Posts tagged “solo travel

Four countries in one week: Part. III “I made it out of Paris, France in one piece”

Four countries in one week: How I survived my impulsive solo adventure Part. III:

Despite the Protest, I made it out of Paris, France in one piece!

“Melting Pot”

The world is a huge melting pot.

Merriam Webster defines a melting pot as is “A place where different peoples, styles, theories, etc., are mixed together” and I couldn’t think of a better description to give the United States of America, London, Lisbon, Toronto, and Paris. In the short time that I’ve spent traveling throughout different parts of these countries (10 days total), that’s what I concluded from seeing so many places and so many faces (I did a lot of people watching lol).

I don’t know if it was just my ignorance but I never thought I’d carry on a conversation with an Asian man with a heavy British accent, or witness a young dark-skinned Portuguese girl playing with a white Barbie doll with Purple hair. I met a Filipino woman in a hostel in Portugal who spoke proper English (better than me). I heard so many different languages, beautiful accents from a variety of people that I would have never met if I hadn’t taken a chance and went on this awesome, crazy adventure!

As I said, it is/was just my ignorance of maybe the fact that I’ve been stuck in a small Philadelphia bubble for the past 27 years but I’m so glad that I’m finally got out in the world, way beyond my comfort zone…and now, there’s no stopping me!

There are people on the other side of the world, so many people different from me, but the same, it sounds completely crazy, absolutely mad, “utterly ridiculous” but please try and follow along.

See what I mean (I love rollerblading and I love Mary Jane!)!!!

Paris, France

Out of all of the places I visited PARIS was my favorite! Despite the violence and protests I’ve managed to avoid all of it and I had a great experience!

I took the train all around and it was so simple (compared to Portugal):

Paris❣️❣️❣️ stole my heart what a magical place❣️❣️❣️ It was definitely a great last minute addition to my itinerary & ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. I’m glad I was able to end my tour on a great note lol It didn’t rain at all (haven’t seen a blue sky in 7 whole days), the weather was warm & I finally met up with some family. Traveling solo was fun but it felt good to be around someone familiar.

I ate some tasty crepes at the BEST Creperie:

Saw the inside of an amazing Cathedral:

VISITED THE ICONIC EIFFEL TOWER:

I MEANNNNNNN…..😍 “TOUR EIFFEL”

I took the train and you couldn’t miss the stop…

No fancy descriptions: this was an absolutely beautiful experience (1. To see it light up & 2. to stand under it and get the view while looking up!)

Next favorite:

The Palace of Versailles, King Louis XIV royal residence 😍everything about this palace from its architecture (all that gold OMG) to the gardens was just 😍😍 one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been…

(The Palace of Versailles was the official royal residence of Louis XIV & the official residence of the court of France! It was abandoned after the death King Louis in 1715..)

So yes, Paris was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited 😍 and I was lucky enough to visit #arcdetriomphe (one of Paris’ most famous monuments built in 1806)! My grandfather was in the same spot taking in all of its glory in the 1950s❣️I thank God I was able to have a wonderful experience and see its beauty, again, all without getting caught up in the protest that began just a day after I got home.

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Cheers! Find out some of the highlights of my experience traveling to London, England (solo)

I traveled to London, England and had the best experience ever traveling solo.

At first, I was nervous to take this trip but I’m so glad I took the chance!

The following are some of the highlights from my solo adventure.

First up (one of my favorites):

The Shard London:

The shard is the UK’s tallest structure (skyscraper) and it’s the fifth tallest building in all of Europe.

(Here’s a view from the London Tower Bridge)

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It’s dubbed “the shard London” because, just like it’s name, this beautiful structure is shaped like a shard of glass.

It’s 95 stories tall and the view from the top is breathtaking.

Construction started in 2009 and doors opened in 2012 (so the Shard is fairly new). It’s home to offices, restaurants, and apartments.

The view from the Shard:

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this was one of my favorite experiences because you could see all of London at once and take in all of its beauty!

The Tower Of London:

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Home of the Crown Jewels!!

The most BEAUTIFUL diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, pearls, gold, royal crowns, scepters, jeweled out swords and just a bunch of royal history (from generations of the royal families) reside here.

All in one place are the most breathtaking jewels I’ve ever seen in my life.

I was not allowed to take any pictures inside but take my word for it!!

There were guards everywhere protecting the vault Crown Jewels.

The Tower of London was many things over time…

It was a defense tower:

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It was a menagerie (zoo) for when the royal family would receive live gifts (animals) from all over the world.

