Wednesday Women: Natalie

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Meet Natalie.

I’m a tea lover, literature nerd, former college professor, parent to two little kids, and restless soul. I grew up (and still reside) in Charleston, South Carolina, but I am determined to see as much of the world as I can. I’ve been blogging not-so-seriously since 2010, and pretty seriously since 2013. I mostly focus on how to travel more deeply through an immersion of history, literature, culture, and the arts, but some family travel and general lifestyle slips in there from time to time as well.

What inspired/inspires you to travel?

I’m one of those people who constantly needs to be challenging myself to be happy. For me, that goes hand in hand with learning about a new culture, visiting somewhere I’ve never been before, re-visiting an old favorite locale, and reading a novel or history about where I’m traveling. Traveling goes hand in hand with learning for me, and I just can’t get enough of both.

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Where is your favorite destination to date?

I will always, always love the British Isles: I studied abroad in London, and have visited the UK and Ireland more than half a dozen times. There’s something about the combination of culture, literary history, and sense of community that keeps drawing me back there.

How do you prefer to travel? Solo or With a group? Why?

Over the years, I’ve done just about every time of traveling as I’ve gone through different phases in my life: solo, couple, and family. These days, I’m all about incorporating my kids into the learning and cultural exploration that comes along with traveling, so that’s fun to see the world through their eyes. I also love a getaway with my husband, who’s my absolute best friend and such a good travel buddy since we complement one another well in what we enjoy seeing.

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Do you think there is a difference traveling as a woman?

As for traveling as a woman, I know that I tend to take fewer risks when I’m traveling by myself than when I’m with my husband or family. I’ll call it a night earlier, take better lit paths, and avoid certain destinations or locations. I tend to be overly cautious (to a fault), but that goes into high gear when I’m by myself.

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How do you plan your trips? When is your next one?

I tend to plan my trips WAY in advance because I’m one of those nerdy people who enjoys the planning almost as much as I do the actual going. Planning far in advance also helps me save money in our limited travel budget each year and helps my family maximize the days that my husband (who works in a location-based finance job) will get off for vacation. We tend to start our planning around the dining room table by talking about places that have been intriguing us, and we even include our preschooler in the planning! (She’s quite the traveler already and loves hotels more than anything else in the world.) We are staying put in Charleston, South Carolina, for the rest of 2016 since our second baby is making his arrival in November, but we have plans to go to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for our daughter’s birthday (she’s obsessed with rockets) and to London, England, sometime next year.

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Any advice you would like to give to your fellow travelers?

If you’re hesitating about traveling, just go! I have worried about scheduling, budgets, and family matters while planning trips, but I have never regretted going on a single one. Somehow, everything I worry about prior to leaving manages to work itself out by the time we leave.

Want to know more about Natalie?

 Cosmos Mariners: Destination Unknown

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Cruisin’ the Eastern Caribbean

In the spirit of the holidays, I decided to share a post on my second most recent trip. To escape the cold and sweat off the calories from Thanksgiving (I’m American, I know) my family and I embarked on a Carnival Cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.  We set sail from the Port of Miami two days after Thanksgiving and our itinerary was as follows:

  1. Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas
  2. Fun Day at Sea
  3. St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
  4. San Juan, Puerto Rico
  5. Grand Turk
  6. Fun Day at Sea
  7. Miami, FL

 

I think everyone should at least try a cruise once to get a feel for it. It’s the laziest way to see the world. Haha. All jokes aside, it’s great for those who want to have a stress free vacation that caters to your every need.

Below you will find photos from my week long voyage. I did not label each photo, as I will be doing individual posts on the islands later on, as well as my experience with the Carnival Cruise line.

If you are somewhere cold like me (Germany) I hope this warms your souls and gets you thinking about where to visit next!

Enjoy 🙂

 

Walk With Me: Yves Saint Laurent Garden

Words honestly fail me when trying to describe the vibrant garden dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent.  While it is a small garden in comparison to others that you may be used to seeing, for example, Garfield Park Conservatory is much bigger in size. What YSL Garden lacked in size it made up for in beauty.

