Single Woman Travels! (SWT) is a place to inspire and motivate women (and men) around the world to travel. She did What?! is a monthly series of Q&A – asking women around the world to share their past travel experience. From this, I hope a few more women who are on the brink of expanding their world will be inspired and motivated to turn their dreams into reality.
Bio… Serena Jaye, Melbourne, Australia – HR at Monash University – This is my dream job! I love working with people 🙂
SWT: Where was the destination of your first solo trip?
SJ: Africa and Egypt
SWT: How old were you?
SWT: Were you single or attached at the time?
SJ: Technically single but as it always happens, I had just met a guy and we were dating for about 3 weeks prior to my departure.
SWT: What inspired the idea?
SJ: When I was a child, I used to play with a stone carving of the Sphinx my great grandmother brought home from her trip there years earlier. It was passed down to my grandmother and then me when I was 25. After hearing about the pyramids and the history of them it became my dream holiday. Naturally, my love of the African continent grew the more research I did, so my desire expanded to wanting to do a safari as well.
The dream became a reality when I came into a large sum of money from a work bonus. I had a mortgage at the time and thought this was the last opportunity for me to make this dream a reality!
SWT: What was your trip style? (backpack, tour group, comfort, meetup with family/friends)
SJ: I have backpacked around Europe and Asia previously and prefer the rough style of travel. It’s cost effective but I think you get more to the nitty gritty of the country and heart of the people traveling this way. However, being safety conscious I decided to see Egypt and Africa predominantly on low budget tours.
SWT: What type of accommodations? (family owned, B&B, tents, if a hotel, how many stars)
SJ: The accommodation was arranged through the tour companies. Mostly hostels or low star hotels.
SWT: How long was your trip?
SJ: 3 weeks
SWT: Who looked after the logistics?
SJ: I looked after the logistics. I basically wrote down the tourist sites and places I wanted to visit and then reviewed the tours available within my budget and time frame.
SWT: If you planned and/or booked the itinerary, did you enjoy the process?
SJ: I loved this part of the process. It builds excitement for the places you want to see and also opens you up to other places of interest you may not have been aware of. It can however be quite heartbreaking if there is something that logistically you can’t make work in your time frame or budget. For example, something not on a particular tour but everything else is, or tour dates don’t match up, flights are not available when you need them! Then there is the decision making process of what you will have to miss. I usually find there is one of these things on every trip. In Egypt, it was Mount Sinai and Cape Town in Africa.
SWT: If you worked with a travel agent, how was the experience?
SJ: Once I had a rough idea of my plans, I handed them over to STA Travel. I worked completely via email with a fantastic travel agent who booked everything perfectly for me. She got me some great flight deals and the overall price for flights and tours were well under my budget.
SWT: Would you / have you booked subsequent trips yourself?
SJ: I have booked other trips myself around Asia and found this to be really easy. I always ensure I research the local transport systems before departing and have a copy of a Lonely Planet handy.
SWT: What would you do different – in hindsight?
SJ: Nothing – loved everything and met fabulous people!
SWT: Did you feel comfortable traveling solo?
SJ: I did feel comfortable to be honest. I recall walking through a market in Luxor late at night and feeling completely safe. Sure, the men call out to you and ask to marry you but the attention was not harmful. It was actually quite funny and part of the atmosphere of these places.
SWT: How much research did you do in advance?
SJ: I spent about 6 months researching before I left. Reading online and Lonely Planet guides in particular.
SWT: What was the biggest surprise on the trip?
SJ: Getting sick from the water in Egypt! I managed to go nearly the entire trip without drinking their tap water but one morning, I had an orange juice at my hotel. Little did I know they fill juice with half water there, so within 2 hours, I was sick as a dog and bedridden for 4 days.
SWT: What did you learn about yourself during the trip that you weren’t totally aware of beforehand?
SJ: I learned that I can do anything. That I can get from A to B alone and without a man. That as long as I have my wits about me and don’t do anything silly, I can enjoy the world and meet new people. Traveling alone for the first time single handily changed how I saw my independence.
SWT: Was there any close calls or run-ins?
SJ: When I flew from Egypt to Africa, I flew into Zambia. The Zambian airport was quite small and remote so I organised a transfer from my hotel before I left Australia. As it turns out, my transfer didn’t arrive. Within a few minutes, a lovely local asked me where I needed to go and directed me to another driver who was passing my hotel. I had a moment of panic but generally people do try to help you.
SWT: Where is your next dream destination?
SJ: My next dream holiday is South America. But I think it will be a few years away yet!
Next time, we’ll hear from Alison who chose to travel on her own…
If you’d like to share your story, contact me! 🙂