My overall experience as a Solo Female Traveller

I started to write this post just after my first solo trip to Europe. I’ve now come back to it, 2 years later and after 8 months of solo travel around Central and South America. I’ve grown so much in that time so lets see whether 2020 Nay was right or still had a lot of learning to do.

2020 me: It’s not as difficult as you think it will be to make friends. I’m so much more confident than I thought I was. When you’re put in the situation, you will crack on with it and it really isn’t as daunting as you thought it’d be.
2022 me: I can’t agree more. I’d be inclined to now rephrase the term making friends and call it making acquaintances. It’s so easy to get chatting to someone, become surface level friends and spend a day or two travelling around together. But it’s usually pretty clear from the get go who’s going to be a good friend and who you’ll probably never see again.
Sometimes you just don’t want to do things alone so you’ll do it with someone without really wanting to spend too much time with them and there will also be days where you don’t want to make friends and that’s totally ok, you just keep yourself to yourself and carry on.
But there are also the people who you may not stay in touch with forever, but they’re special and have a big impact on you and your journey. There are also some friends you’ll make who mean everything to you and you can no longer imagine life without – they’re special and not so common, but it happens for sure.
Looking back at my confidence level when I first started travelling is wild. I’ve done a lot of growing and learning in other ways which has contributed to my confidence levels, but I can confidently say, the more you travel, the more your confidence will grow. You realise that you don’t have the time to not just go for things or talk to people. And more often than not, you’re all in the same boat so it’s more a game of who’s going to say hi first.

2020 me: You definitely don’t need everything you think you will – pack the clothes you want and then half it.
2022 me: A heavy bag is not fun – granted I’ve got pretty used to it now and I can definitely manage a heavy bag when I have to, but if you can help it, your life will be so much easier if you pack light and people won’t look at you like you’re insane when they try to lift a bag that weighs a tonne.
If you’re unsure if you’ll wear something, or if it’s something you don’t wear at home, but think ‘It’ll be a great opportunity to wear that whilst travelling’ you’re lying to yourself. Don’t pack it. Pack the things you know you love to wear, things that are comfortable and versatile.
A good rule of thumb is to take things that you won’t be heartbroken over if they get lost, ruined or stolen. These things happen and most likely something will get ruined in the wash, so anything precious – probably best to leave at home.

2020 me: Don’t get too attached to the friends you make, you’ll probably never see them again. But you may also make friends for life.
2022 me: Briefly touching on this one above, I think you learn to know who’s going to be long term and who’s not. And honestly you probably won’t see many people again, unless you see them along the way of the same trip. If you really bond with someone and it’s mutual, you can make sure that you see each other again. It’s always nice to have the option to visit some new countries and have people to stay with!

2020 me: Always turn around. As you’re walking, you take in so much beautiful stuff in front of you, but if you don’t turn around every once in a while you can miss another perspective of what’s there – I feel like there might be something philosophical in there somewhere but who knows.
2022 me: Damn I love this one and I still don’t always do this! The more I see, experience and have delved into my inner self, the more I practice being present in my day-to-day doings, and appreciating the beauty in every thing and moment is part of my re-wired brain. But I do love the way I phrased that – go 2020 Nay.

2020 me: Some people are strange and will ask you to borrow your flip flops – never say yes (who tf does that) this literally happened twice.
2022 me: This one honestly went straight over my head and I have no recollection of what this was in reference to. However, if someone asked me for my flipflops now – context dependant, I’d probably give them away. I’ve seen a lot of how the world isn’t as easy on some and opportunities for what we (western society) see as a standard way of living doesn’t come as easy to many people and places around the world. So a cheap pair of flip-flops to me, are so much more to someone else. My travel budget is tight and I really don’t have a lot of money in my pocket, but if I really needed it I can get money from friends and family. A lot of people don’t have that luxury so where I can, I will always give a little to those who need it.
That may not have been the context of the original comment, but that’s where my heart took me.

It’s funny to think and look back on when I first started out my travels – so much has changed and I’ve grown so much as a person. Travel is truly amazing for expanding your awareness and deepening your perspective on life.

