Nadine’s First Solo Trip At 19 Was A Disaster But It Didn’t Stop Her From Becoming The Digital Nomad She Is Today
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Nadine is a Cairo-based solo traveler and a former magazine editor turned full-time digital nomad.
17th Jun | 12 min read

Nadine is a Cairo-based solo traveler and a former magazine editor turned full-time digital nomad. For the past 3 years, she’s been running her travel blog, Curls en Route, which she now runs full-time besides her writing business, Your Go-To Writer. She offers her content writing and copywriting services to travel and digital marketing businesses. You can follow along on all of Nadine’s adventures by following her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok.

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What Inspired Me To Solo Travel

I’ve always loved traveling, but never got the chance to travel often during my adolescent years as I didn’t enjoy family trips that much and my friends never really tagged along in my travel plans. One day, at the age of 19, I decided I wanted to explore Nubia in my homeland, Egypt, so bad and since nobody was serious about joining, I booked everything and just went alone. Everyone was surprised that a 19-year-old girl would head to a Nubian village completely on her own. I won’t lie, it was a disaster – I got really sick as soon as I arrived and stayed like that throughout my entire stay. But in spite of my illness, this was the trip that changed my life, it was the first trigger that got me where I am today. 

Later on that year, when I was 20, I went to France for Erasmus and spent a semester there. This was a totally different experience since it was my first time to travel alone overseas, and I was technically living abroad and not just traveling. I took advantage of my time there and started exploring European countries that I hadn’t been to and that was when I got really hooked on travel. In other words, that’s when the travel bug bit me.

I Try To Travel Often

When I first started taking traveling more seriously, I couldn’t travel overseas more than once a year. I was either in college, so I was constrained by limited vacations and resources, or I was working full-time, so I was limited to 3 weeks of vacation only. However, I’d travel locally once or twice at least to compensate. Now that I quit 9-5, I’m much more flexible because I can travel whenever I want as long as I have the resources. Unfortunately, I’ve been traveling locally only due to the pandemic.

My travel interests are a lot actually, so what I like doing really depends on the destination. I love spending time in nature and I love exploring big cities. I enjoy relaxing on a sandy beach and I find myself in the mountains. I like waking up early (on my trips only) to get to explore more during a single day, and I also like partying all night. 

How I Choose Where To Travel Next

Where and for how long really go hand in hand. Every time, I’d be craving a particular travel vibe or destination. After making a list of potential destinations, settling on one is usually determined by a set of factors such as my budget, the season, how much time I could dedicate to that trip, and so on. For instance, in early 2020, I wanted to go on a birthday trip, and I wanted somewhere exotic and included a combo of everything I liked. I was left to decide between the Philippines and Cape Town, and eventually, I settled on the latter because I could only take 10 days off from work. Given that I wanted to go island hopping in the Philippines and the flights to and from Cairo would waste around 2 days already, it wasn’t really an option.

Once I reach a final decision, I start by finding good deals for flights and accommodation, and once those are secured, I move on to planning. I do a lot of research on the destination in advance and make a list of all the things I want to do for sure. However, I don’t like planning every single detail or each day until I arrive. I like leaving room for spontaneity as the best days are usually unplanned. This way, I would get to stumble upon random hidden gems or go to places that I’ve never heard of thanks to locals’ recommendations.

How I Pack For My Trips

How I pack really depends on the length of my trip, the season, and the destination. For example, for local camping trips or road trips, I usually carry a backpack only. However, on longer trips or when traveling abroad, I prefer a suitcase. 

There are several must-haves that I carry with me, but for solo travel, in particular, then I need to have both safety and entertainment covered. For safety, I always travel with extra padlocks as I usually stay in hostels for instance. As for entertainment, I always carry a book and have a few shows/movies downloaded on the Netflix app on my phone.

Safety Precautions I Take When I Solo Travel

  • I let a family member know where I’m staying

  • I make copies of all important travel documents. Soft copies for convenience and hard copies just in case anything happens to my phone. 

  • I always carry extra padlocks as mentioned before.

  • I carry a mix of cash and cards, but I don’t keep them all in one place, and I definitely don’t walk around with all the cash that I have on my trip. 

  • I sometimes carry a fake wallet and place it on top of my bag/purse. However, I like to carry a fanny pack most of the time as it’s lighter and harder to get mugged wearing one.

Countries I’ve Visited So Far

So far, I’ve been to 12 countries and 38 cities. Honestly, I don’t think there are destinations that are best for solo female travel. Yes, there are a few countries where there are less crime rates, but that doesn’t mean that other countries that are claimed to be unsafe actually are. I personally believe that with good research paired with common sense and logic, you’d be good to go. The places that I enjoyed the most (like Bali, Italy, and Cape Town) are thought to have safety concerns such as pickpocketing or mugging. I’m not saying that crime is not there, but I’m saying that crime is everywhere and anything can go wrong anywhere. Media sometimes exaggerates certain aspects of safety. I was born and raised in Egypt, so I know how much the media can really exaggerate. A degree of caution is required everywhere.

I definitely made a lot of unforgettable memories and met a lot of people on my solo trips. I made friends while road tripping alone in South Sinai, Egypt; made new friends at my hostel in Cape Town and spent the best birthday with them; went on day trips in Lebanon every day with a new friend; randomly got a piercing at midnight in Bali with a couple of other solo travelers that I’d just met; and much more.

