Update Post

It has been such a long time since I have sat down to write to you guys that I’m at a loss. This is just a short note to explain why I have been so absent this year.

At this moment, I’m typing on my brand new laptop! This is very exciting for me personally as I had previously been using a borrowed laptop to write my posts. This new one, however, has a working keyboard (very helpful given the amount of typing I do, don’t you think?), something my own old laptop lacked. So, news point number one- a new laptop.

Number two is a new obsession that I have discovered just this year- crochet! Yes, yes, I know crochet is as old as time but it is completely new to me. As such, I have spent all my spare minutes crocheting up a storm. Since I have now become quite competent, I have had requests from friends and family for their own wool creations. This has therefore encroached more fully on my time and has led me to my next topic.

My current work situation is becoming more and more straining and I have started thinking of new ways to make a living (I don’t earn any money from my blog). I have been searching for a new job in the two fields that I have skills in but, as most Australians realise, there are few jobs available (and those that are available want a junior with 10 years experience!). The exhausting process that is job hunting has dampened my spirits in an extreme manner that- I am not afraid to say- has led to numerous bouts of depression. Never fear, however, as I have overcome this and am attempting to be more positive.

Number four- As I have been job hunting, I haven’t had the chance to go on any holidays. This is essential if I am to write about my travels. Don’t worry. I have not lost my travel bug but finances and my work situation have hindered my escape. Once I make another glorious trip to another culture, you will be the first to know.

My final reason can’t be fully explained but I will give as many details as I am able. From the beginning of the year, I have been going through a number of health scares. Like I said, I won’t be going into details but these issues have been quite damaging, both physically and mentally. As of this moment, I have no clue as to what the diagnosis will be (I’m waiting for my doctor to return from a break, sadly) but I would appreciate your prayers on this matter.

I know this is a short post and not nearly as exciting as all my others but I wanted to give you guys a bit of an update. I truly do apologise to those who look forward to my weekly posts and I must ask you to bear with me. I don’t know what the future holds for me but travel and more writing is definitely on the cards.

Happy travels!

Becca.

Tour or independent?

In response to my last two posts, I thought it would be best to write about the pros and cons of travelling in tour versus travelling alone. I, for one, struggled with this very recently. I wanted to see Europe (it has always been the ultimate destination, in my mind) but I’d never been there and had no idea what to expect. You know everyone has their own misconceptions about other countries. Mine was that there was no way I would be able to travel around Europe without being able to communicate with a local, should I need help. I admit, not everyone speaks English in the major cities (and in many ways it’s wrong to expect them to) but there were many who were well versed in English that I could turn to for help.

Based on my own experience, here is my pros and cons list for travelling alone vs tours.

Tours

Pros

The best thing about doing a tour is that your tour leader and driver (if it’s a coach tour) are in charge of all your transportation between destinations. On my tour, many people would sleep on the travel days. Now, you may be thinking, why sleep when you’re travelling through an amazing country? I must admit, I was the same way at first. I was stunned that everyone was snoring their heads off while I was watching the glorious scenery glide past. However, when that countryside turns to factories and highways, there is nothing of interest to see. It quite literally puts you to sleep.

Another bonus of a tour is there’s no need to stress about all the nitty gritty details of travelling. Your accommodation, tours, maps, etc are all taken care of. Of course, sometimes it’s best to buy a city map on arrival as the ones I received were the size of a A4 piece of paper. For cities such as Rome and Paris, this won’t cut it. I recommend purchasing a proper size map from the nearest souvenir shop as this will have all the major sights on it, as well as a lot more detail (which is super helpful when you get lost. When, not if. Trust me.)

My next plus is the guided tours that are generally supplied on tours. In each city I visited with Topdeck, we did a city tour. This was so, so helpful. The tour was either a walking or driving tour and it took us to all the main sights. This is perfect if you want to get the touristy shots but weren’t overly thrilled at the prospect of wasting the day finding them all. Paris, especially, has them all spread across the city, which would take most of the day to reach each one.

Cons

The major issue I found with a tour is the people. Like I mentioned in my Topdeck review, I am not very outgoing and therefore, when I didn’t click with the people on tour, I found myself feeling lonely through most of the trip. If you are a very friendly and bubbly person, I strongly recommend taking a tour. However, if you find it hard to get along with strangers, maybe rethink a tour at this point.

