Fast forward a semester to the end of my student teaching experience in Australia... During my time in Australia, my amazing boss organized weekends with my fellow coworkers to learn about the country, people and experience the amazing Australian life. My final stay was with a couple that lived in Forrester's Beach on the Central Coast of New South Wales. During my time with them, the husband took me ocean fishing along the shore at dusk. I thought that I was being smart by putting my wallet in my pocket to protect it from any thieves that might be on shore, but wound up throwing it in the ocean when I threw out my line instead! I spent the whole next day on the phone with parents, family, and businesses cancelling credit cards and requesting extra money be wired to me.
Finally it was time to leave Australia and head off to the magical island of Tahiti. However, I was not a very experienced traveler at that time and hadn’t done a great deal of research on Tahiti, the language or what it had to offer. I only knew that wanted to see and experience the beauty I had always read about and the art of Gauguin. Unfortunately when I arrived in Papeete, it seemed I was the only one that was on the island, as the whole Gauguin museum collection was on display in Washington D.C.! Papeete, the capital city of Tahiti, was not quite what I had envisioned it to be either and was very expensive in addition. Because I had lost everything with my wallet in the ocean and was limited in budget, I opted to stay in a hostel. I remember looking out my window at the beautiful green landscape once I was situated in my hostel, but worried about the constant rain and touring the island the next day. I also had cause to worry with so many strangers in our dormitory style room, so I slept with my camera folded tightly in my arms. Unfortunately, the room was as noisy as it was crowded, even after lights out, so several of us decided to go into town the next day to look for new lodging. While at a local grocery store, I picked up some bread, peanut butter and water for breakfast and browsed around town a bit. While we were out and about, our little group found a poster which we believed was advertising a great new hostel on the island of Moorea, about 45 minutes off the coast, and proceeded to take a ferry over. So after purchasing a ticket to board the ferry, we headed off for our island adventure and three days of native tranquility. Or so we thought…
Upon disembarking on the new island, we were all escorted onto a small bus that was waiting nearby. A very short ride later, we were dropped off on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and bluntly told told the accommodations were only a short distance away. (A mile walk.) I had sent much of what I had collected ahead of me to my home in the states, but I still was carrying quite a bit. We began to walk with all of our belongings to where the hostel was supposedly located. I was practically in tears when a video van pulled up alongside and picked us up. Really? A video van? On the back roads of a remote South Pacific Island? Who would've guessed?!
It took us to the spot of where the hostel should have been, but guess what, no hostel! The frame was built, but the inside had yet to be completed. So, out of necessity, one of our group quickly found a place that rented tents and soon, with the help of the locals, we began setting them up in the open area of the yard. The residents warned us not to pitch tents under the coconut trees as "coconuts do not have eyes and cannot see where they fall"! So we all pitched them in a large clearing, quickly put aside our packs and suitcases and checked out the area. Our facilities were much to be desired; the shower was a spigot of cold water and the bathroom had spiders almost as big as my hand! I also was very thankful that I had gone to get my meager groceries before leaving the mainland as the nearest store was now 12 miles away. So I rationed my loaf of bread, peanut butter and my quart of water for the next three days while I was on the island. (I still don’t care for the taste of peanut butter to this day because of this!) The people living in nearby houses also took pity on us and cut the top off of some coconuts laying on the ground so that we had something clean to drink when our water gave out.
My adventure in Tahiti actually began long before I left LAX on my first QANTAS flight for Australia. I had studied for two years to obtain my teaching certificate, one while working mornings as an illustrator at a discount store chain headquarters and the second being a full-out non-traditional student. I was so proud of myself for doing so well in my studies that I decided to treat myself to something special. So I planned a stop in Tahiti upon my return from student teaching in Australia. I scheduled my once in a lifetime stay on the island where I could see the artist Paul Gauguin's artworks and the beautiful surroundings in which he painted them.
When I was in my late twenties I began to feel my maternal clock tick away. On one particular day I was stressing over my situation and asked my mother when I would meet Mr. Right so that I could start a family. She proceeded to give me some of the best advice I have ever gotten. "Honey", she replied, "That is something I cannot help you with. But remember, being single is not the worst thing in the world. Just don't let it stop you from living your life."