 

 

 

They do have a small museum located in the garden for an additional fee, but we opted out and just enjoyed the garden alone. Twas enough for me.

Wednesday Women: Jamie

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Meet Jamie.

Hi, I’m Jamie. I am 28 years old, german and recently started life as a digital nomad. Previously I worked in an advertising agency in Vienna as a Graphic Designer but the atmosphere of the field didn’t suit me. I love taking pictures and editing them, go for long walks, do yoga, eat healthily and also very unhealthy, am addicted to way too many tv shows and just try to figure out how to live a happy life.

What inspired/inspires you to travel? 

I’m mostly inspired by my wish to see the world and change myself while doing it. Character-wise I am way more pessimistic and scared than I want to be. I’m insecure in a lot of moments and have let a lot of opportunities slip by me. Travelling helps me actively change those things. I am traveling to live in the moment and to not worry about the future, society or my own issues. I travel so I can feel empowered about my choices and my own life.

Where is your favorite destination to date? 

I think it was the city of Jogjakarta ( also referred to as Yogyakarta) in Indonesia. All of Indonesia was pretty special to me because of the people who I met and the experiences that I had. But Jogjakarta has so much to offer even though it looks so ugly and raw. It is my favorite city so far for sure. For experiencing nature my favorite place to travel is the Low Tatras in Slovakia.

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How do you prefer to travel? Solo or With a group? Why? 

I have to admit that I really hate to travel in groups. Three people can already be too many. There are so many differences, needs, problems. Everything goes too slow for my taste. I’m sure there can be different outcomes with different people. But so far I enjoyed the most traveling with one person. When I went to Asia in 2015 I traveled with a stranger, we met online and decided to go on this trip together. That was the best experience I ever had in my life. We grew so close as friends that we got a tattoo together on our last night – in Jogjakarta btw 😉

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Do you think there is a difference traveling as a woman? 

Of course. I am traveling with my boyfriend at the moment and he can a lot of times not understand at all why I don’t want to go alone to certain places or why I have troubles with going for a run next to the street because every second car is honking at me. I am aware that a lot of insecurities that I have are coming from my own experiences and I’m trying to work on them. But for me, it is a fact that women traveling alone are not as free in certain areas as men are.

How do you plan your trips? 

Ha, this is a good question. I love to just wing it. When I traveled Asia I had a very rough outline of places that I wanted to go to and then we just saw how we would get around. This kind of non-organized travel can also have some downsides (higher prices for last-minute bookings, no empty rooms in hostels, searching for everything longer) but it gave me so many adventures in the past that I’m still a huge fan. At the moment I am traveling way more organized because my boyfriend likes to take care of things way up ahead. That can be nice as well but I don’t like to live by a schedule. Maybe I’ll grow into it some more 😉

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When is your next one? 

Doing it right now. I have been in Romania last month, now in Bulgaria. Until Christmas, I plan to see Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, and Montenegro.

 

Any advice you would like to give to your fellow travelers? 

Pack everything that you feel you absolutely need. Then wait for two days and check your stuff again. Take out half of the clothes again and over think that moskitonet/knife/sandals/extra lens very carefully. You’ll have to carry it around and I guarantee you that after your trip you will not have used some of the things you thought you desperately needed 😉 Also for women travelers: Use the menstruation cups! 😉

Want to know more about Jamie?

Wednesday Women: Ashlyn

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Meet Ashlyn.

I am a twenty-something outdoor adventure traveler. I’ve been to 52 countries on six continents and fund my travels by freelance writing, speaking and shooting and editing videos. I also sell photography when possible as well.

I like to push my limits when traveling and you’ll most likely find me out hiking, surfing, scuba diving or trying out any crazy adventure activity an area offers – I’ve even flown a military jet! If it scares me, I can’t say no.

What inspired/inspires you to travel?

After five years completing two degrees in university, I decided I wanted to spend the same amount of time traveling the world so I designed a five-year travel plan. On my first six month trip, I was hooked and knew it was a lifestyle I couldn’t easily give up. I love how every day I wake up wondering how the destination I am in is going to change my life. It’s thrilling and educational – much better than sitting in a classroom to learn.