It’s Not All Sunshine and Beaches

If you take the things you see on the internet as real life, you’d think that pretty much everyone is living the absolute perfect life with no troubles, no upsets and always having the best time. In reality this is far, far from the truth in most, if not all cases.

Especially when it comes to travel, I think it’s super important to be transparent and make it clear that although my Instagram may look like a collection of beautiful landscapes, pretty buildings and fun times, whilst these are some of the real and amazing experiences captured on camera – there are so many instances of the opposite nature which aren’t captured, because lets be honest, when I’m lay in bed crying, my first thought isn’t ‘I want to remember this moment, take a picture of me!’.

So this leads me to my honest update of things that haven’t gone so well in my last 7 months of travelling Central America.

Stolen Phone
Surprisingly, this one didn’t overly bother me at the time and still doesn’t particularly phase me. The most annoying fact was that I lost my phone number, and let me tell you trying to access accounts without your number is not an easy feat.
On a beach, out of hours, with 2 friends and a bottle of rum was the recipe for an amazing night. Singing, dancing under the stars with not a care in the world will forever remain to be one of my travel highlights.
I’m an extremely cautious person and not the most trusting of people I don’t know, and this has unfortunately reaffirmed these feelings. When you’re on a huge beach and a random lone person asks if they can hang their hammock right behind you, (when there are about 1,000 other spots that they could hang it) its a little bit suspicious right?
The beginning of this encounter didn’t sit right with me, so generally I kept my distance and continued to just enjoy my night. Unfortunately these kinds of people are opportunists and will put in 4 hours of work to be friendly, watch you closely, let your guard slip and take advantage in those 2 minutes you take your eye off the ball.
More than anything, I’m grateful that he took my phone when he had the chance and things didn’t get ugly. You never know what desperation will cause a person to do, and I can only imagine putting in 4 hours ‘work’ to leave with nothing wasn’t particularly an option for this guy.

Broken ears
I’m usually an extremely risk adverse person and will avoid doing things which could potentially result in injury. A prime example of this being jumping off a 15m platform into a lake.
I know people do this kind of thing all the time and are absolutely fine, but jumping into deep water with absolutely no experience of jumping off anything other than the side of the pool didn’t seem like a good idea to me. And honestly, kind of proved myself right with this one. As fun and exhilarating as it was so say f*#k it and launch myself off said 15m platform, it completely killed me off for about 32 hours afterwards.
My ears were filled with water post jump and once I’d cleared them I thought all was fine and I was now just a bad ass who jumped off a massive platform. Boy was I wrong, I did not feel so bad ass when I was balling my eyes out in pain just a few hours later.

Mid Volcano Hike Panic Attack

I knew hiking up Volcan Acatenango was going to be a difficult feat, especially for someone who isn’t the most fond of walking in the first place. For me, around the half way mark, panic set in. I was finding it so hard and knew the next half wasn’t going to get any easier, and all I wanted to do was give up. But giving up would mean what? Sitting on my own until people came back down the next morning, or walking back down all that way on my own?
Really, the only other option was to carry on and that terrified me just as much. So naturally I had a nice little panic attack (always fun), composed myself, popped my headphones in, and carried on. I definitely didn’t plan on crying so much on the side of a volcano, but I can’t thank the tour guides enough for being so supportive – I genuinely wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.

Broken Phone
Apparently phones and humidity don’t work so well together and my phone decided that it’s charging port wouldn’t function in such weather. It spent a week in a bag of rice whilst I enjoyed life with no phone, but that helped for all of 5 minutes. So the temporary solution ended up being purchasing a wireless charger – just one of many unexpected costs – but the only sure fire fix was to not be in a humid climate. And then all of this became redundant anyway when it got stolen and I had to get a new one. I don’t know if phones bought in Costa Rica don’t face this issue because they’re made different (?) but so far so good!