One of my favorite stories was about the pet polar bear that King Charles received and how he would take it to the river Thames so it could fish:

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The Tower was also a place of execution; within its walls was the “bloody tower” where prisoners who were sentenced to death would spend their last hours.

London Tower Bridge:

This historic landmark was built between 1886-1894 and is used to cross the Thames River.

The tower bridge gets confused as the popular “London Bridge” all of the time but this Bridge HAS NEVER FALLEN.

In fact it is built with some of the strongest materials in the world.

This Bridge was built because of the necessity of having to cross it everyday for work and other purposes (over 170,000 people cross this bridge everyday).

The steam/ engine rooms were pretty cool to visit.

Once operated by coal and a 100 person team, now a single person is able to operate this Bridge with a few clicks on a operating board.

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The view of Big Ben:

Lastly, one of my favorite moments was taking a Thames River Cruise ❣️ and the view of Big Ben!

London is so beautiful at night because everything is illuminated; this cruise was the best way to see all of the lights:

Look at the London Eye!!

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I purchased a three day London pass which turned out to be my best investment because I was able to skip long lines (or queues as the British say), avoid pricey entry fees, and receive other types of discounts at over 100 attractions.

<Please invest in this pass if you’re planning on doing any sightseeing in London it’s so worth it!>

For more details on my trip make sure you’re following the series “Four countries in one week: how I survived my solo adventure” (or simply click here)

Click here to find out about my experience at Buckingham Palace and the protest I encountered.

Four countries in one week Part. II “No, your basic Spanish won’t help in Portugal”

Welcome to Part. II of “How I survived my impulsive solo adventure(“No, your basic Spanish won’t help in Portugal”) 

This series will detail my personal experiences while traveling solo in the hopes of encouraging my fellow solo travelers! I also want to explain the side effects of making impulsive decisions (when you rush into a trip without planning it right).

So, cheers to more careless mistakes I’ve made that snowballed into the best experience of my life!

Comfort zones are overrated

I really want to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone(s) and experience something or someplace new even if it’s just once…a year.

Even if the adventure doesn’t go exactly how you planned, the trip is still worth a shot; you don’t know what’s out there in the world until you get off your butt and see it for yourself!

Not everything (travel wise) will be perfect but, hey, it’s all about your perspective and you should be determined to take the good with the bad in any “fail” or “bust” as I’ve learned to do!

I’ve met so many people who are satisfied with where they are in life and who feel at ease dwelling in the same city blocks of their hometown.

I’ve always wondered about the people who are OK existing in a world where they’ve only traveled around >10% of it.

As if traveling somewhere new isn’t attainable or is so much of a farfetched idea (maybe this is just out of fear); I’m here to share that this big ole world is yours and it’s time to get out and explore it!

You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn about yourself when you’re in a brand new place.

American Privilege: Imagine That

Imagine: standing in long customs’ lines, being questioned about your history, whereabouts, and intentions in a country you are trying to enter then receiving the ultimate prize: entry across the border!

Imagine saying “I’m just traveling for fun!” and getting the response “oh, I see you’re on holiday.”

This was only the beginning of my experiences last week and I melted inside at every accent I encountered, every smile, and every frown!

If you’re American, like me, all of this may be a new experience for you, with your American privilege and all…you really don’t get how foreign you are until someone is pissed at you or impatient because you don’t know the language or if you take time to examine each coin before paying for your food.

Lisboa 🇵🇹

Originally my trip to Lisbon was only supposed to be a fourteen hour layover but since I was no longer going to Africa I figured why waste the $50 ticket? Maybe I could still go to Portugal and experience a really cool day trip.

I was determined to see the best of Lisboa (in turn, this was also a bust but a beautiful learning experience nonetheless).

After spending two hours in the customs line and spending the next two getting drenched by the rain and trying to make it to Castelo de Muros just to get there and find everything shut down I was so disappointed and declared it another BUST!

I waited for a bus that never came, I walked up a steep hill-ed street to another bus stop just to find out I needed the bus going in the opposite direction, and it was just a bad experience.

Picture this: you’re wandering around in a country where YOU are the foreigner.

It may seem scary at first but the more you explore the more you see yourself in other people; humanity becomes more than just a word, it becomes a realization.

There are people on the of side of this world living their lives, and they’re so much like you but so different at the same time.

Language Arts

To all of the people (who love to make impulsive decisions as I do), I would first like to say learning everything possible about the places you want travel PRIOR to booking the flights is key. One thing I regret is not taking the time to learn Portuguese.

