Welcome back to Women Who Wander. This series focuses encouraging women to seek out solo travel. Empowering and inspiring both seasoned Solo Travellers and those who have yet to venture out on their own. Next up is Samantha, a fierce advocate of solo female travel, who shares her experiences
Sam is a first generation Australian who learned to love travel the hard way – long drives through the outback to see amazing things. Bitten by the travel bug with a school trip to China when she was just 14 Sam now lives in the UK, where she studied for her Masters Degree in Classical and Ancient History – a leap she believes she could never have made without the experiences of travel in the years before hand. Indomitably lazy she refuses to travel with any more than a carry on backpack and PacSafe side bag. You can follow along on her adventures on her blog Carry On Or Bust
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Just Go With It
So, this is going to read like a list of all the things that have ever gone wrong on my travels. Just read to the end, I promise it’s a happy story.
My first solo trip was literally a life changer. I was coming out of the end of a relationship, for which I had cut my three month plan down to one short month including travel time. I was nervous. No, actually, I was terrified. I didn’t want to be but I was. So much so that I had booked every available day of my trip on an organised group tour.
I tried to be brave and take the bus into Athens, but caught the wrong one and ended up in the middle of nowhere and I had to beg the taxi driver to let me in because fares in that area often ran instead of paying. It took 45 minutes to find my hotel, because I had printed the booking confirmation in an English translation which had messed up the road name.
It’s Not Always as Bad as it Seems
I was travelling in December, low season for Greece. I was aware of this but did not realise the value of a guaranteed departure. All of the tours I had wanted to take through Greece had been cancelled, after I was on the ground in Athens with no clue on how to travel on my own – or even find accommodation when I was in country.
The tour I had booked in Turkey had been cancelled because the company running it went bankrupt. I didn’t know what to do, and I found a big group bus tour leaving Rome and delivering me to Amsterdam the day before my flight back to Australia. All I needed to do was book a flight from Athens to Rome, easy. I booked it, even though I wasn’t entirely sure I’d enjoy it. Sounds like kind of a disaster right? Well… yes and also no.
The taxi driver? Only charged me 10 euros, instead of the nearly 60 that was on the meter because if he had known better he would have had me there in ten minutes.
The receptionist at my hotel, after discussing the whole ordeal through google translate, helped to me buy bus tickets and book hotels and figure out how to see Greece on my own. The big bus tour? It was interesting. I saw many (so many) countries in two weeks – I often struggle to remember them and the order in which I saw them. 50 people in a coach, I discovered, was not my choice way to travel. But I did see Europe, I found counties I fell in love with over two days, places I knew deep down in my heart that I had to return to.
Caught That Solo Bug
In 2013 I was determined to do ALL my travel solo because I was an INDEPENDENT WOMAN WHO — 70% off tours in Vietnam? I wanted it, but all I could think was ‘If I take this tour does that mean I’m not an Independent Solo Female Traveller™….?? Does that make me a boring sell out?’ This tour was small group, two weeks from south to north, no massive coaches, local trains and busses. Plus – 70% off!! (I love coupons). I booked the tour, bought cheap flights a week either side of the tour dates – I’d get some solo stuff in. It was an amazing decision, I had a week in Ho Chi Minh City by myself and ventured out to Ha Long Bay from Hanoi.
When planning to travel in India my mother had serious, motherly, concerns about my safety following an incident that gained worldwide attention. The best way to still get to see India and not have my mother melt was to go on a tour – the same company as I took in Vietnam. Small groups, local – properly paid – guides and transport. I split my time between Nepal and India and had the time of my life.
A few months after that I went on a six-week, totally solo, trip to Europe. I revisited Venice which I had fallen in love with all those years ago on the big coach tour. Then I kind of accidentally lived in Greece for three months.
Saying Yes to a Great Opportunity
I was on Santorini for two weeks, purely for a language course. But it was so beautiful and I wanted to learn to scuba dive, so I extended my stay. Then, a new friend I met said he was leaving and did I want his job? I’m EU so I could work, but stay? What about my office job back in Australia? What about my family? I took the plunge, I rebooked my flight, I stayed. On that trip, living on that island, for three incredible months, my whole outlook changed. I made friends that have lasted – truly lasted. I took an impromptu trip to Naples to stay with a friend of the mad Swedish girl behind the bar. Travelled through Rome and Florence with a Greek friend. There were days I did nothing, laid on a sunbed and read books. Sometimes I stayed up all night to watch the sunrise. Eventually I flew back to Australia in time to work for five weeks until I took off to France with my best friend.
The island taught me to relax. Not just to de-stress and lie on a beach, but to just go with it. Whatever happens – it will work out in the end. Not every second of everything has to be planned. I can take tours. Be solo or travel with my best friends. I can couch surf and be fabulous in apartments on the same trip. Balance. The way I travel doesn’t have to match anyone’s ideal – it only has to be what I want it to be.
Finally, If you are interested in writing for Women Who Wander, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to share your stories
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