The next problem with a tour is the destinations. Many tours only take you to the tourist destinations, which is understandable, as you are a tourist. However, it can be disappointing when you are looking for a tour with a difference or you want to see a country through a local’s perspective. Tours also generally use chain hotels that show none of the regions cultural flavour.

Independent

Pros

You can choose your destinations! This is my favourite part of independent travel. I can choose to visit that obscure village that only interests me. I can create my own itinerary, with my own choice of hotels, hostels or B+Bs. I can choose how long to stay in each place. Travelling independently is best for those travellers who love the freedom of choice.

There’s more chance to explore and live like a local. Because you have already considered what you want out of this holiday, you know what type of atmosphere you want. I found on my tour that having only one free day to explore limited the amount of things I could do. I was always choosing which sights I would have time to see.

You aren’t stuck with a group of strangers that you may or may not get along with. Travelling alone may sound lonely, but would you want to be miserable and surrounded by strangers who just don’t know how to take you? This is what I found on my tour and it made me dread every time I had to meet up with my group.

The biggest pro for travelling independently is the freedom to do what you want to do, without any mandatory group dinners or events.

Cons

Ok, ok. I know travelling independently is not perfect. There are problems that can occur. Mainly getting lost. You have no one to contact if you get lost. You have to struggle through those awkward conversations with broken languages. I personally found I had the most fun when I got lost. I found spots that were not on the tourist path and, looking back, I would happily get lost all over again as it was the most fun I had on tour.

You have to work out all the travel details yourself. I’m not going to lie; it’s stressful planning  the trains you have to catch and knowing what sights are open, how much they’ll cost, etc. However, sometimes too much planning can put a damper on a trip. Try having a few spontaneous days, where you just wander and explore without knowing you have to be at the train station to catch the 6:17 train from platform 12. It’s a holiday so don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself.

Travelling alone, you are forced to orientate yourself with your destination. You don’t get an included city tour that comes with being in a tour group. This is why I highly recommend buying a map. Whilst in your hotel room, you can mark where you are and where you want to go. You can become acquainted with your destination easily with a proper map.

 

There is always going to be a debate about what is the best way to travel. Everyone has their own opinion about it. It really just depends on your own preferences and needs. I have shared my own experiences and advice in the hopes of making the decision easier, not because I have all the answers. I sincerely hope this helps!

Happy travels!

Women Travelling Solo

The most common thing I hear when I tell people of my travels is: You went alone? Isn’t that dangerous? Let me clear up any misconceptions you may have right now about women travelling solo.

Misconception #1: It’s dangerous for a woman to travel alone

I am the first to admit that travelling to a foreign country, where they don’t speak English as their language can be daunting. Being a woman, however, does not dramatically increase your chances of being in danger.

Misconception #2: Thieves only target women alone

I travelled through Europe over Christmas and part of my tour group was robbed in Rome. Yes, it was a group of young women but they were on a bus when a group of gypsies swarmed them. They were also not aware of their surroundings, which is a big problem when on public transport in a foreign country. Public transport, especially in the bigger cities such as Rome and Paris, can be rife with pickpockets and gypsies. Also, thieves are not really discriminate in who they rob; they choose targets that are distracted, flustered or under prepared.

Misconception #3: It’s safer for a woman to travel with a tour

I am not going to bag out tours. Tours are a great way to see the world and make new friends but it can also turn your dream trip into a nightmare if you don’t get along with the people in your tour. Like I mentioned earlier, I went on a tour over Christmas and I found I didn’t mesh with most of the people on my tour. It caused my trip to become fraught with disappointment and loneliness. I actually spent all my free time alone, therefore nullifying the whole point of taking a tour. My advice would be to match your personality with the style of tour and age of the tour group. Contiki and Topdeck are definitely for the party-minded travellers.

Top tips for women

My advice to those women who want to travel, but have no one to travel with, is to be cautious in every situation. Travelling can be frightening but fear is what keeps you alert so don’t dismiss it. Use common sense. You wouldn’t leave your bag unattended on a train in your own country so just use the same logic whilst overseas. Pickpockets are not as common as they used to be but I would recommend buying a travel bag that provides extra safety for your important documents and electronics.

I hope this article has helped women to understand the pitfalls of travel and prepare themselves more fully. The most important tip is to prepare for every eventuality and you will have nothing to fear.

Happy travels!