Seven Lessons Learned As A Female Traveler

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Seven Lessons Learned as A Solo Female Traveler

By Leslie Patrick

Images by Steven Moore

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I love traveling, and I’m game for an adventure any time. Trouble is, most of my friends and family are holding down full-time jobs, stuck in that dismal two-weeks-of-holiday-per-year rut. So what’s a girl to do when the hankering to hit the road arises, but no one is free to accompany? Travel solo. We’ve all heard the horror stories of female travelers getting into less than pleasant situations, but what we don’t hear are the millions of stories of women traveling in perfect safety every day–not sensational enough for the newspapers of course. All it takes to successfully travel solo is common sense and a spirit of adventure. I’ve done it many times–in North America, South America and Asia–I’ve lived to tell the tale and I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.

1. Trust People

As a woman, when you tell people you’ll be traveling solo, you hear exclamations like, “Is that safe?” and “Be careful!” Rarely is a “Good for you!” or “How exciting!” uttered, even among the most well-meaning of friends. Of course it’s true that a woman alone in the world must be vigilant and aware of her surroundings, but that is the case whether you’re walking down the block in your own city or on a crowded street in Bangkok. Trouble is, that with all the vigilance going on sometimes we forget that most people are not of the out-to-get-you variety, instead they offer a friendly smile, give you directions, take your photo and don’t steal your bag as you leave your seat to use the restroom on an overnight bus. Definitely be aware, but give people a chance, too.

2. Trust Yourself

Yes, trust others, but first trust yourself. Your instincts are there for a reason and if they say something is sketchy, listen. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself if you think you’re being cheated or taken advantage of. Many women don’t say anything because they don’t want to offend people–myself included–but I am beginning to learn that when alone on the road, you must put yourself first because no one else will.

3. Be Prepared

As a long time Girl Scout, I learned this motto well, and it’s served me into my adult life as a traveler. When you’re on the road alone, you’re it. There’s no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to help you read that unintelligible map and no one to borrow toothpaste or sunscreen from when you’ve forgotten your own. Though it’s nearly impossible to be prepared for ANY situation (after all, you wouldn’t want to carry the kitchen sink around in your backpack for weeks) it’s smart to try. Make lists of must-have items, always have a contingency plan should a hostel be fully booked or you miss your train, and always carry a snack should you find yourself in the middle of nowhere on a broken down bus for five hours.

Chic Les II

4. Get Involved

You consider yourself a brave adventurer; after all you did set out on a solo trip, right? No matter what your personality type, when you’re traveling alone for an extended length of time, there are going to be those moments of loneliness where you’d give anything to be transported home for just one night. Don’t let these moments get you down, they will pass. They may not even weasel their way into your consciousness if you are proactive in the first place, by taking that Spanish class, signing up for excursions or hanging out in the common room of your hostel to meet fellow solo vagabonds.

5. Prepare to Splurge

For most of us, budget travel is our MO. And it’s an amazing feeling to see a chunk of the world on a small wad of cash. But when you are traveling solo, even the best budget intentions can evaporate when it’s midnight, the bunks are booked and all that’s left is a private room, or you miss the airport shuttle and have to splurge on a private taxi to make your flight on time. There’s no one to split the bill for these unforeseen expenses when you’re single, so stash a little extra money to shell out should an unexpected yet unavoidable budget buster arise.

6. Smile

It amazes me when I travel to see so many of my fellow travelers walk around with a miserable grimace on their face. You’re on a trip! Exploring the world! Be happy for crying out loud! Not only does smiling possibly make all those less-than-pleasant ticket vendors, immigration officers, waiters and bus drivers slightly more endeared to you, but it may be just the thing that your fellow traveler needs to make their day a little brighter.

7. Get out of your Comfort Zone

I’ve never ridden a horse before in my life, so on a recent solo trip to Argentina, I surprised myself by signing up to go horseback riding in the Andes. Scared was an understatement as I put my foot in the stirrups of what seemed to me a giant beast. But once I made it to the saddle, and began to amble along the trail, my heart rate receded and I was able to look around and enjoy the splendor of the mountains. By opening up and doing something you wouldn’t normally consider, you’ll have surprising new experiences, meet different kinds of people and have that awesome “I did it” rush.

