Where do I begin… In March of 2013, I checked into a hostel at the border town of Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. There in the 4-bed dorm room, I found a book on the shelf of the closet. I picked it up, the title of the book “Sarah’s Key” written by Tatiana de Rosnay. I thought to myself, “Why not give this a read – It’s been ages since you last read a book that’s not a travel guidebook.”
I admit I’m typically a slow reader unless the book intrigues me. This was one of those – I finished the book in 2 days despite the fact that I still found time to visit the Iguazzu falls on the Brazilian side and a local Buddhist Temple. The book tells a story of a Jewish girl who lived in Paris, France. On the 16th of July in 1942, the French police rounded up all the Jews in Paris and sent them to Vélodrome d’Hiver (Vel’ d’Hiv). She had locked her brother inside the secret cupboard in their Parisian apartment to keep him safe, with a promise to return. She became a child of the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup.
No other Holocaust story has struck me like this. I cried painfully as though I was the girl in the story when I finished the book. Even when I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2009, I did not react like this. My heart ached. I felt physical pain. I could not understand why the connection. Continue reading
Today I heard from a couple of friends who call Paris home – my mind went right to work and a flood of memories streamed through my mind.
L’homme, I met at a yoga/meditation retreat in Kathmandu back in 2011, right after my trip to Bhutan. For a few days, we shared laughs, stories and yoga time with his partner. We even took a day trip to Patan, shopped for Tibetan singing bowls and meditated a bit in the Durbar Square.
La femme, I met just a few months ago in Banff where we shared a 4-bed hostel room in Banff. She was traveling with her partner across Canada and parts of USA, prior to their return to France after living in Toronto for a period of time. We talked about the variety of cuisine Toronto has to offer and they gave me a ride to Lake Louise and saved me a costly bus ticket. Continue reading
“To each their Own” is a favourite saying of mine.
Some days I enjoy researching the destination. Some days I enjoy planning and booking the logistics. Other days I don’t want to do anything and just sign up with a low hassle tour group with an itinerary I love. Many other days, I wander the streets of a new place without a map, blend in with the locals even when I don’t speak their language – it’s easy, just smile and nod (the address of my local home in their language in my pocket!).
For me, Home is where the heart is.
Home is where I am that day; physically, mentally, emotionally. Continue reading
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… Diane Chung www.drdianechung.com, Toronto. I’m living in the dream, baby… 😉
SWT: Where was the destination of your first solo trip?
DC: Europe (France, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands)
SWT: How old were you?
SWT: Were you single or attached at the time?
SWT: What inspired the idea?
DC: A boy–that’s all I am saying…
SWT: What was your trip style? (backpack, tour group, comfort, meetup with family/friends)
DC: Urban backpacker. Wanderer/adventurer. Allergic to tour groups.
SWT: What type of accommodations? (family owned, B&B, tents, if a hotel, how many stars)
DC: Combo of backpack/hostel, staying with friends and 3 star hotels.
SWT: How long was your trip?
DC: 3 weeks
SWT: Who looked after the logistics?
DC: I did logistics when alone, friends handled some when staying in their cities.
SWT: If you planned and/or booked the itinerary, did you enjoy the process?
DC: Yes… fun and all part of the adventure, journey, experience… though it did take time.
SWT: If you worked with a travel agent, how was the experience?
SWT: Would you / have you booked subsequent trips yourself?
SWT: What would you do different – in hindsight?
DC: I wanted to make sure I got the “most” out of my trip and made up an itinerary that covered all the major sites, museums and galleries = tourist fatigue. In hindsight, I would’ve left more times open and fluid for spontaneous detours, surprises and discovery.
SWT: Did you feel comfortable traveling solo?
DC: Yes… though homesickness did start to set in after the 2 week mark.
SWT: How much research did you do in advance?
DC: The Lonely Planet guidebook was my bible—I poured over it, dog-earred and highlighted it for nearly 2 months. They didn’t have the interwebs back then…
SWT: What was the biggest surprise on the trip?
DC: How easy it was to travel on my own, that people tend to be helpful, and that I over-prepared. I realized afterward that I would’ve been fine with less prep, and even potentially could have had more spontaneous fun, had I not planned quite so much. That said, all that prep as a first time, single woman traveling did give me a lot of peace of mind.
SWT: What did you learn about yourself during the trip that you weren’t totally aware of beforehand?
DC: My own level of initiative and courage.
SWT: Was there any close calls or run-ins?
