Back in England, I'm busy working on the new website for Girl about the Globe – a destination guide and one-stop shop for the solo woman traveller. I want to promote ethical and sustainable travel using local guides and voluntourism and giving something back to local communities.
I'm working hard but during those moments of decision making, I find my mind drifting off wondering about pastures new. I've only been home three weeks yet my feet are itching to be on the move again. So giving in to my wanderlust, I am planning for the next big trip, which is going to be….. (drum roll please)
Mexico in North America!
Yes, the world is calling again and this time, I am heading west to the Land of the Americas.
But for now, back to the website ready for the launch in January.
It's time for a new way to travel. Coming 2013…
I cannot wait to be on the road again (some of us weren’t made to sit still) and this year is going to be the biggest year ever, not in terms of how many countries I will get to see (I very much doubt I can beat 2013) but because I am selling everything I own (except my increasing shot glass collection) and moving – yes moving to Latin America.
But not before seeing more of Europe before I go. So the rest of the year looks a bit like this:
Late March – The Baltic states. Having explored the Balkans last year and been so taken back by their history, I wanted to compare the two regions and have added the Baltics to my list. The fact that they are cheap also adds to their appeal.
April – Moving to Latin America. Twelve days in Cuba, then flying to Colombia!
The colourful houses of Cuba
Why Latin America?
Why not! I feel as though I have been travelling the globe (on and off) for the last 15 years (except when I was married), looking for somewhere to put down my roots. I tried in England but it just wasn’t to be and as much as there are some amazing places out there where I could definitely see myself staying for a while: South Korea, Shanghai, Dubai, Cambodia – there hasn’t been a continent that has grabbed me like Central America.
What do I love about it? It just feels like home even though I can barely speak Spanish (it's on the cards), stick out like a tourist with my blonde hair and find it challenging to travel around. I just love the place! And it’s part of the world that I have least explored so being based there will just be perfect for future trips.
Which country I will end up in, I really don’t know but the beauty of being freelance is that if somewhere isn’t doing it for me (which I really doubt), I can just move onto the next place.
Who wouldn't want to be laying on this Cuban beach!
What will I do?
I am still freelancing as a travel writer as well as writing an ebook on Solo Travel and designing tours with a difference! (watch this space). With a background in the travel industry and a Masters Degree in creative writing, these two projects are definitely up my street.
So, the next couple of weeks will be spent adding more content to the Girl about the Globe website and setting things in motion to go. I really want to help more women travel solo and have big plans to make this work for the rest of 2014.
So that’s me for 2014 (even though it's already March!)
This is it! After 5 months of being back in the UK, I am leaving for good (although never say never). I have finally faced the fact that I am meant to be nomadic so my big plans are: Cuba for 12 days then a one-way ticket into Colombia! But for the first part of the trip I won’t be solo. This doesn’t happen very often and after 42 countries as a solo I’m joining forces with a friend (another solo traveller) to explore Cuba as backpackers but for five nights only I will be a tourist.
Flying into Holguin, we’re limited to just all-inclusives in Guardalavaca but for £27 each a night at Hotel Club Amigo Atlantico including everything, as much as I'm an independent traveller I have to admit that it's an absolute bargain! See, Cuba doesn’t have to be expensive. Then from there, it’ll be local home stays wherever we choose to stay on the island (and it’s a big one!)
From Colombia, It’ll be solo as I look to find somewhere to call home.
Why Colombia? It has to be one of the most intriguing countries I have yet to explore. With such a violent past, some parts of Colombia are still out of bounds but I want to see if it really is as dangerous as we’re led to believe.
So, I’m all packed up and heading to Latin America to find a place to put down roots (for a while anyway), before the wanderlust kicks in again. Where will I end up? I have absolutely no idea…
1 Year Anniversary & New Plans!
How quickly time flies! Two weeks ago marked my first year anniversary of leaving England. In fact, this is the longest time I have ever been away from the UK and my friends and family and I must admit I’ve had the bouts of homesickness and wondered what the hell I was doing several times – desperately trying to make a brand work whilst paying the bills and staying afloat.
