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Struggling with some questions about returning to London/England

Hi, everyone--I know I have not posted on here in a while. I had a ten-day solo trip to London in late May/early June that went less than ideally. I thought since I had been there in 2016, and had figured a lot of things out (my previous trip before that was 1987), everything would be smooth sailing.

Well, it wasn't. To start with, I had a bad head cold and felt pretty lousy the whole time I was there. In addition, the noise and the crowds really began getting to me. The sirens in the city started freaking me out, especially after the London Bridge terrorist attack. I cried more than once, and began to wish I had taken a trip to the New Jersey shore instead.

It was quite sad, since I had spent the better part of a year making plans and looking forward to the trip. It wasn't a disaster or anything like that. It had some terrific, even wonderful, moments. But I find myself wondering if I want to return--or indeed, if I want to travel anywhere in Europe. The hassle of getting to the airport, being up all night on a plane on which I could not sleep...It's been over two months and I still feel like I got cheated somehow (I know, first world problems).

I guess I am sharing this because I'm looking for some advice. I do want to travel--I can't imagine missing out on the world--but something's holding me back from making plans for further trips. I guess there are no guarantees in life, but...

Have any of you ever felt this way?

Thanks for listening.

Posted by
8293 posts

Have I ever felt this way? Actually, no. I am usually planning my next trip as soon as I get home, or even on the plane on the way home. Sorry you are feeling this way. Maybe you need to travel with a tour group, and since big city noises bother you, find a tour that concentrates on smaller towns and the countryside. By the way ! Why the heck didn't you see a doctor or at least a pharmacist when you were feeling so unwell? No wonder you were in tears. You were sick,

Posted by
911 posts

I'm sorry you have felt this way. I personally have not. Was in London/England and Wales in June and had a marvelous time! No cold until the last couple of days, but I never let that get to me. Too many awesome things to see! How long was your trip for? If it is at least 14 days that might make the airport hassle etc... more worth it. And like the above poster am already dreaming about, and have booked, my next trip! I can't imagine taking the Jersey Shore over Europe. But if for now that is what you would rather do than that is what you should do.

Posted by
491 posts

Hi, Norma:

My little sister is a pharmacist, and we were Skyping about OTC medication. The cold didn't hit me till I landed in England, perfect timing!

Last year I was making plans as soon as I got home. I know that feeling! I've thought about tours, especially Rick's, but they seem so costly...

Posted by
491 posts

Oh sorry--yes I did see a pharmacist at Boots too. I was there for 10 days.

Posted by
6714 posts

Did you by chance sleep well during this trip? I think being sick and lacking sleep can really sap your resilience to any kind of stressor. Being up all night on a plane is not a good way to start a trip because you really need sleep. Unfortunately, trips are seen as some idealistic dream where nothing goes wrong, everything works smoothly, the sun shines brighter, you feel great and are super energetic every day... etc. But they're just like everyday life, you can have some highs and lows even on a trip, and stuff happens and not everything is according to plan. The key is being able to regroup quickly, and it's hard to do that when you're physically not 100%. It sounds like you were emotionally affected by the prior terrorist attack as well. Give yourself some slack, it's OK for trips to not turn out perfect. It's no one's fault - it just is "what it is". It's always worthwhile to try for happiness again, so just let this go and think of the next trip as a clean slate. It's worth exploring a different country too, to see how it goes in comparison to England. Or even a more mellow city than London.

I think you're brave for admitting so openly that something didn't go as great as you hoped and you felt more vulnerable than you expected. Many people are not that honest with themselves. There is some odd pressure to always come back with glowing trip reports and not disappointing others, but everyone knows that things cannot be constantly perfect (we tend to brush over the low points when we think back on our trips).

One little tip is to have a few ideas of very quiet places to go to in a city.

I love London; I've lived there and visit often. But even on a daytrip I occasionally get overwhelmed. I have a few places in mind - like Southwark Cathedral, or a particular less popular room in the V&A that I know has benches, or a quiet seat in the foyer of the National Theatre on the South Bank - where I know I can just have a sit down.

You were not just sick but also suffering from anxiety after the London Bridge attack. For all our intellectual reasoning that the chances of something happening to you are very small, it can still make you feel shaky.

So it's all entirely understandable. Give yourself a break. You're not a failed traveller; you just had one rough trip in an unforgiving city when you're not quite on form.

Come again. Ask about secret quiet places to go (there are even books listing them). Churches are good. Allow yourself the chance to sit for an hour or more in a cafe nursing one drink. Have a few escape routes - hop on the train to the seaside; go to Greenwich; take a river trip. Or just go back to your hotel room with some fancy food & a good book.

Posted by
908 posts

No, I don't think I've ever felt as you've described, and I've been in Europe during a crisis period.

A few ideas that may help:
I'm not sure where you live in PA but know that there's a day flight to Heathrow from Dulles. I find that it makes a world of difference. I cannot sleep on planes and get borderline physically ill from jet lag, so it is worth it for me to fly during the day and spend that first night in a hotel. I realize this is an option from only a few cities, but it's worth considering going to Dulles, NY, Chicago, or Toronto (I think those are all the day time flights) to start your trip in the morning rather than at night.

Second, as mentioned, find some quiet places. I recall walking through Pimlico, Bayswater, Mayfair and other neighborhoods via the side streets during weekdays and finding it very peaceful. No one but delivery folks, a few pedestrians, and students playing in school yards. Find a crypt cafe or small museum cafe and sit for a while. Tuck into a church pew. I think there's joy in the small things, and often we have to seek out the quiet nooks, but they are there.

