Travel is in my blood, literally.
According to my father, our family descends from the Golden Horde and the warriors who swept across Asia and Europe many centuries ago.
On my mother’s side, my grandfather was one of seven brothers who emigrated from France in the late 19th century, each to a different country – Brazil, Australia, Canada, the USA, England, Greece and Egypt (that’s my branch of the family).
Seems I’ve followed in their globetrotting footsteps.
I’ve been on the road most of my life, having left my birthplace in Paris to take my first European trip on the Orient Express when I was five weeks old (I did bring my parents along). I haven’t really stopped since.
I’ve been an expat forever, first in Canada and then in Spain, where I grew up, returning to Canada for university (McGill, anyone?). I also spent time – from months to years – in Italy, Iran, Algeria, Switzerland, Thailand and France, which is now my home, the first time I actually live in the country of my birth.
A few years ago I quit my job/relationship/apartment and took off for Cape Town with a one-way ticket for six months of solo travel. I was gone more than three years and ended up visiting 26 countries on five continents. Solo travel for women wasn’t so common in the mid-nineties, and times were ‘interesting’ – we had no cellphones or viable Internet, and while I had rudimentary email, few others did so I had no one to write to.
I’ve loved being on the road (most of the time).
I’ve worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent much of my life although I now work for an international development agency talking to journalists rather than being one. Each job has taken me on the road, in different ways.
Yet despite my ancestry I’m not the most likely traveler at all.
I’m pushing 60 (pushing energetically and by the time you read this I may have pushed it well over the edge), I get motion sick on most transport (but spend a good part of the year on buses, trains and planes), I can’t swim (I’ve almost drowned once and it doesn’t stop me from kayaking) and I have vertigo (so yes, I hike in the mountains but sometimes feel compelled to close my eyes – not recommended).
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Now, about Women on the Road…
Funny thing – I had no intention of writing a blog, not ever.
For years I’ve been happily running Women on the Road, this blog’s sister website, to help women with the nuts and bolts of solo travel: how to plan a trip, how to stay safe, what to take, how to budget, how to avoid getting lonely – all the things you face before, during and after you travel.
The website doesn’t really get personal or talk about my own travels and thoughts. I had no way to reach out to you and if something made me happy or sad or evoked any kind of feeling, I had no place to put it. Enter this blog, also called Women on the Road, which is my personal travel space. This is where we can have a conversation and together, where I can help empower women to get out there and see the world.
Women have to travel differently than men, and like it or not, it’s less safe for us out there. IT SHOULDN’T BE THAT WAY.
I detest any form of discrimination, and Women on the Road is my way of helping end that discrimination.
If I can inspire women to travel independently, strongly, proudly and safely, that closes the gap a bit. The more of us get out there and claim the world, the more we will assert our right to do so. Women travelers, especially those who travel solo, shouldn’t be seen as exception, odd or different – we should be considered normal. No one questions how or why a man travels on his own, do they?
My travel list – or where I’d still like to go
I’m not done with travel, not by a long shot.
I still love to travel solo, and whenever I travel with others I always make sure I build in some solo travel time, taking a day off to explore by myself, adding a few days on my own to a trip, or if it’s a real shortie, just taking myself out to dinner – so I can let you know what it’s like being on your own in that destination.
As you can see I still have a huge slice of world to see!
- Northern Norway and Lapland: I know northern Canada and love the remoteness and silence of the North in winter
- Sicily: I’ve visited once but briefly, and I’d like to spend a bit of time on the island, especially tasting the food.
- Uzbekistan, for the architecture and because I’ve always wanted to see Central Asia. Actually, anywhere in Central Asia would be good.
- Patagonia. Oh, those penguins!
- Cuba, again and again.
- Botswana and Namibia for the wildlife and wide open spaces.
- Sri Lanka because it was off-limits for so long and it looks stunning.
- Crossing the Sahara, although I’m afraid that’s becoming impossible. Timbuktu would normally have been on my list but there’s no going there now.
I’ll settle for a tour of the Moroccan Sahara.
- Vietnam and India: no, I’ve never been.
- Myanmar, for the seventh time.
- Japan, because I’ve only been to two cities, and absolutely want to visit the fish market in Tokyo and the cherry blossoms.
- The Galapagos, because of the endemic wildlife.
- Madagascar for the same reason.
- Siberia, although the fact that it’s in Russia probably pushes it off the list – too much officially sanctioned discrimination there these days.
- Colombia because… just because.
- Mexico, which I visited 30 years ago and loved. And… the food!
- Arizona – the Grand Canyon, Sedona… I’m sure it’s lifechanging.
- California’s Coastal Highway
- Central Turkey and the Turkish coast: they’re areas I don’t know and my father’s family comes from Turkey.
- Iran, where I lived for a while as a child and whose people I remember as charming and incredibly hospitable. From what I hear they still are.
- Australia and New Zealand – shouldn’t everyone?
- …and perhaps I’d better stop or I’ll get carried away. Frankly, there are few places I don’t want to see!