As a teenager I had to choose between visiting China or Nepal, as an unfit 14 year old I chose the option with the least trekking. However I knew I had to visit Nepal, and in 2014 – still unfit – I booked. Arriving in Kathmandu I was met by our guide. He showed me the best way to and from the hotel and set me on my way to somewhere good for lunch.
I did not pay enough attention and was soon lost. After walking down the same narrow alleyway three times a Nepalese man, maybe 40 years old, who had been smoking a cigarette on the corner walked over ‘are you lost? You look lost’. I was a little suspicious, I had heard stories of scammers approaching westerners and showing them things then demanding payment for guide services. But I was lost and if it cost me a few AUD to get back on track I would be fine with that. I told him where I was going (trying to go) and laughing again he tells me it is only a few minutes – and on his way to work. Ah there it was, he would shuttle me into whatever store we showed up at and overcharge me for whatever wares they were selling. But I’m a tough cookie and an even tougher sell – if I don’t want to buy something then I won’t.
Risk assumed, I followed him down the walkways. We walked through a temple area and he showed me his favourite, a shine for teeth because he has excellent teeth and he was thankful for his dentist. I was regaled with stories of his children, why certain temples were more popular than others, and what to be careful of in the tourist centre. We arrived at the lunch spot I was looking for and I was bid farewell. Wait, where was the hook? As we said goodbye he smiled and said, I work in a mandala gallery, by the blue sign and up the stairs – if you want to see some mandalas while you’re here come and see me! He told me to be safe and enjoy Nepal, and left me to my lunch. There was no hook. He didn’t even ask me for a tip.
Later in the day I found my way back to that road, and decided to look at some mandalas. I was rewarded. The small dark room was full, every surface displayed beautiful and intricately drawn mandalas. I found mine tucked behind a large green parchment propped in the corner. Hand drawn, gold on black card, I fell in love with a 1:1 square mandala. I paid a grand total of 20 AUD for it and it sits proudly, framed, on my desk in Australia. Every time I work there I am reminded of my experience, my assumptions challenged, and the kindness of a stranger with whom I did not even share names.
Do I now blindly follow any man offering help? No I do not, but i do not let the scary stories and assumptions dictate my travel. Assess the risks, be safe, but don’t be so safe you never get on the plane ❤
This is a hard post to write, especially since I have just had a few of the happiest weeks ever – I booked my next trip, bought my dream bike, and made more plans to move to London in a few months. Then I got a message from my mum, no hello, no nothing just ‘you there?’. When she sees me start to type she fires through ‘I’ll call you’ and I know something is wrong. Late at night for me, early morning for her, I find myself sobbing into my bed sheets because our gorgeous, beautiful, gentle Rottweiler, Belle, has had to be out to sleep. She was nine years old, she has been one of my best friends since I was 13. This wasn’t a surprise, she was diagnosed with bone cancer in her back leg last October and we were told 100 days, max. After amputating the leg and several rounds of chemo we had some hope she would kick the cancer and we could have a few more years. After her last round of chemo she just didn’t bounce back and over the weekend she started having trouble breathing – the cancer was in her lungs. She had made it six months, twice the time she was given.
I debated on whether or not to write about this – it’s my dog not something travel related. But the reality of long term travel or living overseas is that when something like this happens, you cant do anything and that hurts. If I was home I would hug our other dog, have a cup of tea with my parents, and be sad. But here all I could do was be sad. When she was diagnosed in October I was in a position to visit Australia and I am not ashamed to say that I flew half way around the world to visit my puppy before she died. Having a family member, yes a family member, suddenly limited to a few month hit me – I hadn’t seen my family or my Australian friends for 18 months. I don’t really suffer from home sickness – I talk almost constantly with them and I adapt incredibly quickly – but suddenly I needed to be in Australia. Spending half my savings and spending only two weeks in Australia was the best decision I could have made. Unfortunately this is the reality of long term travel – stuff happens at home and you can’t do anything about it. I am lucky enough to have a support network here, but if I didn’t I would be lost. I guess the message here is you can never – ever – take too many photographs and anyone who makes fun of that can fuck right off, if you want to go home there is no shame in that, and lastly talk to people – if it’s getting too much engage with people around you, people online, or people there to help. And hug your dogs.
The difference between having toast and no toast
Glared at for a solid hour
“leave me alone and let me sun bathe”
Mental Health while travelling is a serious thing, so don’t be afraid or ashamed to talk to someone – google that shit, there are so many avenues for support
So, in honour of International Women’s Day, I wanted to write something short on being a solo female traveller. As I write, and rewrite, this piece I am acutely aware that my experience is MY experience. I am a loud, confident, white, reasonably privileged (in the sense that I am a) able to travel b) white middlish class. Not that I am ridiculously well off flouncing about the streets throwing money around or naive). My experience is so different to that of Women of Colour, those differently abled, or living with serious mental illness. I can’t – nor do I intend to try to – speak for these women.