I hope you feel better and are ready to travel again soon!

Posted by
6840 posts

No. But you had a cold. That was just bad luck which everyone has had. Also maybe it is the destination; why go to the same place all the time if you did not get the same high as the first time? It is not really cheap especially to travel to London either.

Posted by
2922 posts

No, I can't say I've ever come home feeling as you do now, but cut yourself (and London) some slack. I've never been to London when it's been UNcrowded and noise free ( except for Christmas day, but I digress). But feeling tired and sick likely magnified these for you much more than if you'd been feeling well.

Put London on a back burner. It's not going anywhere. But you should, if you've always loved travelling. The world's a big place. Choose something totally different. Go somewhere bucolic. Away from crowds and big cities. Head to a South Pacific Island. Spend a week or 2 at an agroturismo. Rent a chalet in the Alps. Visit the Grand Canyon. Surely there's somewhere you want to go to more than the Jersey Shore.

Posted by
371 posts

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy this trip as you had hoped.

I'll second what Rachel said. The noise and crowds (and I know I'm adding to the crowds!) get to me. I visited in the second week of this past June and London was more crowded than my previous trips in March and pre-Christmas. I doubt I'll ever visit in high summer.

Also, I'm wondering whether the weather contributed to your trip not being as enjoyable. When I was there in June everybody was talking about how cold, rainy, and miserable the weather had been the week before. Did you hit that poor weather? I'm sure on top of a head cold this would make for an unpleasant time.

There's so much to see in the world, if you need to take a breather from Europe right now, that's OK. How about Canada? :)
Quebec and Montreal are great cities, and if you're into national parks, there's Banff with Lake Louise. I've always wanted to go there.

Posted by
6588 posts

I haven't had this feeling but understand how it could happen to you. I highly second the recommendation of daytime flights to Europe. I have flown from JFK, EWR and BOS to LHR.Sometimes I continue on to another European destination.. Boston is the shortest flight. I never experience jet lag when flying in the daytime. You land, have dinner and go to bed.

Posted by
2785 posts

I've never felt this way but I've never had a cold on a trip. I think you could orchestrate your future trip to deal with some of your issues. I think Premium Economy plane seats are worth the extra money. My #1 requirement in a hotel is proximity to a Tube station. If you don't already have it, there is an app that maps out the Tube route to your destination for you. Sorry I don't know its name and my husband isn't here right now for me to ask. On one trip where I didn't sleep well on the way over, we stayed near the National Gallery, went there as soon as we dumped our luggage at the hotel, took naps when we hit the wall at the National Gallery, then walked to Fortnum and Mason for tea which was our dinner, then I went back to hotel and went to bed. I had a backpac and a crossbody purse and took trains by myself(husband was attending a meeting) to Salisbury, then Salisbury to Bath, then Bath to Cardiff and stayed at hotels within easy walking distance from train stations in Salisbury and Cardiff. There are so many places a short and easy train trip from London where you could stay and see quieter sights. I loved Salisbury and it didn't seem crowded at all(2nd week in June). Wells, York and Durham are currently on my bucket list, as are a Mad Max tour from Bath.

Posted by
185 posts

It seems to me that you would benefit from a more relaxed, quiet, off the radar destination for your next trip away. Wherever you go next I recommend looking for places that are more rural and don't attract huge numbers of tourists (e.g. For the UK: Norfolk, Northumberland, Peak District).

Posted by
3477 posts

Please understand that I'm not trying to be "preachy" -- just offering some thoughts for your consideration. The "...something's holding me back..." feeling is the result of having a less than great tip. And that's an absolutely normal reaction. But ask yourself why was the trip not so good? The answer is simple -- you were sick. So, as others have suggested, please cut yourself some slack because nobody enjoys traveling when sick. Since the odds of having your next trip spoiled by sickness are slim to none, perhaps the way to deal with your feeling is to simply write that trip off as you would a "bad date" and start making plans for another trip. Even if it is just a domestic one. I know, that's easier said than done, but throwing yourself into planning another trip may very well be the best thing to do. Give it a try. If it works, wonderful. If it doesn't then you haven't really lost anything but a little time. Hope this helps you look at it a little differently.

Posted by
6332 posts

Before investing a lot of time and effort into planning another trip that may bring disappointment if things don't go as planned, I would suggest for your next trip to let someone else do the planning for you. Try a tour. It's possible that having a group of people sharing the same trip and having a tour director to smooth out any bumps, including help if you again experience less than good health, would make it easier. It's just possible that your cold was exacerbated by stress and lack of sleep. On a tour you can see a lot and still have time, especially on the bus, to get some rest. You can find less costly tours than RS. Although they may not be equal in experiences they can be very Good. After that you may be again ready to plan another independent trip. I have done a few tours (not RS) that were lots of fun and very rewarding. I prefer now to only go independently but I wouldn't trade my group tour experiences for anything.

Posted by
1014 posts

Go to less crowded places and enjoy the quiet, the scenery, etc. Thurso, Scotland comes to mind as does Wick, Scotland. Doolin, Ireland is nice. Pubs can be a bit crowded, but the trad music is worth it. Cardiff, Wales is another nice area to visit, as is Wales in general. Valencia, Spain is a good visit. Great beach front, good food, if you eat away from the beach area, etc.

Posted by
714 posts

Sorry your trip was less than ideal. I think it is not unusual to be let down by returning to a destination within a year especially if you had a stellar visit the first time. You expect it to be even better the next time and, as you found, something goes wrong - in your case a heavy cold. And flying with a cold is one of the worse things you can do so no wonder you were so sick. So my suggestion is give London and the UK a miss for a couple of years. Also it sounds if you were traveling solo, so maybe feeling sick made you feel less able to reach out and meet people, so loneliness was maybe a factor.