Some Travel Apps And Websites That I Use

  • In some destinations where public transportation isn’t the norm, I often use the available ride-hailing apps such as Uber.

  • To track my spending, I liked using Travel Spend.

  • XE Currency is my go-to app for currency exchange.

  • For accommodation options, I use Hostelworld,, Agoda, and Airbnb, depending on the type of accommodation I’m looking for. Since I stay in hostels most of the time, Hostelworld is what I use the most.

  • For flights, I check out several flight aggregators, but my favorite is Skyscanner.

Why I Started My Blog

As previously mentioned, there were 2 phases/triggers that got me hooked on solo traveling (my trip to Nubia and Erasmus in France). However, the 3rd and final phase/trigger was why I decided to start travel blogging. After France, I struggled with post-Erasmus depression and as soon as the summer vacation arrived, I embarked on another solo adventure in Sinai, Egypt. I went to Dahab and Saint Catherine; I hiked a lot, attempted rock climbing for the first time (and failed miserably), camped on the beach, and fell in love with the Red Sea. There, I was 100% sure that traveling was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and that’s how the travel blogging idea came to me.

Curls en Route mainly focuses on spreading the solo travel culture, especially amongst women. I try to encourage and inspire other aspiring travelers to embark on their own solo adventures too as I believe it’s an incredibly life-changing experience. To do that, I often share destination guides, travel tips, hacks, and more, tailored for pro and beginner solo travelers. In addition to that, I also dedicate a decent chunk of my content to travel in Egypt as I believe it has so much more to offer that people around the world don’t know about.

How I Manage My Costs

I wouldn’t say I’m a budget traveler, nor a luxury traveler either. I do save on certain things, but simply to spend on other things that I might prioritize. Personally, I love spending on experiences, so I wouldn’t mind splurging on a particular activity if it’s something that would really make me happy. Then, I’d save up by compromising something else that isn’t as important to me.

One Of My Favourite Travel Experiences

One of my favorite stories is when I decided to go on a solo road trip around South Sinai in Egypt last summer. It was a tough time for me and I had to make important career decisions. Sinai is my favorite place in the world, and not just in Egypt, as I tend to have indescribable peace of mind when I’m there. That’s why I decided to go on my solo adventure there – it was the perfect destination to unwind, recharge, and think. It was my first time going on a road trip alone and my first time for me to drive all that distance, so it was quite challenging and adventurous at the same time. I camped on the beach in Ras Muhammed natural protectorate, swam near mangroves in Nabq natural protectorate, stayed in a hut on the beach in Nuweiba, and ended my trip in the vibrant beach town of Dahab. During that time, I met a lot of people and found myself in extremely funny situations. But I also got a lot of signs from the universe, the signs that I was looking for. On my way back to Cairo, I knew that once I arrived, I should quit my 9-5, and I did.

How I Manage Work And Travel As A Digital Nomad

I wasn’t always a digital nomad, but that’s always been my goal. Right before I graduated from university, I knew travel blogging is what I wanted to do full-time but I needed to do something else until I could do that – blogging takes time to take off. I’d already been working as a writer at a reputable online magazine when I was still in college, so I already had a plan. I was good at my job and I had reached a high level in my career path at a young age – I became a managing editor for another online magazine at the age of 23. However, this was all a safety net and a plan B in case my blogging career didn’t take off. But since my job was very demanding, I couldn’t put in the work required for blogging, which often left me feeling guilty and miserable. Only going on a trip helped me recharge so I could go back to work. 

When 2020 and the whole covid-19 thing happened and we were all forced to work at home, I was determined to dedicate most of my time to my blog. And in the middle of a global pandemic when the travel industry was hit so hard, my blog actually started taking off and showing potential. By September 2020, I’d already reached my maximum capacity and felt like I hit a dead end – I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like if I kept waiting for the perfect moment to quit 9-5 and take the first step towards becoming a full-time digital nomad, I’d never do travel blogging. It was a huge risk though, that’s why I went on the trip I mentioned above, and only then, I knew I was destined to take that risk.

Now that I’m nine months into the digital nomad lifestyle, I could tell you that as long as you have a good internet connection and extra time when you can squeeze in the work, it’s doable. That’s, of course, considering that you’re going on a short trip. However, if you have the flexibility for slow travel, doing the work from home is more or less the same as doing it from anywhere else in the world. In certain cases when I know that I won’t be reachable, like the days I head out to the desert, I always notify my clients and take care of everything they’ll be needing in advance.

Some Things That Preventing Me From Traveling More

At first, as I previously mentioned, what prevented me from traveling more is flexibility when it comes to taking time off and financial resources. Now, I’m glad I’m more flexible when it comes to timing because I can travel whenever I want since I work online. However, resources would still get in the way. The currency exchange forces me to save up much more and the digital nomad life, in the beginning, doesn’t provide a steady income right away.

My Advice To New Solo Travelers

Believe in yourselves because you are the only true obstacle standing between solo traveling and yourself. It does indeed sound intimidating at first, but with some good planning, precautions, and common sense, solo travel can be a piece of cake. However, the most important ingredient to that secret recipe is SELF-CONFIDENCE. If you don’t have that, you’ll never take the first step.

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