The musings of a wanderer......

Month: March 2016

Solo Travel

I’ve just returned from a solo 11 day trip to Italy. It was awesome and I loved every minute of it. There’s no other way to describe how solo travel feels,  other than to say I felt free. And empowered. And brave at times. Each day was mine to do with it what I want. No one else to consider, only what I felt like doing, or eating, or whom I felt like interacting with. I was out there drifting in the world with only myself to answer to. Free and open to a world of possibilities.

While I’ve traveled quite a bit, most of my travels have included a travel partner.  I have traveled alone before though. To Portugal. To an ashram in India. To Malaysia and a yoga retreat in Bali. To Frankfurt to see the Christmas markets. These are some of my favourite travel memories. And truth be told I met some of the nicest and dearest people on these trips. A kind and funny Czech guy who I hope I cross paths with again soon. A quirky British girl who matches my inappropriate sense of humor and schemed with me on how to smuggle alcohol into our ashram.  A Spanish guy who just thinking about him makes me shake my head and laugh. A lovely woman from Montreal whom I know I’ll meet out in the world again. And most recently on this trip, I met the kindest family who adopted me in Rome and made sure I didn’t have to eat dinner alone and then also a couple from Texas whom I shared many laughs with. So even when I’m traveling solo I have found that I’m never really alone for very long if I don’t want to be.

Portugal- my 1st solo trip

With my lovely Ashram friends







Often when I’m traveling alone I meet people who tell me how brave they think it is, and then immediately say “but I could never do it.” And I always respond by saying “I reckon you could.” Because I firmly believe that if I can do it, then anyone can. I also think it’s especially important for a woman to see the world on her own. There is something so empowering about standing on your own 2 feet, and trusting in yourself, your smarts and your intuition.

Don’t get me wrong- it won’t always be easy, but I’m pretty sure it will be worth it. I’m a terrible researcher. I like to have an accommodation booked, but I’ve gotten really lazy about actually researching things. I cracked open my Lonely Planet guide maybe 2 days before I left for this trip. So sometimes that means I’m not as prepared as I wish I was. Hand in hand with this is the fact that I don’t speak a lick of Italian. Well besides Bonjourno, and Spaghetti, and Ciao. But as with most places almost everyone speaks English so you can get by just fine. Often when I travel with others I leave the navigating to them. I never hold the map, I never look up directions. I’m hopelessly directionally challenged . And yet when I travel solo I make it work. Sure sometimes (a lot of the time) I get lost. But I have found that people are for the most part helpful, and I never stay lost for very long. Every now and then I still make rookie travel mistakes like ordering something without checking to see how much it costs- apparently directly across the street from the Vatican Diet Coke costs 8 euros. For a can. Of Diet Coke. Facepalm. The one downside of solo travel is that if you plan on documenting your travels you need to get very good at taking selfies (or buy a dreaded selfie stick) or speak up and ask others to take photos with you. So often I have fewer photos of myself on solo trips than I would if I was traveling with a partner.

Getting the “selfie” down

Or just ask a fellow traveler to snap a pic








If the thought of traveling alone abroad still seems too scary why not try a weekend away in a city you’ve always wanted to visit in your own country. Sign up for a yoga or meditation retreat- something that encourages being alone while still being around others. Or book into a group tour where you’ll be sure to meet others. I have found that when I’m alone I’m more open to meeting others, and it’s easier for others to approach me. So unless you are going to some truly isolating location, you will cross paths with other travelers.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you should make solo travel a priority. I think it’s essential for your growth and development. You will never learn more about your strengths than you will when you are exploring a foreign city solo. You will most likely feel more independent than you have in your entire life. You will learn to listen to your intuition. You will learn to put your wants and needs and desires first. You will make travel memories that you will be proud of because they will be yours, and yours alone. You made them happen. You trusted yourself enough to go and know that you would just figure it out. So do yourself a huge favor and go.

Janadriyah 2016

A couple posts ago I raved about one of the biggest, if not the biggest cultural festivals in Saudi Arabia called Janadriyah. In case you missed it, you can read about it here. I was super keen to go this year since it was cancelled last year. I had read about the opening hours on another blog, and after consulting the Saudi tourism website to confirm that yes, it is actually open in the mornings, apparently from 9am-12 and again in the afternoon from 4-midnight. Yes. That’s what it said. Mind you the website also said that the festival took place in March (when in fact it actually was taking place in February) but I thought that some silly person must’ve messed up the Hijra to Gregorian calendar, and I had a little chuckle to myself.

So my kiwi sidekick and I booked our driver for 8:30am, as we only really had the time to go in the morning, and we headed out. As we started to get close I was kind surprised that there wasn’t more traffic. And then as we got closer, I was surprised at how empty the parking lot was. And then as we pulled up to the gate the security guard informed us that it was closed. And wouldn’t open until 4. Even though the Tourism website said otherwise. Damn. But, he did let us drive thru the festival site after making us produce ID. For some reason the only ID I had on me was my Canadian driver’s license, so our driver and the security guard all had a good chuckle about that. And we turned around and drove home. It was a well wasted $50 in taxi fare.

So a couple nights later after work and on our way to the airport to fly to Romania we had an hour to quickly take in the festival. It has such a great feel to it, even though the Mutawa were yelling at us to cover our hair prior to entering. Of which we obliged while we were in eye sight. There were tons of families, and young women would say hello as they passed by. Since we were very pressed for time our first stop was near a stage where an Emirates men’s dance troop was performing. Basically they stood in a line and did what vaguely resembled what my fellow North American’s know as “the wave” and moved in slow motion whilst holding thin cane like objects over their shoulders. The crowd was loving it, and it made for some great photos.











Our next stop was at the tent designated for the Saudi military. Because lets be honest ladies….who doesn’t love a man in a uniform?? There was a tank and a few other types of military vehicles on display. Sadly, we were unable to talk the guard into letting us get inside any of the vehicles, but this being Saudi it was worth the try. Inside the tent were display cases with the many different uniforms of the Saudi military and Special Forces with photos of some of the top military officers. The tent next to this one was for the Saudi firefighters. Hello firemen. So of course we went in here. They had some display related to firefighting in Saudi and they had a couple of old style firetrucks which we were allowed to climb in and get our photos taken.

Many of the locals were dressed in traditional Saudi attire specific to the different regions of Saudi Arabia. Men were seen wearing belts with the curved dagger that is seen though out the Middle East. Women were seen wearing traditional Bedouin masks of 2 different styles. One was a shiny mustached version and the other style was made of shiny fake gold coins. Naturally, we had to buy both styles for souvenirs. Since we were so pressed for time we made a quick dash back to the parking lot where our driver was waiting to whisk us to the airport for our midnight flight to Bucharest Romania. But, more on that later………

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