Some ideas: as suggested above give the UK a miss for a year or two. Travel with a friend, Canada is indeed a good option - foreign, friendly, lots of wide open spaces, interesting cities. Or look at other places in Europe, again avoiding the crowded cities: Tuscany, Provence, the Greek Islands for example.

I hope you get your travel mojo back and you again look forward to planning a trip.

Posted by
1288 posts

My first trip to London was miserable because I had a miserable head cold. The kind that puts one down for several days. I couldn't rest as my day stepdaughter had free first class RT tickets and she wanted me to go with her. I honestly don't know how I made it!

I loved London and made it back there several times without being ill!

Rick Steves has My Way tours that are considerably less than his escorted tours. Transport and hotels are included and the rest is up to each individual to make their own itinerary for each stop.

Posted by
503 posts

Sandra, Yes, I know exactly how you feel because I have felt that way too. A couple of trips ago, I came home feeling blah about the trip. There was no particular reason for it and I never could figure out exactly why I felt that way. I, too, struggle with the entire mess that airports and overseas flights entail now. I can't get to Europe on a direct flight from where I live and there are times I think I'm insane to travel. Having said that, I continue to do so because I love it. When I feel that way, I try to take a trip that is a bit closer to home but still out of the country, Costa Rica, was my last trip like this. Having done this, I then feel anxious for another trip to Europe. I think because you were sick and alone, your trip was less than ideal. Follow the advice given above, go somewhere less crowded than London. Go to the countryside and rent a little cottage, take day trips knowing you'll be coming back to your quiet little cottage at night.

Posted by
11262 posts

While I haven't had your exact experience, I certainly had versions of it.

1) I have been to London three times (first in 1985, most recent in 1999), and have never enjoyed it. For various reasons, I simply don't have a good time there. I'm starting to think of going back, with a different mindset (this made a HUGE difference with my second trip to Amsterdam). Or maybe I'll never go back, and simply visit other places instead.

2) I had a very stressful trip to Rio de Janeiro. "Siege" is indeed a dramatic word, but I did experience some of this feeling. All I kept hearing were versions of "It's a great place, but it's so dangerous you must be on guard every second; just relax, but don't ever take a bus or wear a watch because this will make you a target of violent crime; it's just like any normal city, just treat it like a war zone and you'll be fine." I couldn't wait to leave, and really regretted going at all - the only time I've ever had such a negative time anywhere.

3) My last trip, to Basque country, was definitely a let down - despite years of travel in general, having been to both France and Spain before (although not this region), and lots of research. I pride myself on my planning, but I sure goofed here. Details are in my lengthy trip report, but the short version is that once I recognized what was going on, I was able to make some changes and have a better time. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/basque-country-trip-report-bayonne-san-sebastian-vitoria-gasteiz-and-bilbao-may-2017

So, wait until you are ready to travel, and don't rush into anything; there's no harm in spending your time and money in other ways. Do think about that daytime flight to London if you found the night flight stressful. Pick smaller and less noisy places (ironically, you would probably have liked my Basque country trip, as one of my complaints was that it was too low key and too filled with small towns!). And, of course, one variable you can't control - try not to be sick when you travel (unfortunately, not under your control, but I agree it has a huge impact).

Posted by
14323 posts

I've learned over the last few years that no trip is completely devoid of snags and unpleasant experiences. Some were my own fault (poor research, bad choices, mistakes) and some were beyond my control (poor weather, physical/medical problems, etc.).

Two things have helped me. First, adjusting for physical issues. If I get sick, I need to give my body rest, even if it means missing a day or two of sightseeing, so it doesn't mess me up for a longer time. Or reducing an aggressive schedule when my knee went out. Second, keeping a positive mindset is really important, though it isn't always easy. I hope that as time passes, you will start to minimize the negatives and remember more of the things you enjoyed. One of the things you mentioned is that after a 2016 visit, you had "figured a lot of things out." Try to work out what things were problems for you or reduced your enjoyment and how you can overcome them on - or before - another visit.

And lastly, why are you considering returning to London instead of choosing some other destination? Many people come on the forum with certain parameters and get great advice on destinations that fit them.

Posted by
3895 posts

I've always enjoyed my trips. But I do have moments...I had the worst sore throat when we were in Amsterdam in April - to the extent that when we moved on to Dordrecht, my throat hurt so much it was really painful to swallow. Luckily, it cleared up the next day...I also ended up on night 3 in A'Dam having sweats, then chills and vomiting...something hit me hard when we were there. But I still loved our time there.

Then there is the time I absolutely broke down in tears on a train in Italy after a series of missed trains and getting on the wrong train...travel is stressful for sure.

Hubby and I have def learned to pencil in some down time most days - whether it's to go back to the room in the afternoon to relax (if we are somewhere hot) or go back after supper to have a pastry and tea or hot chocolate before venturing out for an evening stroll. Or just relaxing on a bench in a park and watching the world go by for 45 min. Some days it's not possible to return to the room if we are daytripping, but that's why it's important to us to have a centrally located room and one that is easy to get back to.

I think that could help a lot. Don't try to see all the big crowded sights - try to find some off the beaten path place to visit once a day - whether it's a quirky little museum or a quiet graveyard (why not!?) or pop into a small little church to just gather yourself and breathe. Some of the most fun we had were the little unexpected things - having a docent talk to us for 45 min at St Bavos in Haarlem, chatting with a fellow diner for 2 hrs in Cinque Terre, just sitting on a bench close to the Grand Palais for 30 min and watching the world go by.

