Top 10 Solo Travel Tips

(Sunset photo taken on a month long solo travel around South East Asia.  Taken in El Nido, Palawan. Philippines.)

I am a week out from a solo, beach adventure to Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean Islands.  I booked this flight, on a whim one evening while browsing my emails for flight deals.  $99 one way flights from Fort Lauderdale was an offer I could not pass up! As I sit here and finalize the last of my details, I wanted to offer you some of my personal tips for staying safe and enjoying yourself while traveling solo.  

So before I jet off to my next destination, here are some of my best tips on how to travel safe, successfully, and to genuinely enjoy a solo trip.

 1.  Join a free walking tour or purchase an organized group tour around the city. 

This is by far one of the best ways to meet like-minded travelers, swap travel stories, and make friends to meet up with along your stay.  Along with that, the local guides are full of information!  They are most often friendly, helpful and more than willing to share information on tourist spots or off the beaten path interests.

2.  TALK TO PEOPLE!   Locals, other tourists, Uber/Taxi drivers, waiters, bar staff, hotel staff, Airbnb hosts, etc.

More often than not, people are friendly and helpful.  Having a smile and positive attitude goes a long way when traveling.  Ask questions and get information about the top restaurants, smart ways to get to a destination, and best times to visit certain areas. And if you’re still a bit unsure while talking with someone, it’s OK to lie a little and say you need to know because you’re meeting a friend.

3.  Secure belongings, ALWAYS.

You’re traveling alone, you have to look out for YOU, you do not have a companion to watch your back.  Make sure your backpack/handbag you carry along with you outside the hotel is secure, zipped and even locked.  Wear a fanny pack, over the shoulder bag, or even a backpack in the front if you feel unsafe.  You may look a bit silly, but I’d chose silly over having my personal belongings taken any day of the week!  Inside my hotel room, besides using the safe in my room, I always bring a lock for my luggage.  If I’m wary about the hotel safe, locking my belongings inside my luggage is the next best thing.

4.  Get to know your hotel surrounding in the daylight hours.

It is really important to me to spend a few hours perusing the streets and becoming familiar with the area I will be staying in.  Closest markets, restaurants, places to visit, and dodgy areas to avoid are all things I look for.

5.  Be cautious at night.

If something does not feel right, trust your instincts.  You are responsible for YOU!  Grab a taxi, or pop into a hotel/restaurant and ask them to call you a legal taxi.  Get onto WIFI and call an UBER.  Never risk your safety at night.  Most often on my holidays I wake early to explore and discover the city, and am back in my hotel neighborhood by nightfall.  This way I’m not left lost, uncertain, or feeling anxious. Sure, there are some nights I go out, but I make sure to have my arrangements in place for transportation or have walked the path previously, knowing its safe.

6.  Be careful about drinks from strangers.

Best rule, don’t accept one, but if you do, pay REAL close attention to how it’s being made and whos hands it passing through.

7.  Drink bottled water. 

Self Explanatory.  Just do it. 🙂

8.  Enjoy your OWN company.

Find your zen, read a good book, meditate, listen to some music, relax on a beach or a park bench and just enjoy the time to yourself.

9.  Leave your flashy jewelry, purses, and clothes at home.

I never travel with any good jewelry or purses for the simple reason that I do not need to draw anymore attention to myself then I already do.  Let’s be honest, I travel a lot in countries where my ‘look’ is outside of the norm.  A blonde, white-skin, western woman draws enough attention.  With that being said, be confident and walk purposefully.  If you look like you know what you’re doing, you might just feel as if you do as well. 😉

10.  Be you. 

You chose to travel for a reason, tap into that reason, and embrace it.  Do what makes you happy, on your time.  The best part about traveling solo is you don’t have anyone to please but yourself!  You’re free to come and go as you wish, without having to wait around or be rushed by others.  Enjoy that!  Do something you wouldn’t normally do, take yourself out of your comfort zone if you’re feeling frisky!

 

The Best Surprises Involve Photography!

February 2018–Conway, South Carolina USA


I’d been waiting for my ‘Saturday Surprise’ since arriving home from China a few weeks ago. Do you know how hard it is to wait that long?  Patience has never been my best virtue.  Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating for us on the weekends, so it continued to be postponed. FINALLY we had some good weather to kick it off!!

If you ask me, what’s the best kind of surprise? A new adventure, of course, involving photography and exploring!

The morning started, as Saturday’s usually do, with a long walk with the dogs and a trip to our favorite breakfast spot, The Bagel Shop. I was finally presented with two options for our ‘Saturday Surprise.’  Since I haven’t lived in Myrtle Beach long, and I’m not from the South, there are so many new places for me to experience, so I get really excited for new opportunities.  My two options that I had been waiting on for weeks were; Conway Riverwalk or Brookgreen Gardens.  We experienced Brookgreen Gardens, during their ‘Festival of Lights’ at Christmas, but seeing it in the day would look completely different.  As beautiful as I know the Gardens are, I chose Conway Riverwalk, purely to get some grungy, high-contrast photo opportunities.  I’d been wanting to challenge myself with some different scenery, so this was the perfect surprise for me.