And that is how I have lived my life ever since. I am still single, but have made this my mantra to live by. I have had two careers, (going on three) am working on my third and fourth books and have traveled the world. I have truly been blessed! Now it is time to share my travel adventures and experiences with others. This blog, Travel and the Solo Woman is for all of you gals out there who have itchy feet like me.
Whether you are single or just traveling by yourself, this blog is for you. Although there are many things that one must do before actually traveling, this is one of my favorite stories, and by far the one that most of my friends ask to hear.
So You Want To Travel…
Week 1, 2017– What do I want to do while traveling?
There are many countries and vacations that specialize in different types of trips. Costa Rica specializes in eco tourism or green trips. You can request trips that cater to very active adventures such as mountain climbing and diving, as well as slow adventures. I might request a trip that specializes in art or snorkeling as those are two of my interests. Some tours focus on foods and some on sightseeing. You have a host of different types at your fingertips.
Week 2, 2017– Do you want to just relax? What are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world?
If I had to do it all over again, I would find a job in the tropics on one of the beaches that I have visited. In this unit, I will discuss where to find some of them and what makes each unique.
Week 3, 2017– What are some of the places that are of specific cultural, artistic or archtectural importance?
Among some of the countries that will be discussed are Italy, Germany, France, Russia, United States, Peru, Easter Island, England, Spain, and Mexico.
March 2017– Are you an eco tourist and enjoy “the green” of this world?
There are certain countries in this world that specialize in these and recruit tourists to visit their shores. These will be discussed in during this week.
April 2017– Are you a diving or snorkeling fan?
I have been fortunate to snorkel some of the best places in the world. In this unit I will be discussing some of the top places and where to find them.
May 2017– For those of you who are wishing to go on a pilgrimage, what are some of the religious places around the world?
Israel, Iran, Mexico, Brazil, Tokyo, India, Nepal, Tibet, Syria, Sri Lanka, Italy, are among a few. I will go into detail as to what they contain and what may be of interest.
June 2017– What are some of the zoological and biological places on the planet?
My picks include Belize, Roatan and Australia. But there are many others.
Some may surprise you!
July 2017– For all of you Foodies and wine enthusiasts out there, what are some of the culinary draws in the world?
Italy and France are well known by the culinary enthusiast, but others may surprise you as well. The section on food, I will be discussing some of the best places and food choices around the world.
August 2017– For the other sports minded or extreme adventure enthusiasts…
Sporting adventures are very active trips and you should be certain that you are in shape before deciding on them. But once you do, there are many to choose from. Some great companies specialize in these.
September 2017- Natural beauty of our world - The Americas, Mexico, the Caribbean and Greenland.
If you love natural beauty, the next 3 blogs are for you. This blog will take you through the Americas, Mexico, the Caribbean and Greenland.
October 2017- Natural beauty of our world - Europe, The Middle East and Africa.
One of the most beautiful parts of the world! Check out some of these places in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
November 2017- Asia and Oceana.
My personal favorite corner of the world: Oceana. But check out the beauty of Asia too!
January 2018 – My trip to Hawaii
Join me as I share my adventure in Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii.
February 2018 – How much do you want to spend?
Most of us are not made of money and lets be honest, traveling is expensive. So have a bottom line when dealing with travel agencies or when planning on your own and adjust your trip accordingly. Compromise is the name of the game here. But make sure that you do a little research of your own so that you know about how much it will cost.
March 2018 – What can my body handle and what are my limitations?
This is always the one item that most people do not even consider. How much can your body handle? This has almost as many variations as what type of trip that you may want to take. Take into consideration how old you are, what your health is like and any physical limitations.
April 2018 – Why travel agencies are still the best route to go for anyone when traveling.
If you are an inexperienced traveler or going on a major trip, the best way is still to use a travel agent. Travel agents are trained to get the best deals and will be able to give you a better idea of the ins and outs of traveling.
May 2018 – The biggest mistake newbie travelers make.
