Monday, January 10, 2011

Superwoman traveller Charlotte: Solo travel is total freedom

Let me introduce you to Charlotte, my next Superwoman Traveller. We also met teaching in Bratislava, mid-way through Charlotte's decade of solo travel adventures - she's just recently returned home to Canada. Charlotte has kept my fridge covered and my traveller's heart alive through regular beautiful postcards over the last few years. I hope she also won't mind me mentioning that she's old enough to be my mother - I only say that because I admire her even doubly to do all the incredible things she's done when she's on the more mature side, and I dearly hope to follow her example when my child/ren are grown up.

(Special thanks to Charlotte for allowing me to steal a couple of her gorgeous photos! The kids are in Tibet and the cat and men are in Essaouira, Morocco.)



Tell me about the first time you travelled on your own.

My first trip was actually going off to Vanuatu as a volunteer. I was leaving home for the first time, leaving my university aged kids in the home without me, and it was scary! Of course, as a volunteer you are meant to be looked after from the moment your feet touch your new country's soil, but no one was at the Port Vila airport to meet me. I didn't have a visa, as they were to meet me there so that I could get the proper visa for work at the airport, so immigration didn't know what to do with me and finally gave me a 24-hour visa. I went outside to wait. No one. Soon the staff locked the airport and turned out the lights. The place became deserted. Just me at the front door! A car came along and the driver, a friendly foreign man, asked me where I was going. I told him that I had no idea, that Simon from Cuso was to meet me, so perhaps I should just wait. The man said he knew where Simon lived and took me there. We drove up to see a man in a lava lava washing a car. The man who drove me asked him if he wasn't meant to be picking up a new volunteer. Simon said yes, but not til 10:00. My rescuer told Simon it was now well past 10:00. The time had changed the previous night and poor Simon had not heard that bit of news so he thought he had heaps of time to get to the airport. A bit of a nerve wracking start to my first time away on my own.

It's impressive that you kept going after this start! What are the advantages of solo travel for you?

You can do what you want to do when you want to. There are always heaps of travellers to join up with who want to do the same thing, so if you want company it's easy to find. There is never any need to compromise, or sit in cafes when you'd rather be walking, or walk when you'd rather be in a cafe, or leave a place you'd love to spend at least one or two more days at. You have total freedom.



What tips or advice can you give for women wanting to travel solo?

There are a zillion things to think about, but for the sake of a short answer I would say that in the top ten is "Never carry more luggage than you can physically take into a toilet cubical with you". That is, most of the time you do not have someone whom you can trust to look after your bags for you. If you can't get around easily on your own while carrying it all, you're not going to survive. On the same note, carry an extensive medical kit with antibiotics, anti everything, some good plasters and read books such as 'where there is no doctor' so you can remove your own appendix if need be. Once again, there may be no one to help you find a doctor or hospital, and no one you would trust with your belongings. Self medication is important when travelling alone. Choose your new friends carefully. I think solo travellers develop an instinct about who to trust because there are 'artists' out there. I've never been a victim, but I've sat with people in hostels who were. It's an important skill to develop. 

Those are the first thoughts I have on that topic - there are many many others. Along with the emergency toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bandana in a hot country, I also always have some snacks with me and an emergency can of beer - just in case. Also, before I leave a train/bus/ship I count and recount my bags, so that I leave nothing behind. It is so easy to be distracted when you're disembarking and there is no one to remind you that you've left a bag behind. Growing a third eye in the back of your head is useful in dodgy bus stations.


Thanks, Charlotte, for all this great food for thought - you're one of the most courageous and experienced travellers I know and I willingly follow your advice and example. Thanks so much for being part of our series and I hope that you make it down to this corner of Australia soon on your travels! (It must be almost the only place in the world you haven't been yet).

3 comments:

  1. I love this quote. It is exactly how I feel about Charlotte too. What an inspiration!

    "I hope she also won't mind me mentioning that she's old enough to be my mother - I only say that because I admire her even doubly to do all the incredible things she's done when she's on the more mature side, and I dearly hope to follow her example when my child/ren are grown up."

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  2. Glad you like it Dawn - she is a pretty special person, isn't she!

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  3. It is interesting getting into the mind of a solo traveller. I haven't done much travelling on my own (I don't think I am brave enough) but admire women like Charlotte. Thanks for Rewinding x

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