Hidden gems in Croatia

Last time when I was in Croatia was five years ago: two days in Dubrovnik. The beauty of Dubrovnik had haunted me ever since. The short visit made me curious about the other parts of the country. Finally, I arrived in Croatia for the second time, to spend longer time and take a road trip around the country.

Tourism is booming.  When I arrived in Dubrovnik, though already off season (mid-September), it failed to touch my heart in the same way than five years ago. Stunning as it is, the old city is just packed with tourists, and all the traditional shops, cafes have turned into selling tourist products and menus. However, this time with a car, I was able to go wherever I wanted. As always, I did not do any planning or read any tourist books in advance, just hoped to encounter surprises on the way, and I was not disappointed.

There are many articles about routes and destinations of Croatia. In this post, I just want to share some of the hidden gems that I have discovered along the way.

Cavtat

View of Cavtat

View of Cavtat

Afternoon walk in the old city

Afternoon walk in the old city

Cavtat is only 20 minutes' drive away from the airport. It is very small, you can walk around it within 30 minutes. You can spend a chilled afternoon just roaming around, sipping a cup of coffee by the sea side, dipping in the crystal clear water and relaxing under the sun. In the evening, there was a performance of Tango dancing along the walking street by the sea side. I found it was a perfect stop over which got me relaxed and into ‘holiday mode’.

Trsteno

The Roman Fountain

The Roman Fountain

I stopped over here for late lunch and wandered around after Dubrovnik city. It possesses great natural beauty: many different types of plants, a Roman garden with a fountain, situated by the sea. After experiencing a morning with a city fully packed, this little place offered me much needed quietness.

Mostar (in Bosnia)

The decision to go to Mostar was super last minute. I was driving towards Split, and the route requires crossing the border of Bosnia. The police at border control only gave a glance at the car, and waved me away. So I thought to explore Bosnia a bit while I was there!

The view of Mostar

The view of Mostar

The drive towards Mostar did not give in much – narrow curvy roads in the hills. When I parked the car in the new city side, I was not impressed. But it was already late and getting dark, so I decided to stay there overnight. Later when I went out to get dinner, I followed the way suggested by my host to the ‘old bridge’ and what a pleasant surprise it was: first when I turned the corner at the walking street, it felt I was walking in a market of Istanbul, then it let me to the most beautiful bridge and view. The bells of the church and the prayers of the Islamic temple are both in the air, which signals the co-existence of religion and cultures.

Dragon’s Eye Lake

The lake is a natural swimming pool

The lake is a natural swimming pool

It was sunny, and I was looking for a place to swim and relax. After parking the car, I followed a small group of people carrying beach bags. It was such a pleasant surprise – a lake with cliffs around it. I got into my swim wear and jumped in from one of the spots, even more surprise: the water was salty! There were only 6 people there including myself – some just floating in the water, some looking for different heights and spots to jump in, one was in a wet suit and diving into the small caves.

Primosten

The island from afar

The island from afar

It used to be an island, in the recent years, a land was built to connect it to the mainland, so you can just walk there. The highest point sits a church, I found it was extremely peaceful to sit there and watch sunset. Many places offer traditional Croatian food with reasonable price. In the evening, you see local people sitting around in their yards and chatting, people would say hi to each other and exchange some friendly words. Though touristy, it still has an authentic feeling to it.

Mljet

The views while on the walk around the 'small' lake on the island

The views while on the walk around the 'small' lake on the island

Mljet is just a short ferry or catamaran ride from any of the main ports in Croatia. It's relatively unheard of, which adds to the beauty of the island as is untouched and quiet.The entire north-west of the island is the National Park that includes two salt water lakes - Veliko and Malo Jezero (Large and Small Lake). The Lakes stretch for about 4 kilometres and are bordered by great cycling and walking routes. Right in the middle of the Large Lake there is a small island / islet Melita (Sveta Marija) with large building of a former Benedictine monastery, erected there in 12th century. The monastery’s building is now café/restaurant and doesn't take long to explore, after the short crossing on a small boat that leaves from either side of the lake. Both lakes are great for walking, cycling, swimming and kayaking.

The south-west side of the island provides some spectacular sunsets

The south-west side of the island provides some spectacular sunsets

 

The south of the island is where you will find the island's beaches. Lovely quiet, white sandy beaches! There is only one main road on the island so it's hard to get lost and you can even explore Odysseus cave; a cave steeped in mysterious history. The island is also well known for it's white and red wine, olives, goat's cheese and scuba diving. Covered in Mediterranean forest it's the ultimate scenic escape. 

Rastoke

The river and falls

The river and falls

Again, finding Rastoke was a bit of coincidence. After a long day in Plitvice Lakes, I did not feel driving for too long. On the way to Zagreb, I passed a town called Slunj, and decided to stay. Next morning after breakfast, I picked up a leaflet my host left behind and was impressed by the pictures, so went out for a walk.