Missed Flights
Technically this wasn’t so much a missed flight, but more an incorrect flight, but this one killed my soul. What originally cost £60 to fly – a great deal – ended up costing over £300. Between my friend and I, we managed to book the flight in the wrong month without realising until we arrived at the airport ready to leave. With non-refundable accommodation booked, it meant we either took the loss on accommodation and paid for a longer transport option, or took a bit of a bigger loss and bought the last 2 seats on the only other flight option that day. Either way it was going to be an expensive mess up and I definitely had to take a while to mourn the loss of such a big amount of money.
But a reminder – money comes and goes, but memories stay forever.

Second Degree Burns
Apparently regular taxis aren’t used so much in some areas of Colombia and the most effective way to get around is my moto taxi. Now motorbikes aren’t my favourite things, and jumping on the back of a random one to get from A-B really isn’t my idea of fun. But needs must and it was only a 5 minute journey.
The journey itself was fine, I kind of just closed my eyes and hoped for the best (longest 5 minutes ever by the way) but getting off the bike at the other end was apparently the most difficult part. I wanted to get off so fast my logic went out the window and I tried to get off from the wrong side, meaning I burnt my leg on the exhaust.
A pretty common injury, but DAMN did that hurt for the next week, and when I accidentally popped the blister getting off a bunkbed… lets just say it made a mess. Gross.

Bug Bites

In short, bugs think I’m delicious. Mosquitos, no-see-ums, sand-flies, wasps (how you can be attractive to these I don’t know, but it feels this way for sure) and I’m convinced at one point a spider. I’ve had some serious coverings of bug bites in 7 months and I’ve got plentiful scars to show for it.

Being open about these things aren’t to shine a bad light on travel or Central America, as all of these things could happen literally anywhere in the world. But to be open and honest that travel really isn’t all sunshine and beaches, and that you have to expect that somewhere along the line, things won’t go to plan and in some way you’ll lose out or want to cry (or quite possibly both at the same time) but it’s all part of the fun of travelling, part of the adventure.

Top 3 things to do in Cartagena

If your trip involves Colombia, then visiting Cartagena is a must do. A city filled with colour, history and good vibes.

Cartagena is most definitely a place worth visiting and today the risk levels are generally low, however, as with anywhere in the world you need to keep your wits about you and practice safe travel.

The following 3 activities are my top recommendations which you HAVE to do during your stay:

  1. Free walking tours
    There are many walking tour providers, however, I could not recommend Beyond Colombia more, my experience was fantastic. With Beyond Colombia you have 2 options and I’d personally advise doing both! Both tours are approximately 2.5 hours and can be done in both English and Spanish. You can book a place on the tour through the link above, it’s advised to do so so that the tour guides know to expect attendees.

    A 10am Cartagena tour where you will explore the beauty of the walled city. Some of the areas you will visit include: San Pedro, Claver Square, Clock Tower, Heredia Theater, Inquisition Palace, Cathedral of Alexandria, Simón Bolivar Park and Aduana and Coches Squares.
    A 4pm Getsemani tour where you will visit the famous town and have the chance to experience it’s beautiful history and culture. Some of the areas you will visit include: Centenario Park, Trinidad Artistic Square, Afro Uprising, Cultural Street Art, Old Public Market, Plaza “El Pozo”, San Felipe Fortress Viewpoint.

    Both tours are informative experiences but also a lot of fun and extremely immersive. Hands down, some of the best walking tours I’ve ever done!
  2. Sunset at Cafe Del Mar
    A beautiful spot to experience the sunset, with some great food and drink options. You can reserve a table in advance here, or it’s also possible to walk in without out. However, if doing so i’d advise arriving there early between 4:30 – 5pm to guarantee getting a seat!
    Relax, listen to the music and enjoy the beauty of the sunset from one of the best spots in Cartagena. Even if the sky isn’t as clear as you would hope it’s still a beautiful spot with some immaculate vibes.
  3. Volcan el Totumo
    A unique day trip outside of Cartagena, but so worth the travel out of the city. This volcano experience is not what you may think! A mud bath inside the top of a volcano isn’t something you have the chance to experience in many locations, and it’s definitely an experience you don’t want to miss out on.
    Most, if not all hostels and hotels will be able to provide you with a tour guide who offers this experience and usually for a better price than if you were to book alone!

