EPISODE 011 – Solo Travel: my favorite countries
Episode 011 – Solo Travel: my favorite countries, I discuss my favorite countries for solo travel or any kind of travel.
When I say my favorite countries, it means that I’ve traveled north, south, east, and west and visited multiple cities, towns, or villages within that county.
The common mistake people make is when they say “I love Portugal” but have only been to Lisbon or “I love the USA” when they’ve only visited New York City and/or LA (Los Angeles). You can’t truly love a country or call it your favorite until you’ve visited more than one or two places; any real traveler will tell you that one city does not represent the whole. You can’t tell me that Californians are the same as New Yorkers or that New York City is the same as Los Angeles or Beverly Hills – no way!
In all countries, the locals will boast to you that their town, city or region is the best but they actually want you to visit other towns & cities in their only to come back and say you agree with them.
Some of my favorite countries are, in alphabetical order:
I’ve been to: Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane, Uluru/Ayers Rock, and the Great Barrier Reef. Two months was not enough time to go through this wonderful country. Australia is just as large as the continental US (that does not include Alaska and Hawaii) but less than a 10th of the population. The middle (or most of Australia) is desert and really only inhabitable by the most hardy of folks, the Aboriginals and some of the wildest, craziest looking animals. Most of the population lives along the coastlines. Diverse landscapes and animals are viewable at every turn but no I never came across a deadly-dangerous insect or snake while I was there. and I was there for two months. A highlight: I could easily say it was seeing the Sydney Opera House or swimming in the Great Barrier Reef but honestly it was seeing a Tasmanian Devil in Tasmania. I grew up watching the Bugs Bunny cartoons and Taz was my favorite. So when I had the chance to visit, I took it. Don’t miss out on Tasmania, it’s a mini New Zealand with all its varied climates and landscapes and exceptional culinary choices.
I’ve been to: Athens and all over the mainland, Mykonos, Delos, Santorini twice, Rhodes, and Crete 3 times (it’s my favorite). I’ve said it a million times that the Greeks knew how to present their country to visitors from land, sea, and air, even before flight had been invented. To see the houses painted white with different color shutters trailing down cliffsides and the temples built on the highest mountains so that the Gods would find favor is something to wonder at. The ancient history, the architecture, the games, and literature from comedies to drama to mythology to fables are inherent in all things Greece. Some people head straight to the Santorini or Mykonos but miss all the great things about the mainland, especially Athens. Yes I still have many of the smaller islands to visit but some northern parts of the mainland also intrigue me and don’t miss the Greek olive oil and wines. A highlight: I could easily say visiting the Parthenon in Athens and walking the same path that Oracle took to Ancient Delphi were tops on my list but I loved mythology as a teen and I wasted no time seeking the Knossos Palace and the paintings of the mythical bull of Crete.
I’ve been to many of the islands of Indonesia: Jakarta and Yogyakarta on Java Island, Bali, Lombok, Gili Trawangan, and Komodo. None of them are the same. Different tastes and influences and flavors and all good. I spent a month all over this country but I could spend at least 1 month in Bali alone and not see everything. A highlight: Bali really does live up to the hype and visiting the Borobudur Temple at sunrise could compete but I have always wanted to see the Komodo Dragons since I can’t even remember.
The Middle East peacekeeper – respected by all neighboring countries – and always willing to step in and broker peace between Israel and all the other Arab nations. It was amazing to see so many sites from the Bible, to place my feet in the Jordan River, and to float on the Dead Sea. I’ve been to: Amman, Jerash, Wadi Rum Desert, Petra, Ajloun, Madaba, Mt Nebo, and the Baptismal Site of Jesus Christ on the Jordan River. I saw so much and absorbed so little in just over a week – even though our tour guide was awesome – that I will definitely spend at least 1 month in Jordan the next time I visit. A highlight: I’m a huge Indiana Jones movie fan and seeing the Treasury of Petra has always been a dream of mine but I never thought that wetting my feet in the Jordan River would mean so much to me.
NOTE: I am featured in this video!
Awe-mazing! Such a diversity of climates and landscapes and tastes and active adventures. Most of the extreme sports (like Bungee jumping) originated in New Zealand. Another great country with warm people, awesome food and wine. I’ve been to: Auckland, Bay of Islands, Rotorua, Wellington on the North Island and Picton, Christchurch, Kaikoura, Mt Cook, Arthur’s Pass, and Queenstown on the South Island. One month was definitely not enough time to enjoy everything that New Zealand has to offer. A highlight: I can laugh now about reezing my butt off and getting drenched by the thousands of waterfalls of both Milford and Doubtful Sounds but I’ve been a Lord of the Rings geek since I was 12-years old and seeing Hobbiton from Peter Jackson’s films was a dream come true.
A small island with friendly big-hearted people… It’s an archipelago of 115 islands but most are uninhabited. I’ve been all over the main island of Mahé which is only 60 square miles and to the capital city, Victoria, which is one of the smallest capital cities in the world. A highlight: I found such peace (of mind, body, and soul) there on the island and I made a very good friend.