You can bath in some areas of the falls

You can bath in some areas of the falls

The river side is very impressive with several waterfalls. It looked like a great place for kayaking, a bit further from the river, there were several areas that you can bath in. Plitvice was very enchanting, but you would not be able to jump in and swim in the waterfalls. If you are like me – eager to have a dip Rastoke is perfect!

Zagreb

The old city of Zagreb

The old city of Zagreb

Street art in Zagreb

This was my last stop. The weather has turned (thunderstorm), and I ditched the plan to follow the coast line. Instead, I drove towards Zagreb where I would fly out and thought I’d just spent my time indoors and catch up with some work.

Many travel posts said Zagreb was not worth more than half a day. But I was so glad with the choice I made for spending a couple of days here. This is the city where people work and live in, where you can find authentic restaurants to eat in with groups of locals, and shop in the stores where locals do daily shopping.

I just walked random in town. If it rained too heavy, I’d just take refuge in a museum or a cafe. The city has so many interesting museums: the museum of Illusions, the Museum of Broken Relationships were my favourite. I also randomly walked through a tunnel, which had interactive exhibition of Croatia history (at one part of it, you will need to walk through a long and dark part of the tunnel which rains even more heavily than outside).

And lastly, here are some tips if you plan to have a road trip in Croatia:

Plan your parking in advance

Parking is a nightmare in Croatia – almost every city/town. Due to the history, the alleys are narrow, and spaces are limited. My recommendation is: don’t drive into the city. When you are close enough, find a parking spot on one of the main road and walk it. I’ve seen many cars with scratches, and frustrated drivers trying to navigate out from the centres.

Take beach shoes

Croatia have few sandy beaches. Most of the coast line are stony, so are the rivers and lakes. If you want to take a bath, having beach shoes is very handy: so you are not risking getting scratches walking in and swimming in the water.

Book direct

This can sound sneaky, but find a place on Booking.com and google the contact info if you can. The hosts often gave me a 5-10% discount off the price on booking sites. In addition, if you are from countries that use Euros, carry some with you and offer to pay your accommodation in cash and in Euros. The hosts use much better exchange rate than banks!


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How to go further and explore more - budget guide to solo female travellers
budget guide for solo female travellers

For a woman to travel alone, things are often more expensive. We pay more to stay in a room, take a cab, eat alone, etc. For us, it is not really about saving money, but more about going further and exploring more during our trips. We have asked in our community for the best tips, and put together this ultimate guide!

Stay

Go for a private room in a hostel

Many of us would choose to stay in a hostel not just because of the price, but that we want to meet people. I personally like hostels but only for a couple of nights. The social elements can get quite overwhelming, and I miss having my own space. Many hostels do nowadays provide private rooms, so you can still hit the hostel’s bar or go to activities they organise, while enjoying the privacy at the same time.

Sleep at airport

If you have an early morning flight, sleeping at the airport can be a great way to save on taxi, hotel and food cost. You don’t need to sleep on the floor or the uncomfortable chairs, but use the lounge. There are other ways to get access to the lounge than flying business or first-class, read here for how. 

Bookings:

If you are using an online booking tool, book the day before your arrival. Usually prices are the cheapest on previous day of your arrival, especially if you are travelling during peak season. Prices may jump up online on the day of stay.

Better than booking online: call the hotel/host and ask whether you can get a discount by booking directly with them and offer to pay cash – most of them would happily give you a discount (as booking sites takes 4-8% fee).

If you do not mind to move around, book the first night only. Why? Firstly, you can ask the host to give you a discount to say longer. And when you arrive at a new place, you are normally not sure what are the best areas to stay – booking only one night allows you to explore more, and getting into place you find to ask often leads to a discount.

Last but not least, don’t be shy and ask! Ask for an upgrade, ask for a discount, etc. Your hotel receptionist or your host are the best resources, be kind to them and make friends with them.

Eat

Go local

Walk further away from tourist areas when meal-time is approaching and keep an eye on where locals eat. Sometimes a small restaurant by the road side can be the gem. Or simply ask – go to a hotel or a hostel and ask the receptionist.

If you are looking for a restaurant from your phone, again, walk away from the tourist areas and use the ‘Nearby’ feature. When it comes to reviews, don’t go with the top-rated ones, but the ones with few reviews but all 4-5 stars (reviews in local languages are good sign).

We do recommend eating with a local. Eatwith and similar web services enables you to find local hosts who will cook and eat together with you. It is often not much more expensive than going to a restaurant, and you will learn how to cook local cuisine, and make some new friends!

