Tips for Traveling as a Solo Female Traveler- Interview with Mona Corona!

 

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It was an honor being interviewed by Mona Carona about solo female travel! Her blog is all about “luxury travel made achievable through my tips, tricks, hacks, and guides. I cover all the best destinations for luxury travel, create customized itineraries so that you don’t have to, and offer money-saving hacks to get you where you want to go at a fraction of the cost. You don’t need to be royal to travel like you are; so go ahead and put that crown on, and enjoy the finer side of travel…without breaking the bank.”

It’s filled with wonderful photos and tips on traveling the world! Check it out 🙂

Check out the original interview here or read an excerpt below!

 

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Why travel solo?

Because I’m selfish. Because traveling alone is part of self-care for me, and I don’t want to compromise my experience. Well, not all of the time. The benefits to traveling solo is that you get to do exactly what you want when you want, and we rarely give ourselves that kind of freedom in real life. Traveling with someone else can provide moments of more intimacy and connection with that person for sure; nevertheless, you have to think about the needs of the other person, wait for them to get ready, and sometimes compromise on conflicting itineraries.  So, to be able to walk alone through the streets of a new place and let it present itself to you organically to me is extremely joyful. I love walking at my own pace and letting my curiosity and perspective dictate the experience vs. being distracted or slowed down by another person.

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How do you stay safe while traveling? 

 Research, research, research and be aware.

It is important for you to research the culture you are about to experience, from the body language, hand gestures, history, clothing style, and current political system. For women especially, don’t go into a new place blind. Make sure that you are aware of the culture you are entering and how they tend to treat women. I did my research before traveling through Turkey and it made it a bit easier- but not less annoying- when I would get harassed on the streets. Since I did my research, I had a heads up.

Be aware of your surroundings. I fiercely believe that women can and should travel on their own, however, some parts of the world still don’t agree with me. After traveling on my own for years, there have only been a few instances where I needed to have my guard up more. Trust your instincts and keep your eyes open to those around you. So, in areas you don’t know, don’t put in earbuds, headphones, or texting because it could make you look more vulnerable.

What do you do when you feel lonely? 

Loneliness used to really drive my travels. I thought that the farther I traveled, the less lonely I would feel, which was a false promise I gave myself. However, with travel, I found that I became more comfortable with being alone the more I was alone, which ironically abated my loneliness.  Now I crave to travel alone because I have realized that it is a form of self-nourish, and I appreciate the freedom that traveling on my own gives you. I love being able to wander at my own pace, stop for however long when something intrigues me, and not have to compromise with the whims of others.

 

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What is the best way to meet people and socialize when you don’t want to be alone anymore?

I personally love couchsurfing + volunteering in different sites. I would rather stay with a local who will show me areas not in a guide book or stay with a family and experience what it is like to live there. I get such a richer experience and create deeper connections when I am staying with locals because I’m able to familiarize myself with their perceptions of the world. Hostels are a great place to meet other solo travelers too, even if you aren’t staying in one. Many hostels hold events and social gatherings which are a great way to meet and mingle with others.

What are some of the challenges you face as a solo female traveler?

If anything, solo travel is easier because it is all on my terms. However, there are plenty of challenges I still face because I am a solo female traveler; being harassed on the street, afraid of wearing the wrong clothes, or trusting the wrong people. Fortunately, my trips have been based around the benevolence of people and very few have tried to pull any tricks, but it is still a fear that gets on buses with me, whispers in my ear while I’m sleeping, and has me hesitate when I’m going out alone at night. It’s more than unfortunate that half of the global population doesn’t feel completely safe to travel on their own, and I would like to work harder at changing that.

What are the best places for solo travel? 

I think there are risks to traveling anywhere- some places may seem more egregious because of the news. I can only speak from the places I have traveled to, but most places can be great for solo-travel. My travels have shown that the world is more protective than predatory.

