How I Started Solo Traveling
My first ever solo trip was to San Diego when I was 19 for a 6-month university exchange. I knew literally no one in the entire country! And it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Looking back now I was so young and absolutely threw myself into the deep end but I left having seen both coasts of the US, quite a bit of Canada, some of Mexico, and with some
lifelong friends who I still talk to ten years later. When I returned home to New Zealand I finished my marketing degree and my first internship was at a travel agency, which was the start of my now 8-year-long travel career.
I Used To Travel Full-Time Before The Pandemic
Before the pandemic hit I was traveling full-time, I had organised a one year trip with a plan to extend it further, and I managed to make it nine months before borders started closing. At the moment I’m “stuck” in New Zealand and our borders are closed so I can’t come and go, however I’ve spent about 6 months of the last 18 months exploring my own backyard.
In terms of travel activities, I like finding the most epic things to do in each place. Whether that’s eating a meal at an iconic restaurant, taking a scenic flight over somewhere amazing, or something more off the beaten track like a hike to a secret beach, I just love the experience of seeking out what makes a destination incredible.
How I Choose Where To Travel Next
When I was traveling full-time I actually was doing a crazy trip, where my next destination was totally based on the cheapest flight every Tuesday. I knew I had unlimited time but limited funds, and the best way to get a good deal on flights is to be flexible!
So I started my 52 in 52 project, visiting a new country every single week, with my route based on the cheapest flight on Skyscanner (and if there was a bus or train instead of a flight then I’d book that to minimise flights where possible). The idea was to show people how to have the most incredible time in cities all over the world even if they only had one week for a short holiday. Traveling this way kept my transport costs so low!
Once I know the destination I’m traveling to I do quite a bit of research to find the best accommodation, restaurants, experiences and activities to make sure I’m making the most of my time in each place.
How I Pack For My Trips
Traveling full-time means having to be super smart about packing, which is tough for me because I am absolutely an over-packer. My mum’s advice to me is to pack everything I think I need, then take out half of it!
With experience I’ve gotten smarter, I have suitcases that are brilliantly lightweight so I’m not wasting precious kgs on the storage rather than what’s inside, I know how to build a capsule wardrobe to maximize outfits from fewer items of clothing, and I have a better idea of what’s essential.
My must-haves for any trip are my camera gear (that’s a hefty 10kgs or so!), a comfy pair of walking shoes (I like Allbirds), and a decent set of noise-canceling headphones.
It’s Love To Make New Friends While Traveling
So many people ask me if I get lonely while traveling solo, and my answer is a resounding NO. I meet more people while traveling solo than when I travel with friends! Because travel is my job I often need to be by myself to create content, work with clients, etc. but when I feel like making new friends I’ll try a food tour, go on a group trip somewhere or spend some time at a hostel to meet other people traveling full-time.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have some incredible experiences with locals and travelers alike. I did a three-week tour around Christmas of 2019 through Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, and I still keep in touch with four of my tourmates regularly. I’ve also had some brilliant tour guides throughout my travels and have learned so much from them, it’s always such a privilege to learn about a destination from someone who grew up there.
I Traveled To 39 Countries In Nine Months
I visited 39 countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australasia in nine months, and it was a total whirlwind.
I would not recommend traveling that quickly to anyone else, I was doing it for content as a professional travel blogger/photographer and it was WAY too quick for anyone to enjoy it as a leisure traveler.
But I was able to showcase exactly what I wanted to showcase, how other young people short on time and money could still have some incredible experiences around the world, with 39 easy-to-follow itineraries depending on where they wanted to go.
To be honest, I didn’t prepare for it very well, I totally winged it! I booked the first six months of flights using Skyscanner’s Everywhere feature to select from London to Everywhere, booked the cheapest flight which was to Paris, then searched from Paris to Everywhere on the following Tuesday, booked that flight, and so on for the next 26 weeks.
Once I had the six-month itinerary locked in I started researching each of those destinations to figure out my plans but around week 8 I started getting way more relaxed and stopped booking so far in advance, which became stressful for sure.
How I’m Able To Manage My Travel Costs
I was working with tourism boards, hotels, and activity operators where I gave them social media and blog coverage and sometimes photography orvideo content in exchange for free stays and experiences. By the end of the nine months I had about 70% of my accommodation and almost all of my activities covered, and I used my savings + freelance income to cover transport costs and general living costs like food.
