“I like to explore off the beaten track. Looking back on some of my trips I wonder how I dared to be so enterprising, but I've had some wonderful adventures.”
- Name: Valerie Singleton
- Age: 79
- Occupation: TV Presenter
Anyone who grew up in the UK in the 60s or 70s will likely have fond memories of Valerie Singleton, as the much-loved presenter of 'Blue Peter,' the iconic children's television series. If 'Blue Peter' was part of your after-school routine, you may remember the time Valerie travelled to Kenya on a safari to accompany Princess Anne.
The pair could be seen chatting like old friends as they walked along a beach and encountered a badly-behaved baboon named Gladys, while the Princess sipped tea from a cup and saucer.
The travel bug never left Valerie. “Perhaps selfishly, I like doing my own thing, and get talking to people - especially local people - in a way I never would if I was travelling with a companion,” she says.
Valerie has embarked on many solo adventures in her lifetime, occasionally with a tour group, but mostly making her own plans and arrangements, including hiring a car to explore her chosen destination. “I like to explore off the beaten track,” she says. “Looking back on some of my trips I wonder how I dared to be so enterprising, but I've had some wonderful adventures.”
Valerie now reads up on the country's customs and familiarises herself with a few words - at the very least - of the language. “English is pretty widespread but it's not always spoken and making an attempt, no matter how bad my pronunciation, gives people a laugh and is usually appreciated,” she says.
Press anyone who has travelled alone on the downsides of their hobby and you'll hear the same gripes from even the most seasoned solo traveller: paying twice as much for your accommodation and the occasional awkwardness of dining alone.
Like many solo travellers, Valerie has found that some hotels aren't quite set up for people travelling on their own. “One thing does make me very cross as a lone traveller and that is paying the price for two for my accommodation and then being given a cupboard to sleep in,” says Valerie.
However, if you ask politely and with just the right amount of confidence, Valerie has found she can quickly change her fortunes.
“When I was in Egypt, I came out one morning from my pokey room overlooking a back wall and the generator in our Cairo hotel to hear a married couple in my party talking about their glorious view over the Nile River,” she says. “I asked if I might take a look. The view was stunning and I went straight down to reception to request a similar room. I got it too!”
As for eating out, there have been times where Valerie has felt uncomfortable when surrounded by families and honeymooners, with the lighting so low that reading a good book is all but impossible. “My father considered reading a book at meal times very bad manners and he was probably right,” she says. “But it is a delicious luxury.”
“Reading a book at meal times is a delicious luxury.”