Posted by
1724 posts

Next time, can you travel with another person? Solo travel can be tough. You have no escape from yourself, I know I do it alot for work.
Having someone else gives you the chance to decompress, and it's amazing how problems or issues don't seem anyway near as bad once you have mentioned them to someone else.

This is a good point. I have to travel solo a lot for work. Last week I had to leave on a Sunday and take a long, boring drive to the destination. It got me down in the dumps. My wife and I travel together and I agree having someone with you makes a difference.

When we went to Scotland, we stayed in the countryside and commuted into Glasgow and Edinburgh. You might want to explore this as an option next time you visit a large city. Some people get energized by being in the thick of things, but we enjoy a chance to unwind in a more quiet atmosphere.

I agree with others. Take a break. Make an inventory of the things you don't care for and the things that make you want to continue traveling. Maybe a quiet RS tour would be worth the added expense, you'd have company and a lot of the stress of decision making will be handled for you.

Posted by
908 posts

I'm always curious as to what it is travelers who don't like London don't like about it?
It's one of my favorite places, but I admit that I like literature, history, the feeling of smaller, closed-in streets [as opposed to grand boulevards], and I watch a lot of British TV shows. Maybe that helps?

Is it too busy for you? Too confusing? Too many tall red buses....what?
Again, just curious!

Posted by
626 posts

A couple of years ago my wife and I took a weekend trip to France and Belgium, just a day in each, Roubaix in France and Tournay in Belgium... We drove from London via. the tunnel, and i distinctly remember wanting to leave and come home the moment we got there, a strange feeling i couldn't explain as everything was perfectly nice and the trip went just fine.

I've never had that before and the memory has dampened my desire to travel... I guess as i get older, i'm just happy to relax at home.

I have asked my wife before... Should we be greatful we live in London? Or disappointed that we will never have one of the wonderful first trips here as so many do have.

It's easy to take for granted and not appreciate what you have on your doorstep.

Posted by
11262 posts

Mike's J's post reminded me of a similar experience. When I went to Venice the first time, in March 1989, I had a very nice first day. The second day, I was overwhelmed with a feeling that if I did not leave the following day, something horrible would happen. I have no idea what triggered this; I've never experienced anything like it before or since (you read of people who get such "premonitions" often, but I'm not one of them). Oddly, the feeling was not one of having to leave right away, but of the day after. Needless to say, it sure put a damper on the rest of the day, and I checked out early the next morning (since I had failed to tell the hotel the day before that I would be doing this, they were not happy).

Luckily, I went back to Venice in 2009, and had no such experience, and enjoyed it a lot (even though it had September crowds, I was able to dodge them most of the time).

Posted by
491 posts

Wow--I had no idea I would get so many responses! Thanks to each and every one of you for your input.

I should start by explaining that my five trips were vastly different. The first three were in the 1980s, when I stayed with friends and mostly went clubbing, pubbing and hanging on the King's Road. I wasn't interested in "sightseeing" and afterward regretted that. So many years later (2016) when I got the opportunity to visit London again, I jumped at it. I've been an Anglophile since I was a small child. I do want to see France, and Italy, but England was always first priority for me.

I'm not used to cities. There are only about 40,000 people in the city where I work. I rarely go to NYC or Philly. So part of it is culture shock. Emma, thank you for explaining about the sirens. I also hadn't considered how freaked out I was by what happened in Manchester the week before (and indeed, on Westminster Bridge before that). I figured lightning would not strike twice. Ha! I was luckily in my room when the London Bridge incident happened, but boy was I glad to get out of London the next day to visit Charleston House in Sussex. Which, along with the Cotswolds last year, was one of the happiest experiences of my visits.

I love cemeteries and my goal is to visit all of the Magnificent Seven. So far I've done Highgate and Brompton. I also enjoyed visiting Oxford.

As far as solo: I've had friends offer to go with me, but for one reason or another, I don't know if they'd be good candidates. Two of them drink too much and frankly, I am too old to put up with that. One has offered recently and I am considering her offer. We've been on short US vacations before and she's a good roommate.

I will definitely look into tours. I did enjoy my stay at Captain Bligh House, staying in at night and working on my travel journal. I loved seeing the plays and going to a concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. I think I just need to stay away from heavy crowds. The National Gallery was a madhouse--but of course, I went on a Bank Holiday and was jet lagged, ill, etc. I'm going to look into those day flights. I find that even if one does sleep on a plane, it's not really a "good sleep."

That's about all I can think of at the moment. :)

Posted by
11613 posts

I travel for 90+ days at a time, but this last trip I experienced some of the same things you describe. I figured out that I should probably settle in to one location for a longer period than 2-4 nights. I also had a significant surgery less than a month before I started my last trip, and while I thought I was mentally prepared, a physical illness can take a toll emotionally/psychologically as well.

So I resisted planning the next trip, even though ideas were swirling in my head.

Give yourself a break. If you still don't fell like going anywhere in six months, perhaps take a little more time off from traveling.

Or, in a few months, google images of some places that you are interested in visiting, and see if they get your interest up. Is there a piece of art, monument or landmark you want to stand in front of? Build a trip around it/them.

Posted by
1128 posts

Go ahead and return. On my first trip to the UK, I came down with secondary stage syphilis. I woke up around my 3rd day there covered in red spots all over my body and I was also constantly tired and weak. I naively thought it was just some allergy and I stupidly didn't go to A&E. I only got treated once I returned to the USA.

