Simon looks back at his recent holiday to Norway and reflects on the challenges of holidaying as someone who lives alone and the post-holiday blues he experiences after a week away.
After An Incredible Holiday, Post Holiday Blues Follow
A few months ago, I wrote about a weekend break I had with friends and how my solo living status changed the dynamic of the trip. Well, recently, I took things up a level by embarking on my first ever week away since I began solo living – a week-long cruise to Norway.
I will try to give you a flavour of the cruise holiday experience while also looking at the challenges it presents for people like myself who live alone. For me, the most challenging aspect of going on holiday as someone who lives solo is the anxiety I experience once I am back home. Let’s start by explaining how I ended up cruising down fjords in Norway and how easy it was to get started.
Ready to set sail
Having recently sold my house and now settled into my new home, I decided that I needed a big holiday and wanted the trip to be something I had always dreamed of doing. But, as an introvert, I wasn’t comfortable going solo on this trip.
Given the logistics and cost of my other ‘dream’ holidays (New Zealand and South America), I opted for a week-long cruise down the Norwegian fjords. The big question was, who would I go with, and would I manage to find a travel partner?
I contacted various friends, but unsurprisingly, issues like availability, cost and desire to go to Norway proved to be stumbling blocks. It is not easy finding someone who wants to go to the same places as you do and can travel at the same time.
Eventually, I found an old college friend who was keen to go, so we took the plunge and made the booking. The only slight concern I had was that while he was a friend, he wasn’t someone I saw more than once or twice per year. So making the jump to spending a whole week in each other’s company was going to be a big step for us both.
Embarking on a cruise ship is just about the easiest start to a holiday possible. We were given a boarding time of 13:00 at Southampton Docks. We arrived at the location at 12:30, and somebody immediately came to our car and picked up our luggage from us. We walked through security, and ten minutes later, we were on board the ship and heading to the bar. Compared to the soul-destroying slow experience of catching a flight or the inevitable hassle of UK train travel, the whole process was an absolute breeze.
As for the boat itself (P&O Iona), the cliche of it being a floating hotel is reasonably accurate, although a floating resort is a more accurate description. The cabins were essentially narrow hotel rooms, while the rest of the boat was full of huge bars, opulent restaurants, swimming pools/hot tubs and large, open communal areas. In total, I counted over 20 different places you could go for a drink or bite to eat, most of which were included in the cost of the holiday. And because the venues were so diverse (everything from a library to a jazz club, with plenty in-between), you could always find somewhere enjoyable to go to while away time at sea.
Living on the high sea
Of course, I didn’t go on holiday to spend a week sitting on a boat; however, in order to travel to Norway, it was necessary to spend two days at sea – one at each end of the trip. This was the part of the holiday I was somewhat worried about. Neither my friend nor I wanted to live in each other’s pockets all week, but as we didn’t know anybody else on board, there seemed to be little choice.
I had made a few attempts to connect with fellow travellers via the Facebook group for the trip, but while I was comfortable chatting online, I’m not great at meeting new people face to face. So, day one at sea was spent reading, eating and drinking. Unfortunately, the weather was sometimes below sunbathing temperatures, so we were often confined to the indoor areas.
So, did I enjoy my time at sea? Sort of. It’s not my ideal scenario for a long period of time. I ended up speaking to a few fellow travellers (all of whom instigated conversations), and I did enjoy the time with my friend. But after 24 plus hours onboard, I could not wait to set foot on shore. The experience also reaffirmed my belief that I wasn’t ready for a true solo holiday just yet.
Norway is a stunning country. I’ve visited about 25 countries in my life, and I can honestly say that the scenery in the Norwegian fjords is the most incredible I’ve ever witnessed. And a cruise is the ideal way to absorb these stunning views. Few things in life are as relaxing as sitting on a balcony watching mountains, waterfalls and lush green fields. I braved the inevitable morning headaches to get up at 6 a.m. each day and sit outside with a coffee for a couple of hours. It was fantastic for my mental health and hugely calming.
Obviously, leaving the boat was the main purpose of the trip, and this produced some mixed results. On the first day, I became incredibly anxious once ashore. It’s difficult to explain, but because I was so looking forward to it, I had unnaturally high expectations. While the village we docked at was stunning, I somehow had unrealistic expectations of wanting more. I appreciate this makes little sense, but welcome to my brain and its glorious failings!
That being said, we saw some truly glorious sights. The RIB ride in Geirangerfjord was a true life highlight, and the stunning coastal scenery of Haugesund will live long in my memory. I could list numerous other visual highlights but suffice to say, I can highly recommend visiting Norway.
Home alone and post-holiday blues
After another (warmer!) day at sea and a last-ditch attempt to visit every bar on the ship, it was time to disembark. Once again, the process was seamless because, within ten minutes of leaving our cabin, we were leaving the car park and driving home.
I realise one of my biggest anxieties about holidaying is returning home. Simply put, I can guarantee that I will immediately feel anxious at the end of the holiday. Did I make the most of it? Will I be able to afford another holiday? How will I cope without the excitement of being on holiday? Again, it’s fairly illogical stuff, but it’s how my brain works. And living alone means that I don’t have a human soundboard to unload my anxiety on.
Luckily, I managed to see my daughter soon after I returned home and coupled with having a game of cricket the following day, I managed to occupy my mind fairly well. However, this ‘post-holiday blues’ is something that I struggle with to the extent that it can diminish my entire holiday experience.
Plenty of the above might sound quite negative, but that’s incredibly misleading. I had an incredible holiday. The food and drink on the ship were outstanding. I chatted with some lovely people, got on very well with my friend, and Norway was sensational.
Yes, I had a few issues, but over the years, I’ve come to the realisation that this will always be the case. I will always have bouts of anxiety on holiday, particularly when I return to an empty house. I will always dread being back home after a holiday, especially as I live alone. And I will always struggle to make friends on holiday. But I’ve learned to cope with those issues and have a great holiday regardless.
Accepting your flaws and learning how to thrive is a key part of the overall solo living experience, in my opinion. We all have problems or circumstances we struggle with, and in many cases, it is virtually impossible to fully ‘’resolve’ those issues. But it is still possible to embrace solo life and find happiness. It’s just a case of spending time and figuring out what the best options and solutions are for you. And if you ever get the chance, try to arrange a trip to the Norwegian fjords!