Singapore separated from Malaysia on August 9, 1965 and became an island city-state, and basically reinvented itself into a sort of Utopian society. Yes, there are rules about spitting in public. But why would you do that or be worried about it? In my opinion, spitting in public is disrespectful to everyone, period. Anyway, Singapore is approximately 280 square miles, so not a lot of ground to cover but there’s always so much to see and do. I want to go back even though I’ve seen most of it. A highlight: eating a crab as big as my head, seeing how brilliant and beautiful the city is laid out, especially when lit up at night but standing on the observation deck of the Marina Bay Sands hotel with an almost 360 degree view of the city and sea was a wonderful experience.
My ultimate dream trip, as you know if you listened to Episode 006 of this podcast, absi=olutely changed my life. I came back a different person. Great food, excellent wines, a caring and forgiving people. I’ve been to: Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban plus safaris in Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands, and the KwaZulu-Natal region. In that previous episode, I also mentioned that if I had the chance to know when my last days would be that I would spend them in Cape Town. The impact was real on my first visit to the Motherland and I felt it deeply. A highlight: it’s a tie between going on safari for the first time and visiting Cape Town.
I’ve been to: Barcelona 5 times, Madrid, Seville, and I lived in Valencia for 1 month plus Tenerife twice for one month and Gran Canaria of the Canary Islands. Spain has some invisible fabric that’s woven into my life but I’m drawn to the food, architecture, and warmth of the people. I think I’ve visited more Spanish-speaking countries around the world than any other. The mood, the movements, and the flavors draw me in every time. Anyway, I still have much so more to see of this fabulous country. In particular, more of the Southern region (Andalusia) and Northwestern parts (Basque and Galicia) of the mainland as I have tasted some of the culinary specialties created there and they are all on my must-visit list plus the La Rioja region for the wines and the Balearic Islands such as Mallorca and Ibiza. If you’ve listened to some of my earlier episodes, you’ll know that I wanted to retire to Barcelona and I still might do just that in a few years. A highlight: I’m a huge fan of Antoni Gaudi. I was so close to choosing architecture as my profession and seeing most of his fantastical structures throughout Barcelona definitely topped up the city’s appeal.
Pho is my favorite soup or meal or whatever and I can eat it every day if I had to, even in 100-degree heat. The people make this nation great, so friendly and curious about black people but so very respectful. I’ve been to: Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Hoi An, Da Nang, Hue, Hanoi, and Ha Long Bay. The French influence in the South is still significantly felt and easily seen with some of the architecture and food options. Anyway, I will revisit Vietnam again, one month just wasn’t long enough. A highlight: I could easily say the Ha Long Bay cruise was my favorite but it was the unexpected pleasure of visiting Hoi An and walking around Ancient Town, especially at night. I can’t explain it, you’ll just have to see it for yourself. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site so that should tell you something…
Of course there are some notable mentions such as Italy, Portugal, Mauritius, Ghana, and Tanzania but I haven’t visited more than two or three places in each country to decide if they will be on my favorites list yet. But they are definitely on my “I want to revisit to learn more” list.
I felt “safe” as a solo traveler in all those countries. The only country listed above that I did not do solo was Jordan but even with the group tour, I didn’t feel like I needed protection. The people were friendly and helpful, even to the point of wanting to kick a soccer ball around with me in Amman. Plus I know a couple of ladies who have lived in Jordan as a single woman. Yes, anything can happen anywhere and the word “safe” is relative. You should always practice the same common safety precautions in a foreign country that you do at home. Don’t walk down dark streets and alleys by yourself. Don’t get drunk with people you don’t know. Etc, etc, etc.
You can’t call yourself a Queen if you’ve never ruled – and that means… listening to your gut, revisiting your childhood, and reviewing your travel dreams. Travel is such an important part of growth and maturity and a solo trip should be part of that maturity.
Take the time to learn about yourself and why you like or dislike certain things. If you’re a meat-and-potatoes kind of person and/or afraid to try new foods, don’t go to certain countries that don’t pander to your basic needs. For example: if you don’t like curry then don’t go to countries that use the powder in every dish. If you’re not interested in ancient history then don’t visit ancient sites. If you don’t like art then why be dragged through every art gallery and museum in the area? If your favorite food is Paella then visit Valencia Spain where it originated. If you love to shop for bling and gamble 24/7 then get yourself to Vegas or Macau in China. If you don’t want to leave the country then find something to see and do in the other 49 states. If you like to stay up late and get up around noon on vacation then don’t book a group tour because most often the tour day starts early… and you’ll be grumpy and complaining all day.
Seriously, don’t go blindly on vacation with friends just because they are your friends. If you do then be truthful that you’ll want your own agenda or some time to be by yourself. You might not like the same things as they do and some people act differently when they travel. I don’t know why but I know for a fact that some friendships ended on a real ugly note while on vacation.
Besides that, there’s nothing like wasting your time and money on a vacation that wasn’t satisfactory to you. It’s time to go out on your own and do your own thing. Be the Queen that has control over her own destiny and destinations.
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