Solo Travel: Please Don’t Ask Me “Where Is My Husband”

Snowmobiling Langjokull Glacier Golden Circle

Adventures in snowmobiling in Iceland on Langjokull Glacier

It’s getting very personal out in the world especially if you are a solo woman traveler.  For years, I shrugged off the crazy questions, the observations that are best left unsaid and the many comments that folks forgot to filter.  I would rationalize it that it was their culture to ask, comment and observe. But lately, I’ve been reading posts by amazing women travelers that make me scream “What is wrong with people?”.  Megsy wrote a great post about Having Curves after a comment about “looking overweight and unfit”.  She wondered if you can be overweight and travel (um, yes you can, the BMI chart isn’t the only measure of a person’s health). We all can’t be cute and petite like Samantha Brown  nor look glamorous after a bucket shower in Botswana .  I then read Jeannie’s post about body diversity (inspired by Megsy’s post) after she was called “fat and pregnant” on solo travel to multiple countries where apparently it’s ok to say anything you want.  When did filters go away?  Common courtesy?

I’m tired of reading about all the defensive measures solo women need to take to explain themselves when they  just want to see/enjoy the world. I’m tired of people trying to work out their issues by cutting others down, trying to make people feel less and feeling that it’s ok to make personal comments.  I’m tired of the media telling me that I’m not thin/pretty/young enough or worthy enough for this, that or the other.  Tired of the ads to try this miracle cure to erase time, wrinkles and fat. Everyday, there are messages telling me “I’m not x enough, not worthy of y or z” so when I travel I like to escape the drama of the everyday and reconnect with the awesomeness that is me – the part of me that knows I am definitely enough (and worthy of cookies, chocolate and wine, in moderation of course). It’s so easy to forget that on the hamster wheel of life.

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Bright Lights at Night in London, Paris and Dublin #FriFotos

“I’ve Loved the Stars Too Fondly to Be Fearful of the Night” – Galileo

The Best Nights are Usually Unplanned, Random and Spontaneous

Stars Can’t Shine Without Darkness

There are so many great quotes to find about this week’s “Night” FriFotos theme, the above are just a few.  Each reminds me about what I love about night – the stars, the lights and possibilities. So many great memories and photos of night to share from a few of my favorite cities:


St. Paul’s Cathedral is striking during the day but stunning at night.  Like much of London, being illuminated adds such a beauty and allure.

St. Paul's Cathedral London at Night

St. Paul’s Cathedral London at night

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Categories: Dublin, FriFotos on Twitter, London, Paris, Philadelphia, Photography | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Samantha Brown’s 7 Travel Tips at the Philly Travel & Adventure Show

Samantha Brown Travel Channel

Samantha Brown Meet & Greet at the Philly Travel & Adventure Show

For years, I’ve watched Samantha Brown’s Travel Channel shows thinking “she has the greatest job”!  Reality is that she is traveling over 200 days a year away from home and working long days (it is a job after all) with one day (!!!) set aside when she arrives to explore on her own.  As one of the celebrity featured speakers at the Philadelphia Travel & Adventure Show this past weekend, she shared her 7 Travel Tips with the large standing room only crowd as well as her funny stories as only she can tell them.

She spoke of how the hotel furniture attacks her.  Given that she is changing hotels every few days, it is hard to remember the path to the bathroom at night and where the outlets and switches are located (we’ve all been there).  One night she broke her nose when she walked into the wall thinking it led to the hallway (thankfully no hospital visits for me due to furniture although I have many bruises).  Other funny stories included trying to find a commonality despite the language barrier (see #6 below) and as a “grilled chicken girl” and not Anthony Bourdain, just let her have one bit of food before you tell her what it is.

The main presentation was just her super happy, girl next door, down to earth take on travel – it was refreshing and inspirational.  With humble beginnings and lessons learned, she summed up her philosophy on travel into 7 takeaways –

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Finding Inspiration, Dream Trips and Adventure at the Travel Show

Travel inspiration, where do you find it?  In a movie, a book, from Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, a friend, brochure, email, mailing, etc.  There are so many travel images, stories and options coming at you on a daily basis it’s hard to filter out where to go (at least for me) as the world has so much to offer and we only have so many vacation days (and budget).  Should I stay local, venture to a new city or state in the U.S. by car, train or plane or jump of a flight (or four) to go international?  Three years ago, I decided I wanted to go on safari but hadn’t a clue how to narrow down the plethora of African safaris to find the country and vendor that was right for me.  This is how I ended up on a train to New York City to attend the New York Times Travel Show held at the Javits Center.

Brooklyn Bridge view

Apartment view of the Brooklyn Bridge

The Travel Show Floor

This trade show for consumers is held over two days (Saturday and Sunday) showcasing travel vendors from around the world with food demonstrations/tastings as well as international music and dance performances to make you forget about the cruel East Coast winter outside.  The trade show aisles are organized by country, destinations and trip type.  While Hawaii may have hundreds of hotels and resorts, only a few (that you may not have heard of before) are in attendance to educate you about their properties to lure you away from the chains of Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood and Marriott, etc.

Surfers at Manly Beach Sydney Australia

Surfers at Manly

You can get overwhelmed by the trade show floor if you’ve never been to a trade show of this scope (bring bottled water and snacks).  It’s best to divide and conquer – focus on your top interests – Caribbean, Hawaii, Africa, etc. and spend the most time obtaining information and brochures from those vendors in your research.  After your bag is full of materials and giveaways, then go be inspired by surprising destinations you may never have considered (i.e. – Iceland).