That trip had its ups and downs, but the constant tiredness was awful. I went back the next year, basically repeating the same itinerary, determined to do it right and it worked out amazingly well, in fact, I met UK locals that I consider friends to this day. It's fine to not like a city or even a country and decide your travel money should be spend elsewhere. Time and money are both limited commodities. But, if what drew you to the UK is still appealing, then I'd say give it another chance.

Posted by
25 posts

Rachel gave great advice - fly over during the day! Sleep your first night there.

Also, try to fly on the Boeing 787, the Dreamliner. Norwegian Air uses them and has great prices. American Air and BA has some too. That airplane is so sweet, and being pressurized to 6,000 ft instead of 8,000 ft really makes a difference in how you feel upon landing.

Don't give up! Happy travels

Posted by
7919 posts

SandraL, I understand how you felt / feel and agree with all the kind advice people have given.

Rachel, you asked why people don't like London and I'll give my 2 cents...
I'm a city person and I love the UK and all things British... for me, London is not a pretty city. It is cramped, dark, dirty, not charming, packed with people, extremely noisy. I love all the history and all the wonderful places there to see and visit, but the actual city itself I dislike.

It won't keep from going there though, I'd happily go today!

Posted by
911 posts

SandraL - so glad to hear there is someone else besides me in this world who likes cemeteries! My family gets very exasperated with me about them.

Posted by
618 posts

Julie,
I had no idea the Dreamliners were pressurized at 6,000 ft. Now I know why I have felt so much better on my last two transatlantic flights. (AA from ORD to LHR). I also recommend the day time flights. Arriving in London late at night (10:00 pm) is ideal. The airport is not busy and you can go straight to bed when you arrive!

Sandra, England is wonderful if you know where to go and stay. While I love visiting London, I just don't want to stay there more than a day or two. I love to retreat back to a countryside B&B or cottage. I also understand your dilemma with travel companions. A 2011 trip I took to Switzerland ended up being just awful. One friend had constant family drama during the entire vacation. It also rained every day and we did not see the Alps until the day we were due to leave. I knew then I would have to return. Well, this summer (6 years later) I went back to Switzerland with two great traveling friends. It ended up be one of the best vacations I have ever taken. Don't let one bad trip put you off forever.

Also another suggestion. Try a small tour company for companionship and perhaps go to Ireland next year. Vagabond and Driftwood tours of Ireland are the best and often have solo travelers join their small tour groups. (price is good). The Irish people are the friendliest and I guarantee you will have plenty of people to talk to in Ireland.

Posted by
36 posts

Some great advice from everyone. I too can get stressed and depressed sometimes when I travel although I love it. The feeling that everything has to be perfect when it isn't. The responsibility that you have to make it perfect for whoever is traveling with you when it is not your sole responsibility. It can have a real effect on you mentally and that effects your travel.

Personally I love London and visit whenever I can. I don't like Paris which gets me in trouble with people who say I am just wrong. I have been there 3 times, and find it cold and unwelcoming. I love other parts of France though - Normandy, Reims, Loire and Dordogne. For quieter places in England, consider York and Yorkshire which are personal favourites. Avoid the Lake District; there are lots of better areas to walk. I talked someone into Yorkshire this summer and they loved it because they like walking and smaller places. The trick is finding what you like best.

As for the suggestion to visit Canada, I am a Canadian who made sure my kids had seen a bit of each of the provinces before we took them to Europe. There are many great places to see depending on what interests you. Also Ireland is wonderful, friendly, beautiful, has great history and fairly small. My kids and I fell in love with the place so give it serious consideration.

Posted by
1217 posts

Every trip we take, I end up doing a debrief afterwards to figure out what worked and what didn't work and try to apply those lessons to future vacations. And for us, I've learned to look for hotels a bit away from urban cores- they're quieter and cheaper and often either have their own grounds or are near some green space. With our last trip to London, we ended up out by Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park- yes, it's on the border of zone 2/3 for tube purposes but it was next to a huge and beautiful park and I could spend down my stash of Holiday Inn/IHG points on an apartment-hotel where all rooms had small but functional kitchens and there were two grocery stores and maybe 30 different restaurants 'downstairs' at the giant mall adjacent to both train/tube station and hotel.

I think it's easy to get caught up in the 'right way' of doing vacation without stopping and thinking if it's the right was of traveling for you. I've learned a lot from Rick's books, but he's a screaming extrovert and I'm a somewhat misanthropic introvert, and trying to do as many very active interactions with the locals as he seems to really really enjoy would leave me with the screaming vapors by lunchtime the second day. So you take what sounds cool, filter it through your own sets of vacation lenses, and learn an adapt to suit your own needs and personality better.

I also read hotel reviews with soundproofing in mind, both external and internal. I'm not a great sleeper on the road, and quiet (or lack thereof) is an important part of the decision tree for me. I also love my Therm-a-rest travel pillow because all hotel pillows are pretty awful for my neck.

Posted by
31289 posts

Sandra,

I agree with previous suggestions that you might consider one of the RS tours of England. You'd be travelling with a nice group of people and an expert guide. I'm sure the trip would be much more rewarding and interesting than travelling by yourself in an apprehensive state.

I don't think any of us enjoy being stuck in an aluminum tube for 10 hours or so, but I look at it as a "means to an end". Once that part is over, I can enjoy the trip until it's time to go home.

Sirens in large cities are a fact of life and I suspect you're going to find that anywhere, even on the Jersey shore. I used to work as an ambulance paramedic, and people have told me on numerous occasions that they were so happy to hear the sirens approaching, as that meant help was on the way. I suppose it's just a matter of perspective.

