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About Women on the Road

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.

On the job for Women on the Road

That’s a kincajou in Panama, and I’m afraid it’s peeing on me – and I don’t quite know what to do about it.

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!

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  1. Leela Raj on October 10, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Coming from a conventional and traditional south Indian family, traveling solo was simply not done or encouraged. It was after the age of 40 that i first traveled solo, loved it and enjoyed the freedom and pleasure it gave. Later I did take solo travels to UK and USA and those travels enabled me to grow and evolve as a mature person. I look forward doing more of solo travels

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on October 10, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Well done, Leela – it’s hard sometimes to break away from the behavior that’s expected. I love solo travel because I feel empowered – I like being in the driver’s seat and deciding where I’m going, when, how and with whom. I don’t always travel solo, but it wouldn’t occur to me to NOT travel because I was on my own, and that’s the message I like to share – you don’t have to travel solo but if you are on your own, please don’t let that stop you!

      I hope you’ll visit the Women on the Road website – it’s full of practical information on solo travel that you might find helpful.

  2. Nancy Thompson on November 3, 2012 at 12:05 am

    I’m so glad to have found your site and your book. Although at this point I am not traveling alone, my husband and I have decided to sell everything on ebay and become citizens of the world in our retirement. I started a blog called Just a Backpack and a Rollie to share our adventures, what I’m learning about traveling on the cheap and inspire others, both couples and singles, to hit the road while they can. I know so many single older women who think they can’t travel solo. Your book is perfect for them. I’ll be following all of your great information. Thanks.

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on November 3, 2012 at 7:37 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Nancy. Sounds like a great adventure you’re about to begin, congratulations! It takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing but you may be surprised at how easy it becomes once you’re on the road. There are others like you – for example GypsyNesters, whom you might have come across in your readings. I’ve subscribed to your blog and I look forward to following your adventures – you have a great and entertaining writing style!

  3. Gaelyn on November 9, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing How to Write Travel Stories That Sell. Lots of good tips I plan to put to use. Currently researching for winter 2013 trip to parts of southern Africa and preparing to pitch to a few places. Been a solo woman traveler for over 30 years and a blogger over four years. It’s about time I got paid for some of this.

    • Leyla Giray Alyanak on November 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      Thanks for writing, Gaelyn, I’m glad you found it useful. Winter 2013 sounds great – and I see South Africa is working hard to attract tourism. I loved the region: I’m most familiar with South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi; I never made it to the southwestern part of the continent, which I’m told is magnificent (Botswana and Namibia). I’m sure you’ll fall in love with the region! I spent about four months traveling around and have been back to South Africa a number of times, but I have yet to see the entire country. I hope you snag plenty of assignments!

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