And honestly, I think a good amount of traveling is based around luck. For example, I went to Barcelona for a week, partied at local spots, and had a phenomenal time without any issues. A friend went around the same time and got robbed and stranded outside of the city. Why were our experiences of the same place so vastly different? Chance is a large contributor. Unfortunate things happen regardless of where you are in the world, and the same goes for wonderful things as well.

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If you want to read more interviews on being a solo female traveler, check out this post with Lyfe+Spice “It’s Up to the Solo Female Travelers.”

 

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Interview with Travel Stories + Images

It was such a pleasure being interviewed by Jim Jones on his wonderful blog Travel Stories + Images!  It is a travel blog on Jim’s love of travel, food, photography, and lifestyle. He is starting a new segment called ” Most Interesting Travelers” which is a reputation I’m going to have to keep up!

Should probably book some more plane tickets soon….

Check out the original post or read through an excerpt below!

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What would you say to encourage someone who wants to travel but is afraid to because of cost, time, etc.?

There is nothing better that you can do with your hard earned money and fleeting time than to travel.  No dress, no jet ski, or new iPhone will ever give you the same experience as hiking the top of Mount Kosciuszko, dancing within Argentina, or walking through Petra.

When you travel, you see how vastly complex the world is than textbooks or the television can show you. It is an experience that can’t be done on the couch. You quickly realize how valuable your time on earth is and that it needs to be spent exploring and connecting with others.

It also inspires a level of self-growth that can’t be replicated elsewhere. When you are thrown into unknown situations you get to see who you really are outside of the comforts of your home.

What it will show you is how invaluable an experience is and there isn’t enough money or time, so use it wisely.

What are your top 3 tips for newbie or wanna-be travelers?

Take risks- the universe will reward you in unexpected ways. Couch surf, volunteer, hitchhike…do things you would never do at home. This is your time to run wild.

I always get asked the nervous question, “ but what if I don’t make any friends?” If you are a kind person and say hello to people, you will absolutely make friends. People will help you if you ask for it, regardless of their age, race, gender identity, or nationality. The world often throws at you the people you need to learn from at the time. Always be receptive towards them.

Know that you can do it. You are not the first one to go out and travel alone, and there is a pretty high success rate of returning will all your limbs intact. But your heart? Well, that is certain to change.

What advice do you have specifically for female travelers?

Know that you can do it. Women are socialized to believe that they can’t do it, we shouldn’t do it, or it is a risk if we try. That is a false narrative.

That it is not only ok but necessary to be selfish because we are really the first generation of women who are making travel safer for other women. Our rolls historically were to be supporters for others, for husbands, parents, children, community, and friends. But only the rare and strange women have ventured off on their own. The wandering woman needs to no longer be a rarity. It is ludicrous to believe that half of the global population is unable to travel freely from their homeland. This is the first generation where women are able to travel relatively safely without the assistance or protection from men ( all the time). So it’s not only important that women go out and travel, but it is imperative to show the world examples of our abilities and strength.

 

If you want to read more of my interviews, check out this post with outdoor and travel blog THE KARAKORUM GIRL

Interview with The Karakorum Girl

It was wonderful being interviewed for The Karakorum Girl Blog!

Samiya’s desire is to encourage everyone who loves outdoor activities and realize their dream. The blog touches upon things from promoting extreme sports to motherhood to travel and has a unique approach on empowering those who are looking up for the right direction.

Check out the original post here and an excerpt below!

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Me in the LA Airport 

Adrien starts her own travel blog

I started Strangers Abroad because I was disappointed with how poorly I had been documenting my travels. I was having such wonderful conversations with strangers, locals, and fellow travelers whom I met while I was abroad. These conversations were breaking down the expectations and perceptions I had about the world and how to live. I wanted to share those stories with others and encourage others to go out there and travel.