    When you arrive at the volcano there are a number of ‘add-ons’ that you can include, should you wish. Someone to look after your shoes, someone to take some pictures of you, a mud massage and someone to wash off the mud in the lake. Each ‘add-on’ will cost you 5mil Pesos (approx £1.00) so choosing to include them won’t set you back, however, I would personally advise that only the shoes and the photographs are the necessary options.
    The massage is more of a full body rub down (which looked a little too handsy for my liking), and the wash off in the lake is just not overly necessary – we’re all more than capable of washing ourselves off right? So when it comes to these options just politely saying ‘no gracias’ a couple of times will advise the locals that you’re not interested and they’ll quickly move on.

Although there are many many more things to do in Cartagena, these would be my absolute top recommendations, and things you won’t get to do or see anywhere else! Enjoy yourself and take lots of pictures!!

Must Eats in NYC

Like many people visiting NYC was always on my bucket list – feeling like I’m in the movies whilst walking around Times Square, whistling to hail down a yellow cab and eating that perfect New York Pizza. I can confirm my time in Times Square was not so glamorous, but it did involve eating Hershey’s smores and well, that was way more fun.

If you’ve never seen the Buzzfeed show Worth it, I would highly recommend it. A group of Buzzfeed producers travel around trying both high and low price food items and deciding whether paying a high price is always really worth it. Such a basic concept but makes for an amazing show!

As well as watching this show religiously, a lot of research went into where we would be eating whilst in NYC, reading blogs, watching videos, the works – eating good food is so important, so naturally, that’s where we channelled most of our planning energy.

Over the span of 6 days we managed to try a lot of foods, so without further ado, here are some of my top picks, you should definitely visit!

  1. Milk Bar
    For your bakery/desert fix you HAVE to try Milk Bar. Cereal milk flavoured soft-serve ice cream, birthday cake flavoured everything and their famous crack pie (which I think is formally called Milk Bar Pie) which is oh wow, so good you won’t ever want to stop eating it. I could spend days trying everything on the menu here, it’s divine.
  2. Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
    Classic New York Cheesecake, eat your heart out. Creamy, delicious and for such a good price. Grab a slice and go – with a fork in the bag you can stop by a nearby park to sit, enjoy the scenery and chow down on a little piece of heaven.
  3. Levain Bakery
    With a number of locations around Manhattan Island, at any point you won’t be too far away from the chance to bite into one of the most delicious oversized cookies. Try one of the classic famous chocolate chip walnut cookies, mix things up with a different flavour, or get a few flavours to try! Something you definitely won’t regret.
  4. Han Dynasty
    A Chinese cuisine restaurant which serves some amazing staple dishes, but the star of the show for me here was the DanDan noodles – Incredible flavours and spice, I always recommend people visiting here just for the noodles! No matter how hard a try, they just can’t be recreated quite like they make them here.
  5. Murrays Cheese Bar
    If you love cheese like me, this is the place for you. A Fairly small and casual restaurant, where the cheese is the star of the show. So many different choices of cheese and different ways to eat it, and recommendations of wine and beer pairings with each cheese dish. I was in heaven.

There are so many amazing options for food establishments in such a diverse city like NYC, but these are some of my favourites I recommend every time. If you try any do let me know what you think, and if you have any other recommendations send them my way!

A 4 Week Europe Trip

For my first solo backpacking trip, I wanted to keep things relaxed but still have an outline plan of where I wanted to go, as to not get completely overwhelmed with choices whilst away.

Unfortunately my plans were cut short and I wasnt able to complete it in full due to the pandemic. This route is a perfect basic route around Central Europe for those wanting to see both the popular larger cities, and some smaller towns which are beautiful hidden gems.

For my trip I chose to use Flix busses as a cheaper alternative to travelling by train. I found the busses to be reliable and although they take longer than a train would, the longest trip is only around 3/4 hours. If planned well this will not at all hinder your trip and give you a little down time between locations to recharge before the exploring begins again!

