Tell us about your first trip alone overseas? What emotions you felt, scared, happy, excited, was it a mixture of everything? How old were you? Where did you go?
My first trip overseas alone was at 15 years old (pretty young, I think). Although I wasn’t going to spend the trip along (I was going to attend a camp in Norway), I did travel on my own from Ottawa to Montreal (by bus), from Montreal to Amsterdam to Oslo (by plane), and from Oslo to Gjovik (by train). I was super excited to go but a bit nervous about finding my way and making new friends.
I think it taught me a lot about being confident in your abilities. If I needed something I had to be brave and ask a stranger. If I got lost, I had to find my way. If I experienced a problem, it was up to me to solve it. I think it helped me to really grow as a person.
I suffered a few setbacks and took some risks along the way. Apparently, my suitcase was overweight once I got to Montreal, so I unpacked right there in the middle of the floor of the airport. Another girl I met on the bus offered to take some of my stuff to Amsterdam (since we were on the same plane) and I agreed. Worst case scenario I lose some clothes, right? I ended up taking out my jeans and carrying them in a grocery bag as a carry-on item. But, in the end, I made it to the camp, all by myself. I think it taught me a lot about being confident in your abilities. If I needed something I had to be brave and ask a stranger. If I got lost, I had to find my way. If I experienced a problem, it was up to me to solve it. I think it helped me to really grow as a person.
How have your experiences travelling alone been compared to travelling with someone? Do you have a preference on alone or travelling with someone?
Honestly, I prefer to travel with someone. This is for a few reasons.
1) It’s cheaper to book a room or tour if you’re at least 2 people.
2) I love having someone to watch my bags in an airport if you need to run to the bathroom.
3) I don’t have to make all the plans and decisions.
4) I like having someone to take pictures (so all my shots aren’t just landscapes).
5) I like to discuss fun activities with someone else.
That being said, I almost always travel to a new country for work alone. I learn how to navigate a place, find somewhere to live, buy groceries, and take local transport by myself. It’s only once I’m in the new country that I make friends. Then, I take weekend vacations with these random friends. I have also tried group bus tours in various locations, which are a great way to meet new people.
What is your thoughts on traveling alone as a women and the issue of safety?
Since I travel in developing countries, the issue of safety always comes up. It’s actually quite surprising how much fear people have. Honestly, most people know nothing about Bolivia. If they know it’s in South America they mention things like going to the beach, even though Bolivia is a completely land-locked country. However, many family friends of my boyfriend and I say things like “Well, you know it’s not like here.”, and “What if you get Zika?”, and “Watch out or you’ll get robbed”, without actually knowing anything about the country we’re actually going to be living in. As a woman, this is even more emphasized. Even my bosses in other countries have said things like “Don’t let the guy in to install your cable without me, because you could get gang raped!”. That seems like a pretty intense reaction to me. Yes, there is sexual harassment in most countries, specifically directed towards women, but there is in Canada too.
I do my research to find out which areas of a city are safe after dark, what numbers to call in case of an emergency, and which natural disasters are common (like earth quakes in the case of Nepal). However, I don’t ever let fear stop me from travelling. The only places I don’t consider travelling are active conflict zones (like Syria or Yemen), but worrying about “drugs in Colombia” or “Ebola in Africa” are not on my radar. I actively try to learn about these issues in places I visit in order to teach others about the realities of the situation instead of just fear mongering.
I do my research to find out which areas of a city are safe after dark, what numbers to call in case of an emergency, and which natural disasters are common (like earth quakes in the case of Nepal). However, I don’t ever let fear stop me from travelling.
Tell us a story about your best travel experience (with or without someone else)
I don’t think I have a best and a worst because I try to find the good in everything and to live without regrets. One really nice trip I took was a girl’s road trip with just my mom and I in California. I had been living in Australia for 6 months on student exchange, and was planning to fly back through LA to get to Ottawa before school started up again. We figured why not make a vacation out of it? My mom flew to LA, we rented a car, and drove all the way up the coast to San Francisco. Then we flew up to Vegas and took a flight back to Ottawa from there.