Just a short drive into Conway led us to a Riverwalk, which was nice, but not exactly what I was looking for.  With a quick glace to the right, we both discovered an abandoned railroad track.  Perfect!  This is what I wanted to see, shoot and explore.

 

The railway was rickety, grungy, and dangerously crossed over the river.  Following it just brought a heightened level of excitement!  Myself and my camera were completely enjoying the day.  After following the tracks for a bit, it led us to an abandoned Railway Station.  There were signs everywhere claiming, ‘NO TRESPASSING’ and a few cameras monitoring the spot.  We weren’t there to tag up the abandoned building, equipment, or cars, we were harmless, simply on a quest for photos and new experiences. So we went with it, and walked around, staying far enough away as to not over step our boundaries.  It was completely worth the risk, capturing some great photos along the way.

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Take a look through my photos and enjoy my version of a perfect ‘Saturday Surprise.’

The Romance of Hangzhou, China

‘Heaven on Earth’

January 2018–Hangzhou, China


Some call it ‘Heaven on Earth,’ some say ‘City of Romance,’ and others refer to it as ‘Honeymoon City.’ No matter which title you choose, each of them will accurately describe the city of Hangzhou. I mean, even Marco Polo fell in love with Hangzhou, so it must be true!

This ancient Chinese capital city is a scenic beauty in the Eastern corner of China. Life here is a bit more relaxed and easy, compared to most cities in China.  With a population of just nine million people, Hangzhou is considered a small city.  I know what you’re thinking…nine million, SMALL?!? Well, if you compare it to the one hundred and twenty Chinese cities with a population of over ten million people, yes, Hangzhou is small.

It’s a city filled with natural blossoms and gardens, tea fields, silk, mountain views, authentic cuisine, and the ever so famous, West Lake.  If you have only one day to discover this dreamy city, much like I did, spend it taking in the romantic views of West Lake. It is by far the top attraction in Hangzhou, as a World Heritage Sight and ‘symbol’ of the city.  So hop on a bullet train from Shanghai and forty five minutes later, you can enjoy some of the Chinese countryside.

Have a look and enjoy some of the beauty that is Hangzhou, China.

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Sunset Through The Trees
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West Lake Bridge
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Mountain Sunset
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Pink Blooms
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A Garden In A Garden
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Flowering Kale
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Sunset Over West Lake
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Garden View
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Gardens
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Flowers
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My Peaceful Place
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Ornamental Cabbages
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Chinese Writing
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Capturing West Lake
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West Lake Beauty

 

To The Moon and Back

January 31, 2018–Garden City, South Carolina


 

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I’ve always been in love with the sightings of the moon. Last night definitely proved that point as I stood in 20 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, brisk roaring winds, and high tide rolling waves in order to capture some shots of the ‘super blue blood moon.’ I completely underestimated the Atlantic winds and brutal cold, but I wanted to return to the spot I viewed the supermoon in December. It was full of special memories, new beginnings and the spot holds a beautiful space in my heart. Plus, there’s no better way to see the moon glisten brightly, than over a beach with flowing waves.

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I still remember the exact moment when I perfected my first moon shot. It was in Door County, Wisconsin, in the summer of 2016. I was there on a girl’s trip with my mom to visit wine country, enjoy some new food, and view the nature and lively surroundings of the thumb of Wisconsin. I took so many pictures on that trip of nature, sunsets, trees, and then finally an acceptable moon shot. It was a proud moment, seeing the details of the craters in the moon on my DSLR!

And now today, I’m even more obsessed with the moon. It gives me a lot of special memories, and also holds a special place in my relationship.

The moment we stepped on the beach, we actually stopped in awe at both the glow and the reflection in the ocean. It was enough to light up the sky! I really hope all of you got a chance to look outside and catch a glimpse!

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Unfortunately, I was only able to capture the moon this night, (not so much the beach or pier) because as much as I wanted to take photos, my frozen hands and camera just  wouldn’t cooperate. But, I’ll leave you with a few photos, a couple fun edits, and a some fun facts about the ‘super blue blood moon.’

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Why is it called a ‘blue moon?’ The term blue moon was used because a full moon happened twice in the month of January 2018, something that rarely happens in any month. So, of course, it is said to happen, ‘once in a blue moon.’

What makes the moon ‘super?’ The moon is at its Perigee, the closest point to Earth at this time, giving it a spectacular glow and brightness we don’t always get to see. It actually appears 14% larger and 30% brighter.

Where does the ‘blood moon’ name come from? The sun’s light is skimming through the earth’s atmosphere, giving the moon an orange or red glow.

And for those who were able to catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse, I must say, I’m incredibly jealous! I realized too late it was happening, thinking it would happen into the evening or early next morning. Big loss on my part, I promise to be more on top of it next time!