Chic Les

About Leslie
Leslie Patrick is an international freelance journalist focusing on travel, culture and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Salon, AFAR, Marie Claire, Travel + Leisure, Islands, United Airlines’ Hemispheres Magazine and Monocle among other publications. Visit her website at lesliepatrick.com, or her travel blog, The Chic Adventurer.

 

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2014 Bucket List

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2014 Bucket List

By Rowena Mynott

 

I go through this every year. I sit down, I make a list of resolutions but when end of the year rolls around and it’s time to sit down to write the next years list, inevitably I find that I haven’t fulfilled many of the resolutions on the previous list. Although it is an ancient tradition, it seems I am not alone in my failure to adhere to ‘the list’. That’s probably not a bad thing. We punish ourselves enough for putting on weight over christmas, for not being good enough at our jobs, for not having the big house or earning enough money. So how about this. How about we set positive goals for the next year? There are plenty of people online that I come across who are doing just that. Similarly to a resolution list they write a list of things that they want to achieve that year, the difference being that they are bucket list items. Items that the author is excited about achieving be it taking a skydive or tasting 6 different types of chocolate. And if you don’t manage to tick every item off? It really doesn’t matter! So here we go. Here is my list for 2014:

1 – Kayak with orcas

2 – See grizzly bears in the wild

3 – Train through the Rockies

4 – Pay off a strangers lay-away Christmas gift for their children

5 – 52 Project

6 – Cage dive with crocodiles in Darwin

7 – Read the top 10 novels of all time

8 – Write an e-book

9 – Learn to play the guitar

10 – Visit a new country

11 – Take a new class

12 – Exercise regularly

13 – Sail around Haida Gwaii

14 – Visit Jasper NP

15 – Visit Banff

16 – Dive Fiji

17 – Visit Tintagel Castle in Cornwall

18 – Take part in an archaeological dig

19 – Eat baguettes, cheese and drink wine in France

20 – Take a helicopter flight

21 – Visit Halden Forest Park with Ethan

22 – Celebrate the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival

23 – Take a narrow boat trip around the English canals

24 – Explore Lundy Island

25 – See how many whales we can spot in the Bay of Fundy

26 – Taste chocolate in Belgium

27 – See otters in the wild

28 – Tobermory, Isle of Mull

29 – Edinburgh Castle

30 – Ride on a steam train

31 – Shoot a quiver of arrows

32 – Introduce my son to a monkey

33 – Hold a bird of prey

I am super excited about this list and can’t wait to start achieving it and sharing with you.  What is on your list this year? I’d love to hear – perhaps pick up some inspiration.

 

 

 

 

Taking Stock 002

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Taking Stock 002

By Rowena Mynott

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Life is so busy these days, especially at this time of the year with Christmas just past and a new year ahead. It is easy and forget to sit down, take a breath and appreciate what’s good in your life right now at this very moment.

I have been reading these on a few blogs lately – I think the original came from Pip at Meet Me At Mikes. Great idea Pip. :-) It’s something that I plan to complete each month.

Making: Plans for 2014
Cooking: Will be more adventurous this year!
Drinking: Good English tea
Reading: About Bletchley Park (The code breaking team that cracked the Enigma code back in World War Two)
Wanting: For nothing
Looking: Forward to Melbourne in March
Playing: With my new toy – a kayak that I got for Christmas. Loving it!
Wasting: Nothing
Sewing: Birthday presents for three year old birthday parties
Wishing: I had my camera when I found a baby turtle whilst out kayaking
Enjoying: Watching 80′s movies over the holiday period.
Waiting: For my Go Pro to arrive!
Liking: This cooler weather
Wondering: If the cooler weather will last …
Loving: Giving the house a good spring clean (Am I the only one that feels compelled to start the new year with a clean and organised house?)
Hoping: To get back out in the kayak soon
Marvelling: At how many people are getting behind 72andrising.org - thank you all for your support
Needing: Nothing
Smelling: Lillies
Wearing: Clothes! (A novelty after the past week of hot weather!)
Following: My soul
Noticing: Each and every sunset of late
Knowing: That everything is where it should be right now
Thinking: That after reading about the bush fires recently that were not too far away, we really should have an emergency plan in action.
Feeling: Calm
Bookmarking: Amazing things to see in Canada
Opening: My emails
Giggling: At Michael McIntyre – he is one funny man.
Feeling: Hopefully about 2014

Fancy giving it a go? Here we are. Be sure to share with me too – I’d love to read a moment of you captured.

