Here’s How Iuliana Explores the World Trying to Make the Most of the Amount of Time Allowed by a Tourist Visa
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Iuliana Marchian
Iuliana is a travel writer and author based in Sibiu, Romania.
14th Jul | 9 min read

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    Iuliana is a travel writer and author based in Sibiu, Romania. Traveling during her childhood with her parents fueled her passion for travel. She has traveled to 20 countries so far and is still counting. You can read about her travel adventures on her blog, Authentic Travels. You can connect with Iuliana on GAFFL

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    I Always Climbed Trees And Hung Out With Boys

    When I was a kid, my parents traveled with me to various countries, and that's when I first learned about the camping lifestyle. Besides, when I was a little girl, I always climbed trees and hung out with boys. Later, when I started to travel by myself, I remembered everything I had learned from my family and now camping (in countries with a camping culture) is part of my travel style. I am also in love with writing and traveling, and I think that I can do this infinitely, till the end of my life.

    What Inspired Me to Start Traveling 

    I'm very curious. I need to learn more, explore more, and dig deeper. It's not enough for me to visit 3-5 major attractions in a country and then claim to have visited that country. That's just scratching the surface for me. To be satisfied, I need to see at least 75% of a country's attractions. 

    My philosophy is that instead of seeing many countries in a short period of time, I prefer to go to one country and explore it as much as the visa allows—for countries where I need a visa (that's an average of three months usually).  In smaller countries, such as Jordan and Israel, I stay for a shorter period of time because an average of one month/one month and a half is enough. However, in bigger countries, such as Thailand, I use the entire visa timeframe to explore the entire country without rushing.

    How Often I Travel and Activities I Enjoy

    I usually travel twice a year, for a total of 5 months, let's say. I choose two countries that intrigue me the most and I go. When I travel, I do a bit of everything: sightseeing is 100% on top of the list (old town, villages, museums, etc), then if I can do a bit of hiking, cycling, or some local sports, adventures/safaris, horse riding, that's even better.  Also, if I have the opportunity to visit a beach, then I will set aside 2-3 hours per day for that, as I love the sun and warm countries.

    How I Choose My Next Destination, Plan My Solo Trips, and Prepare For Them

    I have a calling for the Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. Their culture is so different from ours (European/Romanian) that I am enchanted every time I visit. Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't travel to other continents (on the contrary), but if I run out of ideas, I still have many countries in the Middle East and Central Asia to explore.

    I usually plan my trips to take up the maximum amount of time allowed by a tourist visa. I prefer to stay longer and explore lesser-known sights rather than rushing two weeks through the country in two weeks and seeing less. If a country is very small (like North Macedonia, for example), or if I don't need a visa, I calculate how much time I'll need to see everything I want (that aforementioned 75%), and then I go for it. 

    When I've decided on a location, I usually take down notes from the Lonely Planet guide. When I read about different places, I can intuitively determine how much time I need to spend there. In a big capital, I will have a mandatory stay of one week, whereas, in a smaller place (like a village), I can stay for a couple of hours or even for a day or two if the weather is not good and I plan to work while being there. 

    Once I've determined the average length of time I'd like to spend in each location, I begin looking for accommodation. Because plans change, I never book all of the accommodations in advance. For bigger cities, I book at least one week in advance, and for smaller destinations, I sometimes book the same day. It all depends on how I'm feeling and how much I enjoy it.

    How I Pack for My Trips and Must-Haves I Carry 

    When I travel by car (usually in the countries near Romania), I pack half the house or as much as I can fit in the car. I bring a tent, mattresses, a small cooking stove, two sleeping bags, several pairs of shoes, a large trolley full of clothes so I don't have to wash them, and so on. That's what I'm doing now when traveling to Bulgaria and Serbia. In addition, I always carry a small backpack with a laptop and a camera. If I travel by plane, then I have to fit everything into a big backpack (fewer clothes to wash) and a standard small backpack with a laptop and a camera.

