who seemed friendly. I was starting to sense a lovely vibe here. There were plenty of tavernas, a brilliant supermarket that sold absolutely everything, tour agencies, car hire, just enough to please the tourists without detracting from the true character of what was once a fishing village.

To get my bearings and see a bit more of the area I decided to take the Happy Train to the mountain village of Vrahasi.

It’s a four-hour excursion for around €18 and well worth it. Almost all the passengers were adults and we stopped off first at a monastery where there was time to look at the little museum and drink a coffee. Then it was on to Vrahasi where we saw the church, the folk museum run by a 93-year-old and her daughter-in-law.

We met the cat lady, an English woman who raises money to neuter the stray cats, before having a lovely lunch at a village taverna. The souvlaki, salad and chips were all freshly prepared from local ingredients and tasted wonderful under the hot sun.

It was a fabulous start to my holiday and made me determined to see as much of Crete as possible. Any writing I had come to do would have to wait although I was sure that I would gain much inspiration during my trip.

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