You can pretty much ask anyone I’ve ever met, I am not a naturally spontaneous person. I am event planner by career and that planning part of my brain does not cease even when I clock out.
So it was a surprise to my friends and family when I booked an international trip and was on a plane a week later.
At the age of 30, I had never left the country. I have always had a bit of wanderlust but also a bit of fear that kept me grounded. I always had those dreamer conversations with friends saying we should travel. Greece! New Zealand! Italy! Let’s go! I even got a passport. Yet somehow we never went. First there was finishing school. And paying off school. And friends getting married. And then babies. And maybe more school. Most of all, I was scared of traveling alone. So it just had not happened.
One gloomy day in March, I got equally gloomy news that I did not get a job I had applied for. And somehow, I felt relieved I did not get the job. It sent me into one of those big picture black holes of thinking about what I really wanted out of my life. The biggest thing to come out of those deep thoughts was I did not want another birthday to come and go without me living out my dreams of traveling. I did not want another decade lived under the cloud of “someday.”
That is how I found myself alone, on a spontaneous flight to my first international destination: Greece. My itinerary included Athens, Crete and Santorini. I packed my bag, my camera gear and I was ready.
There are a million blogs, pins, and other websites that can tell you the best places to visit, the fun things to do, and the most mouth-watering places to eat. There are incredibly skilled photographers who can give you all the technical details about capturing the best photos. Instead, I will share my favorite traveling gear, the photography equipment I most enjoy using and the little tidbits people shared with me as a woman traveling abroad by herself.
My delightful friend Katie told me about the Kelty Redwing 40 Backpack. It is small enough to use as a carry on (I did not want to check a bag) but big enough to carry all the essentials. Plus its turquoise and I am always here for that kind of whimsy.
I happened across this little mammajam while at a running expo for a half marathon (If you are a runner, check out the Colfax Marathon Series). Roo Sport was one of the vendors as the expo and they had these little Roo Pouches that magnet into the top of your pants, adding a pocket. I got it for running to hold my phone and keys. It slides inside your pants so it is not obvious from the outside, making it less of a target for pick pockets. I ended up taking it on my trip so it looked like I was carrying nothing as I walked through the plaka in Athens.
I was grateful for my Apple Watch during this trip. It allowed me to keep my phone in my Roo Pouch and do all my texting and GPS’ing from my watch. I chose to walk around Athens (rather than rent a vehicle) and I could program an address into my phone and it would give directions on the watch. So what looked like me checking the time was actually me looking at directions.
Since I was connecting my phone to my Apple Watch, using it for directions, Snapchats, texting, as well as a safety blanket, I wanted to be sure I could always charge my phone. This battery backup is small, lightweight, and can charge your phone twice!
If you plan to plug stuff in, you’re gonna need one of these. If you are taking appliances like a blow dryer, make sure the voltage of the outlets won’t fry your device! I like this one because it has adaptors to various countries so you do not need to buy a bunch of different ones for various countries.
Some time ago, I bought a camera kit. It came with a Nikon D3500 body and two lenses. I pretended I knew how to use it because I thought I looked pretty cool holding a DSLR camera. Turns out it was the beginning of a beautiful love with Nikon.
My photographer friend Morgan recommended this wide-angle lens and it has easily become one of my favorites. I still use those kit lenses I got but this one is almost always what lives on my camera body and what I typically travel with.
I will start by telling you this. When you tell people you are going to travel alone, especially as a woman, they will give you every scary anecdote and horror story about how the people of that given place will rob, swindle, hurt, or otherwise do something crummy to you. Listen but don’t let them talk you out of going. Do research about where you’re traveling and what common issues are. Plan accordingly. Avoid carrying a bag in crowded areas. Pay attention to who is around you. Let people back home know what your travel plans are. Be aware and trust your instincts.
I suggest being open to traveling outside of the popular tourist seasons. Based on the job I held for many years, one of the best times for me to travel was early March. That means many places I want to visit have cooler, potentially rainier temperatures. But it meant I saved money on excursions and lodging. For this particular trip, my spontaneity did not create much space for finding bargains. I did use AirBnb for all of my lodging and found some amazing houses with great deals. It also meant ferry and plane tickets were more affordable.
Dress like you belong. I suggest this partly because there are a lot of places you cannot go if you are dressed inappropriately (churches and heritage sites), but also because dressing similarly to the culture you are visiting makes you stand out less and make you less of a target.
Finally. Just do it. Take the trip. There will be moments that terrify you. But there will be equally as many moments that awe you. Surprise you. And make you want to do it again as soon as possible.
“Travel Far Enough, You Meet Yourself” – David Mitchell
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