When you are traveling, it is in your best interest to do your homework before you go. Even if you have a travel counselor setting up your trip and accommodations for you, be informed about traveling and the cities or countries that you will be visiting.
SECTION TWO – PREPARATION: WHAT YOU WILL NEED
June 2018 – Will I need an additional visa or just a passport? What are some good things to know about both?
Some countries will ask for just a passport and some like Australia require a visa. Most of the time your travel counselor will take care of setting you up with the visa if it is needed, but make sure that you ask, just to make sure. However if you are planning your own trip, it is very important that you check this out, as you will not be allowed on the plane without one if it is required.
July 2018 – Do I have the proper insurance to cover my trip, domestic or international, if something interrupts my trip or prevents me from traveling?
Insurance is very important no matter if you are at home or on a trip. I will be talking about what you should consider in the way of insurance when traveling.
August 2018– What are the laws and customs in the country/countries that I am visiting.
This is where a lot of people find themselves in trouble. We all know the basic rules in the United States, but do not stop to consider that other countries may have very different laws. In Singapore you can get a fine for throwing gum on the ground or not flushing the toilet. In Dubai you can find yourself in trouble for showing too much affection in public. Some countries have a very open drug policy and some will put you in jail and throw away the key if you are even caught with some. So check the laws before you go.
September 2018 – Are there any health concerns in the country that I am traveling to?
Most of the health concerns overseas involve things like altitude sickness and travelers curse. However, many countries have problems with diseases such as typhoid, malaria, sleeping sickness and other illnesses. I will go into some of the areas that can be problems within the foreseeable future or will never change, such as altitude sickness.
October 2018 – Are there any local or political dangers that I need to be aware of, and where can I go to find them?
Political unrest, wars and drug problems are ever present in the world today. There are several places to go, and I will go over these as well as the top pick.
November 2018 – What should I pack? What type of clothing will I need? Should I pack something for the flight?
The answer to this question will depend on where you are vacationing. In this unit I will be discussing what things to look for and what countries are known for their climates.
December 2018 - What things can I do before I leave to protect house, money and other possessions?
There are many things that you’ll want to do when you leave to make it look like you are home. Many common sense planning can help your home to stay safe while you are away. I will go over these, as well as some new and inventive ways to protect your possessions.
January 2019 – What is the voltage or currency of the electricity in the country that I am visiting and do I need an adapter.
According to the world standards website, there are 8 different voltages around the world. During this post, I will be discussing voltage, where to find adapters and what electronics to bring.
February 2019 - What technology can I use to make my trip easier
Wow! The right technology can surely make a vacation on foreign soil much more enjoyable. This post is all about the latest as well as that which you cannot do without.
March 2019 - What apps can I install on my phone to make my travel experience easier?
I have several apps on my phone that I installed about two years ago. They range from translation apps to apps that find places in the place where you are staying. I will discuss all of the newest apps out there that will make your trip one to remember.
April 2019 – What are the latest travel gadgets and hacks to make travel life easier?
Some of these gadgets and hacks are new and some are yesterday's news. But if they make travel easier, why not use them?! This blog will talk about some of these and where to find them.
May 2019 – What are some of the basic phrases I will need to learn in the countries I am visiting?
Please, thank you, and excuse me are some of the basic words or phrases that you will need in any country. However, there are others that are helpful to learn such as, "Where is the bathroom?" Can I have a menu? How much does this cost?
June 2019 – What type of transportation will I need in the country that I will be traveling to?
Will you need to book more airline travel within the country that you are traveling to? Will you need to rent a car, take a train, hire a helicopter, ride a bus, or board a boat, ferry or ship? During this week I will be discussing the positives of each of these types.
July2019 – Will I need to purchase a travel pass such as Eurail Pass and where will that purchase need to be made from?
There are a great many rail passes in different countries to choose from. I believe that Europe has 6 of its own just in Eurail. It is important for you to decide which one suits you best as some can only be purchased in the states and some in the country where it will be used.
August 2019 – What type of accommodations will I need?