Always have snacks with you

Buy drinks and snacks and take them with you at all times, so you don’t need to spend more in the expensive areas. In addition, it gives you time to find a good place to eat in.

Buy from supermarket

In many places, supermarkets or convenience stores sell ready packed food or convenient food. Don’t rule them out, they can actually be quite good especially in big and busy cities, as they are made mainly for local people.

Transport

Public transport

Do your research and planning ahead, sometimes getting a travel card or ticket pack can be much cheaper. Bus and trains are great – not just getting you from A to B, but you will get cheap sightseeing tours. So make sure you get a map or app with bus info.

Private transport

Ask! When you are queuing for a taxi or booking a car, ask others whether you can share before you get into the car. Make sure you go with the official taxi, and agree on the price beforehand – be clear, and if you need to argue about the price, do it before you get in, or wait till you safely arrive at your destination.

Flights

Firstly, when you search for tickets, do it in incognito or private browsing mode <find out how here>, so the airlines will not ‘remember’ your past search and increase the price.

Secondly, use good search tools to find out the best fares. We recommend Skyscanner to look for cheap fares, destinations, and find price trends – although there are many other sites that do the same. If your journey’s some time away and you want to get the best fare, use Airfare Watchdog to set up alerts and Hopper for fare predictions. If you are flexible in where to go, Jack’s Flight Club is great in sending you the best fares including error fares.

When you are taking a long haul flight, consider stop overs, and book the two legs separately. It can be cheaper than booking from one search. Just note don’t book two flights only hours apart!

Knowing where you are when you arrive

When landing in a brand new city it can be really overwhelming, especially after a long flight and the last thing you want to do is run up a huge bill by using up data on your phone looking at maps. We would recommend downloading maps.me  as a great way of accessing and using maps offline. You can pre-download the maps you need before you leave and even input your hostel/hotel into it. You can then have the comfort of knowing where you’re going and not run up a massive phone bill.

On the road

Manage your data

Get a local SIM card – in some country you can just get a SIM card off the counter, but some need you to register with passport/ID. Do your research beforehand and ask a local to help you.

Currency exchange

Unless you have a bank card which does not charge you a fee when you use abroad, it is the best to withdraw from ATM. If you are withdrawing from an ATM at the airport, don’t use the exchange rate it provides, your bank normally has better rate than it despite the charges.

In addition, carry your own currency with you (if you are from a country where the currency’s strong and stable), always ask whether you can pay in your own currency. In many countries, people actually prefer dollars, euros, pounds etc, and the exchange rate they use is often the best rate.

Know the price beforehand

Whatever you do – taking a cab, going to a bar, taking a tour, know/agree the price beforehand and be clear what’s included! Unfortunately, there are tourist traps all around the world. Be smart, and also be safe – don’t argue about prices until you are in safe places. (it can also help to gather a group together before booking a certain trip as you could qualify for a group discount! It’ll be your first adventure with your new friends)

Work while on the go

For the ones taking long trips, this is a great way to expand your trip. There are many sites like Workaway, HelpX, Hippohelp, Hoxby to help you finding jobs or free accommodations in exchange of a few hours of your work. You can also go house sitting: Nomador lets you travel, live in people’s houses, taking care of their animals during your travel. There are also tons of opportunity for volunteering projects around the world.

Make friends

One of the main reasons we all love to travel is to meet new people – make sure you meet and make friends with the locals too! You never know what great tips they’ll give you that you won’t find on any tourist map or in any online travel forum. Let them tell you about their town and what makes it special, they can also tell you where to get the best price on things!

That’s quite a lot of information to digest. We’ve tried hard to put everything at one place for you. Just one more tip: be kind to people you meet, smile to them, talk to them, and treat them with respect. After all, it is the people we meet in our trips make the difference, and it is people we meet who help us to go further and do more. Don’t be shy, have fun, make friends and enjoy your journey!


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My 2017 Ultra-Marathon Challenge

This week we bring you the story of Natasha, a member of our Solo Female Travel community. She tells how she combines fitness and travelling (seeing different places while you workout!) in to a monthly challenge throughout the year. We love it! What's your way of bringing excitement into everyday life? 


2017 dawns partly because I’ve spent Christmas and New year eating and drinking too much at my second home in Peru.

I return to England and think about a fitness plan for the year. The thing is, I get bored at gyms, they smell and are stuffy. I lasted longer at boot camp on Clapham Common but it is too costly especially now I’m working for myself. I turned my attention to long distance running, and come up with a plan: one ultra-marathon per month for the whole year!

Sounds challenging? But seriously, it’s the lazy person’s answer to fitness: I’ll walk or run every race slowly and I won’t have to train in between. I’ll get to see the country, and learn more about the nation’s awesome national trails. It’s a no-brainer. I love my idea!