Not all who wander are lost

I launched Strangers Abroad in 2017, but had been working on it for almost a year. In 2016, I booked a one-way ticket to Mexico because I was dissatisfied with my life (boyfriend, job, general direction) and wanted to escape. Every time I get out of my environment, I find some answers to the questions that are plaguing me, and my body was craving adventure.  The idea came to me as I sat on an ugly carpet in an apartment I hated when I lived in Portland, OR. I was looking for a way to be creative and feel like I was making more out of my trip than just hanging out.  I remember playing around and setting up my iPad a few days before I left for Mexico and thought “I could create a podcast?” slightly incredulous of my own capabilities but excited for the creative project. I was obsessed with podcasts at the time and didn’t think it would be that hard. It was, but here I am, three years later, with a full season under my belt and working on my second season.

Irrational fears that during travels have helped me to overcome

Nope. I still have the irrational fear of missing my bus/plane/train. I have traveled through 30 countries on my own, and I still panic that I am going to miss my ticket to the next place. My anxiety has gotten slightly better as I’ve gotten older, but I have definitely made a fool of myself in many countries because of it (crying in cabs, running through airports with 10 layers of clothes on, angrily bartering with bus drivers). I just choose to leave dumb early now and have learned to love airports like a weirdo.

One belief that is held up by society as ‘common sense’ but that you think is ridiculous & backward

I think one societal belief that my travels have proven wrong is that strangers are dangerous. “Stranger danger” is a huge saying in the States, and every time I’m about to leave people think the next time they hear about me will be on a 20/20 segment where thousands of female travelers were found in a Moldovan sex trade, and I’m addicted to opium and believe my name is Valentina. My experiences with strangers couldn’t be farther from the truth.

My travels have been based around the benevolence of complete strangers who have taken me into their homes, fed me, let me break bread and share in their company. I have met people who feel like long lost friends, where the conversation picks up as if no time has passed. I find that the world is more protective than predatory. Does that mean that my travels have always been rainbows and unicorns? No, but the kindness I have experienced from strangers outweighs the bad moments.

Budget traveler

In the past, I would work for months at a time and save as much of my money as possible. I wouldn’t go out drinking all night or spend money on clothes. When I had temptations to buy things I would always think “But how many bus tickets is that?”  I would travel with only a few thousand dollars and would find ways to keep costs low as I traveled. I would couch surf and volunteer at different locations to save money, which allowed me to travel for longer. Now, I’m interested in getting sponsors and finding more location independent work to fund my travels.

Adrien favorite destination and why

I don’t like the term favorite; however, there are certain places in the world that make my heart hurt more than others. I think that every place speaks to you differently depending on who you are at the time and what lessons you need at the time. The ones that have spoken loudly to me when I was there, in no particular order, are Prague, Mexico City, Chefchouan, Oaxaca, Arequipa, and Paris. They are all colorful, creative, and wonderful to explore, and have great bookstores, coffee shops, street art / art scene and incorporate a lot of nature in their infrastructure.

Some memories are unforgettable

I don’t think there is a favorite one, but there are plenty of perfect little moments that unconsciously pop up like gophers in my memory with no prompt.  Plucking olives in Tuscany; standing in Frida Kahlo’s gardens; walking through the streets of Prague; eating Clementine in Chefchouan with my best friend; hitchhiking in Oaxaca; swimming in cenotes in Quintana Roo; hummingbird gardens in Costa Rica; making chocolate in Peru.

A country or city that was disappointing afterwards

Again, I think that different places talk to you louder than others and there are some places that haven’t spoken to me as loudly as others have.

However, I’ve never been disappointed because I try to go into every experience with low/no expectations. I try not to color any experience as a disappointment because I don’t want to think I have ever wasted my time. Whatever I didn’t get out of the experience, I learned from it. I might return in the future and have a great time.  I think there is opportunity for learning in every experience.

Travel back in time to meet a historical figure

I would love to get tea with Nellie Bly, who was the first woman to travel around the world, on her own, in less than 80 days. She was a journalist and convinced her boss at the New York World newspaper to pay for her to travel around the world, based around the book “Around the World in 80 Days.” She traveled through England, France (where she met Jules Verns who wrote the book that inspired her travels), Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Colombo, the Straits Settlements of Penang and Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan before arriving in San Francisco and then made it back to New York four days later.