Making :
Cooking :
Drinking :
Reading:
Wanting:
Looking:
Playing:
Wasting:
Sewing:
Wishing:
Enjoying:
Waiting:
Liking:
Wondering:
Loving: 
Hoping:
Marvelling:
Needing:
Smelling:
Wearing:
Following:
Noticing:
Knowing:
Thinking:
Feeling:
Bookmarking:
Opening:
Giggling:
Feeling:

Happy pondering …

- Rowena x
 

Weekly Photo Challenge: One

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Weekly Photo Challenge: One

By Rowena Mynott

Photography is always something that I have been passionate about. I was seven when my Great Auntie first introduced me to it using a Box Brownie camera (which I still have). Since then I have amassed quite a collection of both cameras and images, but I have never dedicated as much time to it as I would like. When I came across the weekly photo challenges I decided to sign up and give it a go. I have tried daily photo challenges in the past – they started out great for a while but life got in the way as it inevitably does. I’m hoping a weekly challenge might be more achievable … lets see shall we?

The Challenge

Each week we are given a different theme and need to post an image that fits that theme. This week the image needs to depict ‘One’:

“This week, we want to see photos that focus on one thing. Maybe you’ve got a stark photo of a single tree silhouetted against the setting sun, or a lone sandpiper wandering the beach as waves crash. Perhaps you’ve caught your mother sitting by herself in a moment of quiet contemplation. Maybe you saw a basket of wriggling puppies, and got a photo with a single fuzzy face in focus.”

One

I have always had a fascination with the ocean and old structures. This jetty in Western Australia was particularly striking set against a setting sun and such a calm ocean.

There is just one life for each of us: Our own!

- Euripides

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The lonesome jetty in Western Australia

Weekly Photo Challenge: Community

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Community

By Rowena Mynott

 

Photography is always something that I have been passionate about. I was seven when my Great Auntie first introduced me to it using a Box Brownie camera (which I still have). Since then I have amassed quite a collection of both cameras and images, but I have never dedicated as much time to it as I would like. When I came across the weekly photo challenges I decided to sign up and give it a go. I have tried daily photo challenges in the past – they started out great for a while but life got in the way as it inevitably does. I’m hoping a weekly challenge might be more achievable … lets see shall we?

 

The Challenge

Each week we are given a different theme and need to post an image that fits that theme. This week the image needs to depict ‘Community’:

 

“Community. When I think of this word, I imagine all sorts of scenes: A family sitting and chatting in a living room. Crowds gathering in squares to watch a holiday tree lighting. Or even some of the spaces on the web that I frequently visit, like The Daily Post.”

 

 

Community

As the brief mentions, the term community conjures images of many different things. For me it’s a warm word full of memories of laughter, togetherness and support.

The word itself derives from the latin word of communitas: com meaning together and munus meaning gift. The image I have selected to share today encapsulates the original meaning of this word. It shows two children on the shores of a beach on Espiritu Santo  in Vanuatu. At a very young age they had been out to sea together on their handmade outrigger canoe held together with various colours and thicknesses of string, to gather fish for their family and friends. Together they were bringing gifts for their community.