As is my wont, I find an excuse to leave out January. I’ve been away for a month so January is spent working hard, honest. February though, there’s the XNRG Pilgrim Challenge, 33 miles along the North Downs Way. A lovely walk to start the year, even with the evil mud. There was friendly mud too, and hills, which I do love.

March saw me in Dorset doing the Votwo Jurassic Coast Challenge for the third time, a perennial favourite. I caught up with vegan friends Louise and Dani, and flexitarian vegan Mariepaule, who, prepared a lovely meal with confit de canard whilst sipping cashew nut milk. I even learned to embrace the shingle on that race, and have found that jogging slowly on sand or shingle is the best way to get through what are usually small stretches.

Tasha Votwo

April, um, what was April? I sound blasé – they do kind of all meld into one, but yes, I remember, how could I forget. Probably the hardest of the year so far. Action Challenge’s Isle of Wight challenge. 66 miles around the island. Someone said it would be hilly, a smile broke on my face and I said, ‘I hope so.’ Hills are great, they give a chance to change speed, alter gait, give one set of muscles a rest while the others get going. It’s like burpees, once you’ve embraced them, it’s easy to do them well. If you’d like a burpee session with me, just shout. I’ve been to the Isle of Wight before when I was 16. But I don’t really know the island. It’s a great place, except for the concrete. Any little section of coastal path they could possibly cover with concrete, they have. Great for accessibility, awful for my legs. I ended that race with a swollen part of my left leg that I believe has no name. The race cost me a lot of money with a physiotherapist, but it did not stop me on my quest for an ultra a month for the year. Except I missed May. But I’d stockpiled in March, I didn’t mention I did the Cerne Giant ultra, brilliantly organised and I got to go to Dorset to see a big, ancient man with a willy, on a hillside, the Cerne Abbas Giant.

June saw me in the Cotswolds doing Threshold Sports’ inaugural Race to the Tower. I did day one with six friends, but they carried on through and completed 80 km in one go. There was no way I was doing that, so I booked my tent, had a leisurely carb-loaded dinner and went to bed at 6.30pm, to awake the following morning and complete the second part the following day.

In July, I was in the South Downs National Park completing 50 km of the Serpent Trail, in the beautiful heathlands of the South Downs National Park. The views were just stunning. I ran further than I have in a long, long time before I found a way of dispatching Louise off with some real runners so I could continue at my leisurely, slow pace.

August is a biggie. I'm running the Quadrathon: 4 marathons over 4 days in Ireland. I’d never been to that part of the world before, not for many years at least. I’ve been preparing myself for lots of tarmac, but the marathon distance is my favourite distance, especially when it involves getting up and doing it again the next day… and the next. Today's Day 2 and I have 3 blisters. It's 9pm, and I'm going to bed for some rest, after another enormous meal of jacket potatoes (note the plural). 

The rest of the year includes the Wye Valley, Cornwall, Argentina, and I need some ideas for December! Any thoughts, please get in touch with me! 


Natasha

Natasha became interested in ultra-marathons in 2011 and ran her first one in Jordan in May 2012, 250 km with 4 Deserts. The friends she made on that race made her go back for more and she’s been interested ever since. Besides (very slow) running, Natasha works for herself as a declutterer having left her day job in July 2016.

If you are interested in decluttering or ultrarunning, contact her at tashafanshawe@hotmail.com, or visit her website

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Joly ZouComment
Insider tips and gadgets to make your travel journey better

Our Facebook group is a great place for our community of female travellers to share stories. One thing I see time and again though is requests for advice on packing and what to take on a trip. So we’ve picked out some of the best ones, which not only save you space but more importantly make your journey a little less hard work!

Get some sleep on the plane: Trtl Pillow

Trtl Pillow

6-hour flight in a tiny economy seat, not much fun. You try your best to get some sleep but just can’t seem to find a comfortable position. Sound familiar? This product saves the day: it gives you much needed extra neck support, so you can catch some sleep. We love it, firstly as it does the job and you can adjust it – while many traditional pillows are just hopeless, especially the ones the airline gives out. It’s super comfy, the fleece is soft and warm and more breathable than traditional neck pillows. And, most importantly it’s compact, so you don’t need to worry about it taking all the space in your suitcase for the rest of your trip!

Never run out of power: solar power bank

solar power bank

Power bank’s innovative solution to avoid running out of power, especially good if you’re going somewhere sunny! Using the power of the sun this eco-friendly, go-anywhere power pack is small and light enough to carry around every day. For the outdoor lovers, this can really make the difference.