She is a full force badass. She was a solo-female traveler  in the 1900’s, with all of her possessions in a small bag, and somehow didn’t catch tuberculosis. I’m surprised the idea wasn’t trashed since women’s ambitions have been squelched since the dawn of the Neolithic period. So the fact that she was able to go anywhere alone was an accomplishment enough!

I would love to know what she thought, saw, felt, and enjoyed. Which places surprised her and which ones she wishes she could return to. What she completed was the greatest adventure any woman could have had at her time. This was when almost all women were listening to stories about the world from their husbands as they made soup in their kitchens instead of going out and exploring the world with their own feet.

Social norms or practices I’ve encountered during travels that I wish were normal in your native culture

Siestas. Hands down! I want to nap in the middle of the day like a cat in a bay window with the sun beaming on my body.

Places in the world I would love to visit out of principle…

I think every place holds stories that we can learn from. I think that the actions of governments don’t always ( or hardly) represent the actions and beliefs of the people. I can vehemently disagree with someone else’s ruler, but that doesn’t mean that is the full story. If I were to avoid countries where I didn’t believe in the rulings of their histories and politicians, I would have to leave my own. I think it is more important to go to those countries so we can have the people tell their stories instead of others painting colored pictures for us. I know that my president isn’t all of America, and the stories of those who put him in power are just as valid as mine. The news can only show us so much.

One food I could now never eat in my home country again because I’ve tasted the original version in its country of origin & I’ve been forever spoiled

  • Its beer in Prague.
  • Tacos, and coffee because of Mexico.
  • Cheese because of the Netherlands and France. Wine because of Italy.

Build your own home from scratch & features that are perhaps things I’ve come across in different places around the world on my journey

I love this question. I love the red rooftops in Prague. I don’t think I could ever get sick of them. I also love Mexican architecture. But in all honesty, I just want to live in a tree-house where the house is build around the tree and the trunk is the center of it so I can build a wrap around staircase around it. Yes, I am an adult that pays taxes.

Too large or impractical to travel things with that I wish I could bring along

Books, they are too heavy to carry around and I hate reading on my phone or kindle. I typically try to focus on writing + podcasting vs. reading while I travel.

Making a distinction between tourist and traveler

I think there is a huge difference between a traveler and a tourist. I think the priorities of both are different. In the simplest and slightly pretentious way I can describe it, a tourist is someone who looks at a place through a window and doesn’t engage with the locals. They travel for souvenirs and Instagram likes. Whereas, a traveler knows that the place isn’t made without the people and actively tries to engage with locals. Travelers are more interested in collecting experiences and memories than things. Regardless, I hope both aspire for change and a break from routine on whatever level works for them.

The most and least livable cities I’ve visited

When it comes to infrastructure, Stockholm is by far the most livable city I have visited. It is immaculate and has such efficient transportation. But cities that I personally would want to live in, Mexico City for sure. That city has such a pulse and creativity to it that I haven’t found in the states, not even New York City.

I think least livable is pretty subjective. From my experience, a place that was hard to live in was San Jose, Costa Rica. As a woman, I couldn’t walk down the street without someone harassing me and there were areas that were not enjoyable to walk through, especially as a non-local. However, that was just my experience and I’m not saying that is everyone’s experiences. The city also had incredible cafes and street art, which I really loved. Costa Rica as a whole is a phenomenal country.

P.S. New York is hard.

One favorite picture made during one of your travels

The picture that I chose for my podcast art, it is a photo of me and a “stranger” I had met 36 hours before. Thomas and I had met on the bus from Cusco to Hydroelectric, and we walked along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes (the entrance to Machu Picchu) and then hiked Machu Picchu together. A woman saw us talking on the precipice of the cite with the Andes behind us and thought it was a Kodak moment. We are standing there talking to each other and laughing, mainly because we are discussing what baked goods we are going to eat when we were done hiking.

A good travel tip

Travel alone and for as long as you can while you are young. And always talk to strangers.

Three golden tips for other travel bloggers who want to travel and work around the world.

Have sensible walking shoes, stock up on notebooks, and carry a small backpack.