The majority of vendors are able to book you on the spot for a vacation so if you are keen on utilizing the “trade show specials” on offer but make sure you’ve done your research so that you are getting the best deal.  There is a cruise booth but it’s not a corporate cruise line that is sponsoring the booth but rather a local travel agent knowing that many folks want to go on a cruise and can book on the spot.

Jalousie Beach St. Lucia Sugar Beach

Jalousie Beach at Sugar Beach Resort St. Lucia

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Categories: Activities/Experiences, Africa, Musings, Philadelphia, Travel | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

First Trip Memories: The Italy Bus Tour With Pensioners

Great stories and memories are made from surprise, emotion and dumb luck. My first trip to Italy is definitely one of my cherished travel stories, that it involves a bus full of pensioners (senior citizens) was the great surprise!

I had recently graduated college and wanted to go to Italy but in the world before the internet and smartphones, traveling solo wasn’t something a young girl did unless she was married (thank goodness the world has changed for the most part). My aunt recommended her local church group tour but neglected to tell me that it was a bus full of pensioners (senior citizens) and I was the age of their grandchildren. Her hope was that I would hit it off with the other young solo female traveler (we didn’t quite have enough in common for me to agree to share space on the trip so this was my entrée into the world of the dreaded single supplement).  No matter, I still wanted to go and would soon be off on the bus to JFK with the group keeping to myself for the most part.

Gondolas in Venice

The view below of the gondolas in Venice – my first travel love

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Categories: Italy, Musings, Travel | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Repo Cruise – It’s Cheap and Tempting but Should You Do It?

Many folks are not familiar with a repositioning (repo) cruise but once you learn about them you may be a fan of the great value.  As my travel agent told me “you can’t live at home for that price” and she is right (sorta).  Just like the birds that fly south for the winter, cruise ships need to move about the world to reposition for the various seasons.  Europe in summer is big cruise season in the Mediterranean so many ships leave their winter ports in the Caribbean and Florida to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to their summer ports in Europe.  From bases like Barcelona, England (Harwich and Southampton), Venice, Rome and Istanbul, the ships are ready to welcome guests.  The cruise companies don’t want the ships to sail empty so they’d rather fire sale the cruise to fill it up and hope for big spenders for all of the extras (there are lots of extra fees).

Celebrity cruise Constellation

The Celebrity cruise from Istanbul to the Greek Isles and Turkey

Sailing across the Atlantic isn’t fun for those who want to be in port everyday, you see the sea, everyday for at least 8-10+ days with no port stops.  Look out the window and it’s just like yesterday and tomorrow – water everywhere. Not everyone’s cup of tea until you see that the lowest price for an 11 day cruise on a larger ship like the Norwegian Epic is $399 per person plus taxes/fees (the solo studios are a bit more).  My travel agent is right, for 11 days at home, I’m sure I spend more than that.  The basic price gets you fed and fed pretty well.  Everything else is additional like the following (not an all-inclusive list):

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Cruise Port – St. Lucia, a day at Jalousie Beach

The Caribbean is popular for a good reason – it’s gorgeous!  As I am not quite the sun and sand kind of girl (yet), I’ve avoided the Caribbean cruise for a long time, much preferring the cities and ports of the Mediterranean.  When my cruise friends invited me to join them, I jumped at the opportunity to not travel solo.  The cruise would stop at a variety of islands and my friend took the lead to book the tours for the group (I had previously booked all of the Med tours).  I was happy to hand this task off as I was on a work trip to London and would have less than 10 hours at home from my London flight to turn myself and suitcase around and jump on a new flight (this is how I ended up with ten pair of black shoes but that’s another story chalked up to jet lag).  After a week of work in London, I was happy to see the sun, the sand and the clear waters especially in St. Lucia.

St. Lucia Pitons

St. Lucia Pitons

I had heard so many honeymoon stories about St. Lucia so never really considered it a destination for me – either with friends or solo.  Well, I was quickly proved wrong with just a few hours on a day tour to Jalousie Beach (french for jealous and yes, I was).  My friend booked our group with Spencer Ambrose tours at a cost of about $85 per person.  This five-hour tour included time on the Jalousie Beach (about 3-4 hours) as well as a coastal tour. The best part is that we weren’t with a bunch of cruise folks – we had a good portion of the beach area to ourselves.

Jalousie Beach St. Lucia Sugar Beach

Jalousie Beach at Sugar Beach Resort St. Lucia

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Awesome Iceland Landscapes for #FriFotos

Living and working in the city, my daily landscape consists of skyscrapers (my office is on the 38th floor), concrete and lots of traffic on the commute.  When I travel, I feel that I can breathe and relax in the landscapes of mountains, coastlines and greenery. I can savor the wonder of nature through waterfalls, parks and animals.  Traveling allows me to jump off the hamster wheel of daily routine sleep, eat, work, gym, rinse, repeat.  This week’s #FriFotos on twitter is all about landscapes so after shoveling close to ten inches of snow today in Philadelphia, I’m reminded of Iceland where surprisingly they had no snow on my November visit (lots of rain) but the landscapes were still amazing.

Iceland Geyser Park

Geyser aftermath and included in the What’s On Reykjavik January 2015 edition


The Golden Circle – a full day out with SuperJeep we encountered history, geysers, glaciers and snowmobiling.  Fueled by cookies, I had an incredible experience seeing the various landscapes of Iceland.

Gullfoss Waterfall Iceland Golden Circle

Gullfoss Waterfall with a touch of Instagram magic

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Categories: Europe, FriFotos on Twitter, Iceland, Photography | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments