I strongly believe that people who love to travel are the best kind of people. This series will introduce you to some of the amazing women travelers with whom I have been fortune enough to connect. Women travelers who are overcoming adversity and crushing societal norms are a huge source of inspiration for me and I believe their stories will inspire you as well.
Tell us about yourself. Who are you? Where are you based? When and how did you start traveling?
My name is Stella Gold, and I am a native New Yorker! I’ve lived in the same apartment in Greenwich Village my whole life. My first travel destination was to New Orleans because my mother’s family is from there. In fact, New Orleans is still my favorite place to visit. It has the best food and the best music in the whole United States and quite possibly the world. My first solo trip as an adult was a three city trip around the South: Atlanta, Savannah, and New Orleans. On the other hand, I started taking airplanes by myself when I was just five years old, though there was always a grown-up waiting for me on the other end!
What is the most unique place you have ever been? Share with us an off-the-beaten path location that we may have never heard of! What made you decide to visit this place?
I truly love every place I’ve ever visited, except for the Greyhound bus station in Richmond, Virginia. But my most unusual travel recommendation is probably Belfast, Northern Ireland. For so long, Belfast has been synonymous with tragedy, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun my day there was. The food was good (especially the breakfast), the people were friendly, and the tour guides were uniformly hilarious. Plus there is a Thai restaurant called Thai-Tanic, and that alone is worth a visit.
What is the most beneficial lesson you have learned from traveling solo?
The most valuable lesson that I learned was that there is no such thing as a mistake. I can’t tell you how many times on a trip nothing has gone according to plan, but as long as I’ve kept a positive attitude and tried to learn something, it has all worked out fine. One of the worst travel experiences I had was the time my flight to Brazil was canceled because of a blizzard, and I ended up having to take a bus from New York City to Atlanta in the snow just so my whole trip wouldn’t be canceled. My hair was disgusting at the end of it, but I got one of my best travel stories ever out of the experience.
When you decided to travel solo for the first time, were the people in your life supportive of your decision? If not, how did you overcome this?
People in my life were supportive, mostly because they are used to me being independent. After all, famous Single Gal Mary Richards has been one of my role models since I was a child. I feel like I face more judgement from people that I meet while traveling. I sometimes get comments like, “Where is your husband?” But I just tell them that I married a wealthy old man for his money, and then he died and left me a small fortune. That usually stops the questions.
Have you ever traveled somewhere that you did not feel safe as a solo female traveler? If so, where?
Nope! I’m not scared of anything, including flying in a hot air balloon. However, even home in NYC I avoid any areas that are deserted at night or any areas that I’ve been specifically warned against, like the side streets of off Plaza Garibaldi in Mexico City. But I’ve never felt like I was in more danger because I was a single woman.
In your travels, you have likely come across many kind people. What country has the most friendly locals?
The friendliest people I met have been the citizens of St. Petersburg, Russia. I stayed in the home of a lovely woman named Olga who made me breakfast every morning and wrote out careful directions to every attraction I wanted to see. I had one tour guide who went out of her way to buy me ballet tickets for no extra charge, and another who gave me a restaurant recommendation and then rode on the subway with me to the restaurant to make sure I wouldn’t get lost. Finally, I had dinner at the home of a Russian family who gave me a three-course meal, sang me songs, and gave me a bar of chocolate as I left. That’s not even mentioning the young Baryshnikov lookalike who gave me a balloon animal while I was walking down Nevsky Prospekt.
If you could share one piece of advice with a large group of people, what would it be?
I already gave my life advice about nothing being a mistake! So my best advice for how to have a perfect day while traveling is all here. It boils down to this: eat a good local breakfast, stick to one neighborhood a day, do major attractions early, spend the afternoon exploring random things that strike your fancy but always look out for a nice park/cafe in case you need a break, snack during the day and save your biggest meal for dinner. I find that this is the perfect balance of planned activities/exploring and street food/restaurant food. Also it saves money on transportation.
Be sure to check in every Friday to meet other awesome women travel bloggers and future friends! If you follow a female travel blogger that you love, please send suggestions my way so that I can reach out to her! If you are interested in being featured yourself, please shoot me an email: [email protected]