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She Roams Solo Ladies – The Bartender Abroad

I started She Roams Solo to help travellers connect, tell their story and inspire others. That is also what the “She Roams Solo Ladies” series, a series of female traveller interviews is about. A chance for travellers to tell their story, share what makes them passionate, share their ups and downs, their life lessons and travel trials and tribulations. To tell the world their wonderful stories. You can join the She Roams Solo community for women who travel for free here. You can also fill in this form to be involved and tell your story. Below is a story from Kay from the Awkward traveller.

I am a sucker for love stories. Tell me about the love story of Geena and Evan. Did you know instantly that you both wanted to travel the world together?

Well like many couples out there…we met in a bar. We just happened to be working in it. I knew instantly that he was unlike anyone I had ever met in my life before. I wouldn’t call it love at first sight but he enthralled me. I could (and still can) talk to him for hours. About complicated stuff, people don’t normally speak casually about. Philosophy, religion, life and death and what our purpose is.

Our love story really began when I told him I was planning a trip to Indonesia and casually invited him (just a co-worker of 6 months) to come along. For whatever reason, he agreed. And planning our trip together quickly turned romantic. Next thing we knew we were embarking on a 5-week journey through Indonesia after only dating for one month. That kind of closeness makes or breaks you for sure. We moved in together shortly after that and have been traveling the world together ever since.

Travelling couple enjoying beautiful blue waters

Spending time with the Komodo dragon must have been scary and yet quite an experience. Tell us about that. Must have been a bit scary.

Komodo National Park is such a surreal experience. First of all, you don’t realize how far out there the island is. It took like a 4-hour rickety small boat just to get us to the island. That’s probably the scariest part. Just how isolated you are. If something goes wrong you’re a 4-hour boat ride and a plane away from the nearest hospital. As for the dragons, yeah they are as terrifying as you would imagine. They watch you very closely. It’s unsettling, but they only eat once a month so it’s safe to say they probably aren’t hungry.

Couple at Komodo National Park

How do you choose where you want to go? How much planning is in place

It has a bit to do with price. But predominantly we try to travel places that are at risk of losing their charm. Or destinations we fear could change. This tends to send us to countries more in the developing world. We want to experience places before the culture gets westernized. Before the effects of Overtourism take over.  As for planning, we are more the “wherever the wind takes you” type. I do extensive research before we leave so we can understand the country better. The history, politics, geography, must-see locations, and authentic cuisines. But the only thing we book in advance is our first night’s accommodation.

Views in Colombia

You work as a bartender, save, travel repeat. Do you ever get lectures from people telling you to “get a real job” or “Settle down and grow up”

I used to get those a lot. But now living in L.A., everyone here is pursuing their dreams. People here are a lot less judgemental of alternative ways of living. I’ve come to terms with the fact that most people don’t understand why I choose to live the way that I do. I don’t think life has to be lived just one specific way. But I think everyone should pursue whatever it is in life that makes them happy. Always.

Iceland diamond beach

You climbed Iceland’s Largest Glacier. Tell us about your experience. What was the best and hardest part?

The best part was feeling like a true adventurer. The glacier face changes every year so in some ways your walking atop a surface no one else has ever explored. It’s one of those rare indescribable sensations. Being one with the power of nature. The hardest part was seeing first hand the effects of climate destabilization. The glacier is always melting. Even in the dead of winter water was rolling off it. This is everything we did on our 10-day trip to Iceland.

Iceland biggest glacier

Iceland is quite an expensive place to visit. How did you manage to stay on budget and what are your top three tips.

Iceland is insanely expensive. But we stayed at Airbnb’s, split meals in restaurants, and rented our own car to get around the Ring Road. Definitely skip the alcohol if you’re trying to budget. A cocktail will run you up to 25 USD a piece. I would also suggest skimping on your food budget. For us, Iceland wasn’t about food. It was about the magnificent natural wonders that it had to offer. So there’s no shame in eating gas station snacks and road-trip food. We also layed out a complete guide on how to budget Iceland.

Iceland Roadtrip

Where did your sense of adventure come from and how did you know you had it

I don’t have the faintest idea where my sense of adventure came from. My entire family had kids very early and settled down. And none of them traveled while I was growing up. I think if I really psychoanalyze myself it stems from my mother passing away when she was just 24 years old. There’s a lot of life she didn’t get to live and it’s just a reminder to me that no length of time is promised. After college, I planned a trip to Thailand for some unknown reason. And then I was hooked. I never looked back.

What are your biggest budget tips when traveling and how much research do you put into it

Always do as the locals do. Everything catered to tourists is 10 times more expensive. Local cuisines are tastier and way cheaper and local transportation is an adventure in itself. These two tips alone will save you bundles. Traveling cheaply is actually exceptionally easy in much of South America and Asia. I put a lot of research into the “learning” stages of the trip. I try to really understand the country before we arrive so that we can delve deeper during the trip. But budgeting wise…our daily budgets are typically around the same no matter the country.

How long do you travel at a time? How is that decision made?

It 100% depends on the destination. We try to get the most out of each trip and explore the ENTIRE country if possible. For geographically small countries such as Iceland, we gave ourselves 10 days. For Indonesia, we gave ourselves 6-weeks and it still wasn’t enough. Finances play into it as well. Iceland is a very expensive country so 10 days add up quickly.

Bali Rice Fields

If you were going to start a bar, what inspiration from your travels would you use?

We have actually talked about creating a “world-inspired” bar one day. The best food and cocktail recipes from all of our travels. Logistically, it would be very difficult to get all the right ingredients but I think people would love it.

When you watched the full total eclipse, what thoughts were running through your minds?