Go sand-free – sand-proof beach towel

sand-free towel

We love the sun, the breeze, the sea and like nothing more than lying on the beach. But, most of us don’t enjoy sand sticking to our body and rubbing around. It gets everywhere, back to our room, in our bed, sometimes even our food! To me, this product is the best invention ever! Sand actually goes through it! And that’s not all, it’s much smaller than a traditional beach towel, it absorbs more water, and it dries quicker. The king of towels it’s a super towel to own and pack for any beach lover short on suitcase space.

Capture every moment – action camera

action cam

Not just for the active and sporty traveller, but every traveller. Nowadays, these kinds of cameras are affordable and you can fit one almost anywhere. Take underwater videos, film a boat ride or take a wide-angle selfie. Every moment of your trip can be captured.

Handy for every trip: portable backpack

backpack

We do believe you should carry one with you on every trip, even just in case you need some extra space. When you fold it, it’s as small as your palm, which taking up almost no space and weigh virtually nothing. When expanded, it is a proper backpack, and also waterproof. This is my guilty secret as I always pack this in case I do a little extra shopping on my trip!

Girl’s best friend –urinating device

urinating device

We’ve talked about this in our earlier post. It sounds a bit strange – taking a wee wee standing up as a girl. But it is super helpful when you are on a camping trip, road trip or travelling to places which may not have the best facilities. It keeps you clean and safe – so you do not need to wander far away from the main route, or pull your pants down.

Now the best part: we are giving all of the above away for free as a way of saying thank you for your support in our development. Sign up to our beta test list, and get a chance to win one of these products. You will not get spammed, but only a notification to download our app when it’s ready.

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The truth behind elephants rides
world elephant day

Are you familiar with the photos where happy tourists on the back of an elephant? We see it everywhere, many companies use such photos to attract customers. Most of us who go for it are animal lovers - because we love this beautiful animal, and want to have the "once-in-a-lifetime" experience to interact with them. 

But there are some ugly truth behind this activity - the elephants have gone through tremendous suffering for us to enjoy the moment and posing for photos.

They were captured from the wild

Elephants are not domestic animals, all the elephants you see are captured from the wild. They are social animals who live together as family like we humans do. However, baby elephants are on high demand as they are easier to capture and train. They would be separated from their mothers at a young age and spend the rest of their life in captivity. 

They are broken

Elephants are intelligent animals with long-term memory and strong needs for affection. In order to get them 'trained' for riding or performance, the trainers go through a process to break their spirit. They are chained in a pen where they cannot move, often without water or food; they are beaten with bullhook (with a sharp end) till they bleed all over; they are forced to go into positions that break their bones. 

They are over-worked and poorly treated

They are money making machines. They will walk miles under the sun without having a rest; they are fed with poor food and sickness are often over-looked; they are chained up so they cannot move even a little bit when they are not 'working'. When you see an elephant moves side-by-side or swings its feet, they are not dancing, they are frustrated.

This is an issue very close to the heart of our female travel community If you care, here's how you can make a difference.

Do not go to any rides or performance. There are other ways to enjoy interaction with them - in their nature habitats when they are free. Fortunately, the world is waking up to this issue and there are many sanctuaries have opened with the purpose to rescue them. You can book a tour with these sanctuaries, where you can go for a walk with the elephants, take a bath with them, make medicine for them, learn about them. And your money will be spent on making their life better, no causing them to suffer.

Spread the word. Most people do it as they are not aware of the ugly truth. Just let them know. 

Sign the pledge. World Animal Protection is working with policy makers and tour operators to make a different, help the movement by signing HERE


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Why I Travel

I started writing this post with the title "why we travel" though I don't think I have the right to say "we" as every one of us travel for different reasons, and each individual reason is no better than the other.

I put travelling in the same category as reading. As an individual, one is conditioned by the environment you grow up in, by the people you make daily interactions with, and by the experience one is living. Reading and travelling are two activities that help us jump out of the environment we are used to in order to experience a different type of life.

read travel.jpg

My journey while growing up was smooth. My parents are doctors, so I always went to the best schools and always stayed on top of my classes. I used to think there was no other world beyond this little circle of mine - or I simply didn't pay any interest as it felt far away and irrelevant. When I was a teenager, my dream then was to live in a house with my best friends in no other place than my home town. Back then I hated travelling. This is because I saw going somewhere else as being away from my friends.

My first year in the UK brought me a lot of changes. It was the first time I made friends with people from different parts of the world. It was during my discussion with them that I realised how limited my view of the world was, and how different life can really be. I was amazed with the open mindedness shown by some of them; they simply do not judge other people's views, but instead, try to understand them -when all I did was try to stubbornly prove myself right. I grew more fascinated with the different perspectives life had to offer and I wanted to see them with my own eyes. That was when I fell in love with travelling.