But in that year, I’ve written and published a book, met the most amazing Colombian man and found somewhere to call home. Not bad for a years work.
And that’s not all…
I started this blog 3 years ago when I decided to fling myself back onto the travel path after separating from my ex-husband. The first few months were pretty emotional and my earlier posts were honest and very raw. Since then, my posts have been more light-hearted and I hope – entertaining.
And… after 3 years of hard graft, the work has finally paid off and I am so excited to announce that I have been ‘highly commended’ in the individual travel blog category at the UK Blog Awards 2015!
To celebrate, I am back on the road after realising that I have stayed still for far too long, so I have left Colombia for 3 months to start travelling again and discover what the rest of Latin America and the area has to offer.
Having only explored Cuba, Colombia, and Panama in the last year, my new itinerary looks something like this:
The rest of the Caribbean as far down as I can.
With the Caribbean being primarily marketed as a romantic place for couples, I want to see what the Caribbean islands have to offer women travelling alone, and if you can travel there on a backpackers’ budget (fingers crossed).
I must admit my adventurous streak has calmed down in the last year. In the past I have hitchhiked in the Balkans, met an Albania drug dealer and a Cuban pimp, and have taken a few risks but having had so much luck in the past, I am not going to take any chances when it comes to safety. As much as I really want to visit El Salvador, the more I hear, the more doubts I am having.
“Don’t take the public buses,” being the main reason as well as travelling through Honduras to get there (I travelled through there before and didn’t really feel safe).
I’m not usually one to listen to rumours but more than one hostel owner has told me of people who have come through who have been robbed. And although I have met a handful of people who visited the country with no problems, I have also heard stories of more than a handful of people who have been robbed. Having lived in Colombia, I think I’m pretty vigilant but El Salvador has a more dangerous reputation, and as much as I don’t want to experience being held up at gun point, I also don’t want to be completely paranoid the whole time I am there. I am not taking any chances when it comes to my safety or losing my laptop, (I must be finally growing up!)
How am I affording this trip?
As well as earning money from freelance writing, travelling on a budget can be quite easy. If you eat street food, are choosy with the tours and activities you do and travel overland (the bus from Panama to Costa Rica only costs $45 dollars), then you can make your money last longer. I’ll be sleeping in a hostel dorm as much as possible then when I need my space, I’ll be opting for a private room and as I’m travelling in the low season, it will be easy to stick to my budget of £20 a day. There are even hostels on some of the Caribbean islands and for others, Couchsurfing should hopefully fill the gaps.
I have 12 weeks to complete my itinerary before heading back to Colombia at the end of July. So plenty more blog posts to come!
It’s been 7 months since I have set foot in a new country. No wonder I am getting itchy feet. And with 2018 nearly upon me, it is time to get back on the road and clear that travel drought.
So what are my plans?
This week I am returning from Luxembourg where I have spent 5 days seeing this small European country which is bordered by Belgium, Germany and France. Luxembourg is a multicultural city and it’s actually nice to have some down time and just browse the Christmas markets.
I wasn’t solo for this trip as I was travelling with a friend but after doing so many trips solo sometimes it’s good to have a travel buddy.
Then it’s back on the road for a proper solo adventure – Moldova and Ukraine until 10th December.
Ukraine made headlines in March 2014 when Russia invaded the Crimea. Since then it has been reported that more than 1.7 million people have been displaced. The east of the country is still occupied but the areas that I am traveling to remain unaffected by the war. I’ll be learning more about the political situation in the country during my visit.
Across the border, Moldova is known for its wine and has both the biggest wine collection in the world (at Milestii Mici), and the largest underground wine city in the world (at Cricova winery). I’ll be visiting the underground caves at Cricova.
But Moldova is also the poorest country in Europe. Unfortunately this also means that Moldova is a prime source for victims of human trafficking. Wanting to understand more about this, I will be visiting the La Strada project. This amazing project works with human trafficking victims, including the sexual exploitation of children. I am really honoured that they have allowed me to visit them to learn more about the problems that women and children face in Moldova.