As for travel inspiration, my destinations are usually chosen based on photographs I’ve seen as well as recommendations from other travelers.

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Where is your favorite destination to date?
It’s really difficult to decide but I loved spending a month in Madagascar. It’s not an easy destination to get to and there aren’t very many tourists so the locals are still curious yet friendly. The wildlife and landscapes were pretty spectacular as well and I spent a lot of time hiking and diving.

How do you prefer to travel? Solo or With a group? Why?
I spend most of my time traveling on my own but always seem to meet up with other people on the road. Admittedly, I prefer traveling with family and friends as I find the experiences more meaningful when I can share them with someone I care about. To date, I’ve managed to visit six continents with my mom as she enjoys meeting up with me around the world.

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Do you think there is a difference traveling as a woman?
There are definitely differences traveling as a woman than as a man. Some of them are positive and some are negative. As a woman, I’m more likely to get picked up while hitchhiking, but I’m also more likely to be bothered, catcalled and stared at by men. I have to be modest in how I dress and very respectful of other cultures depending what area in the world I’m in. Men and women definitely get treated differently while traveling.

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How do you plan your trips?
I’ve discovered that long trips are best left to planning on the go, while shorter trips it’s easier and less stressful to plan in advance. I prefer to plan as I go as I like to add in side trips that I didn’t know about until I arrived at the destination.

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When is your next one?
I’m currently working on a book back at home in Saskatchewan, Canada so I don’t have an immediate trip planned. I recently flew back from British Columbia where I hike the 75 kilometer West Coast Trail. Next month I’m thinking of escaping somewhere warm in the Caribbean if I can find cheap flights.

Any advice you would like to give to your fellow travelers?
A scarf is one of the most helpful items to carry. It adds warmth, style, and additional coverage when entering mosques or temples. It can also be a towel on short notice.

Want to know more?

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Wednesday Women : Kristina

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Meet Kristina. 

Hi! My name is Kristina. I’m a Canadian-born traveller currently backpacking/living in Southeast Asia with my French boyfriend, Gaspard. I have been a traveller almost my whole life; I’ve grown up in several countries and have lived as an expat for most of my childhood. The travel lifestyle has become a natural part of my life, and when I am not abroad I feel antsy! After six years of university back in Canada, I left home once again and have been on the go ever since.

My feet have gently settled for a time being – in Thailand! Gaspard and I have now been living in Koh Phangan, a small island in the south of Thailand, for the past three months and we have no plans to move on anytime soon! I have a job here as a SCUBA diving instructor at an amazing dive school in a lovely quiet area of the island. I could not be happier.

What inspires you to travel?

I have constantly reflected upon why travelling so important and so vital in my life. I believe travel makes me feel connected; I feel connected to people, I feel connected to cultures. Travel allows me to continuously face new challenges and new situations and in turn lets me grow as a person. Travel allows me to feel humble, and reminds me that the world is a complicated and diverse place. I would not have the same lived experiences if I stayed at home.

Travel allows me to feel free and creative. When I travel, I see opportunities that would not have been available to me if I had stayed in one place – if I had stayed at home. Travel allows me to remind myself, daily, that there is more than one path to follow; you don’t have to follow the same road as everyone else. Feeling creative is important to me, and travel helps me find creative outlets. Whether it’s appreciating art from several cultures, or practicing yoga at the beach.

Travel is my therapy. I feel less anxious; I feel less pain, I am happier when I am on the road. And if travelling is the key to my physical and mental heath, then that is the only inspiration I will ever need to keep my feet on the go.

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Where is your favorite destination to date? 

I always love travelling to Thailand. Thailand is an easy country to travel to; as a traveller you are well taken care of. But you can always step aside and stay away from the typical traveller’s route and discover a Thailand that is all your own. It is such a diverse country; no place is the same. In the north you have the Golden Triangle, in the south the beaches, then you have vibrant cities like Bangkok. Every destination in Thailand is unique. Thailand’s culture is unique as well. It is one of the only countries in Southeast Asia that was not colonized, therefore its tradition has stayed authentic and its own. For that I think Thailand is such a culturally rich destination as well: The spiritual traditions, the language, and the food!