Do you want to go budget and stay in hostels or stay in hotels? What are your options in various countries? You will learn that you have options such as staying over the ocean, in a tree, with local families, or even in castles. These are questions that can make the difference between going on a long trip or not being able to go at all.
September 2019 – Will I want or need a guide or can I travel in the country alone?
This will depend on the country that you visit. If you are insistent on going to a dangerous area such as the border of Central America or the back areas of Belize or Jamaica, you would want to hire someone or stay with a group. Certain areas it is illegal to travel without a guide, such as the Inca trail from to Machu Picchu. Some of the most common will be discussed in this post.
October 2019 – How much can I carry in my suitcase and what are the dimensions should the suitcase be? What should I pack and how?
Most of the airlines have there own guidelines, but I will provide basic guidelines from the leading carriers on one of my blogs. If you are in a hurry or do not want to wait for that part of my blog, you can go to the carrier that you are using and they should have that information posted.
November 2019 – How much is the exchange rate and when is it best to change my money? How much money should I bring? How do I handle money overseas?
The old adage: take half as much luggage and twice the money is so true.
Check the market rate for exchange rate and decide for yourself. I go to AAA to exchange few hundred for pocket change, but use my credit card for most things. Exchanging money and handling foreign currencies can be quite challenging. There are many things to consider. In this unit I will discuss many of the ways to save and where to exchange it.
December 2019 – Should I book excursions ahead or at my destination?
Yes, as much as possible. But I have done both. Find out what your options are before you go. You may run into situations that you were not aware existed and decide to book an extra excursion along the way. Many options will be covered.
SECTION THREE - ENROUTE TO THE PROMISED LAND
January 2020 – How much time do I have to leave myself for flights and connecting flights?
It is usually important to leave yourself one hour for domestic flights and two hours for international ones. However, I have been on many international flights that left me sprinting at the end because of the long lines. More time is always advised.
February 2020 - How do I handle security when preparing to go abroad? What shouldn’t I carry with me in a plane or abroad?
Since 911, there is a whole list of things that you need to be careful with when traveling. I have experienced this even before 911. In the chapter on security I will list the items that you will have to be cautious with. This will even include things that you may discuss.
March 2020 – At the airport, how do I navigate it and what do I do?
Yikes! How do I do it?! Some airports are like small cities, so knowing where to go and how to find out what to do is an important skill when traveling.
April 2020 – What things can I do to help myself get through the flight more easily?
This area will include everything from computers, confirming your flight ahead of time, giving yourself enough time, to what to wear or eat on the plane and more.
SECTION FOUR - I HAVE ARRIVED!
May 2020 – What things do I have to do to stay safe?
Let common sense guide you in this area. If you feel that it might not be safe, do not do it! Looking back, I cringe at all of the things I did overseas that I would not do at home. If you would not go to a red light district at night at home, do not do it while traveling! If you feel uncomfortable traveling alone in a country, take a tour with a group. Just use your head. And if you are in a situation where you are in danger in public, just scream. That means the same in any language!
June 2020 – What types of food can I expect?
Foods of the world are as diverse as people. In Germany, you will find a lot of sausages and pickled items, in Italy a lot of pasta and pizza, Indian food tends to be spicy, etc. Those of you who have specific requirements might like to know ahead of time what to expect.
July 2020 – How do I prevent myself from being targeted as a tourist?
If you do not want to be targeted when you travel, it is important that you do not look, dress or act like a tourist. Dress codes and other items will be covered during the week I talk about our cruise down the Seine and the train station in Italy.
August 2020 – How do I protect my money and other valuables while traveling?
This is much more easy to do in this day and age with credit cards. But what can you do to protect those or other valuables that you carry on a daily basis?
September 2020 – What things can you do to save money while traveling?
These items include everything from shopping around to staying in hostels. In my post on saving money, I will discuss all of the options that I have found worked for me.
October 2020 – Planes, trains and automobiles overseas.
Many countries in Europe require a person to be 23 years of age in order to rent a car. Many car rental companies have certain requirements for border crossings. Its best to check before you travel, and definitely before you rent your car.
November 2020 – Meeting people abroad and making lifelong friends.
