The thought of travelling solo can be intimidating, stressful and downright terrifying… especially when you’re on the other side of the world! At the same time, it might just be one of the most exhilarating and life-changing things you’ll ever do.
We caught up with Lucy Mullins – a 24 year old architecture graduate from the UK – who ventured out to New Zealand with nothing but herself, a working holiday visa and her backpack. With no plans and no itinerary, she had no clue how she was going to get from A to B. Luckily, she stumbled upon the Stray shop, booked a North Island Stray tour and the rest is history. She gives us the lowdown on what it’s really like to travel solo with Stray…
Were you nervous about travelling solo?
When I first told people I was going to quit my job and move half way across the world for a year, everyone’s first question was “Who are you going with?” When I said “Alone” people either didn’t believe me or thought I was the bravest girl in the world. The fact that people were so shocked made me start to get nervous about it all!
I’m used to spending time by myself and I’m very content in my own company but this is the longest I’ve ever been away from home and away from my twin sister – so yeah, I was pretty scared but also very excited!
Why New Zealand?
I’d been getting stuck into London-life post-university, when I suddenly freaked out that I was “getting old” and hadn’t seen enough of the world. I now realise that 24 is really not old at all and that I have many more years of exploring ahead of me but I’m still grateful that this sparked my decision to travel. I chose New Zealand on a bit of a whim. I’d always wanted to visit so I just went with my gut and booked a flight to the other side of the world, without telling anyone but my parents!
How did you pick your transport method?
To be completely honest, I was a bit of a mess whilst trying to figure out travel plans. I joined every Facebook group I could find and was given so much different advice on the forums about how to travel. Buy a car, hire a campervan, catch public buses and trains, join an organised group tour, public transport… There were too many options!
I was leaning towards renting a car with a girl I’d just met in my hostel but, looking back, I’m glad I didn’t get tied down to something like that so early on. I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in the preconception that having a car or camper ultimately leads to more freedom. I mean, it can definitely work out that way but it can also be restrictive sometimes – spending a lot of time in a small space with the same people (or even by yourself), worrying about break downs and fuel costs, navigating unknown roads plus trying to figure out where to stop/park up can add a lot of stress to your trip. Some people handle that stuff quite well but I personally wanted a hassle-free option, where I could let someone else do the driving and just focus on the fun stuff.
I got pretty overwhelmed at one point when trying to make a decision, which made me feel very homesick and question why on earth I’d just moved to the other side of the world but, somehow, I found myself in the comfort of the Stray office one afternoon and everything fell into place.
I won’t lie – It was tough parting with the money for my Stray Tour at the time but once I started travelling I was very impressed with the value! I have just completed a full NZ loop with Stray and now I’m working in Wellington for a few months to save some money again. The best part is that I can re-travel sectors on the weekends and even do the whole trip again when I finish my job!
What was the best part of your adventure?
Stray totally took the stress out of everything – my accommodation was guaranteed at each stop, the drivers booked our activities for us and I didn’t have to worry about falling asleep on long journeys because I wasn’t the one behind the wheel! The prospect of meeting new people was daunting but as soon as I stepped on the bus I realised that everyone was in exactly the same situation, which made it a lot easier. On my first bus to Paihia, I ended up meeting some awesome people – meeting other travellers like me was probably the very best part!
And the worst part?
Travelling solo isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are days when you feel a bit low being so far from home and from family and friends but having a group of amazing, like-minded people around to pick you up when you’re down and keep you occupied makes all the difference.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done in New Zealand so far?
The Franz Josef heli-hike was by far the most incredible moment of my trip. 100% worth every penny. When I arrived, there was an 8 day backlog of people waiting to do a tour (weather can be tricky down there) but, luckily, I managed to get a spot when I booked through my Stray driver!
If you knew what you knew now, what would you say to yourself before arriving in New Zealand?
Breathe! Don’t worry! Everything you’re stressing about will work out fine in the end. Oh, and I’d also tell myself not to book a return flight… 😉
What advice would you give to other people thinking of travelling solo for the first time?
This was my first long-distance trip and also my first time travelling solo. All I have heard is how brave I am but honestly, it is the easiest thing to do because New Zealand is such a welcoming country! The people you will meet and the memories you make will be irreplaceable.
Through Stray, I said yes to things I thought I would never do, made friends for life, laughed until my belly hurt, watched sunsets and sunrises, swam in the ocean, climbed mountains, visited spots off the beaten track, pushed my limits, saw unbelievable landscapes, climbed mountains, conquered fears and ultimately, surprised myself with travelling solo.
My advice would be to have faith – know that it will be the adventure of a lifetime, spend less time stressing and more time enjoying every second! Most importantly, it’s never too early or too late to step out of your comfort zone and travel.
If you want to see more and do more, check out our current tours and discover New Zealand the Stray way.
Want to get off-the-beaten-track with Stray on your first solo adventure? Check out our passes here.