Meet Janet Mactavish, a passionate solo traveller who’s now using her knowledge and experience to design luxury personalised travel services for her clients. Here she tells us a little about how she got started, why she always packs a door wedge and why we should all think about a certain poem. Read on to find out why.
Tell us a little about yourself and your mission?
At the grand age of 23, I jacked in my job in the City (London) and moved to Bahrain to become a flight attendant with Gulf Air. The plan (as I told my then boyfriend), was to go for 6 months but, I loved the experience, the freedom, and the lifestyle so much that I stayed, for 12 years! From Bahrain, I moved to Saudi Arabia and worked for a Saudi family on their Private Jet, which was an incredible experience and I met some interesting people, including Hassan Bin Laden. Sadly though, it did not end well and I ran away in the middle of the night… a story for another day I think!
I am now a Private Travel Designer and the owner of Travel Magellan, which I set up in early 2012 to provide a truly personalised travel service.
Why are you passionate about this?
I feel that there are few people out there who care as much about your holiday as you do, so one aim was to change that. Also, something that drives me mad, is being passed around an office to speak to different people because the person you spoke to the first time is not in/on holiday/gone on maternity leave/sick leave.
Tell us about your solo travel adventures and how you got started travelling solo.
Because of the nature of my work, I was single for a long time and decided that if I did not do things on my own, I would never do anything.
What do you like about solo travel? Dislike?
I love the freedom, the ability to decide what to do and when. No need to ask permission, just do what you want, get up when you want, go to bed when you want and eat where you want. I’m a vegetarian, so the last comment is important to me. I also love the fact that people will talk to you more when you are on your own.
Dislike – nothing really. But I confess that sometimes I miss my husband and my dogs, and that’s ok, I still go anyway!
What are your favourite destinations for solo travel?
Italy, New Zealand, and Argentina
What are your top solo travel tips?
Tell people where you are going.
Make sure someone has a copy of your passport and can easily email it to you if you lose it.
Always take a door wedge for extra security.
Be smart, you would not walk down dark and unknown roads at home, so why do it abroad?
Be brave, talk to people, it could lead to something amazing.
If you are feeling unsure of yourself, book yourself on a group tour, and start out slowly.
Have you had any solo travel disasters you’d care to share? Anything learned from that?
I sat at a gate in the wrong terminal for the wrong flight once. I only found out when I went to buy some chocolate and they asked for my boarding card, the cashier told me that I was in the wrong terminal! Now I never moan when they ask for my boarding card in the shops!
Beach or city? Or Both?
I am not a city girl, preferring the countryside when I am home, but when travelling solo, I enjoy city breaks, probably because there is so much to do and see and choices on where to eat etc. If I just want to lie by a pool and read, I go to my parents’ house in Spain and I have the place to myself.
What’s your solo travel style? Backpacker, boutique hotel, resort?
Boutique hotel all the way. I was never a backpacker, probably because as a result of being a flight attendant from the age of 23, I never had to rough it, and now I don’t think I could!
What do you think are the 3 most important things for a solo woman traveller starting out midlife?
Be brave, be bold and be aware. (Be brave, but don’t be stupid and take unnecessary risks)
Do you prefer to keep visiting the same places or do you like the adventure of somewhere new? Why?
Both – I love going to new places but could revisit parts of New Zealand, Italy, Portugal and Spain over and over again because they are so beautiful, and I would still find something new
What’s your view on eco-tourism and over tourism? What can we all do to help?
I think it comes down to education – plus local governments need to be more aware of the damage caused by over tourism, be more proactive and perhaps less greedy? They also need to educate other places who wish for more tourists, who are not aware of how detrimental it can be – teach them to “be careful what they wish for”. Sadly we are our own worst enemy and our desire to explore and discover new things will (and this has already started) mean limited access to certain sites and cities. The solution would be not to travel, but that will never happen. Other than that, avoid peak season, try to stay in places that actively practice sustainability, (you can always ask questions re their practices), who employ local staff, and who give back to the local community and of course things like minimise our use of single-use plastic, pick up rubbish on beaches etc. I am a great believer that if everyone does a little, collectively we can make a big difference. It is a slow process and perhaps those of us who care, need to shout louder!?
What one thing do you want the members to know/remember?
About 12 years ago a Spanish language teacher gave me a poem to read. It was written by someone at the end of their life, listing all the things they would have done/done differently if they had more time. My homework was to write my version of that poem in Spanish. The following week I handed her a blank sheet of paper and explained that I could not write such a poem as I planned to do everything that I wanted. I keep that in mind all the time when making decisions and whilst I do have to take my family needs and desires into account, I do pretty much do what I want!
Think about what your poem would say?
A couple of years ago a took a group of solo 60 + lady travellers to Marrakech. Why? Because I kept meeting ladies who wanted to go somewhere but had no-one to go with, and that made me sad, so I created a trip. It was fun, we explored, we laughed, they did not all get on but they were all polite to each other and I am still in touch with most of them today.
My advice, be bold, be brave and don’t let the fact that you have no-one to travel with, hold you back.
Adventure awaits those who are open to it.
Like my Facebook page Deborah Ives, Solo In Style or join my Facebook group Solo In Style: Females Over 50 Travelling Solo & Loving It
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