If you'd still like to travel on your own, you could consider trying a city other than London. York is a great spot and there are some interesting day tours available in that area. You might also try Scotland. I really liked Edinburgh.

Good luck!

Posted by
3895 posts

selkie - after reading your comment about interacting with the locals, I have to share this video I just saw this morning - I think Londoners would get a kick out of it...(about a Northerner who 'terrifies' Londoners by saying hello to them). "Police were forced to let him go as friendliness to strangers is not a crime until next year" In our town/province, it's nothing to say hello to random strangers on a daily basis and even comment on the weather! Too funny, London... ;)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PT0ay9u1gg4

And as for sirens, after 3 years I can STILL hear the constant ambulance sirens that would go by the place we stayed at in Rome - upon checking google maps, I see that there was a hospital within a few blocks....do do dee doooo...that sound is easily remembered...lol.

Posted by
2721 posts

Hi Sandra,
--I understand your discomfort. When traveling alone, the time I had moments of regret is when I did not feel well. I had thoughts of: I should have stayed home with my husband, etc. But I only had those thoughts when sick, alone, and had no one to take care of me if need be. With your timing, you were sick the entire time; colds last 14 days no matter what you do. Because of this sickness worry, I always stay in hotels. Front desks can be a big help, IMO. When I arrive at my first hotel, I will make sure I have a ginger drink (whatever is like gingerale where I am, and bland crackers or biscuits so if sick I do not have to leave my room until somewhat ready). On my last trip I started taking Emerg-C two weeks before my trip so I wouldn't get a cold, because I was on a the RS tour and might not be able to stay in sick if I wanted. I brought it with me to take if needed. I passed it out to a woman who it fixed up in no time. First time using this product. I like it. I believe it helped, and believing is all that matters sometimes. And know where you can get a good massage or what ever helps you to relax...you probably won't use it, but good to know. Also, I list in my journal on various days what I can do that day, not what I have to do.

--Day flight: I'll never say never, but I am lucky enough to live in Boston, and I never take any flight, anymore, that isn't the day flight. If I didn't live near this flight, I would train or fly to an airport which had a day flight, stay at a hotel and fly to London the next morning. They are that good for those of us who can't get a good sleep on an overnight flight. I only watch the price of that flight. While my husband and I 98% of the time took the day flight, solo I made a different choice, once. The last night flight I took was to Sweden, and that is where I was sick for the first 24 hours. A day flight means you don't get the extreme fatigue, and I say pain, of not sleeping on an overnight flight and forcing yourself miserable thru the next day. When I am going beyond London, I take this same day flight and I splurge and stay at the Sofitel in Terminal 5, order room service and relax, before my flight to my destination the next day. I fly economy but, IMO, this system is better than business class, and including room service and hotel, costs much less than business class. I arrive happy, get a good night's sleep in a wonderful bed, and casually stroll over to my next flight.
--If I recall correctly, at least your first trip, I thought it was extremely busy and structured. I can't remember if your second one was so structured. As a single traveler I wander, I sit in parks, I watch people. I relax! I also see sights, but often only one large site per day, maybe 2, depending on my goals/mood, and I'll drop something if I'm not in the mood, but might add something I'm wandering by. Regardless, I'll return, I say. What I'm saying is I think you put to much pressure on yourself, rather than having the first goal to relax and absorb the atmosphere. London has some great parks and many with cafes. They are great people watching spots. Or have a cup of tea seated at the bar of a pub and visit with the bartender. If they are not busy, they usually start the conversation, I find.
--Don't travel during late spring through early September. It's not worth the aggravation with so many people at tourist sights.

--I landed at Heathrow the evening of the attacks you mention. So I understand to some degree what you were feeling...and I wasn't feeling ill on top of it. The atmosphere in London that night was eery and the news alarming. Had I not been flying through, I would have not listened to the news. I would have asked the front desk the next morning what area I should avoid, if any, and pretend it didn't happen.
--I think you will suddenly feel the urge to go again, just relax and wait for it. "Just relax" is my maxim.

Posted by
2721 posts

Oh, and I find the 'Northerner discussion' interesting. My father in law's family was from Bradford/Keigthley (sp?) area and my son in law is from Yorkshire/Hull area. None of these people waste any words and they will not speak unless they want to speak. This is something I perfectly understand. I can't imagine any of them speaking to strangers for the heck of it!

Posted by
5628 posts

I do think your cold and anxiety following the terrorist incidents created negativity.

I've been traveling to Londin since 1972. Happy each time I'm there, with a cold, solo or with friends.

Nothing deters me especially not terrorism. If it's my time it's my time. Cannot control the grim reaper so I don't waste one iota of thought about it.

For comfort and for savings I travel in the Fall or in December. There are crowds but nothing like the madness of the Summer months. Even a May excursion was less touristy than imagined it would be. Got to the Tower 15 minutes before opening, got tix and walked right in. Hampton court in late November, nary a soul. Bliss.

I grew up south of The City by the Bay. Spent many a lovely day and nights in San Francisco. My second favorite city on the planet. Yet, Find that Nothing has changed the Tenderloin. Whereas places like the Islington and Kentishtown neighborhoods in London have evolved into safe and pleasant respites.

Guess it's all in your POV.

Now if you want to discuss a meh city let's discuss LA.

Lastly, I too adore exploring cemeteries. I'm off to Brompton and west Norwood this trip.

