Can you begin by telling us a little about yourself and your career history in the travel market?
My first job after finishing school was working as a travel consultant. After a few years on the job, I wanted to be out there exploring the world for myself.
At twenty one years of age I left on my first big overseas experience on my own. I applied for a 12 month working holiday visa for Canada, and I was ready to take on the world. I had asked a few friends to join me on the adventure, however travelling the world just wasn’t on their agenda. It was the only thing on mine.
That year I worked in Canada and then travelled through the country. My flight ticket later took me to the USA, the United Kingdom and Europe.
It was one of the best years of my life. I was hooked.
Whilst travelling in Europe, I joined a tour group and we explored Europe together along with our local guide, driver and cook. I loved every moment and I aspired to have that job. To travel the world and get paid for it!
Several months after I arrived home to Australia, with very itchy feet, I applied for my UK working visa. I left again with a plan to gain a job with a youth coach tour company as a mobile chef. I applied, scored an interview, completed a tough training trip and got the job!
I worked in that role for nine summer seasons in Europe. It was a dream job.
That job provided me with work for a solid six months of the year with the other six months open to whatever I chose to do. I used the time off every year to travel. It was the perfect match and it allowed me to notch up over 110 countries to date and I’m not intending to stop there.
What are your favourite adventure activities and why?
I really enjoy cycling! I love the freedom that you have being able to explore a new country on two wheels, not to mention keeping fit at the same time. The thing I love most about discovering new places on a bike is that I can go at my own pace and stop at street food carts and fruit stands along the way. Food and travel go hand in hand for me, so the flexibility of cycling is fantastic.
It also makes me feel good to know that travelling by bike leaves very little impact on a country.
What age did you first become interested in travel, adventure and exploring? How did this passion manifest itself and evolve over time?
I knew within three months of living in the Rocky Mountains in Canada that I was addicted to travel and adventure. My job at a youth hostel was to sell ski tickets, dog-sledding trips, mountain-bike tours and white water rafting trips. The perks of the job would allow me to get to do these activities for free, so I took full advantage of it all on my days off.
I realized a long time ago that material things don’t mean very much to me. Perhaps travelling for so long with my life in a 12kg backpack taught me a few lessons about what’s important.
I’d rather spend my time learning about new cultures, eating new food and sharing experiences with like-minded individuals than owning lots of stuff.
When was the first time you travelled alone? Were there any specific concerns you had? Any particular lessons learnt?
I remember looking back at my parents in the airport as the doors to the international departures closed. It was a long time ago, however it was my first overseas experience bound for Canada. I was leaving on my own with a vague plan for what I’d like to do once I arrived. They were visibly upset, worried for my safety, all the normal emotions that anybody feels watching their child or loved one leave the country. Now they were powerless to protect me, to save me from the un-known. I understood their concern. I’m their only daughter and the youngest child with three older brothers.
For me, the decision to leave on my own was easy. I’ve always been very independent. I’m a big believer that you should have goals and ambition in life, whatever they may be. I love being out of my comfort zone and I enjoy new challenges.
For many people, these are things that scare them most.
The things that scares me most in life is getting near the end and regretting all the things I dreamt of doing, but just didn’t get around to actually doing them.
Since then, what are some of the best adventures you’ve had and where were they?
Nine months backpacking in Central and South America was an epic trip! The best decision I ever made on that trip was to stop in Guatemala for several weeks and sign up for some one on one lessons to learn to speak Spanish.
To have a conversation with a local was invaluable. I could now negotiate the best rates for buses/taxi’s, ask for the best foods in markets and read the Spanish menu items to enjoy the best food. I enjoyed the look of admiration when the locals could see that I’d made the effort to learn their language. They knew it wasn’t perfect but it didn’t matter because we could share a conversation or laugh together.
Less than two years ago, I travelled through Central Asia and Iran with another female. We planned the whole trip independently, carefully organizing visa’s to make our trip as smooth as possible and it was an empowering trip for sure. It’s definitely a part of the world where you don’t find many travelers along the way, particularly solo female travelers, but this was my favourite thing about the trip.
I have to admit that Iran is by far one of the most under-rated destinations in the world. The hospitality of the Iranian people and generosity shown here was very humbling. If this isn’t on your bucket-list, it should be.
Socially responsible travel seems to be gaining in popularity - what are your thoughts on these concepts and have you ever been involved with them?
I haven’t been directly involved in this, however there are many small things that I try and do when I travel that really do make a big difference.
Have you ever had a bad experience while travelling alone? What can you tell us about how it happened and what the outcome was?
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a few bad experiences while travelling alone. But instead of letting them give me a bitter attitude about that country or culture, I’ve chosen to learn from them instead. I think that’s the key to travelling at all times. You need to keep an open mind.
Everything will be very different to what you are used to at home and this is the very reason why you are there.
From my experience of travelling around the world, the majority of people are good. They’re generous and compassionate and they want you to enjoy their country.
What advice would you give other women considering travelling alone or even in a small group? Does this apply whether you’re travelling interstate as well as overseas?
-Educate yourself. Read blogs, forums and guidebooks before travelling to a new country or even city for the most up to date information.
-Make sure you are aware and prepared before you arrive for cultural differences and local dress for women in some countries.
-Take a guidebook or download guides to your phone so that you always have maps, vital information at hand when you need it.
-Learn some of the local language, even if it’s just the basics of hello, goodbye and thank you.
-Don’t be afraid to go out there and travel on your own, whether it be for a whole year planned of solo travel or to join a small group as a single traveller.
-Make friends with other solo travellers from your hostel, hotel or on your small group tour and ask them if they’d like to explore a city with you for the day.
-Be aware of scams, pickpocket areas and dangerous neighborhoods that you should avoid.
-Spend a few minutes chatting to a local such as a your host/hostel agent about things that will inform you of the area around you. Tips such as public transport options to get home and anything you should be aware of. Local knowledge is very handy.
What advice would you offer men when they see a woman travelling alone?
-Treat any woman as you would like to be treated yourself.
Any last words to conclude on?
You know all those places you’ve been meaning to go? Go and see them. Book your ticket, pack your bag and go. Go alone or take a friend, but go.
It could be for two weeks, it might be for two years. Whatever goals and dream you have, now is the time to turn them into reality.
Author: Rachael Davey - Exodus Travels