137 Countries And Counting: This Is How Danay Travels 11 Months Out Of The Year Without A Full-Time Job
Published by GAFFL
Last updated - 01:00 PM
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At GAFFL, we meet incredible people from all over the world. It’s simply amazing learning about their inspiring stories and solo adventures. This time we talked to Danay, who shared her unique thoughts and tips on solo travel. You can connect with Danay on GAFFL, and also reach out to her through her Instagram (@itravelanddance) and Travel Blog

Why I Travel

I have always loved to travel. I visited every province of my home country (Cuba) before moving out to Scotland, then Mexico and finally Germany. For many years I traveled mostly with friends from an international salsa community because we were going together to salsa events in different countries around the world. But everything changed the day I quit my regular job in a tax company in Germany and started working as a volunteer at a primary school in Malawi.

volunteering at the primary school in Malawi

volunteering at the primary school in Malawi 2

After volunteering there, I decided to stay longer in the African continent to visit the neighboring countries. That trip changed me, so much that when I went back to Germany a few months later, I didn’t search for a new job as planned, but instead, I went on a new trip to Asia. I haven’t stopped traveling since then, until now, of course, due to COVID-19. 

What makes me continue to do it? Well, there are many reasons: the experience and self confidence that travel brings you, the possibility of meeting different cultures, trying different foods, visiting amazing places and mostly the adventure itself that traveling means. Thanks to my travels I have been able to see breathtaking places like Machu Picchu in Peru, The Great Wall of China, The Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, The Taj Mahal in India, The Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia and so many others and I have also been so lucky to do amazing things like skydiving in South Africa, bungee jumping in New Zealand, paragliding in Guatemala, swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti, summiting the highest and second highest mountains in Africa: Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Kenya, dancing with some remote tribes in Ethiopia, tower climbing in Macau, riding on the top of a train in Bangladesh, uncountable safaris in Africa, and so on. That’s a long list, for sure… hehe.

White Pagoda in Mandalay, Myanmar

Taj Mahal, India

 Skidiving in South Africa

summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

Potala palace in Lhasa, Tibet

Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia

riding on the top of a train in Bangladesh

I have met a lot of friends while backpacking. Sometimes local friends who have invited me to their houses or helped me with many issues and sometimes other backpackers who have joined me on my adventure. Some of them I have even met again in another country a few months or years later. 

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How I Choose Where to Travel Next

Some people would tell you that they choose a country based on its safety, but that’s not exactly my criteria as I have already been to unsafe countries like South Sudan, Burundi, Somaliland, North Korea, Venezuela, etc…

I mainly consider 3 factors (among other things):

1- First of all: MONEY: I choose a country that is well connected with other countries, so that I can easily cross as many borders as possible on the same trip in order to save money on flights, so I book a one way flight and travel as long as possible until I decide to go back home. 

For example, few years ago in 2017, I started my trip in Nigeria and visited 14 countries in West Africa crossing all the borders until I reached Mali and Senegal. In 2018 I started my trip in Belize and crossed all the borders in 7 countries in Central America until I reached Panama. Last year I started my trip in Argentina in January and made my way slowly to the north until Ecuador in June, visiting all the countries on my way up. When the weather wasn’t good any more in this area (which actually takes me to the second factor), I jumped to Asia and crossed borders there in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, etc. 

Crossing borders Sierra Leona to Guinea in West Africa

2- Second: WEATHER/SEASON: I prefer to travel in summer, so I would normally choose South America or Australia or New Zealand at the beginning of the year when they have their summer and it’s winter in Europa or I would travel in Africa mostly from November till May depending on the country trying to avoid raining seasons because it’s more difficult to visit places when it’s raining and also the probability of getting malaria from mosquito’s bites is higher with the rain and finally if I wanna go to the Middle East, then I would try to avoid Ramadan time. Those are only some examples.

Cuban flag in Huayna Potosi summit 6088m in Bolivia

3- Third reason: FUN: I love dancing, so I choose countries depending on when they have their carnivals or any other dance festival, for example in 2011 I participated in dancing at the carnival in Brazil, in 2016 I danced at the Calabar carnival in Nigeria, then at the Gualeguaychú carnival in Argentina in 2019 and few months ago I danced at the Feria de Cali in Colombia. There are also many Salsa Festivals around the world and I love attending those events, meeting my Salsa friends there, going to live concerts and dancing non stop.

Dancing at the carnival in Nigeria

Dancing at the Feria de Cali in Colombia

Dancing at the carnival in Brasil

I Travel 11 Months Non Stop

When I graduated from university I took a gap year to travel before I started working. Then when I had a 9 to 5 job, I used to travel every second weekend to a different city in Europa as I was living in Germany and flights were short, cheap and well connected. I also used all my holidays (5-6 weeks per year) to travel to further destinations like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, etc.

5 years ago I quit my regular job and since then I have been traveling 11 months non stop and back to Germany for 1 month per year in order to work at Oktoberfest and make some money for the next trips. But now due to COVID-19 I had to stop my trip when I was in Guyana, my visited country # 137.

working at Oktoberfest

Some Of My Biggest Solo Traveling Challenges

Money and time are the biggest reasons for not traveling more. When I was working I had the money but not enough time. However, I did my best and I’m proud of it. After quitting my job, I had the time but less money. So it’s a matter of organization and sacrifice to make it happen. I prefer to have the time and stay longer in every country with less money than the opposite way.

There are many challenges while traveling solo. I’ll mention here 3 of them:  

1- Decision making is one of the biggest challenges. You are free to do whatever you want but you have to take care about your own decisions. Sometimes it’s easy to decide what do you wanna eat today or if you wanna go to the beach instead of to the mountain, but deciding into which car you should get in case you are hitchhiking, or if you should wear a short skirt in a country or not, if you should drink alcohol in a party or not, or if you should accept an invitation to a local house or not, those decisions could bring major consequences if wrong taken. 

2- Sharing costs is the second biggest challenge in my opinion because some countries are more expensive than others and if you need to rent a car in order to do a road trip or even for booking a hotel room it will be much better if sharing with someone. When I was traveling in Somaliland for example, I was happy to have a good friend with me because apart from the car and the driver, it was also mandatory from the government to have a security guard with an AK 47 protecting you accompanying you everywhere, so I was able to share all those costs with her. 

Somaliland

Somaliland 2

3- Taking pictures is another challenge. I love taking pictures of the places I visit and taking pictures of myself there too but when no one is there to help you, then you have to be creative, hehe.

Rainbow mountain, Peru

 Cuban flag in Chittagong, Bangladesh

In terms of loneliness and boredom, I never ever get bored. It’s impossible to get bored when there is so much to see and do in this beautiful world where we are living. Lonely maybe yes, sometimes, mostly during important dates like spending my birthday faraway from my best friends or Christmas faraway from my family but even when traveling solo, you are almost never alone. Nowadays there are a lot of girls traveling in this same way. For example, when I was in Costa Rica I met a Dutch and a British girl in a hostel. Both were traveling alone like me and we ended up spending around 2 weeks traveling together from west to east until crossing the border to Panama. 

What do I do if I feel lonely? I go salsa dancing, hehe. That’s the best medicine for me.

Dancing at the carnival in Gualeguaychu, Argentina

My Advice for Solo Travelers Who Are Just Starting Out

First of all get information in advance about the country you are visiting, their culture, their dressing restrictions, etc. Second try to contact a person there, it could be a local guide or just a new local friend or another traveler but someone who can help you with any issue there (general info, language, visa, habits, ordering food,  looking for transportation, etc). Then follow your instincts but be smart while taking your own decisions. And finally, HAVE FUN!!!

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