If we are fortunate we will meet many people while traveling. But it takes effort to make and keep friends. I will discuss how to meet people and how to keep the friendship going long after you've returned home.
December 2020 – How do I handle calling home internationally?
Overseas calling is not as problematic as it once was. If you can afford to travel, you can afford a smart phone, or a computer. A Smart Phone is extremely useful and may become your best friend abroad.
January 2021 – What can you do to make your trip more enjoyable during your stay?
These are items that the tourist is generally not concerned with, but may be some of the most interesting things about your trip; staying with a family in a pension instead of a pricy hotel to learn more about the country, eating at a roadside stand or finding out where the locals go for a day.
February 2021 – What do you do if you find yourself in trouble or loose your passport?
Great question. I wish someone had told me where to go before I lost my passport! Always know where your government offices are!
March 2021 – What do I do if I have to find a doctor or a dentist abroad?
There are various places that one can contact while abroad, depending on the problem, or how long you are staying. The bottom line is: when in doubt, call your embassy.
April 2021 – Are there any dangers from wildlife on land or sea that I need to be aware of?
Even within the United States this is one that you need to be aware of. How do I protect myself? I think that the good Lord was looking out for me when I traveled, as I never ran into too many problems. However, I could have very easily have had serious problems. Do not assume anyone will tell you what you need to know.
May 2021 – College summer backpacking and semesters abroad.
Although I haven't ever backpacked across Europe as my brother did, I have spent two semesters abroad. And because students are often very inexperienced in travel this week's blog provides invaluable tips for these newbies.
SECTION FIVE - ALL GOOD THINGS MUST END – GOING HOME
June 2021 – Do I have to pay any entry or exit fees for the country that I am visiting?
Some countries charge an entry or exit fee or both. It is very inconvenient when you have no money left when you are about to leave. Check before you leave. You cannot plan for what you do not know.
July 2021 – What are customs and what can I bring back into my country?
Customs are, according to Miriam Webster: taxes or fees that are paid to the government when goods come into or go out of a country. You will be allowed to bring back a certain amount when you reenter a country. Please do your homework here as well. I will be talking about the different amounts and what can and cannot be brought back home.
August 2021 – Wrapping it up. Letter from the writer. Bon voyage!
By researching, you will know exactly what is in store for you on your trip and you won’t run the risk of being surprised or disappointed as I was in Tahiti. With just a little extra work before booking your trip, you will have the opportunity to change your mind on any part of your vacation. I have gone on many trips that were set up by travel counselors and I have also planned trips totally by myself. Most were very good but I have been disappointed at times as well. With today’s Internet, it is so easy to research almost anything before you go; much more so than when I first traveled to Australia or Europe. All of the information is literally at your fingertips on the computer.
Services and places are always changing and evolving, but the bottom line is to plan ahead. Check before you commit to any trip and educate yourself before you go. It may take a little more time, but if you are a woman traveling alone, it is probably one of the most important, intelligent and safest things that you can do for yourself.
During the next 4 1/2 years, these and other helpful suggestions will be discussed at length, together with other information in this blog, using my personal adventures abroad and in the US.
I hope that you will enjoy my adventures and have some of your own in the future! Happy travels! ©
The first evening in our new surroundings came much too soon and the five of us exchanged pleasantries while getting to know one another. There was a couple that had recently graduated college with Brooke Shields, one from the eastern part of the U.S., another who was from one of the Soviet States who had been working on the Alaskan Pipeline and then there was me, an aspiring art teacher from the Midwest. A more diverse group you could not find!
After nightfall, we all crawled into our tents. Picturing the huge spiders I had seen in the shower and all of the other creepy crawlies on the island, I zipped up my tent as tight as possible and pulled my clothes over me. While attempting to sleep I would occasionally feel the tickle of an insect crawling across my body, hear the “swoosh” and thud of a coconut falling to the ground and sounds of local pigs that had escaped their enclosure, grunting as they ran from packs of dogs. Needless to say, I didn't sleep at all those 3 nights, but on the beach during the day. So much for my gift of Tahiti to myself! But I did have great tan to show for it! Lesson learned!