*Take time to learn the language (No your basic Spanish won’t help in Portugal) and trying to sound out places with your American accent will be frustrating.

“Este Rios” is NOT pronounced how it looks…I found that out the hard way.

PLEASE, I can’t stress enough, even if it’s just the basics, take the time to learn the official language of the places you’re traveling and don’t rely so much on a translator because most times they won’t work as they should…

This was a huge inconvenience for me in Portugal and one of the reasons it was my least favorite stop along my travels. I couldn’t understand anyone and they couldn’t understand me so it made traveling via their public transit system.

I fried my brain trying to decipher these maps but I pride myself in finally figuring them out…my mission was to get to Sinatra to see the Castle of the Moors, I needed to take the 427 bus from my location, get off at “Este Rios” catch a train to Sinatra and I’d be set.

By the time I got there everything was shutdown so I had to turn right back around and head back to my hostel.

The moon was absolutely beautiful at night and I came across this massive church that I admired for a bit.

Hostel Stay (Corujinha Hostel in Portugal)

To be honest the best part of this trip was the view of the moon and my hostel stay.

Being cheap once again, I decided that instead of spending a ton of hotels I would stay in hostels.

Why pay money for hotels that I would hardly spend any time? Also, Air BNB got a bit pricey and all required prepayments!

I did so much research on hostels and read hundreds of reviews (thank you Trip Advisor, Booking.com & Reddit).

I went to college so the idea of sharing a room with a stranger didn’t scare me at all.

I stayed at the Corujinha Hostel in Portugal and I give them ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ five stars. It was extremely clean, had an awesome common room full of musical instruments and TVs! Very homely compared to so of the other hostels I encountered (I’ll do a separate blog post rating the others so stay tuned).

I’ll see you next time!

I will most likely give myself five years to learn Portuguese and go back five years after that but I WILL go back not let this experience be the only memories I make in Lisbon.

For more on my impulsive solo adventures, and to see what other countries I actually ended up in after this second FAIL, continue on in this series!

I PROMISE IT ISN’T ALL BAD PLANNING & FAILS! IT ONLY GETS BETTER FROM HERE!!!!!!!!

Click here to visit Part III of “Four countries in one week: How I survived my impulsive solo adventures”

Four countries in one week: How I survived my impulsive solo adventure Part. I (“Ghana was a FAIL- why do vaccines and travel visas cost so much?”)

“I’m going to Africa and I ain’t going back and forth with yall!”

My impulsive, solo, trip started with just an idea: Investing in myself will be my top priority and I would kick this idea off my by committing to international travel.

It was my birthday and I wanted to celebrate myself like I never had before so I thought “what better way to celebrate (my 27th trip around the sun) than to plan a trip to Accra, Ghana 🇬🇭

I decided I would travel to West Africa which was a no brainer because I have roots there; my father was born and raised in Ghana and I wanted to explore his old stomping grounds, possibly meet some of my family, and overall get a feel for where I come from.

What would be so terrifying about traveling to Ghana solo?

It is completely beautiful and I don’t care what the narrative may look like through mainstream America’s lenses…

I wanted to find out all about Africa’s beauty for myself (and solo if need be!).

I figured if I waited around for other family/ friends I could possibly lose my nerve…there’s no time like the present…right?

No time to answer that! I just began booking!

SHE did it & so can I!!

While being so inspired by the many female travel bloggers/IG influencers making their mark all over the world (like “@thecatchmeifyoucan”) I convinced myself I could do the same thing.

This is so true HOWEVER, planning, researching, networking, and just being honest with myself would have been key and it took a few mistakes for me to realize this.

I dedicated the past couple of years to facing my fears and accomplishing so much; I was about to cross out another “need to do” up off of my list (or so I thought)…

RESEARCH is key

I began “researching” and I started accumulating some of the “must haves” every solo female traveler should have.

I had gained all of the materials but none of the actual knowledge it would take to carry out a successful trip to Africa.

The materials included (but weren’t limited to): an awesome carry on suitcase (with a built in TSA approved lock, a great sized traveling backpack, rain proof slip on sneaker protectors, Anker power bank, travel adapter, new digital camera and mount, selfie stick, travel SIM cards, and a variety of apps downloaded on my phone to help with everything else (what’s app, hopper, WiFi map, cash app, money exchange, google translate, hotel tonight, etc.).

Before I knew it I was in the hopper app finalizing the flight arrangements because I set set, right?

WRONG!