Posted by
1171 posts

Give yourself a break and next time you travel, make sure to have some down time. Maybe pick somewhere new so that you start fresh

Rachel: I completely understand people who do not like London. I have been twice, most recently in July and both times, I have felt that Londoners are just not friendly. They are not warm and in many instances, completely rude.

If it wasn't for the city having so many interesting sites and wanting my kids to see it, I would never have wanted to go again.

Funny enough, without me saying anything both kids found the exact same thing. They both commented on how much nicer Parisians were.

Posted by
8293 posts

I have never found Londoners to be rude, but maybe I was just lucky. As for them not being warm, I live in Montreal,Canada, where people are generally polite but not warm. I don't need people in a foreign city to be warm, just to be civil.

Posted by
1171 posts

So funny Norma as I am from Quebec as well and find people to be very warm... I enjoy talking to people when on vacation, striking a conversation, finding more about them.... people make a huge difference to my holidays....

Posted by
491 posts

I wish I could travel outside of the shoulder season to tourist season. I can't--I work for a university and I can't get any time off during the school year. At least, that is true in the present position I hold.

I will definitely look into the day flight thing, including a hotel the night before. It just might be the right answer.

I'm really not sure about tours. I tend to be a loner and I have fears of being the group outsider and having no one to talk to, which somehow is worse than traveling solo and having no one to talk to. The only time I really miss a companion is when I want to discuss, say, a museum or a play. Otherwise I'm perfectly capable of hanging out by myself.

One thing I will say about London: I'm going to avoid the buses. I hate taking buses even at home. The landlady where I stay enthuses about how you can see so much of the city from them, but I don't like being stuck in traffic and overhearing people's loud cell phone conversations (seems like there is much less of this on the Tube--some sort of different etiquette, perhaps)?

Someone pointed out that my itinerary for '16 was rather packed. Well, I'm afraid I did the same thing this year. I did leave one or two days open. But when i started to list all the "must sees" I realized that 10 days fills up pretty darn quickly! I had every intention of just hanging out and doing nothing, and it just didn't turn out that way. It's as if, I'm traveling all these miles, and who knows when I'll get back--I'd better get as much done while I'm there as I can.

I know, I know, Rick says you WILL return--but it took me nearly 30 years to return.

Posted by
908 posts

Interesting to read why people aren't crazy about London. I think because I now live in a big city with busy, not-so-friendly people, the lack of interaction doesn't phase me that much when I visit a large city in Europe or the UK. It's as if I don't even notice the lack of friendly cheerfulness until I go someplace where people DO talk and are friendlier. Sadly, you become immune after a while.

Great Mash Report video. Hilarious. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by
3477 posts

Sandra, With regard to "...not sure about tours...fears of being the group outsider...no one to talk to..." you can put your mind at ease. We've been on eight RS tours and all of them had singles -- both male and female. None of them were shut out at all. All of them were always included to the extent they wanted to be. On occasions some of them wanted time to themselves and that was respected. But, at the same time, all of them were always welcomed by other couples, trios, and individuals. Perhaps a RS "My Way" tour would be a possibility. Just food for thought.

Posted by
491 posts

One thing I worry about a bit with tours is my dietary problems. In London, I had my own studio flat and was able to get my own cereal and soya milk, snacks, etc. I know many tours include meals and I don't know how I would deal with that. I have a difficult time here in the U.S. finding things in restaurants that I can eat, sadly.

Posted by
7919 posts

I'm with Sharon, I find most Parisians very friendly. One of many reasons... not to mention beautiful... why it's my favorite city.

Posted by
88 posts

Oh gosh. I'm so sorry you got sick. I came down with a cold half way through our 5 day trip and it seriously sucked. I never get sick at home. It's enough to ruin your entire trip. Thankfully I got 2.5 good days before it all went a bit south. I also can't sleep on planes. I think next time I'm going to ask the doc for a prescription sleep aid.

Maybe try going in September? I tend to get a bit claustrophobic in crowds, but I didn't have much trouble with that except on the Tube in September. Or try a smaller place like York or some other city that isn't as massive as London?

You might enjoy a group tour but I personally don't think I would. I like to travel on my own schedule and at my own pace.

Posted by
257 posts

There's nothing wrong with you at all, many of us are sensitive to energy that happens, I woke up in a panic the day that Barcelona got hit, probably because my best friend had been in that exact same place only a week earlier. You had a trip with the good and the bad, that's pretty normal from my own travels, I always seem to have to deal with the unexpected (I leave extra room on my credit card for a near-urgent taxi ride when things go wrong, one time our bus had been hit by a car, another time someone threw themselves onto the tube's train tracks). And it's OK to acknowledge how you feel, not to take on board anyone who is being negative to you, and get some inner quiet to see where it is that you would most like to be for your next vacation. One year my Dad and Stepmom, who had moved from NY to Australia, found that senior citizens can get totally cheap admission to national parks, they drove all over the USA stopping in to big parks with their passes. It may not have been as glamourous as Europe but THEY had fun, and got some great photos and memories. So much of travel is to identify what is important to YOU. Some friends of mine go traveling when there's a convention for a club they belong to, or a family event that's around the same time of year as their vacation, anything can be a good reason for You. Maybe a new friend IS waiting for you at the Jersey Shore :) Following your inner guidance is good, but just not the fear. If too much fear is driving your decision, it's probably best to get some rest, put the travel idea on the shelf for a bit, and wait til you can identify what is FUN for YOU after the fear passes. You probably just need to really drill down on what you most want out of your travel experience. It might be time for a countryside or nature adventure, there's nothing wrong with balancing the big city experiences with some tranquil ones :) And please, have fun!
-Alison

Posted by
491 posts

Thank you all so very much for listening and for your advice.
I am now starting to think about what I really want to do next. :)

Posted by
362 posts

Sandra --

First of all, thanks for starting this thread! I have never had an experience identical to yours, BUT I do know what it's like to feel depressingly overwhelmed by an experience and yet still want to do it again.