So my itinerary will look like this:
Three nights in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova exploring the city and visiting La Strada.
A visit to Cricova winery to sample Moldova’s best wines (of course!)
A trip to Old Orhei, a cave monastery and open-air archaeological complex 60km northeast of the capital. A trip to Soroca, the country’s gypsy capital plus a craft centre to watch local women weave traditional carpets.
Then it’s off to Tiraspol, in Transnistria. This part of Moldova appears to be its own state and is a country which doesn’t exist. Transnistria is an unrecognised nation between Moldova and Ukraine which is an open-air soviet museum. Even entering from Moldova you have to go through a border crossing and register that you are here.
With things to do here listed as; tank show and army show, this is definitely going to be an experience. Deciding to stay with an expat for this part of the trip who suggests drinking the locally-made brandy with the locals, I have absolutely no idea what will happen in Tiraspol, especially as my local tour guide is former special forces. At least I’ll be safe!
From here it’s across the border by bus to Odessa, Ukraine’s third most populous city, located on the Black Sea. No stranger to the Black Sea, I spent a few days in Bulgaria in the nightlife capital of Sunny Beach. After experiencing endless nightlife, tacky neon lights and shot-drinking Brits, it will be interesting to experience Ukraine’s touristy side.
Then it’s an overnight train up to the capital. With temperatures dropping to below freezing, this could be a bad move but definitely an adventure.
Always one for walking tours, I’ll be taking two walking tours to explore the ancient Kiev, and the Soviet Kiev to learn more about the history of the Ukrainian capital.
Then I’ll be experiencing the deepest metro station in the world on my way to Kiev Pechersk, the most beautiful cathedral in Ukraine and known as the Kiev Monastery of the Caves (it looks beautiful!) As well as taking an Ancient Kiev tour and Soviet Kiev tour.
Last but not least, I’ll be taking a tour of Chernobyl. In 1986 a catastrophic nuclear disaster took place at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat in northern Ukraine. As a 10 year old girl I remember watching news reports of what they were describing as the world’s worst nuclear disaster (at the time).
I’ll be visiting Chernobyl and reactor no 4, the cause of the disaster which according to List 25 released at least 100 times more radiation than the atom bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I’ll also be visiting the ‘dead-town’ of Pripyat where its 50,000 inhabitants fled within 24 hours.
There is so much you can do in Ukraine, from driving a tank (and yes that is now on my bucket list), to shooting rifles, to exploring the underground tunnels. Twelve days in both countries just isn’t going to be enough. Wish me luck!
Funny how things can change.
Having just returned from a two week trip in the Canary Islands (the Spanish islands off the coast of Africa), I have felt compelled to throw caution to the wind and get back on the road.
Not being a fan of the winter (hence why I escaped to the Canary Islands), I’ve decided that if I’m going to be cold, I’d rather be cold in a new country whilst researching for the site. So my new itinerary will look like this:
Belfast – I’ll be spending 6 days in this European city starting with the Titanic Museum then exploring the Giants Causeway. Having grown up with news reports of the IRA, I want to understand more about this political situation and will be taking a tour with a political ex-prisoner from the Republican community to find out more.
Then after a quick night’s stop in Dublin, I’ll be flying to Milan but only for a pit stop on my way to San Marino. If you’ve never heard of it, you are easily forgiven as San Marino is a tiny microstate which although is actually situated in Italy, is its own country (think Monaco near France).
After a week in Italy/San Marino, it’s time for some proper adventure. Always drawn to emerging destinations I’ll be flying to Georgia in Asia.
Georgia is on the coast of the Black Sea and sits northeast of Turkey, next to Russia. This former soviet republic is known for its mountain villages and cave monastery. With my private room advertised as having complimentary wine and brandy, this country is also known for its hospitality.
From Georgia I’ll be taking an overnight train down to Armenia which was the first Christian nation. Being more curious than religious, I am intrigued by Armenia especially as the capital city Yerevan is older than Rome.