DC: Missed the last train to a relative’s house in the suburbs of Paris because I was out just a little too late. Had the giant Metro gate close right in front of me while I was changing trains somewhere in the outskirts. Had to take an expensive and dodgy cab ride the rest of the way.
SWT: Where is your next dream destination?
DC: Iceland…or Peru
Next time, we’ll hear from Bela who chose to travel on her own…
If you’d like to share your story, contact me! 🙂
This is a work in progress…
(Click on the crossed off items for the story behind the experience of a lifetime!)
Just Be in the Tivoli Gardens in Denmark Scuba dive at Great Barrier Reef, Australia
- Go to Carnival at Rio de Janeiro
Be lost in the Potola Palace, Tibet
- See the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an
- Speak the truth, from the bottom of my heart – every day
Hike up a volcano in South America(Ecuador, Chile)
- Collect some beads at Mardi Gras in New Orleans
- Ride the Trans-Siberian express to St. Petersburg from China
Paraglide in Pokara, Nepal Parasailing in Phuket, Thailand
- Full moon party in Koh Phangan, Thailand
Swim with penguins at Galapagos Islands See Madonna in Concert Stare at the Muchas stainglass window in the St. Vitus Cathedral of Prague Snorkel in the Red Sea Climb the Eiffel Tower
- Take a ride in a gondola in Venice
Shop the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul Hike on the Inka Trails to Machu Picchu, Peru
- Find balance in my life – work in progress
- Spot a condor in flight in Patagonia
- Learn to ballroom dance
- Attend a concert at Wembley Stadium
- Find a wild Blue poppy in Bhutan
Listen to Tibetan monks chant in Jokhang Temple, Lhasa Witness turtle hatch at Mon Repos Turtle Rookery, Australia Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge
- Watch NYE fireworks in Sydney Harbour
- Cross the Antarctic Circle
- See the Aurora Australis in Antarctica
Spot a whale at Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
- See the Aurora Borealis in Norway
- Stay in Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany
Visit the Base Camp at Mount Everest Swim in the Mediterranean
Watch the sunset at Pamukkale, Turkey
- Learn to cook every dish I love to eat – work in progress
- Eat dinner at a Michelin 3 star restaurant
- Sponsor an under privileged child
White water rafting in Australia Visit all 7 continents
- Join the Travelers’ Century Club
- People watch on Ipanema beach, Brazil
- Drink a pint at Oktoberfest in Munich
Watch sunrise at Mount Sinai, Egypt Watch sunrise at Angkor Wat, Cambodia
- Stand still in the Red Square of Moscow
- Honeymoon in the Maldives
- Sleep in a Mongolian ger
Sleep in a Salt hotel in Bolivia
- Ride a train from Halifax to Vancouver, Canada
- Go to Disney World
- Catch a squid in the Hong Kong Harbour
- Launch a Sky lantern in Pingxi, Taiwan
Design and sell floral arrangements
- Enjoy the Daiichi Onsen in Hokkaido, Japan
- Drink sake while enjoying the Cherry blossoms in Kakunodate, Akita
- Learn to tread water
- Do nothing on the beaches of Boracay Island, Philippines
- Black water rafting in New Zealand
Be mystified at Ephesus, Turkey Explore the Great Pyramids of Egypt
- Witness Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
- Check the acoustics in the Coliseum
Discover the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, Egypt
- Walk on the Great Wall of China
- Find artifacts belonging to the old Porcelain Tower of Nanjing
Sit in silence in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
- Try to straighten the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Be a hopeless romantic at the Taj Mahal Imagine war at the Cairo Citadel
- Listen to the choir at Ely Cathedral
- Visit the Cluny Abbey in France
- Make sure the Transformers didn’t destroy Petra
- Talk to Extra-terrestrial life forms from the Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico
- Share a life time of laughter and memories with my amazing friends & family
Admire the original Starry Night by Van Gogh
- Rave in Ibiza
Visit the Temple of 10000 Buddhas in Hong Kong Experience life in the Amazon
- Visit all my main projects after construction; (
Atlantis Dubai, Canary Wharf, Mazagan, Rodney bay)
- Be soaked by the mists at Victoria Falls
- Be an extra on a movie set or a tv set
- Go from Surya namaska – Sun salutation to a hand stand to a full wheel
- Find stillness through meditation – every day
- Smell exotic, rare orchids in Costa Rica
- Learn to speak another language fluently. (Spanish / French / Mandarin)
- Dream a dream in Garden of Ninfa, Italy
- Smell the Wisteria flowers at Villa Cimbrone, Amalfi Coast