But when I started travelling, it was done in "Chinese style". It was like a competition of how many places you could squeeze into a day. The urge to see the world and experience more within a limited time drove it (in China, there's only 10-day annual leave). The privilege a lot of people enjoy here (holidays, transport, visa-free, etc.) are simply not enjoyed in China. So please, when next you see a group of Chinese tourists, do not judge them.

I have friends who are always proud to announce the number of countries they've been to. While I'm proud of them, what makes me proud of myself is not the number of places I've been to, it's the number of friends I've made and the number of people I've met along the way. Now when I travel, I would happily spend a few days with a new local friend I have made rather than rushing off to see more sights. I learnt how to trust the people I meet on the road and how to accept their warm hearts. Some of my most treasured memories would not have happened without them; like staying in a temple at Old Bagan and meditating with the monks and people, or being taken on a scooter to see the most thrilling and amazing sunrise with no other soul in sight.

The world is without limits. The more I travel, the more I know that there are so many things I do not know yet. The more people I meet, the more I learn about human kindness and the deep connection we all share. The more places I go to, the more I understand that freedom is not about physically being on the road, but about mentally being on the road.

That is why for me, travelling is about finding my true self. Through the people I’ve met, I’ve had the opportunity to temporarily enter into someone else's life and experience it so I can learn to see the world from a different perspective; to feel from where my heart really lays rather than what my mind has been conditioned to believe.

travel alone meet friends

This is what I call true freedom, and this is why I travel and why I love solo travel. Someday my body may not allow me to be on the road but my heart and mind will never stop.


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Stay hygienic on the road - Essential packing list for women travellers

Travelling is fun. But a lot of us, women travellers in particular, have experienced some upsetting situations during our trips, some of these include a dirty toilet, running out of feminine products, etc. Below is a list of things that can really help you stay hygienic and confident but are usually overlooked when you are packing for your trip.

packing list for women travellers

HAND SANITIZER

This is one thing that should be on top of our list. We use our hands to do a lot of things; it is only important that we ensure they are free from germs. When we are in the mountains or in a rural village, getting clean water and soap usually seems difficult as they are not always within reach. Therefore, you need to ensure that you carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you. Sanitizers do not only clean hands, they clean surfaces too.

*Tip - Public transport (including airplane) are normally filled with different types of germs. Clean your hand often during a long-haul train or a long flight, and also avoid touching surfaces except when necessary.

POCKET TISSUES

You are probably used to having toilet paper and tissues as part of your daily life. But this isn't the case everywhere around the globe. I've been in some awkward situations where I had to ask people 'next door' for some dry paper. Simply carry a pack of pocket tissue with you all the time. 

MENSTRUAL CUP

I made the decision to replace my tampons with menstrual cups just last year, and I'm impressed! There are a lot advantages to be derived from doing this. First off, it holds a lot more than a tampon or pad -unless you're having a very heavy flow. You only need to change it when you wake up and before going to bed. It's comes in very handy when you're on the road. It is also very hygienic; you do not need to worry about bad smells or infections after a long day without changing it. It is also quite compact; you only need to carry one in your bag and worry less about when your unexpected friend comes to visit. And to top it all, it's environmental friendly as it creates a lot less waste.

*Tips: 1) Always wash your hands before using the cup. 2) If you cannot find a microwave or a hob to sterilize it, use your hand sanitizer! 3) If you are changing in a public toilet, carry a bottle of water with you in order to rinse it. And if you do not have water, simply wipe it with tissue.

SHEWEE - FEMALE URINE DEVICE

This is one device a lot of us have probably not tried on. I didn't understand the purpose of this device until I had no choice but to use a toilet that's so disgusting, you wouldn't want your skin or bottom to touch any part of it. This device is an essential device as it is good for situations where you cannot find a proper place to urinate. It allows you to do your business while standing up. Additionally, you do not need to venture too far off the path before being able to finish your business when in urgent need; this simply makes it safer.

*Tip - Carry it in a separate plastic bag or case as you may not be able to wash it clean every time you use it.

VAGISIL CREAM OR ANY SIMILAR PRODUCT

Just pack it with your other medications. Sometimes, the humidity and long day activities can cause irritations. Although it's best to seek medical help, this cream will help you relieve the symptom so you can continue enjoying your trip.

*Tip - Avoid wearing thongs or G-strings during the day. There's a higher chance you'll get irritated when you wear these clothing, unlike when you wear briefs.

CONDOM

Always have a condom with you, even if you don't expect your trip to involve any sexual activity. This is for your own safety. Things can happen when we least expect them (the chances are small but we should be always prepared). Should we end up in an unexpected situation, at least we'll have protection.

Is there anything else you think can help us women while we're on the road? Leave a comment below so others can become knowledgeable about it.