How do you prefer to travel? Solo or With a group? Why?

I do not like travelling in groups! I find it overwhelming, and I don’t feel in control of my own trip. I am the person who will always end up following along with what the others want to do rather than voice what I really want to do. Not only that, I think traveling in a group can become an organizational nightmare! Accommodating to everyone’s plans, spending loads of time waiting for others, and deciding on itineraries. I find it more constricting to travel with more than two people in a group, and my personality means I will be the one stressed out about whether or not everyone is having a good time. I like travelling with my boyfriend. I don’t need any more company than that. We are a great fit and fantastic travel buddies. We are both very introverted people, so it’s easy to decide to take low-key days and not have to worry about jamming in a full-day plan. We are interested in similar things too, so we agree on destinations and activities easily.

I enjoy solo travel too, and sometimes getting time to travel on my own is really rewarding. I feel accomplished when things go smoothly, and it’s freeing to be on no one else’s time than your own. I was recently in Penang, Malaysia for a few days on my own. I felt triumphant when I successfully organized my travel arrangements, when I was able to argue my way out of potential scams, and even help other “newbie” travelers along the way. I did it all on my own. While I was in Penang I didn’t care if I ended up spending hours reading my book in a café. I had no one to worry about!

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Do you think there is a difference traveling as a woman?

I think travelling, as a woman, has become a huge trending subject to talk about. I have never thought about it so much until recently. Perhaps it’s because I have traveled solo more often lately, or perhaps it’s a result of the fact that every female traveller talks about her experience…

I am very aware of my sex. I am aware of it no matter where I am or what I am doing. I am aware of other things too; I am petite, I am brunette, I am young… these are things that affect my lived experience too.

And of course, that doesn’t change while I am travelling. Perhaps when I travel alone, it becomes even more of a big deal that I am on my own because I was told it is a big deal to travel solo as a woman. For fair enough reasons. We are the minority sex, and we are often the victims. So when a woman travels on her own, her friends and family immediately warn her about the dangers of travelling alone. Traveling to an unknown place is a scary thing for many people. And for many women who want to travel solo, it has become the very thing that stops them from traveling all together. The fear of the unknown is the major factor. Being a female in your hometown can be just as dangerous if not more than when you’re travelling.

As a young female adult, I am aware of my vulnerabilities. It makes me anxious when I travel to new and unfamiliar places. But from past experience I remind myself that I have nothing to fear. As long as I keep my wits about me, stay logical, and not accept anything I wouldn’t accept back home, I will be fine.

But because the worry is instilled in me, I find the small successes of travel become huge victories. Just like my journey to Penang; being so proud of myself that I was able to get through the trip without an anxiety attack or feeling like a “damsel in distress”. There is nothing wrong with feeling proud of the little victories, but it shouldn’t be a surprise when you have made achievements – whether on your travels or in daily life.

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How do you plan your trips?

Plan? I don’t! Not really. On our travels, a day or two in advance, my boyfriend and I will decide where to go and book our ticket to our next destination. We will then book accommodation, but that is as far as we go. We never make a list of things to do, or make a daily itinerary of what to do and where to visit. Our travel style is slow and relaxed. We value exploring a place by simply getting lost in the area and only occasionally visiting popular sites. We want to experience a place for its authenticity rather than go on tours to popular/organized sites. I think making a rigid plan is bound to fail and doesn’t leave much room for surprises that you will encounter along the way. I think not having a plan allows you to be open to creating more experiences, as you don’t have anything pre-arranged!

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When is your next one?

I am not sure what my next adventure will be, or when it will be. I am enjoying my current one so much, and I think I’d like to keep it up for some time. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to live and work on such a gorgeous island. It’s definitely a dream come true!

Any advice you would like to give to your fellow travelers?