 

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Children in Vanuatu haul in their boat after a successful fishing trip

 

A Sustainable Gift From Me To You …

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A Sustainable Gift From Me To You …

By Rowena Mynott

 

If you are anything like me at the end of the year you are feeling a little drained and exhausted. On top of that you have to contend with doing battle in the shops and if you are in any way, shape or form looking for an environmentally friendly product, rummaging through piles of plastic or plastic wrapped gifts can be disheartening. So, I am going to try and make it easier for ONE person (I’d love to treat you all but it’s just not possibly I’m afraid!) and give away a fantastic sustainable gift pack. It includes:

  • Glass Dharma straw
  • A hemp carrying pouch for the straw (so you can throw it in your bag and not worry about breakages)
  • A bamboo toothbrush
  • A copy of Bag It the movie
  • A lovely pewter dolphin keyring crafted by Roland St John (to remind you of why you are living sustainably)

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These glass straws are fantastic products, I use mine for both hot and cold drinks, they are easy to clean and easy to carry around in the little pouch. The bamboo toothbrush is made entirely from sustainable and biodegradable bamboo (it’s even panda friendly!) If you haven’t seen the movie Bag It you really need to. If you are hoping to give this as a gift to encourage someone to live more sustainably then this movie might be the eye opener they really need. It’s a stunning example of why we need to reduce the amount of plastics we use. Finally, the beautiful little dolphin can be attached to keys or a bag for a daily reminder of the ocean.

 

 

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So, how do you win? Simple. Follow these simple steps and in a weeks time I will announce the winner.

1) Sign up to the 72&Rising Newsletter

2) Like 72&Rising on Facebook

3) Optional extra for bonus points – tell me in the comments below who you are wanting the gift for and why

4) Optional extra for bonus points – share this post with your friends

 

Good luck – feel free to share this far and wide. Plastic pollution is an issue that effects us all. Lets see if we can do our bit to reduce it

The fine print …

  1. Unfortunately I can’t guarantee delivery for Christmas 
  2. This offer is open for Australian residents only
  3. You must complete the required steps to be in the running
  4. Winner will be picked at random on December 22nd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Scuba Diving is the Best Family Sport for a Round the World Adventure

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Why Scuba Diving is the best family sport for a round the world adventure.

 By Anne Helmers

 

I’ve been a scuba diver since I was 18. I love the water. As soon as I saw a SCUBA course listed on my college course list I registered and I was hooked.  Then I married a Kentucky boy and moved to a land-locked state.  We had kids and the opportunities to dive came less and less. As the kids started to get older we snorkeled everywhere we could go and I always knew I would eventually get them all to dive.

When our Round the World adventure actually became a reality and we started to make plans, one of the first actions we took was to get everyone certified to dive. My son was 10 and my daughter was 14. They could both do PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification, and my husband would do Open Water.  I would do a re-certification since it had been a while since I had been diving. Spending a few weeks in the pool of our instructor, a local rescue diver, got us really excited. The kids were naturals and even though completing open water certification in a cold gloomy quarry wasn’t particularly fun, it got us thinking about the possibilities in our near future. The giant map that hung in the living room began to be filled with bucket list sites and it had a few places that looked promising for eager divers. Diving was becoming part of the plan.

It was several months into the trip before we put our diving skills to the test.  First, we drove across the USA stopping to raft the Colorado River for a week.  We sold our car in LA, flew to Guatemala and spent a month learning Spanish.  There we enjoyed meeting the people and taking in the sites. We then went to Peru where we spent a few weeks in the Amazon Rainforest and climbed Machu Picchu. These were unbelievable experiences.

We arrived in Fiji in October of 2012. It was everything you imagine Fiji would be. We took a small plane to the Yasawa’s – a chain of islands – to a dive resort called Blue Lagoon. We would have plenty of opportunity to dive here.  You can snorkel right off the beach onto the most amazing soft coral I have ever seen. Octopus, sea snakes, clown fish and giant clams are everywhere. I would just stare at one spot and it looked like the most beautiful fish tank I had ever seen,  There were more small tropical fish than I could name. The colors were unbelievable.  I couldn’t imagine that the diving would be any better. It was. The kids loved it. Having a dive guide is great with kids because it is hard to relax and enjoy the dive when you are worried about your children. The guide took the kids and David and I buddied up. We followed behind so we could watch them in front but still take in all that is around.  This strategy worked.