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Married, still travel alone

The first solo trip I had was about five years ago. My boyfriend at that time was working overseas, and I had been sitting in my home for quite a while. The urge to travel was growing stronger with each passing day. Unfortunately, being a controlling and jealous person (warning: avoid guys who have these qualities at all cost), he was not in support of the idea of me travelling without him. The Easter holidays were approaching and I just could not stand the idea of spending another long weekend mourning and dreaming. So, I booked myself a flight trip to Venice.

The trip lasted for just four days, but it was enough time for me to taste the sweet freedom that comes with solo travelling. I can still remember the feeling of liberation I experienced when I sat in the water bus and just allowed Venice to expand in front of me with every canal I turned. Without the need to compromise, I went around the canal three times and by the time I was through, it was sunset. I did the same thing the next day. Ever since then, I fell in love with travelling alone.

Now, I am a happily married woman who still takes solo breaks. Last year, after I quit my corporate job, I travelled around South-East Asia on my own for three months. I am thankful for the great understanding and support my lovely husband has shown to me. Nowadays, although we do go on holidays together, I still take a solo trip for 1-2 weeks every three to four months.

A lot of people find it hard to understand; they think like, wouldn't it be nicer to travel with a loved one? The thing is yes, we are married, but that does not mean my husband and i are the same person. We are separate beings with different needs and interests. While he enjoys being on the road, I love staying and soaking myself in a place; while I prefer hiking in the mountains, he prefers to ride an ATV through the woods. I love our differences; the fact that we complement each other makes us a good team. But this also means making compromises in our daily lives and holidays. My solo trips serve as a getaway from our marriage; a means to recharge and refresh.

Personally, I believe travelling separately is a sign of a great relationship. As a solo female traveller I believe it's a sign of deep trust between each other and respect for each other's individuality. In China, people often say that marriage is like a cage. Luckily for me, my marriage has brought me more freedom, and it has allowed me to make more explorations, discovering the world and myself.

Additionally, everyone needs some space. Being apart occasionally is healthy for a relationship. Sometimes, we can forget how much we love and depend on each other. Missing each other is a sweet reminder of the connection we have built.

Married or single, whatever your relationship status might be, it is all about following your heart; it's about pursuing what makes you happy. Travelling solo is my choice. What is yours and what is your story?


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Joly Zou Comment
Love the sea? Be a responsible ocean traveller

Summertime is here again in Europe. For many of us, this means sunshine and the sea. Tell me, who doesn't love the see? Its vastness, peace, and refreshment... Last week, I pampered myself by taking a diving holiday in the Red Sea.

I love diving. It's not just a getaway to a different place, but to a whole different world. The sea life displaying beauty all around you while you float in the water. The visibility I experienced in the Red Sea was great -20 meters. However, the locals told me that the visibility has significantly reduced over the course of the last ten years. While the blooming tourism has presented the locals with lots of opportunities, our behavior is costing us the environment.

This reminds me of the trip I took to Indonesia last year, I saw the once crystal clear sea turned into a belt of floating rubbish. This really broke my heart. Underwater, there was debris, clearly visible to the eye, floating all around. All of these were not there when I had first visited the place five years ago.

We love our homes and with the sea being the mother of all life, it also serves as our home. Treating it with love and care should be on our priority list. Traveling the ocean in a responsible manner is one thing that's very easy to do, the only thing is, most of us are not aware of how to go about it. Therefore, I have compiled some tips below to ensure that we travel the ocean responsibly.

SEE BUT DO NOT TOUCH

This rule applies to all see life -the ones in the water and those on the beach. Even if you put them back, picking them up or touching them in the first place have already disturbed their way of life, or worse, destroyed it. Be aware of your surroundings whenever you are in the water – swimming, diving or snorkelling, for the sea life and also for our own safety.

DO NOT LITTER

There are thousands of sea lives dying as a result of the rubbish that we produce and dump into the sea. In order to minimize this, ensure that you clean up after yourself. Do not leave even the tiniest bit of rubbish behind as even these can be very dangerous to sea creatures. And as a contribution to having a clean ocean, whenever you see rubbish lying around, do your best by picking it up and disposing it properly.

DO NOT FEED THE FISHES

I have to admit that I have done this a few times in the past years. I enjoyed having the fishes around me and thought giving them food was a positive action. It was recently that I learned how harmful this can be; it can cause behavioural change of the fishes that they get use to human feeding, thus change their natural diet. This eventually will lead to lack of necessary nutrients. In addition, not all types of fish eat human food, constant feeding in one area means certain types of fish would over-populate, and over time, the ecosystem will be changed forever.

DO NOT STEP ON CORALS

Corals are not stones, they are living things! A touch can kill the reef, thereby destroying the whole ecosystem dependent on it. And there’s safety concerns: the sharp edges can also hurt you.