I have been fortunate enough to travel quite broadly, the experiences I have had have by and large been positive. But there have been negative experiences – getting groped by a restaurateur in Venice while trying to pay, getting followed for blocks by a street vendor asking if he could ‘show me his favourite hotel’.
I have also experienced genuine, freely offered, and exceptional kindness from strangers in every country I have visited.
This is not an advisory piece about how to stay safe, or top tips for travelling ladies – there are lots out there (and I probably will write one at some point). This is merely a celebration of those kick ass ladies who decide that they want to see the world so damn it they will do so!
Travelling alone is a unique and and incredible experience and I urge any woman thinking about taking the plunge to go do it! It comes with unique experiences and opportunities you just don’t get travelling with another person – it was the best decision of my life!
Travel safe, good luck, and happy International Women’s Day!
The work week is almost done, and armchair travelling is almost as good as the real thing. So here are some blue, white, and wanderlust filled pictures to rev that travel engine and maybe entice you to see more than just the sunset at Oia!
I have spent the last two years travelling and experiencing life, and now it comes time once again to share those experiences with anyone who wants to listen [read]!
Since I last posted I have been to:
UK – living here!!
Australia (does it count if you’re living somewhere and you visit home the way other people take yearly vacations?)
and coming up next – you guessed it – Greece!
So you can expect lots of post, pictures, and lists from these experiences – let me know if you think there is anything in particular I should address!
The view from a tiny 2 seater plane, flown by a 19 year old (help me)
This The type of experience to which I refer in my previous post <http://tinyurl.com/ltv9tcn> – a unique day out that is definitely worth paying extra for – and its really not that much!
Organised through my hostel a few days before, the transfer picked us up around 9:30am and drove us to the gorgeous port of Vylchada.
From here we boarded our gorgeous catamaran “Caldera II” and set off past Red Beach and White Beach, thoroughly enjoying a glass of white wine as well as the incredible scenery.
After a swimming stop we rounded into the Caldera, and into the famous hot springs where the crew started to prepare our lunch. The small bay we pulled into to have lunch was gorgeous, and was made all the more enjoyable by the incredible lunch put on by the crew.
After a second swim we laid back on the nets at the front of the catamaran and enjoyed the cruise back to the port.
The small group size on the tour, the incredible crew, and quality food made the experience easily one of the best in my time on Santorini. There are two options, Day Time and Sunset Cruise, both five hours long.
To complete my trilogy on tours, I will now spend a few hundred words on the use and abuse of day tours.
I am currently in Santorini, Greece, and have recently felt acutely aware of the rip off nature of some of the tours available.
An Oia sunset tour provided by one of the spruikers in Fira; a bus to Oia, dinner in a restaurant (not included) and a bus back. For thirty-five euros. Consider this, the local bus from Fira to Oia is 2.20 each way (2.80 after midnight). You are paying thirty euros and change for the ability to eat dinner at a table full of strangers… Sure in the highest of high season when reservations are harder to get this may feel like it is worth the payment, but when I asked which restaurant the seller replied with ‘ it changes, sometimes one place sometimes another’.
Yes this may be the dodgiest of examples, and there are definitely sunset tours worth splurging on – the catamaran option seems to be the coolest, I am yet to try it – but the fact remains that you can see the sunset from anywhere in Oia, and in fact anywhere that side of the Island for buttloads less – you know, free?
On the flip side day tours can be immensely useful to travelers. If you have limited time in a place, or are completely unaware of how to access a place of interest then a day tour can be handy. Most recently a friend of mine provided an excellent example of the perfect use of day tour. Those times when you’re travelling when you are so completely worn out and tired but don’t want to miss the place you’re visiting and you just want someone to come to your hotel, show you the thing, and take you back to your hotel. She had been sick for a few days and just plain didn’t want to deal with finding the right bus[es], walking the two kilometers to and from the site, and standing in line for tickets in the middle of Turkish summer, so a day tour was booked and thoroughly enjoyed.
Or like me, in Vietnam, I found a tour provided by a company called XO Tours. This was a unique experience I wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise. A motorbike picks you up, and takes you to a variety of street food vendors in different parts of the city. It was incredible and I would probably do it again to be honest. This added value to my travel and therefore was more than worth the money.
So, a few hundred words later, the conclusion can be made that day tours are useful tools. However, they should be used sparingly and only when the situation calls for it (no point using a drill when a hammer will do the job just fine). Just spend five minutes making sure you’re not paying double, or triple, or more, for little or no added value.