What country stands high on your bucket list?

India. I want to spend 6 months exploring that country. Probably still won’t see all of it.

My next destination?

It’s looking like Tokyo and Southeast Asia, but possibly Mexico City again.

 

If you want to read more of my interviews, check out my post with Digital Travel Guru all about how to be a solo-female travel.

*Interviewed by Digital Travel Guru*

Hey there Strangers!

It was an honor to be interviewed by the lovely Eliza French of Digital Travel Guru. She asked me a tone of great questions about being a solo female traveler and what it is like to backpack long term.

 

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Digital Travel Guru is a TOP NOTCH travel blog. It launched in 2016 with the goal of sharing the childhood passion for exploring the globe with people all around the world. They wanted to bring their readers on their adventures, to see their photos and travel videos to share experiences and also to motivate and help people to plan their trips and fulfill their wanderlust dreams. Since launching, they can proudly say they have grown a fantastic travel community across all our platforms which has made everyone very happy Guru’s.

Check out the original post here or look at an excerpt below!

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AS YOU ARE A SOLO TRAVELLER – DO YOU HAVE ANY GOOD SOLO TRAVEL TIPS TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?

Talk to as many strangers as possible. One huge advantage of traveling alone is that you are more approachable to people who might not feel comfortable going up to a group of people. When you are alone, especially as a woman, people are more curious about you and are more likely to talk to you.

I have been able to have just as insightful conversations with strangers as I have friends who I have known since I was four.  Only these conversations hold no preconceived notions; you are able to talk from where you stand in that moment and not let your past cloud how the other person perceives you. It holds more opportunity for honesty and is impeccably freeing.

AS A SOLO TRAVELLER – DO YOU HAVE ANY GOOD MONEY SAVING TRAVEL TIPS TO SHARE?

For most of my trips I have tried to couchsurf + volunteer as much as possible. I don’t necessarily do it because it is cost effective, but I truly get a better perspective and understanding of the people and place I am staying in. The fact that it is free/ cheap is a bonus.

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HAVE YOU HAD  ANY SCARY OR STRANGE EXPERIENCES WHEN TRAVELLING ? IF SO WHAT HAPPENED?

Oh, we don’t have enough space on the internet to go into all of them. However, I have been trapped in a tannery in Fez, was almost sold for a pack of cigarettes in Turkey, was abandoned at a bus stop in Rome, had to bail someone out of jail in Essaouira, hitchhiked in the Netherlands, and had my passport stolen in Mexico. Fortunately, the universe was kind in all of those situations and nothing detrimental happened to my mental/ physical/ emotional health happened.

 

WHAT ARE THREE THINGS TRAVEL HAS TAUGHT YOU?

Travel has taught me so much more than I could have anticipated. There are more than three things that travel has taught me, but there are overarching lessons that really stick out.

First is that your problems follow you around the world. I thought that because I was traveling I wouldn’t feel lonely or directionless, which were two feelings that would plague me at home. However, they still crept into my hostel rooms, sat next to me on buses, and walked me home late at night. But after months of traveling alone, I got cozy with these feelings and stopped allowing them to dictate my experience. I honestly love being alone now because I feel more centered as a person and am truer to who I am.

Piggybacking on the previous point, because I traveled alone, I was able to see what my true potential was and who I was without the influence of others. I was able to become more mindful of the parts of me I needed to work on. Simultaneously, I became more solidified on the integral aspects of who I am regardless of my location. Traveling alone gave me time to see my true potential and become a more empathetic person to myself and others because of it.

Lastly, I think I was able to test how strong I really am. When you travel alone and aren’t dependent on others, you have to rely on yourself. I was in a relationship during my last long trip in Latin America. I was traveling with my ex for two out of the five months, and I realized while my (ex) partner and I were traveling together that I was embarrassingly dependent on him. I was nervous that once he left, which was part of the plan, that I wouldn’t be able to travel on my own. This was a truly ludacris thought because years before I had traveled on my own for months at a time, for farther distances, and with fewer inhibitions. But there was this level that I couldn’t trust myself.  When I turned my back on him and gave him the last kiss we would ever exchange, I stepped onto the bus with the fear that I couldn’t do it. However, the universe has a way of showing you your true strength. In less than 2 hours, I had made friends with some Kiwis and locals on the bus and went out to dinner with them once we got to our destination. I remembered the high of traveling alone and realized that I could travel as far as my legs could take me without him or anyone.