DO NOT SEE ANY ANIMAL PERFORMANCE

Sharks and dolphins do not belong in swimming pools, but in the sea. If you know you want to see them, look for a natural way of viewing these beautiful and lovely animals. Avoid any and every performance that subjects them to the entertainment of other people. Also avoid tours where they "chum" the water or use different feeding methods to lure them in.

OCEAN FRIENDLY SUN CREAM

This is one thing that's often over-looked. The chemical products from most commercial brands will destroy the lives of reefs and other sea creatures. Think about the amount of sun screen thousands of people on the beach are pouring into the sea each and every day.

How do you buy a sunscreen that's ocean friendly then? What you need to do is ensure that the sunscreen you are buying doesn't contain these reef-damaging substances, including Oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, and 4-methylbenzylidine camphor. Look for a product that uses sunblock such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide instead of chemical one.

SPEAK UP

This one is quite difficult to do and I've sometimes felt self conscious as a solo female traveller. When you see that someone is doing something harmful to sea creatures, do speak up. Not to start an argument with them or go into fits of criticism, but to politely correct them with a gentle tone. Do not become offended or angry. When you see people throw different things around, pick those things up in their presence. It's not like most of us do not care, we simply are not aware of the harm we are causing. And since we were once in that ignorant position, we should be understanding, accommodating, and be able to properly guide others.

If you want to take it a step further by taking actions when you get back home, you can go through this article from National Geographic; it will definitely help a lot.

http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/take-action/10-things-you-can-do-to-save-the-ocean/

 

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Solo Female Travellers- The Myths painted about us

Thanks to the process of building Solocal, I have met many amazing female travellers, and I am grateful for the opportunity they gave me to listen to their stories. During the time I have spent with them, I noticed that we talked a lot about the misconceptions a lot of people seem to be having about us. It seems there’s some unrealistic painted pictures of and here are just a few:

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We are single, lonely and desperate

Many people have the belief that we travel alone simply because we have no other choices. They feel we are either lonely or heart-broken. Yes, traveling may be a cure for broken hearts but most of us travel solo out of a positive angle: mostly to see how far we can go for ourselves and how much we can achieve. About half of the solo female travelers I know are actually married or in a relationship. It's not like we do not have loving and beautiful friends to travel with -which we do from time to time- but the thing is, sometimes, taking the road by ourselves serves as a treat to our body, mind, and soul.

So for anyone having this misconception about solo female travelers, do not expect to find us in bars waiting for someone to come and "comfort" us, and you'll probably find us much more difficult to ‘pick up’ as we do know when and how to say no. We are comfortable in our own skin and with our own company.

We keep to ourselves

Growing up with the motto "do not talk to strangers" embedded in our brains,  many people would assume that the safest way to travel is by listening to "trusted sources" and staying away from random people on the street. While this might be true for a kid, we solo female travellers do not travel with this notion.

We have learnt that most people are kind, friendly, and willing to help whenever the need arises. We are of the belief that the best way to enjoy a trip while staying away from trouble is to open our mouth -to converse, make new friends, discover interesting things, or ask for a favor.

Now, don't get me wrong; making new friends and every other characteristics I mentioned above does not mean we'll get into a stranger's car alone, accept an invite to someone's house, or just take a dark route that was pointed to us. We are "travel smart", and we are equipped with our experience and senses that act as radars and guides to keep us safe.

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We always look fabulous

If you are an Instagram user, you probably have seen the shots of a beautiful girl in a fabulous dress, looking all relaxed and happy at an exotic place. Yes we adore those photos as well. However, we do not really know how those girls manage to always look fabulous and we really do not envy them.

This is because we need to be dressed for any circumstances, you often find us in our normal gear: hair-band, t-shirt, hiking pants and shoes. It is not like we cannot look fabulous, as a matter of fact, we can look pretty for a night out, but the truth is, our back pack does not really have the space for high heels, the hair straightener or make-ups. Oh, and many of us actually would choose to ‘dress down’ to avoid unwanted attentions when we travel to some cultures.

We are braver

Some people would say that we are braver than the others, but that’s not true. We are just like every other girl around you. Only we have learnt that the world is not a dangerous place like the media has made it look like. I have been to Vietnam when they were having a riot against the Chinese. I have been to Turkey when there was a terrorist attack, I have been to Thailand when there was a military coup; they are all fine as long as you follow the rules and you use your common sense like you would do when you are at home! You would get robbed on the street of London, just as you may get robbed on the street of Chiang Mai if you do not choose or behave wisely.

So if you have a place you always wanted to go but no one to go with you, please just book it and go. Or if you hear a woman who’s decided to travel on her own, have some faith in her and the world.

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Joly ZouComment