Yes, I would have the physical things I needed for traveling, but the most important question was “could I actually meet the requirements to enter into the country?”

Caught up in excitement, I was overlooking key elements, like securing my safety all in the name of trying to live my best life.

I didn’t consider all of the vaccines until I contacted Penn’s travel medicine and looked into the type of travel visa I needed.

I told the angel and demon on my shoulders “I’ll be fine” and “I ain’t going back n forth with Y’all” (in my best Lil Duval impression).

Without doing the ACTUAL RESEARCH needed to actually be prepared for Africa I booked an expensive flight…

If you’re catching on to how irresponsible this trip was about to be you’re keeping up.

My biggest mistake was not doing enough research first! If I had, I would’ve realized in addition to paying almost $400 for the flight, I needed a visa to travel to Ghana (~$280), and needed to get pumped full of vaccines (averaging over $300).

At this rate, I needed to spend at least a month out there in Accra & Kumasi (and not just a week of vacation time I saved up.

For someone who was balling on a budget, I sure started off by wasting a TON of money I already didn’t have…and needed to dish out more if I wanted to step foot on the continent.

I was honest with myself and admitted I just couldn’t afford this trip (not at this point in time).

I would’ve spent all of my money just trying to get there and one week wouldn’t be enough time at all to enjoy it all!

I was going to keep this trip a secret but as discouraged as I was becoming I decided to talk to my mom about it.

I was so reluctant about that because I knew she would freak out at the idea of me going anywhere solo let alone the place where she had the worst experience of her life.

My parents honeymooned in Ghana with back in 1990 and my mom was so homesick and out of her element so I just knew she would be totally biased against me going.

Anyway, I decided to share my dilemma with her I started off with “mom, I booked a crazy trip” and smiled reluctantly.

She asked where and when I told her she said she was sad and didn’t want me to go but I already knew that.

She said it’s not like it’s Cali it’s Africa lol okkk I realized that I started explaining the money situation because I value her opinion.

Finally, I decided I wouldn’t go all the way but stop in some places where I didn’t need any vaccines or visas, just my passport which I had and was eager to get it stamped.

GHANA WAS A FAIL (for now…but with better planning I’m definitely taking a crack at it again)!!Hopefully I’ll go when I turn 30!!

We all make mistakes and sometimes they cost us big time. I’m thankful I listened to my gut and my mom (and went back and forth lol) because I could’ve spent all of my money just to get to Africa and I probably would’ve had a terrible time (being short on money which isn’t a good look!).

For more on my impulsive solo adventures, and to see what four countries I actually ended up in after this FAIL, continue on in this series!

Click here to visit Part II of “Four countries in one week: How I survived my impulsive solo adventures”

“One Solution: Revolution (System Change Not Climate Change)”

Buckingham Palace’s beauty & the unexpected protest I ran into on my solo adventure in London, England (11.24.18)

I arrived in London, England after an extremely long twelve hour Megabus ride to Toronto Canada, then another seven-hour plane ride courtesy of West Jet.

I was so eager to get out and start doing all of the touristy things I’ve always dreamed of.

The first thing I wanted to do after I checked into the PubLove Hostel, where I would be spending one night, I was off to visiting Buckingham Palace!

I wandered through the city of Westminster, without a working phone or a reliable WiFi connection, just a screenshot of google map directions that revealed Buckingham palace was only a short distance (25-minute walk) from where I would be spending the night.

I passed by Victoria train station, where just an hour before I was dragging my luggage in one hand and a Burger King meal in the other, lost and frustrated trying to find my way to Publove; now luggage free and full, I followed “Buckingham Palace street” (so clever) all the way to one of London’s famous places.

I heard the palace before I saw it!

To my surprise, I was greeted by loud chants, songs, drums, and people waving flags with half painted faces.

At first, I thought to myself “I must have this all wrong this isn’t Buckingham Palace” but…it was, after all, I was on BUCKINGHAM PALACE STREET and after all of the tourist and swift moving locals I dodge on the way there it just better had been.

It’s just…not exactly what I expected, instead of it being a completely magical experience, it was sort of ruined by the large group of people creating a huge ruckus in the name of climate control; but one thing I’ve learned is that in protesting is there are no rules and it has known no bounds.

I had a brief conversation with one of the yellow-jacketed police officers, guarding the gates, just to confirm what I already knew.

I asked if the protest was really happening before my eyes at Buckingham Palace? To his reply was simply “yes it is.”