My trip outline was as follows:

  • Krakow 4 nights
  • Olomuc 1 night
  • Brno 2 nights
  • Budapest 4 nights
  • Vienna 4 nights
    • Bratislava (Day trip)
  • Telc 1 night
  • Prague 4 nights
  • Dresden 3 nights
  • Berlin 4 nights

Krakow for 4 nights gives you more than enough time to aimlessly wonder around the city, to try foods and take in the beautiful settings, experience the vibrant (and amazingly CHEAP) nightlife and go on excursions such as the Salt mines or Auschwitz.

Olomouc is a beautifully small city which after some hard partying in Krakow gave me a short period of downtime and strolls around the centre, taking in the breathtaking history and architecture. If you decide to visit, a stay at Long Story Short Hostel is encouraged, a beautifully sleek and stylish hostel close to the centre.

A bustling student city rich with history is a must see whilst in central Europe. A free walking tour around the centre is extremely interesting and will give you a great start to exploring this city. Paired with bunkers, castles, and the second largest ossuary in Europe (after the Catacombs of Paris) you will easily fill your time in Brno. There are also some great speakeasy’s dotted around the city – ask some locals if you can!

Rich with history, beauty and lots of parties, Budapest is not one to miss. Out of all of the options for tourist attractions I cant reccommend a night time river tour enough (you can also choose a wine tasting option for this which is VERY fun) to be able to see the city lit up in the dark, truly breathtaking. The thermale spa is fabulous but be weary of the night events, they can get a little rowdy and ‘steamy’ not just in the literal sense of the word… at some points it felt a little too much like an orgy for my liking.

So much to do and so much to see! If you can get to the opera, standing tickets are CHEAP and it’s a once in a lifetime expereince for sure. Also check out my previous blog post Vienna From Above for some of the best views in the City.

It’s perfect for a day trip from Vienna, or a longer stay if you fancy it. The walking tours are great to see the whole city and just as great to meet other solo travellers to link up for lunch or a drink before you hehad back to Vienna!

Telc is another hidden gem of a city, with beautiful architecture and an abundance of history, it’s a great pit-stop as you travel further up north on your trip. Get in some r&r before you get to Prague!

I hope you’re ready to party! With some great hostels to offer in the city centre, you’ll meet some amazing like-minded solo travellers and have a whale of a time. Being a large city, travelling around is easy and there are a plethora of museums, galleries and historical exhibits to peak your interest whilst there.

The city is one of the most visited cities in Germany and with the amount of wartime history it’s easy to understand why. There are a number of beautiful parks, great architecture and bridges to be seen during your stay here.

The largest city in Germany has a lot to offer for tourists, historical, cultural, entertainment. You won’t be lost for things to do and see whilst in Berlin, there’s something for everyone including a booming nightlife if that’s what you’re into!

Although it’s great to have an idea of where you’re travelling around Europe, it’s not essential to stick to the script. When travelling alone it’s often better to have flexibility in your plans so you can meet new people, make friends and start continue your journey together. Hostels are also the best places to find reccommendations so try not to over plan and just roll with the punches.

Vienna From Above

The best places to see Vienna from a completely different perspective.

  1. St. Stephen’s Cathedral

The highest point you can climb to in the first district of the City, it’s not the easiest of walks up to the top, but my god is it worth it.

2. The Coffee House at Justizpalast

A lovely quiet spot with beautiful views and good coffee – really, what more could you want?

3. The Surrounding Hills

Take a walk up Cobenzl, Kahlenberg or Leopoldsberg mountains for some of the best views of the City. With all locations easily accessible via bus from the City centre they aren’t views that you’ll want to miss!

4. Bellevue-Wiese

A beautiful park on the edge of the city with views you’ll want to sit down and have a picnic to take in.

5. Gloriette at Palace Schönbrunn

Not only can you walk around the most BEAUTIFUL palace grounds and feel like an utter princess – the views are to die for. So stunning it’s a very popular proposal spot so keep your eye out for couples sharing that special moment!

6. Akakiko Restaurant Rooftop Terrace

During the summer you can enjoy a beautiful view whilst enjoying a delicious meal.