 

The Best Parks in Mexico City- Guest Post with Michael Gerber

It was such an honor to guest post for Michael Gerber Photographyabout one my favorite aspect about one of my favorite places: the parks of Mexico City.

 

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This is a photo of me pre or post crying. I had been walking around Chapultepec in Mexico City and just felt so at ease. I don’t know what it is about certain places that make you feel in complete alignment. Is it the light? The colors? The energy? The smells? For some reason, I feel at home in Mexico City. There are rare places that evoke such visceral responses. As if I’m tapping into a past life. I don’t know if there is any science behind it; I just know how I feel. The parks of Mexico City are some of my favorite in the world and I encourage you to explore them.

Here is the original post and below is an excerpt!

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Mexico City feels like it was built around a jungle. Each street is lined with contorted trees, protruding aloe, and stoic cacti. Vines and flowers dangle from balconies and splay themselves along the walls of the city. The city’s relationship with nature is evident, if not ostentatious. It has seeped into their art, their literature, and city design. This is seen most prominently in their parks. Current Mexican culture has taken influences from their mystical heritage and fold it nicely into modern cultures, like stuffing cheese into a tamale. Each one is more than a place to relax. They are spaces designed for creative inspiration and expression, filled with sculptures, extravagant architecture, and intricate walkways. Although the locals live in a humans-crawling-over-each- other kind of city, there is clear need to be in nature, a need to keep an air of mystery. Therefore, I am gonna show you the best parks in Mexico City today!

Don’t expect the well-manicured lawns of British gardens, pruned topography, or mowed lawns; these parks in Mexico City are as wild as the city they sit inside. Each one holds its own type of magic. They are jungley and filled with secrets. They make you feel like you are walking around a piece of magical realism, where time evaporates and you find the magic within the real world.  Their shadows and secrets break the haughty belief that because we are modern, we know all there is to know. No matter how fast our internet is, life will always be shrouded in mystery.

Mexico City’s parks are places of escape and contemplation, and fortunately, they are everywhere. These are the parks in Mexico City you can’t miss.

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Chapultepec

Chapultepec: the oldest and largest park in Mexico City and North America. It is a park so magnanimous it could swallow Central Park whole and still have room to munch on smaller parks for dessert. You couldn’t miss if you tried.

This park is a city within itself. It contains 9 museums, a zoo, an amusement park, and a castle, and there is still enough space for hundreds of families to picnic without feeling claustrophobic. You could spend a whole week in the park alone and still not see everything.

You can see people enjoying the park all week long; however, the park offers plenty of free activities on Sundays.

There is enough space to allocate to each age group, from intricate children’s playgrounds to a garden for the elderly. It also contains the spirits and skeletons of past generations in the largest cemetery in Latin America.

While it is a popular place to picnic, this area has been more than just a delightful place to eat outdoors. While it is now used as a space to relax in, Chapultepec is known for its pugnacious past.

This area has always been of interest to humans. In 1122 A.D., the Toltec, one of the ancient peoples who predate the Mayas and Aztecs, cultivated and named the area. Chapultepec translates to “Hill of the Grasshopper” and is cherished for its advantageous lookout spots of the area and the large amounts of bugs bouncing around. The land switched hands as the Toltec slowly morphed into the Aztecs, who ruled it until Cortez- and his onslaught of germs, horses, and gunpowder- weakened and overthrew the Aztecs. One of the final battles between the Aztecs and Cortez happened on the hill of Chapultepec, which was quickly turned over to the conquistadors.