My travel budget is slightly higher these days which is nice, but on my 52 in 52 trip, I was on a very tight budget. I love staying at hostels, there are so many incredible ones throughout Europe and Asia that offer pod-style dorms for privacy or brilliant value private rooms if you need your own space, and most of them have full kitchens so you can save money on food too.
Traveling in New Zealand is very expensive so on my recent trips while being here I tend to do lots of research beforehand across different websites to make sure I get the absolute best deal on places to stay or things to do.
Some Of My Most Memorable Experiences Around The Globe
There have been so many! Some of my all-time favorite moments have been watching the Northern Lights dance across the sky in Norway with one of my best friends on my 27th birthday, swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura, New Zealand with my mum, and being the first person through the gates at the Taj Mahal at sunrise after lining up for 45 minutes at 5 am.
Challenges I’ve Faced As A Solo Traveler
There are lots of obstacles that come with any sort of travel, whether that’s full-time travel, solo travel, or traveling as a woman, and when you throw all three of those together you’re sure to have some issues. The biggest thing I struggle with is that it’s easy for small problems to seem like major issues when you don’t have someone else to bounce things off and when you’re probably exhausted from traveling full-time anyway.
There have been many times when something’s gone wrong (like missing a train or losing my wallet) and I’ve needed to take a step back and remind myself that it’s not the end of the world, before moving into problem-solving mode and either fixing it or moving on.
Also sometimes I just call my mum and cry to her over the phone which usually makes me feel better although I’m sure she gets sick of that.
Why I Started My Blog
My mission is to be the most authentic, honest, and genuine source of travel information for young women, and to encourage them to travel safely, responsibly, and confidently, all while having the time of their lives.
I started my blog after working in marketing for a travel agency and seeing so many travel bloggers with heavily edited photos, sharing luxury experiences that were totally unaffordable for most young people, and only ever talking about the best bits of travel. I felt like this was doing a massive disservice to young travelers who were going out into the world with these huge expectations and no understanding of how to deal when things went wrong, which they inevitably will at some stage.
I’ve always made an effort to share all sides of travel, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and to share my honest experiences with the places I stay and the things I do so that other people know what to expect.
I’m also a big advocate for helping young women be confident in their path even when it’s not the traditional path, I’m 29 and single with no plans to settle down anytime soon, and I speak a lot on my channels about why I love my life!
How I Think GAFFL Can Help Solo Travelers
I love the idea of GAFFL because the difficulty of solo travel is that things like tour guides or private experiences can be so pricey! In Crete, I was desperate to do a boat tour but there were only private options for about €300 per boat which I couldn’t afford, so having a platform to find potential travel buddies to split the cost with would’ve been amazing.
How I Manage Travel, Work, & Family
My job is working with travel suppliers around the world to create content so that’s easy, but I need to remind myself that on big trips I also need to factor in time off.
On my 52 in 52 trip, I worked literally every single day for seven months until I had a week at home, which was for a family wedding so still super busy, before getting back into travel with another five months of non-stop work planned. One very tiny silver lining of the pandemic for me is that it forced me to stop which gave me much-needed downtime.
I’m single so I don’t need to worry about keeping a relationship going while traveling which suits me perfectly, I have friends dotted all over the world who I see when I travel or who come to visit me in different places, and I always see my family at home or somewhere else in the world at least once a year.
My Advice To Anyone Looking To Travel The World
My top suggestion would be to just do it! If you have the flexibility in life to be able to take a career break or go on an extended trip, it is literally the best thing you will ever do. Travel opens your mind, forces you to see different perspectives, lets you meet so many amazing people from all walks of life, helps hone your problem-solving skills, and teaches you more about yourself than you could ever possibly imagine.
What I Wish I Had Known When I First Started Travelling
I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is perspective. Coming from a very privileged background in a developed country, I just had no idea of the level of poverty, crime, and war that still existed around the world. I know that sounds really naive but I never studied history, politics, or geography at school so I genuinely just wasn’t aware until I started meeting other travelers as well as locals in different countries and learning about their experiences.
These days when I travel I always make an effort to learn about a destination’s past and present rather than just enjoying the view and taking some nice photos, and I make an effort to travel in a way that minimizes my negative impact on a destination while maximizing my positive impact. That means reducing my environmental footprint, making sure the money I spend goes towards local companies rather than multi-nationals where possible and making a conscious effort to encourage sustainable and responsible tourism that will benefit a destination.
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