    The Safety Precautions I Take When I Travel Solo

    I usually don't go anywhere by myself after it gets dark. No taxis, no random walks through the city at night, no dinners far from my accommodation. I don't drink alcohol at all (it's much healthier this way), so that keeps my mind sharp and ready to react quickly and objectively. I also pay attention when I travel to an isolated place-if there aren't any people at all, then I just drop it (it's part of that 25% that I don't see in a country due to complicated access or safety issues). However, if a trekking route is very popular and many trekkers are passing by, then I go even if I have to hike alone.

    Hidden Gems Are the Salt and Pepper of a Country

    I think I've been to 20 countries so far, but to do it justice (at the slow pace I prefer to travel), I'd say I've only been to about 12 of them. I still have my entire life ahead of me to see the rest! I enjoy exploring both tourist attractions and hidden gems, but I wouldn't go only for the tourist sights. Hidden gems are the salt and pepper of a country; it is only through them that you can learn about the true face of that country/nation. 

    During my travels, I've met and connected with many locals.

    In 2019, while touring Thailand, I met another solo female traveler from Korea, Hyekyung. We booked a one-day trip through Mae Hong Son's surroundings together, making it more affordable and fun for both of us. Hearing people talk about their country is more interesting than reading about it in a guidebook. 

    In 2017, I met Khalil, a Bedouin from Uum Sayhoun village, in Petra. I joined him for mansaf (a local dish) with his family in his village near Petra, and the next day, he took me on his mule to many places in Petra that I hadn't planned on visiting.

    The Travel Apps & Websites I Use on My Solo Trips

    For accommodation, I use Booking, Agoda, and, rarely Trivago (most hotels are usually on at least one of these apps).

    For navigation, I use and Google maps. And for camping sites and finding parking spaces, I use Park4night.

    Then, I use Uber, Grab, or Kareem instead of taxis, and Revolut, Wise, and Paypal for online money management. 

    But I also prefer to be app-free as much as possible, so before visiting a country, I print maps of the main places I visit as well as a map of the country. If my phone runs out of battery, I can still get around by using a map, and I don't have to struggle to see something on a small display by infinitely zooming in and out.

    Inspiration and Purpose for My Blog ‘Authentic Travels’

    I founded Authentic Travels because I enjoy both travel and writing. I needed to share the fascinating places I visited, as well as my love of taking photos everywhere I go. My readers usually find information about lesser-known locations, such as the Tamang Heritage Trail or A retreat in a Buddhist monastery.

    My mission is to help people create their own travel style, and travel at their pace. I am confident that when you stay in a country for longer, that's when you discover your authentic travel style and that's when you travel in alignment with your inner values.

    Some of My Travel Experiences

    I have many solo travel stories, but one that comes to mind right now is my trip to Jordan in 2017. I sent a request on Couchsurfing to a guy, Ahmed, who lived in Zarqa. He didn't have many reviews, but his way of thinking impressed me. I took the chance and went to stay with him. I discovered a beautiful house (way better than a 5-star hotel), a lovely family, and a neighbor from my home country, Romania. I learned how to smoke shisha, we had amazing dinners, and he even gave me a small gift at the end of my 3-day stay. It was one of the best experiences I had staying with locals because I hadn't known what to expect.

    On the contrary, one week before, I had the worst experience staying with local Bedouins in Rum village, the gateway to Wadi Rum Desert. I had to leave earlier because they put me under pressure to buy desert tours from them. You never know what to expect, but you must trust your instincts, be open, and always have a plan B in case something goes wrong.

    The Biggest Challenges of Solo Travel

    The balance between the lifestyle in my home country and the lifestyle on the road. After a couple of months of traveling, I feel like staying in one place for a while, having a home, and having close friends.

    One of the biggest challenges of traveling alone is not being able to share what you see and experience with a loved one. You connect with locals and other travelers and share bits of your trip with them, but you don't have a travel partner to share the whole trip with.

    Travel Tips for New Female Solo Travelers

    To travel! It is not as dangerous as it seems. Of course, do your research before venturing out on your own, but if other solo female travelers have gone there and written about it, it's usually ok. 

    In addition, the Lonely Planet guidebook includes recommendations for female solo travelers. And I also contact people from the country I'm visiting via Couchsurfing and ask them if it's safe for me to visit their country- so I kind of double-check the information in the guidebook with local advice.

    New to our blog? Here are some of our inspiring solo female traveler's stories worth checking! 

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