The country has many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the longest non-stop double track cable car (called Tatever Ropeway), and an archaeological site called Karahunj – which is 3500 years older than Stonehenge. I’ll be visiting the Genocide Museum to learn more about the genocide which happened in 1915.
I also want to learn more about the political unrest between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Although they are neighbouring countries you can’t cross the border due to the conflict. So I am hoping to visit Doctors without Borders to learn more about the territorial and ethnic conflict and to document the work they are doing during the tensions between these two countries.
From Armenia it’s back up to Georgia to head across to Azerbaijan on another overnight train. I am hoping to visit Artsakh which similar to Transnistria in Moldova is an unrecognised state. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan looks so interesting with its Ferris wheel, old city and modern skyscrapers which are in a design that I have never seen before.
This part of my trip is going to be a proper adventure and I honestly have no idea what it will entail. Being there in the winter also means that I need to prepare for snow so I’ll be armed with fluffy boots and my thermals.
Then it’s back to Georgia on probably another overnight train to fly to Cyprus where I am lining up some co-working with a friend. Having never been here, I’ll be exploring ruins and seeing what else the island has to offer at the beginning of its tourist season, before flying back to Barcelona for the spring.
In fairness, I had been toying with this itinerary for a few weeks and wondering if I should be travelling whilst trying to work full time too. But being a bit of a workaholic, travel actually forces me to have days off. I have to have at least one day a week when I travel, I have to sightsee and I have to socialise so it’s the ideal situation.
And the times when I don’t have Wifi, I use as my reflection time. With my focus being on making the GatG site more user friendly, I need the time to get completely clear about the direction.
I also want to show how I travel on a budget. With people always asking me “how do you afford to travel?” I’ll be documenting what I save and what I spend in each country to show you my travel hacks.
And I’m going to be more active on social media. Follow my Instagram to get inspired.
So that’s it. I still have Santorini in the autumn and my Sahara trek in November and am considering an overland trip through West Africa in December… but my plans always change. I never know who I’ll meet or what opportunities will come up so for now it’s back to being Girl about the Globe and getting back into the travelling flow.
Some people are not meant to stay still, and I am definitely one of them 🙂
After being tied to Barcelona for the whole summer, I have finally been let loose and am heading back on the road! As much as Barcelona is the best place to be during the summer months, I am ready to explore some different culture.
In September I visited Tunisia (which completely blew my expectations). In October I head to ‘The Stans’ to explore more of these Central Asian countries and discover more of the Silk Road.
Having been to Armenia this year I am excited about learning more about this ancient trading route which ran from Asia to Europe. For this trip I'll be travelling with another travel blogger instead of travelling solo.
The best way to explore these countries is with your own vehicle but being unable to find a company which allows you to take a car across the borders, we’ve decided to fly, take the train and local taxis.
So the itinerary will go like this:
- Back to Kazakhstan
Planning these trips are literally taking hours. Now I understand why people usually take tours for these countries. For example, there is one train a week from Uzbekistan to Kazashstan which is sold out during our trip so we’ve had to plan the trip in reverse with internal flights.
Our trip starts in Kazakhstan. If you’ve never heard of Kazakhstan, then maybe you remember the film, Borat, in which Sacha Baron Cohen played a fictional character from the country? Things to see here are the Charyn Canyon (the country’s rival to the Grand Canyon), the Nur Astana Mosque and the Buddhist rock carvings at Tamgaly Tas.
From here it’s a flight to Tajikistan, a neighbouring country to Afghanistan, known for its mountains and snow-capped peaks. This country oozes nature and the main attraction is the Pamir Highway, a road trip through the Pamir mountains near the Kyrgyzstan border. Lenin Peak is also meant to be a mecca for climbers and those looking to hike and camp in the mountains.
Tourism infrastructure seems virtually impossible in Tajikistan and not knowing any Russian is definitely going to be a challenge.