Apart form “don’t plan much”; don’t be too anxious as it hinders you from really enjoying your travels and experiencing things genuinely. Stay safe – of course – and like with anything you do, stay wise. Follow your gut, but stay open. Travelling is the most real way you can ever learn and experience life, be tolerant to new customs, be empathetic to strange ideas. Don’t judge or compare countries to each other, especially to your own. I can guarantee you that if you do, you will be grumpy a lot! If you enter an experience with solid expectations you are setting yourself up for disappointment and not opening your heart to new experiences and life lessons.

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Walk With Me: Cologne Cathedral

While shopping in Cologne,  we stumbled into the beautiful Cathedral. With the sun shining down on the Cathedral it made for a very colorful and picturesque interior ( with the assistance of the stained windows that told stories of Christ).

Even if you’re not religious, its nice to visit these building with such intricate design constructed all the way from the mid 1200’s. You get lost. Take a walk with me.

Wednesday Women: Danielle

worldsmith-headshot-2Meet Danielle.

I’m a freelance travel writer and blogger on a year-long RTW trip. Over the years, I’ve supported myself financially with everything from leading tastings at a winery to overseeing public art programming (and some less glam stuff too, but who likes to read about bookkeeping?). But it’s all been in support of this – my true profession.

What inspires you to travel?

Travel is just who I am. It’s in my blood. My dad grew up as an army brat, even spending a few of his formative years in Thailand. His parents continued traveling for fun well into their 70s, so I grew up with a strong awareness of the world beyond my home. I came by my wanderlust natural, and was very fortunate to have a childhood filled with stories of China, Egypt, and Peru. Travel was never painted as inaccessible to me, which sadly isn’t the case for everyone.

Where is your favorite destination to date?

It’s really impossible to pick just one. I don’t even play the favorites game with books or movies, much less cities. My most visited destination is the south of France, both Provence and the Languedoc. Florence ranks pretty highly in my book. If I had to choose a place to live, I’d probably go with London or Paris. And in the realm of pleasant surprises, I fell head over heels for Ljubljana, Slovenia and Belgrade, Serbia this summer. Two very different cities I never expected to visit. Ljubljana’s charm was instantaneous with a strong café culture, surprisingly good wine, and a clearly high quality of life. Belgrade was slower to warm, but once you get past the communist bloc architecture, the city has such a tremendous spirit and energy.

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How do you prefer to travel? Solo or with a group? Why?

I’ve been on some fantastic group tours, but currently I’m a solo traveler through and through. I’m very introverted, which a lot of people mistake for being shy. Not the case. Shyness stems from a fear of rejection. Introversion is a more complex personality type, but essentially it means you have a limited amount of social energy and need alone time to recharge. Traveling solo gives me complete freedom and control over how, when, and with whom I socialize. It keeps me from burning out.

Do you think there is a difference traveling alone as a woman?

Hell yes! There’s a difference doing almost anything as a woman. That’s not because men and women are fundamentally different. We all have more in common than we realize. But a long, long history of people believing in a fundamental difference has led to genders being separated and having different experiences. (Is this too philosophical for the Internet? Sleeping is not allowed at the Athens airport, so I’m writing this at 2am to keep myself awake.)

For a more practical answer, women often have different safety concerns. Travel affects our health differently too because of menstrual cycles. And obviously people around the world react very differently to women traveling alone, even in more “liberal” countries where they think they’re being positive. I get a lot of “Damn girl!” and “Wow, good for you.” No one would find a man traveling alone remarkable, positively or negatively.

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How do you plan your trips?

Obsessively. Travel planning is my favorite thing to do. Whenever I had time to kill at home or was procrastinating at my day job, I planned travel. I played with flight itineraries on Skyscanner or Bootsnall Indie and overland itineraries on Rome2Rio. I sketched out maps on post-its and compared daily costs of living. My RTW trip is a journey three years in the making, and I’m still making adjustments as I go. It is a constant process and always on my mind.

A couple of rules of thumb I use when planning a leg of my trip:

I try to travel overland as much as possible, but at the same time, I rarely book a bus or train ride longer than 10 hours. As a result, I often wind up in unexpected places.

I subscribe to Sherry Ott’s “one day on, one day off” model of working while traveling. When I decide to visit a city, I get a rough count of the things I want to do there, guess how many days it would take me to do them, and then double that number for my booking, so I can alternate work days with travel days.

