There are several questions that I get asked again and again. Here are a few and their answers.
1. Why do you travel solo?
Because I like it and because I can! Being a very fast and efficient person (with little patience to speak of) I find solo travel suits me perfectly. I realize it's not for everyone, but it works for me. I also find it more of a challenge than traveling with other people ever was. You have no one to rely on but yourself. Of course not everyone is up for the challenge. I think extroverts would have a tough time with being alone so much, but as an introvert, I love it!
2. What do you take for luggage?
Twenty-seven years ago I traveled with a roller board, tote and shoulder bag.... what was I thinking! Fast forward to today, I travel with a small backpack only.
3. What do you take with you?
In my small backpack I carry my passport with numerous copies. I take a Visa debit and credit card and my international insurance card. In countries where there are no ATM's I take cash along located in several different locations in my bag and on my person. I take a silk sleeping bag liner, quick dry towel, wet wipes, tissues and/or toilet paper (they don't provide any in the places I stay). I take a Lonely Planet guide book or downloaded chapter, a book to read and lots of pens; local kids usually like pens. I take my iPhone, iPad and Nikon with extra battery and SD cards. I take a Surefire flashlight and head lamp with extra batteries for each. I take zip lock bags and safety pins (good for lots of things). I take flip flops (good to use in the hotel room) and sunglasses. I'm very anti-medication so in that department I only take the basics; aspirin, band-aids, Neosporin, and anti-diarrhea tablets. I also, of course, take my toiletries and a few changes of clothes.
Regarding clothing, I can assure you with most certainty that no one in a third world country gives a rat's ass about something as insignificant as what you're wearing. If you only take three changes of clothing for a two week trip no one will notice or care... seriously. They have more important matters to be concerned with. If you look at my pictures and only notice my clothes or how I'm standing you are missing the point brother! These are not photo shoots... I do not have hair, makeup and wardrobe people traveling with me. By the time most of these photos are taken, I usually haven't had running water or electricity in days!
4. How do you get around a country if you don't speak their language?
NOT going to a country simply because you don't speak the language is a huge mistake. What a missed opportunity that would be! I have good news... if you can speak English, you are in luck. Children in many countries today are taught English in school. Although that certainly doesn't guarantee you will find an English speaker, you still have a much better chance with this language than you do say, if you only speak Finnish, Kurdish, Swahili, Ahmeric or some other not-so-universally-useful language. In the end, if you can't find anyone that speaks your language, fret not. If you can do charades, you can make your desires be known. After all, even a monkey can get its point across!
5. Why do you go to such dodgy places?
Because I've already been to all the "normal" places I want to go. Besides, what's the point of spending the time, money and effort going to a place that's just like home?
In addition, I can assure you that growth only occurs in a state of discomfort and we owe ourselves the difficulty. Hacking it on your own in a hell-hole, third-world and/or war-torn country where you know no one and don't speak the language will force you to grow in many ways. There is no growth to be found sitting on the beach, working on your tan, sipping fruity umbrella drinks.
6. How do you afford the time and money for all this travel?
Easy! I have a job that has great schedule flexibility, income and resources for travel. I also always live debt free, below my means and invest in experiences, not things. We all make choices...
7. What have you learned most in your travels?
I learned that although we may look different on the outside and spend our days doing different things really, underneath it all, we are all the same. We all put our pants on one leg at a time, we all love our family and friends and we all want better for the next generation. It is the same for a Ugandan store owner in Kampala as it is for a suburban stay at home mom in Denver.
I learned after seeing how happy so many people in third world countries are with very little in the way of materialistic goods, I learned that I really don't need a lot of "stuff" to be happy. These days I would much rather spend money on doing something rather than acquiring more things.
I learned that most people in the world are good. Although anytime you get a large group of people together there are bound to be a few nuts, most people are good. You don't have to go to a specific country or region of the world to find bad people, they can be found anywhere. Luckily, they really are the minority of the population. As I always point out, I've been to some pretty dodgy places in the world by myself, but I've never felt my life threatened, yet, my boyfriend was brutally murdered in America by an American.... explain that.
8. Aren't you scared going to some of these places by yourself?
Sure, sometimes. I may get a bit ruffled from time to time, but I would never let it stop me from going. I think traveling solo has made me hyper vigilant, super aware of my surroundings and has kept me on my toes. It has also made me completely self sufficient... well, ok, I was self sufficient before, but traveling solo has made me even more so. I also think that if you are never a little scared or nervous in life (a.k.a. never pushing your comfort zone) you're probably not growing or expanding as a person. As the old saying goes.... "Our comfort zone is a happy place, but nothing ever grows there." Isn't the whole point of life to be better than we used to be? I have grown exponentially from my travels, and so I continue!