7. Haus des Meeres (Aquarium)

My absolute personal favourite location. It offers a fantastic experience and interactive walkthrough of the aquarium, finishing off with the option of food and drinks in the restaurant-cafe at the very top of the building, and obviously the fantastic view! The building also boasts a lot of history and dedicates a whole room to this for those who take interest in that area.

8 Things To Do On a Trip To Tobago

For my first Travel Tips blog post I thought it’d be best to be about a place that holds a massive piece of my heart. With my grandparents being born and bred Trinidadians’ who moved to Tobago 20 years ago, I consider myself super lucky to be able to have been coming here on holidays’ for the best part of half of my life.

The island itself is pretty small and one that not many people have heard of unless you’re big into cricket. But many the same with other small islands, the size can quite often impact the place for the better. Theres so much I love about this place but to name a few reasons…

  • People say hello – No matter who you are, whether you know them or not, people will say good morning, good evening, hi, hello – just as a courtesy.
  • There’s no need to rush. This one is possibly because of the heat, but I remember the first time I was here I was walking everywhere SO quickly (and for me it was my normal pace). But there is just no need – take your time, slow down, it’s cool, relax.
  • People are giving. It’s like popping over to your neighbour because you’ve ran out of sugar, but it’s something they still do and it’s more with fruit (Mangoes especially!), not sugar and people don’t ask, they just give because it’s the neighbourly thing to do.

Now should you ever visit Tobago, which I would highly recommend, here’s 8 things you should most definitely do:

  1. Boat Trip from ‘Piogen Point’ or ‘Store Bay’ Beaches – This boat trip is a must do on your list and depending on your itinerary, the trip you can last for a full day or half a day, which is great if there are other activities you want to try in a short time frame! No matter how long the boat trip, the best bits include: Snorkelling in Buccoo Reef (swimming with some amazing tropical fish), A swim and Bathe in the Nylon Pool (magical sands which are know to make you look 10 years younger) and a trip to No-man’s land (glorious isolated beach where you can not only relax but try some local delicatessen and taste some classic rum punch).
  2. Full Day Island Tour – There are a few different people who offer this excursion and each varies in what they do, but whoever you go with, you get whats on the tin – a full island tour! With the size of the island being so small you can experience most of the key ‘sight seeing’ locations in a day, which works great for those who want to experience some of the other ‘to-do’s’ i’ve mentioned below PLUS some much needed beach time.
  3. Rainforest Excursion – Make sure you pack long sleeves, legs and comfy shoes for this one! Tobago, along with it’s gorgeous beaches, has so much exotic rainforest hidden within.
  4. Horse riding on the beach and in the sea – As far as i’m aware there are 2 riding schools on the Island which offer this amazing excursion, a simple google search will help you find these. This isn’t something you can do in many locations so a pretty unique experience.
  5. The Original House of Pancakes – My personal favourite is the Pancakes and Scrambled egg, but the waffles are honestly just as good. American style pancakes that you just can’t beat, a must visit.
  6. Jemma’s Tree House Kitchen – Common beliefs that this is one of the best restaurants on the island and with views for days. I once sat and watched 2 stingrays circle the shore whilst I ate THE best BBQ chicken that I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
  7. Water sports at Piogen Point – Similar to most holiday destinations you can’t go wrong with water sports but if you time your trip right, you might be able to combine the fun of water sports and the awe of witnessing Bioluminescence glow beneath you.
  8. Sunday School – This is a traditional, community event that happens ever. single. Sunday. So similarly to Sunday School’s elsewhere, during the day this involves Church studies, however at night things take a turn… In the evening there will likely be Steel Pan groups’ playing some Island classics as well as songs everyone can sing along to. Now, when the clocks turn 11pm the DJ comes out and the Soca begins blasting, tables and chairs get put to the side and the dancing shoes come out. This is an evening for both tourists and locals, where everyone comes together to dance – you really can’t beat that kind of Island Spirit.

Without a doubt this is just a start to the number of things you can do whilst in Tobago and if none of these take your fancy and you’re more of a beach bum, there are countless both private and public beaches which are so picturesque you wouldn’t quite believe it’s real.

I couldn’t recommend a trip to Tobago more. I don’t know a soul who has been and hasn’t fallen in love.