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 Nikoleta, I am an author of The Bonfire Dream based in Vienna. I started traveling as I was a little baby. As my mother would put it, traveling was my calling due to the weird travel-gene which runs in the family. I traveled first with my parents, then with my grandparents, then with my friends, school, volleyball team. etc. Eventually I made travel my priority, I launched The Bonfire Dream and now I am traveling the world while studying.
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 am not going to lie – every single place I visited was unique and I am in love with most of them. How can I choose ONE place?
What is the most beneficial lesson you have learned from traveling solo?
In the past, I did get to explore many cities solo, but I never took a full trip solo. But from those few hours I spent on my own, I can say that solo-travel teaches about oneself and people in general. Being on your own, you can explore the city in your own rhythm and inevitably, you can explore your thoughts as well. You get to go only to places that truly interest YOU. Result? You connect with yourself. Being free to look around, to talk to yourself (admit it, you do it too!!) is something one doesn’t get to do very often, which is an endless shame!
Secondly, we get to understand people in general. This is done in two ways. Sitting by yourself in a café or restaurant, I love doing people-watching and analyze their non-verbal language. I read so many books about it, which makes it so much more fun to watch and try to detect it. Non-verbal language usually gives more insights to people than the verbal one. Second way of understanding people is through interacting with them. Having companions is great, but that means you don’t have to go through the process of approaching a person, getting to know the person, finding common interests and keeping the conversations going. Interacting with people during solo-travel is an amazing practice for shy people!
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?
That’s where I am now. I am trying to express my opinion about solo-travel, I am trying to tell people around me that it is my plan to travel alone. It is scary, not only from the perspective of people who stay back home but also for myself. Am I going to be okay? Will I make it, not being able to rely on anyone? I know that I will, but it is still an awfully scary thought that I will be all alone some time soon. And no. People around me would be happiest if they could lock me up and pamper me, knowing my crazy personality that is likely to get me into trouble. I really wonder how I am going to let them know that I will travel solo.
Have you ever traveled somewhere that you did not feel safe as a solo female traveler? If so, where?
St. Petersbourg, Russia
I traveled to St Peterborough and I thought I would not feel safe there. From the travel agency we used, we got sent numerous articles about how to keep safe in Russia, how to make sure nothing would happen to us, what to do if something happens, whom to contact, etc. Furthermore, my parents studied in Russia during the end of communism and I read many terrifying stories about that country. Not even mentioning it’s current political situation when I went there. But I was truly surprised that I was not a target of terrorism or anything unpleasant for that matter. People treated me well, everybody was kind and helpful. And although I was not there alone, I moved around the city either in a big group of tourists or with another tall, blond lady. Ideal target!
On the contrary, when I was in Paris, I did feel unsafe and uncomfortable for most of the time. Nothing expressively bad happened to me, but the city triggered a feeling that I should keep my guard up. As it seems, it all comes down to personal experience and it is not about the cities themselves. In other words, keep your guard up! Perhaps that is the only recipe for safe travel!
In your travels, you have likely come across many kind people. What country has the most friendly locals?
Well, not only myself but my fellow travelers tend to think that Slovak people are the kindest. But I would be biased to say that because I am Slovak myself 🙂
If you could share one piece of advice with a large group of people, what would it be?
I know you might be scared, you might feel like it’s not the right time. But do something you won’t regret 50 years later. Make sure to define your priorities. If travel is first, then travel! If your family/lover/job/baby/etc. is first and travel second, then make sure you organize your time. And most of those things you can also combine! You can travel with your family/lover/baby/etc., you can find a job that involves traveling. If you don’t have enough money, you can either start exploring your neighborhood first or go on a budget backpacking trip! There is always a way. So do something you won’t regret!
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: hello[at]btravelsbetter.com.