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Using a dive guide provides the parents the comfort of an extra pair of eyes on the kids

We had three weeks in New Zealand before we got to the diving mecca of Australia. Our first dive down under was at Lady Elliot Island and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Giant sea turtles came so close you could touch them, manta rays circled and huge beautiful fish and coral filled the water. Again, a dive master led the kids and we were able to watch the kids ahead of us.

Our next dives were from Mission Beach. A rainy day dive was fascinating.  We loved seeing the rain drops on the surface of the ocean from underneath the water. Sharks, rays, and fish galore, The Great Barrier Reef does not disappoint.

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Diving is a great way to learn about nature

With several dives under our belt, we took the plunge and decided to do a live- aboard dive trip from Cairns. This promised to take us to a new level of dive experience but diving was a big reason why we had come to Australia. We weren’t sure the kids would keep up with the demands of 11 dives in 3 days. We weren’t sure we could. It would include two night dives and most of the trip would require self-navigation.  It was a lot to take in and we were moving a bit outside our comfort zone. The boat, run by Pro-Dive, was excellent, with a large well-trained crew and an excellent itinerary. We were thoroughly briefed before each dive and our equipment was always ready to go. The kids loved it.

The first self-navigated dive gave David and I an opportunity to work on communication skills and involved some new hand signals not taught in the PADI dive manual.  (Picture an underwater marital disagreement, lots of directional finger pointing and eventually the middle finger). This first trip took a little more time to get started as the kids were arguing about going too deep, staying together, touching each other etc. In other words it was a normal family experience. And we shared some growing pains.

Once we worked out a system we became like a well-oiled machine. We became quite adept at self-guiding our way around the Great Barrier Reef – even at night!  We each took a role, we communicated effectively under water and had many amazing dives. It became something our family was really good at and brought us closer. We had some crazy close encounters with morays eels, sharks, and bumphead parrot fish.  It was everything I had ever dreamed of and more.

We went on to dive in Bali, Indonesia.  Diving is a little bit different in every place you go.  In Bali, the local women carry your tanks down to the shore on their heads. There is an amazing wreck dive (the USAT Liberty) off Amed that was shallow enough for the kids to experience.  At the site everything we saw seemed to appear in techni-color and marine life was abundant.  Similarly, In Thailand, off of Kao Lak where the mantas play, there was a moment when I was looking up towards the surface with the sunlight penetrating to the coral that I could see my family diving around me.  I believe I was as happy right then as I have ever been.  Like the transcendent place that can be reached through meditation and is described as “bliss” or “at peace” – I found it then and there.

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Bump headed parrot fish – one of the unusual critters found on the Great Barrier Reef

Because the kids are Jr. Open Water Divers they were limited to a depth of 12 meters or 40 feet.  As we were all diving together, David and I generally followed the same restrictions.  That was okay.  Shallower dives prevented us from having to really worry about decompression problems.  Some of the best diving in the world is in less than 12 meters of water.  For beginners shallower diving keeps you safe and is a good way to make sure everyone really knows what they are doing.  At this point, I’d say my kids are good divers.  After 25 dives they are pretty comfortable in open water and have developed the skill and passion to become excellent life-long divers.

If you are a family contemplating long-term travel go get certified. It will add a dimension to your travels that you will find deeply rewarding.  There are amazing dive locations all over the world and you will be thankful if you enable yourself to experience them by completing dive certification.

 

* Editors Note: Diving is an incredible adventure. As this family saw – every dive site is unique and even multiple dives at the same site can be unique. There is a lot of controversy about touching of marine corals and marine wildlife. Many don’t see a problem as long as it isn’t causing damage or hurting the animal. For me though thats a little too open to interpretation and so I like to encourage a hands off attitude to diving. Hang back, observe and see if the animal you are watching sticks around for that little bit longer.

Great story guys. Thanks for contributing. I hope that you have many happy dives together in the future. At 3 my son is obviously way too small to go diving, but I’m excited about this possibility in the years to come.  He has already earmarked the animals he wants to see underwater one day! Have you dived anywhere with your family? Where have you found to be the best family diving spots? Let me know in the comments below – I’ll be making a list … :-)