The friendly officer, with the awesome accent, followed up by explaining that prior to this protest demands for better climate control programs (by the same group) were demonstrated at the Parliament (law making- city council headquarters) but on this particular day “they chose to come here” out of all of the days I thought!

Anyway, for the record, if I were to be caught up in a protest that would have been the one to wonder into…

Nothing compares to America’s protests or more recently the uproar in Paris where locals (with yellow jackets ironically) are literally setting fire to the streets and police are launching canisters of tear gas for crowd control all over fuel prices.

No, this was something different; it was peaceful, people were singing and dancing, and there was clearly a huge mixture of tourist in with the locals (I could tell by all of the selfie-taking).

Typically you wouldnt think a local would yell “CLIMATE CONTROL” but first, let me get this selfie (although today that may not be too far from reality…)…

I missed the changing of the guards but I still caught a glimpse of the guards marching back and forth at the entrance, in uniform, protecting the Palace.

Let’s get into the details!

Buckingham Palace’s physical appearance is GORGEOUS. The Gold trimmed gates, huge fountains and carefully sculpted statues were just amazing; it was like looking at a page from an art history book.

Although this was not what I expected for my first experience at this famous landmark in England it was nothing short of amazing and is unforgettable.

“We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue” aka London’s Harlem! I had to find the African presence in London…I had to!

During my first night in London I made it a priority to visit BRIXTON.

Brixton has been dubbed as London’s Harlem (it may have been after Nelson Mandela visited in 1996) either way I had to find the African presence in London…I had to!

I read a lot about Brixton and found that this area in London is where a lot of African/ Caribbean culture resided (ever since the ending of the second World War) so it was at the top of my list of “must sees”.

After the craziness at Buckingham Palace I decided to end the day on a sweeter note and rock down to Electric Avenue.

Luckily Brixton wasn’t too far away from Victoria station, which was so close to the Buckingham Palace (it was basically the last stop on the Victoria line) so it just made sense to go while I was in the neighborhood.

So I took the “tube” (Victoria line from Victoria station to the last stop) and was instantly pleased.

As soon as I reached the top of the escalator I was met by a sea of brown faces and heard nothing but Caribbean music.

I shopped around a bit at the outside marketplace…

Stopped by “Pop Brixton” a cool indoor shopping mall/ pub for a drink…

Then I treated myself to some of the best Caribbean/Jamaican food I’ve ever tasted!!!

Brixton was Amazing!! I definitely want to return and get some more beef patties soon!

A trip down Graffiti Alley in Toronto Canada

After a very long Megabus ride from Philly (almost 11 hours including two 20 minute layovers) I finally made it to Canada!

Today marks day #1 of my solo adventure and I had a great time exploring downtown Toronto.

You may be asking why the heck I opted for such a long bus trip and the truth is I was just being cheap lol the bus ticket was only $30.

When you purchase Megabus tickets in advance you can travel almost anywhere at a discounted price (compared to flying).

Anyway, ITS COLD! The high today was only 29 degrees and it was pretty windy (not too far off from Philadelphia temperatures right now so I was prepared).

I’m just thankful it wasn’t snowing today and there was barely any evidence of last week’s snowfall so it’s all good.

Although the temperatures are pretty cold I felt nothing but positive vibes from the warm welcome of Toronto today.

I dedicated my morning to exploring on foot and it was pretty simple figuring out my way around downtown.

Although my phone didn’t work a lick and there weren’t any available WiFi networks to connect to, I found the places I had been researching prior, just fine.

The streets were pretty familiar thanks Google maps (especially street view)!

Streets like Augusta & Queen (near Graffiti Alley), Bay Street, University Ave, and some other major landmarks (like Union Station) were so easy to find.

I’m only passing through Toronto and for the short time I had to spend here I needed to visit Graffiti Alley!

I think street art is so beautiful. There is an entire section in Toronto dedicated to this type of art and it’s dubbed “Graffiti Alley.”

Think of the artist and how FREE they are in the moments of creating these pieces.

I enjoyed the art as well as the extremely friendly people I met why exploring.

One thing I’ve learned already from traveling solo is that there really are some kind hearted people out here (the kindness started with my Megabus driver letting me on the bus early to get me out of the cold so shout out to him and the entire South Philly!!!)…

I didn’t get much time to do the traditional touristy things (I managed to get some great pictures of the UN tower though; I couldn’t miss that lol) but nonetheless my day was unforgettable.

Stay tuned for the rest of my solo adventures this week! I’m traveling to London, Portugal, & Paris. Follow me on IG for more @mystik.y & @youngloudproud

More blog posts coming soon!

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