From Dushanbe, the capital, we’ll be travelling to the border to cross over into Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan looks stunning. It was once a core destination for the ancient Silk Road and has many beautiful mosques and shrines to see. This is where we’ll spend most of our time, visiting Bukhara and Samarkand. One of the most magnificent things to see here is the Registan, a stunning piece of Islamic architecture in Samarkand.
From here it’s off to Kyrgyzstan, to see Osh, an old city with a vibrant bazaar. The country is dominated by the Tian Shan mountains which are also part of the old trading route, and is one of the greenest cities within the region. Its capital, Bishkek has less than one million people and has several museums, as well as former Soviet monuments and a Monument to the Martyrs of the Revolution.
Then it’s back to Almaty before flying home.
I’ll be working with accommodations, and tour companies to see how female-friendly this part of the world is.
The trip will take 18 nights and will be a mix of internal flights, scenic train journeys, buses, and private taxis. It will definitely be an adventure. If you’ve ever wanted to explore these Central Asian countries, then I’ll be blogging about them soon.
There’s a saying that there can be “too much of a good thing,” and travel is definitely not excluded. This month the very thought of boarding another plane filled me with dread, and packing and unpacking a bag just overwhelmed me. Even planning my train travel to the World Travel Market next month felt too much.
I know it sounds a bit cliche and self-pitying but I spend my life planning trips, travelling to emerging destinations so that I can write about them to encourage other women to travel to them too. Being a travel blogger I need to travel but when you travel so much, travel starts to lose its excitement. Living out of a bag, sitting next to strangers on another flight and working out how to get to your next accommodation time after time soon feels like a chore.
In October I was longing for a bit of stability, to hang my clothes on hangers and to lounge around in my pjs on my laptop instead of having to take a tour because I needed to write about it. After travelling so much this year I have so much to write about and each new trip meant new articles to write.
For anyone who has experienced long term travel you probably know where I’m coming from. When the sparkle starts to dim on your trip and seeing a waterfall feels like ‘just another waterfall.’ When you start becoming a bit jaded and a flight feels like a chore then it’s time to stay still for a while.
Feeling the urge to just work instead of taking a research trip I extended my stay in Barcelona and revelled in the fact that I had 3 long weeks of no flights and airports. I co-worked with friends Monday to Friday and found solace in having a routine. I could do whatever I wanted in Barcelona without feeling the need to write about it (I already have a solo guide to Barcelona).
Then I returned to England where I had another 3 weeks of being able to consistently work until one day I found myself clicking on the Skyscanner page and having a look at flights; ’just to see what was out there.’
Then I found myself planning a rough itinerary for November; ‘just as an idea.’
Then I found myself voicing my rough itinerary to my friends – just because the flights were so cheap – who then made plans to meet me along the way so I HAD to book my flights as I now had commitments and that rough itinerary suddenly became a concrete plan.
Then I realised “I’m finally ready to travel again!” So where am I going?
After the World Travel Market at the beginning of November I’m flying to Toulouse in France. I’ve wanted to go to this ‘Pink City’ for a while and now I’m finally going! Then I’m taking the bus to Andorra to reach my 100th country solo and finish the year with a huge milestone.
From Andorra it’s a 3.5 hour bus ride back to Barcelona to co-work with friends before flying to Malaga in Andalusia for a few days then Granada (a few hours away). Then I’ll be in Marbella for a week before heading south to Gibraltar, Seville and crossing the border to Portugal to finish in Lisbon for my birthday! I’ll be travelling through four countries (five if you count Gibraltar which is actually a British Overseas Territory) in just over five weeks.
Why am I doing this trip?
There is more to this trip than just a research trip. Will I be writing about them? Yes but I’ll also be visiting these places to seek out a potential home for next year (for three months at a time at least with the ever impending Brexit).
Always one to follow my intuition I’m feeling pulled towards Marbella, and I want to check out the co-working scene in Lisbon. As soon as I arrive in one of these places I’ll instantly know that that is where I want to begin my new chapter. Once I’ve returned to the UK for Christmas I’ll be making plans to return to my chosen place in the New Year. Hopefully anyway!