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Solo Trips and Spreadsheet Geeks

With a sprinkle of magical moments when time stands still.

Petra Sandanam travels quite a bit. In fact, you may see her pop up around here more than once! She usually travels solo because no one seems to travel the way she likes to – boo. She usually picks a place based on gut feeling (Paris was one of these places!) and where she ends up visiting tends to be a place that’s been on her mind for a while.

Petra says that finding information about it is the interesting part –

Petra wants to know the ins and outs of where she’s going and then see for herself, first-hand, what she’s researched.

Self-confessed nerd, Petra says she does an obscene amount of research and prefers it’s the latest information, so opts for following travel bloggers she relates to, such as solo female travellers for tips on safety or Lonely Planet online (assuming the books are out of date) for different experiences and price points. What she ends up doing on the trip doesn’t even have to be on her top ten list – she just wants to know what’s possible.

Petra pops all of her research into a Google Doc so it’s easier for her to chuck stuff in/access it from her phone or laptop. And by “chucked”, Petra means an excel spreadsheet with tabs. A friend set this one up for a New York/Toronto trip and it’s been her go-to format ever since. This is the end result.

At the initial brain dumping stage, however, it’s just about putting ideas down and any costs she can find. Does she want to jump out of a plane, see a baseball game, eat at a certain restaurant?

It’s all about seeing what she can fit into the amount of time she wants to spend there – and sometimes the list is what determines the length of time!

Other times, it’s a matter of how badly she wants the experience and would she be willing to forfeit another for the price.

Petra goes into travel with her eyes wide open – there’s no perfect trip. Sometimes things are closed or she can’t get a reservation, so there needs to be some flexibility in the planning. Perhaps in her mindset more than anything. Other times it just requires a bit of creativity. For example, when Petra went to Paris she wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower and see a burlesque show (amongst many other things on her “list”… or spreadsheet, as it were) For that particular trip she was travelling with a friend, who preferred long sleep ins and a slower pace – a classic style mismatch! So Petra would get up at 5.30am, see what she wanted to on her own, often enjoying walking and the quietness of the city and meet up with her friend for dinner. It turned out to be a win, win – different experiences, in the same place, embracing their own styles.

Petra is all about authentic experiences rather than ticking off bucket lists, and she wants to see and feel them in her own way – she likens them to quiet meditation moments. Like eating a croissant while taking in the view of the Eiffel Tower in the morning before Paris wakes. Even that moment when time stood still before she skydived in Hawaii (maybe she froze?) – just her and the experience… and the guy strapped to her back, of course! Everything stops and Petra says she gets to take it all in.

Petra says travel is different for every person, and that’s OK. But as for her, she wants to leave a place understanding its soul. Ooh, deep! But that’s what she wants to get out of a trip all the same, so she plans them with that in mind. Nice.

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