Exodus client, Saadia Stuart, on going solo for the first time.
Do you want to explore new places but feel hesitant about going by yourself? Having recently been to the beautiful region of Tuscany as a solo traveller I can allay all your fears. The group I joined consisted of fourteen people, four men and ten women, aged from late twenties to mid sixties. We all had at least one thing in common: we enjoyed walking.
I met some of my fellow passengers on the plane, and as soon as we were through with our luggage the guide was there to greet us, shaking our hands and introducing herself with a welcoming smile. After boarding the minibus, we were on our way to an isolated farmhouse nestled in the hillside that was to be our home for the next week. It felt so good to be away from busy, crowded towns and to be here, listening to birdsong, breathing in fresh air and feeling bright rays of sunshine warming our faces.
Our first full day started with a short drive to the foot of the mountains. We clambered up a steep, narrow, stony path, leaving behind a beautiful calm, pea-green lake. The sun was hot beating down on our backs as we used our poles to aid our climb. The views were magnificent; lakes and mountains on one side, higher, snow-topped mountains on the other and behind us a shepherd’s village with small, scattered houses perched on the hills. We climbed up still further into a special shrine, filled with fresh flowers. It led to a high ledge where we lunched on fresh bread and cheese, washed down with cool, refreshing water. The scent of wild herbs was like a pungent perfume assailing our nostrils as we rested briefly before beginning the long, steep descent through some rough terrain.
The next few days were just as full and exciting; we walked through beech forests, crunching through dried leaves and an abundance of shells. The sun shone through the newly opened leaves, drenching us in dappled light. A clear stream tinkled along one side of the wood, and overhead a cuckoo called. The air cooled gradually as we climbed higher; we could see sheets of ice and snow covering parts of the mountains like a glistening white blanket. The wind was icy cold on our faces as we viewed the vista from the summit – a range of mountains across the skyline on one side and large expanses of meadowland covered with delicate, wild, purple crocuses on the other. Springy bushes of juniper lined the mule tracks, their scent strong and wonderful in the invigorating air. The terrain was varied, from rocks, slippery leaves, mud, long grass, uneven grassy tufts to stepping stones!
Each day brought the group a little closer together and we soon felt like a team, encouraging each other as we shared snippets of our life stories. From fourteen random strangers we became a very close-knit group – it didn’t matter if you were extrovert or a shrinking violet; we were thrown together to sleep, eat, relax, explore and enjoy being in a place of peace, wilderness and sublime natural beauty. Our meals were wholesome and delicious, washed down with glasses of local wine, which loosened our tongues even further! The dining room resounded with gales of laughter night after night. The local family was warm and welcoming, and our guide was sensitive and perceptive, knowing when to offer support and when to leave us to our own devices.
So, back to the moral of the story; don’t be afraid to go solo! Come and experience wild, magnificent scenery, challenging walks, amiable companionship, caring guides, sunshine, simplicity and harmony amongst like-minded people.