I think there's been a ton of good advice on this thread. I just want to add that I believe from what you've said that you can do this again if you want to do it. I've booked things that didn't meet my expectations, and honestly? I went somewhere else next time.

Second - you had a cold. Do not underestimate how a cold and even a little dehydration on a long haul trip can adversely affect your mood and your ability to cope.

Last - I also urge you to check out a trip. They're not cheap, but if you price out hotels, transportation & admission to places, the price suddenly becomes much more attractive. My other half and I have taken many tours (just not yet with RS), and on each one of them, the solo traveler had everyone wanting to be their friend and companion. It was like this unwritten rule that we'd look after the people traveling on their own until they hooked up with someone with whom they connected.

I have traveled solo to Europe. I am proud of myself for doing that, but I prefer to travel with someone else so that I can share observations and just have a good laugh sometimes about the inevitable hassles of traveling. If you don't have a friend you think would be a good fit, there are multiple travel agencies that give good prices for single travelers.

Whatever you decide to do, I am looking forward to hearing about your next adventure!

Posted by
491 posts

I wish there were a way to easily meet people in London. I had no trouble at all when I was 20, but I've gotten shyer as I have aged. I remember being in a pub this last trip, next to two families with young kids, having a drink and dinner. I wanted so much to join them, but really, what could I say? "Hi, I'm a lonely American and you look like fun people. Can I sit with you?" Offer to buy a round? I sat and wrote in my journal.

I've looked at some of those "eat with" type sites but none of them have really appealed to me. On a Cotwolds tour, I met a very nice woman and we talked all day, even exchanged Christmas cards. For the most part, though, I don't talk to anyone while I'm there. As I've said, I'm OK with being alone, but there are times when I wish I didn't feel so...invisible.

I read somewhere that perhaps going to the same coffee shop every day helps. You get to see familiar faces.

Of course, this could be a whole 'nother thread...:)

Posted by
3895 posts

The humourous video I linked notwithstanding - it can be hard to just start talking to total strangers. I wonder if something like joining up on a walking tour could help, then you could mingle/chat with some of the other participants and maybe sit with them for a meal or tea afterwards if they seem open to it. There are lots of 'free' walking tours (I think you tip as payment) so that could be one way.

I still remember when hubby and I sat in a restaurant in Cinque Terre and chatted with a lady from New Zealand for a good 2 1/2-3 hrs. She was travelling solo and I guess was just happy to connect. We were at the next table and commented about what she ordered (some lobster thing - hubby was saying his mom probably would have liked it). Well, we ran into her the next day in one of the villages and come to find that she missed the 11pm train to her village by minutes and had to wait until midnight at the dark and lonely Corniglia train station...oops! But even making eye contact, smile, commenting on their food (that looks yummy...), weather, their pretty scarf and if they seem open to chatting, you'll probably know. We were at Starbucks in Amsterdam and a guy and his girlfriend were chatting with me about my camera - it was one he'd been looking at so he was wondering how I liked it...just little things like that - we ended up talking for a few minutes while waiting for my hot chocolate, and had we not been heading out, perhaps we would have sat with them for 20 min and talked...

I can't say we've ever randomly struck up convos with locals because they are usually in a hurry to work or home or errands. Usually end up chatting with fellow travelers. It's maybe slightly easier for us, because we live in a smallish town and always smile/say hello/make weather comment to strangers. And I worked retail for many years, so super easy for me to interact with random people daily when I did that.

Posted by
967 posts

Being sick sucks. Last Christmas I visited Paris for the bazillionth time (why, it's my favorite city in the world!) and after having a lousy year overall, I was placed in the hospital right before my trip. I was more stressed about missing the trip I had been planning for months than my health at the time (unfortunately it was a result of overworking and stress. Thought I thrived like that! Guess I'm human!)

Anyway, to make matters worse, I arrived in my favorite city and my arrival day went swimmingly. I'd overcome jetlag brilliantly and had visited many spots that first day. The second day also started well, and I went to a chateau I'd always wanted to see and had dinner in an amazing restaurant that specializes in duck. My hotel room, like many in Europe at xmas, was HOT from the heating systems. When I got back that night I noticed I was freezing in what I'd expected to be a sweltering room. I instantly knew that this was a bad sign and I spent the next 24 hours near the bathroom from getting sick---was either food poisoning or a bad flu. The next day was totally shot and I had to cancel those plans. But the next day I woke up and got myself to the pharmacy and didn't miss a beat for the rest of my trip. I'm still angry that one day was totally wasted due to illness, but what can you do? I'm getting a flu shot before going to Europe this year. Hope that helps---but food poisoning is a harder thing to avoid (and I eat in what's considered "good, clean" restaurants!)

I travel solo as well, but I have made friends around France so I never am truly alone when I go. But when I do visit new cities, I, too, am 100% alone. I get that.

Posted by
491 posts

Hi Alexander--Ugh, the flu! I'm glad it did not spoil your entire trip. Both my spouse and I get flu shots every year. I'm really not sure if what we had was just a really bad cold, or a minor case of the flu. I'm glad I went to Boots at one point and threw myself on the mercy of the pharmacist. And I think it would be a good idea for me to find out where some of those walk-in clinics are located (I forget what they are called but I've heard they have them in London).