The best part was trying so many new things along the way. I love that we didn’t just do museums, or just the beach, or just check out local coffee shops. We did the Hollywood walk of fame in LA. We toured Alcatraz prison in San Francisco. We visited the Monterey Bay aquarium. We stopped in little beach towns like Carmel. We shopped in little boutiques in Santa Barbara. We checked out local surfing competitions along the way. We went to Cirque de Soleil in Las Vegas. We did an afternoon tour of the Grand Canyon. I absolutely loved the diversity of different things we were able to do in just 2-3 weeks of travelling.
What are your top 3 favourite countries you have traveled too?
That’s really hard because I like them all for different reasons. I have lived on 6 of the 7 continents and I have something great to say about each one. I guess my top three that I would recommend would be Colombia (beaches, street art, culture), Italy (history, gelato, wine, pasta, culture) and Thailand (temples, beaches, elephants, food, culture).
What is your least favorite experience or country traveled too?
I absolutely hate being cold. Any trip where I was cold the whole time sticks in my memory. That being said, I have absolutely no regrets. When I went to Salar de Uyuni I froze my butt off! Sleeping in a hotel made of salt definitely lacks the insulation of a well-built Canadian home, and I had such a hard time sleeping. I just kept all my clothes on and drank lots of tea. However, I loved it and would recommend that anyone go there! Perhaps I would suggest going at a warmer time of year, but it’s totally worth it to see the beautiful dessert, take crazy pictures, visit the coloured lakes with flamingos, and even to stay in a hotel made of salt!
Let’s play a game, give us the first word or sentence that pops into your head around these words. (Think experiences on the road).
- FUN – Trying new things (especially things you’ve never heard of before)
- TRAVEL – Life (a super important part of who I am and how I’ve grown)
- FOOD – Spicy (Hard to find non-spicy foods in many countries)
- MEN – Cute (who doesn’t love a bit of foreign eye-candy?)
- EXERCISE – Prison (When living in Bangladesh on “house arrest” my friend had to look up “prison exercises” online to keep in shape.
- INDIA – Nepal (Spent 3 months living in Kathmandu)
- AMERICA – Controversial (No matter what travel group I’m with, the subject of the United States and politics come up, and there’s always a disagreement…)
- PACKING – I’m definitely not a light packer, more of a girl scout who wants to be prepared for any occasion
- JOB – Contracts (I’m not sure if I’m ready to grow up and get a permanent job and stay in one place for multiple years)
- ALCOHOL – Can be fun (but sometimes dangerous) to try the local homemade varieties
- DANGER – Overemphasized (whenever I travel to a developing country people question the safety without knowing anything else about the place, and it can be quite frustrating)
- TAXIS – Drivers (hard to get a good price when you’re obviously not a local)
- BED BUGS – Gross (Never had them, but did have cockroaches…)
- LOVE – Long-distance (tricky but totally doable, I’ve done it 3 times for 3-4 months at a time)
- FAMILY – Small (what I consider to be “family” is my mom and sister, so that makes family get-togethers a bit easier)
- NEW FRIENDS – Easy to find but they might not be around for long (unfortunately)
- OLD FRIENDS – Reliable (will always be there when I get home)
- SWITZERLAND – Mountainous (throwback to my friend trying to learn how to drive a standard car on the mountains of Switzerland)
What has traveling alone taught you?
Traveling alone teaches you SO much about yourself. You learn every little thing bothers you. You learn about new cultures and what you value. You learn about how different priorities effect daily life in other countries. You learn how to be flexible and patient. It really helps you to grow as a person and gain confidence that you can overcome any situation.
Lastly what advice would you give to someone who is looking to travel alone but is too scared?
Just start. You don’t have to go far on your first trip, maybe you can work up to it. Are you scared to go to a restaurant or movie alone in another country? Try it in your own city first and you’ll see that it’s not really so bad. Once you’re comfortable going to museums and such on your own, try a short weekend away in a nearby city you’ve always wanted to visit. Work your way up to an international trip at your own pace.
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