When is your next one?

Who knows? It’s really hard to see beyond the end of my RTW adventure. I expect to return to my hometown at the end of June 2017. I’ll definitely need some time to regroup and save the money for whatever comes next.

The next stretch of my current trip will take me out of Europe for the first time, to India and Nepal, where my boyfriend is meeting me for a two-week Himalayan trek to celebrate his birthday.

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Any advice you would like to give your fellow travelers?

Ditch your bucket list! Expectation is the mother of disappointment, and pinning all your hopes of happiness on a place you’ve never been is a risky game to play. I went to Dubrovnik in large part because kayaking around the city walls had been on my bucket list for ages. But thanks to a misleading sales rep and a rude guide, the experience was actually awful. My visits to unexpected corners of the Balkans like Ljubljana, Mostar, and Belgrade were all much more rewarding and enjoyable. I do still take part in “bucket list” activities, but I try to have a much more relaxed attitude about doing so.

 

Want to learn more about Danielle?

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Wednesday Women : Eva

eva-explores-3Meet Eva.

I’m Eva, a solo female traveler who just left on a trip of indefinite length! I am working remotely as an editor and social media manager along with running my travel blog, Eva Explores, about solo female travel. I love expressing myself creatively, whether that’s taking photos of colorful buildings, singing a song, or creating a sketch comedy video with my friends.

What inspired/inspires you to travel?

I love to see how other people live around the world, and even how they used to live when I visit places with a rich history. The fascinating nuances of how culture differs around the world, but how we are all essentially the same. Also, to be honest, I am constantly searching for the best cup of coffee!

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Where is your favorite destination to date?

I’m going to go SUPER cliché right now and say Paris! Although I recently went to Prague for the first time and that reminded me of Paris in a lot of ways. I just love French culture, and of course food! I feel like I’m living inside of a movie when I am in Paris.

How do you prefer to travel? Solo or With a group? Why?

I personally prefer traveling solo. I went on my first international solo trip this year, and was hooked! I love having the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want. It’s an easy decision for me, since I’m an introvert. Solo travel lets me choose whether or not I want to engage with the outside world or just stay to myself observing everything around me.

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Do you think there is a difference traveling as a woman?

I do think that there is a difference. Unfortunately, women still have to think about safety in a unique way before deciding on a destination, and then during her travels. It’s no reason to stay at home, but it factors into the way we travel. I rarely leave my accommodation at night if unaccompanied, because I feel more comfortable. Also, around the world women don’t have the same freedoms to travel as men. In much of the world it’s still expected that women will get married and bear children at a relatively young age. There’s no time to travel, and even if there were the money they would spend traveling has to go to necessities like taking care of a family.

How do you plan your trips?

Currently I just wing it! When I first started traveling, I planned everything down to the hour. Now that I’m traveling long-term there’s really no need to do that. I usually get the desire to go to a certain place from reading a travel blog or seeing a photo on Instagram. Or I travel somewhere because I have friends who live there. From there, I try to travel overland as much as possible (I actually hate flying!) to any nearby destinations. For my current trip in Europe it was a combination of everything. Originally I wanted to explore Eastern Europe because of the beautiful photos I saw on travel blogs. Then I added Helsinki, Finland as a base because my best friend lives there. While in Helsinki I was browsing Instagram and saw a photo of a coffee shop in Prague and thought ‘I have to go there!’ I booked a flight to Prague and have been taking buses and trains north back to Helsinki.

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When is your next one?

I am currently in Poland, but in October I am going to Asia for the first time! I’ll be going to my first TBEX as well. From there, I have one or two planned countries to visit, but mostly I’ll be taking my time exploring the region slowly.

Any advice you would like to give to your fellow travelers?

Embrace the unknown! Anyone who travels for any amount of time will tell you that things pop up you never could have expected. If you’re rushing around from place to place just trying to check off the top sites, you miss so much. Try waking up in the morning with no idea of what your day will hold and then letting your intuition guide you!

Want to know more about Eva?

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