That it was 1,000 times cooler than I expected it to be.  It was one of those moments that last forever. I’ve never experienced a stillness and raw animalistic feeling quite like it. I’m not a believer in astrology and celestial events but this was very moving. I can see why people travel across the world to catch one of those in person.

Favorite Accommodation ever:

We aren’t the kind of travelers who splurge on accommodation so rarely have we had what normal people would consider an exceptional stay. But our first night in Bali we rented an Airbnb treehouse made from shipwreck wood. It was tucked away in the jungle in South Bali and we ate breakfast in this lush garden environment outside. The first thing I did in the morning light was go for a nude swim in this half-finished ornate tiled pooled. The tree-house was open air and you slept with a giant mosquito net over you but it was just romantic. At the time it was called “The Alchemist”. I hope it still exists.

Minca, Colombia

Dream Travel Trip

We’re checking off a huge dream this fall with India (and the rest of Asia). I would say an African Safari has to happen in my lifetime. I also have my heart set on a foodie-tour of Europe one day. When I asked Evan he said, “Antarctica and a road-trip through Central America all the way to the mountains of Patagonia, Chile.” So between the two of us, we basically have the entire world to see.

couple with view Guatape, Colombia,

What do you think you learned from visiting Tijuana, Mexico.

I learned that people fear what they don’t know. You always see articles like “Is it safe to travel here” and the answer is always YES. If you use your head and follow local customs you are just as safe in Mexico as you are in your hometown. I’ve been to many supposedly unsafe travel destinations and never felt in danger.

Tell us about how you found the best food in Cuba because there have been some mixed reviews.

Honestly, a lot of it was luck. The only sure-fire way to find phenomenal food in Cuba is to eat at your homestay! Guesthouses are the lifeblood to many Cuban families and staying in their homes is the most fun way to travel in Cuba. And they cooked some amazing food. As for restaurants, just stay away from the government-run ones and order Cuban food. Not foreign.

Female traveller eating Cuban food

I really enjoyed reading about your Anthony Bourdain Moment in Columbia. How did you find out about the Mercado De Bazurto markets? Your senses must have been going insane. Tell us the thoughts running through your head.

I first read about the market on AlongDustyRoads blog. It’s also mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide! I am surprised that more travelers don’t make it there. I just love local markets because they give you a real feel for the heart of the country. It’s a little overwhelming at first but then you just settle into the chaos and feel like a part of the community there.

Mercado Bazurto, Colombia

You have a love of foods, what has been your best food travel experience and how do you determine where you will spend your eating budget

A lot of our budget goes toward food. We eat out for every meal and are always snacking in between. Luckily in the countries, we travel to food is super cheap!! We normally splurge at least once in each country and eat at a five-star restaurant. Our best food experience wasn’t in one of those though. It was getting freshly caught and cooked fish from the locals of Indonesia. Delivered to us on the sand. Simple and a little messy, but it was delicious.

What is one thing that stands out in your Cuban trip?

Our hike to the waterfalls in Topes de Collantes National Park. It was so much more difficult than we had anticipated and we were very unprepared. But when we got back to the top we were just elated. We felt very accomplished. And it was beautiful. We hadn’t seen a single other person the way down or up, just us and Cuban wilderness. This blog post covered all my favorite moments in Cuba.

lady smoking a cigar in Cuba

I had read your story on the most densely populated island in the world. You stayed in a little backpacker island in the middle of the ocean which took you to this island. What was the name of the hostel? Can you tell us your experience of the hostel?

The hostel is called Casa en el Agua. I would like to preface the review by stating that I’m not the party-backpacker type. And this is undoubtedly who this hostel caters too. But the vibe depends entirely on the other guests staying at the hostel with you. Definitely go. It is a beautiful hostel floating in the open ocean. A welcome slow-down to the busy backpacker lifestyle. And they keep the drinks flowing from morning until night. It’s impossible to not just chill-out and enjoy the warm Caribbean waters. We met some great people and had a great time. They also offer day trips to the main islands, trips to Isolte, and a nighttime glowing plankton tour.

“A rocky shoreline that was packed to the brim with pastel-colored houses. Although it’s an island, don’t go expecting any sandy beaches. Every inch of this island is utilized, with buildings packed to the very edge of the shores.” How did you feel when you saw this? What was going through both your minds

It was a little surreal. Learning how other people in the world live is really eye-opening. Because in the United States we are given everything. Every opportunity and advantage in life. And I feel like we are not happier than they are. Simplicity is key and seeing first-hand how these kinds of civilizations work really rearranges my priorities.

Tips for going off the beaten track. How do you find you’re off the beaten track experiences

Just do something different. That’s what we all want out of travel anyways. Cool experiences. Instead of heading straight to the most popular sights just do some walking. Exploring by foot gives you a chance to stumble upon the hidden gems. Also, do as the locals do. Make friends with them and ask for recommendations. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and explore places you haven’t heard of.

Canoe in the Amazon

I have wanted to explore South America for some time now so when I read this “Canoed through the flooded Amazon rainforest and stayed overnight in a hammock in the jungle.” I can’t help but need to know more! Tell us about your experience

That was hands-down the biggest adventure and favorite travel experience we have both had. We hired a personal guide from the Amazonas town of Leticia, Colombia. It was just the two of us and Armando. We were fully immersed in the jungle. What sticks with me is the noises. The complete silence during the daytime. And then at night, roaring loud with torrential downpours and screeching insects. We hunted for caiman, spotted wildlife, canoed around a lake during sunset, ate dinner by candlelight on the floor of the platform. The Amazon should be at the top of everyone’s travel list. I’m currently writing a how-to guide on seeing the Amazon yourself as we did. Without tours.

A wild monkey in the Amazon

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