The hill is now h0me to the only castle in Mexico, if not Latin America. It was built in 1785 as a stately home for the head vicor and the Spanish Crown. During the Mexican-American War, Chapultepec was a strategic site. The most notorious story is about the “Boy Heros” a group of young soldiers all under the age of 19 who fought in Chapultepec castle. They were surrounded by American soldiers and rather than surrendering to them, the young soldiers, heroically, wrapped themselves in the Mexican flag and jumped to their deaths. Many streets in Mexico are named “Ninos Heroes” in honor of their martyrdom.

The castle was then run by Maximilian + Carlota, Belgium daughter and son in law of Leopold II (who would later be infamous for his atrocities in the Congo). They were expected to be the Emperor and Empress of Mexico who wanted Mexico City to be the capital of their new empire. Unfortunately, their plans didn’t go exactly as he expected as their presence inflamed the Mexican resistance. Maximilian died by firing squad and his wife went insane and lived in a convent the rest of her life. The castle is now a museum.

From the apex of the hill, you can peer over the tops of trees, which are older than the city itself. There are certain areas where you can stand and capture the city’s different epochs in one look the castle, the skyscrapers, and the surrounding forest- only to wonder what the next hundred years will bring.

Canals

 

Canals- Xochimilco

Mexico City is one of the rare places that has maintained a balance between modernity and its roots. As many ancient cities have toppled and been rebuilt in a more modern path, Mexico City still maintains a balance between the New and Old Worlds. That is seen best in the canals of the southern neighborhood, Xochimilco. Pre-Hispanic groups constructed a series of canals over a large lake, creating a New World equivalent to Venice or Amsterdam.

They named it Xochimilco, which translates to “field of flowers.” This neighborhood is still one of the main agricultural centers, providing food and flowers for the city.

Today, you can hop into a brightly colored “trajineras,” which are the Mexican take on gondolas and you can paddle through 110 miles of canals and floating gardens. When you walk up to the entrance, you are welcomed with rows of bright neon painted boats, each christened with a loved one’s name and lavishly decorated. You and your boat rider can venture through the giant canal system weaving through the manmade islands, chinampas.

Once you are floating through the canals, your rectangle boats will weave through willow trees, lily pads, and wild reeds. There is a variety of fauna from the occasional cow munching away to the rare Montezuma frog who may hop into your boat. These creatures were once believed to be a reincarnation of an Aztec god “Xolotl”, brother of “Quetzalcoatl”. This amphibian was used as a medicine and food to the Aztec people. It is certainly a sign of good luck if it springs across your path.

The Mexicans know how to turn any opportunity into a fiesta. There are food boats that will saddle up and ride with you as you select your snacks for your trip- peanuts, chili mangos, and real Coca-Cola. Competing for your attention are the mariachi boats who will serenade beside you so emphatically it is astonishing they don’t flip over.

The islands themselves are filled with secrets. One of the most popular and eerie experiences is the island of dolls. Years ago, a man living on the island discovered the body of a little girl who had ostensibly drowned by his house on one of the chinampas. Days later, a doll floated by the same path and the man believed that the doll possessed the girls’ spirit. He hung the doll in one of the trees on the island as a sign of respect but out of superstition began putting up more and more dolls to ward off spirits to prevent him from being haunted. The island is now covered with decapitated and mutilated dolls bodies hanging in the trees like rotting fruit. If you choose to pass by, you will be watched by thousands of hollow glass stares that follow you as you pass by. To sum up, this is certainly one of the best parks in Mexico City.

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Santa María la Ribera’s Kiosco Morisco

In the tranquil neighborhood of Santa Maria lies Alameda Park. Like a pearl hiding them in the center of an oyster is a prismatic kiosk in the middle of the park. This stunning geometric edifice might make you think you have accidentally taken a wrong turn and ended up in Morocco.

Open air octagon feels like you are walking around in a kaleidoscope as the green trees pop out against the red and blue design work. It’s just fucking cool.

It was built by a Mexican architect, José Ramón Ibarrola, to be the Mexico Pavilion at the World’s Fair of 1884 in New Orleans and of the Saint Louis Exposition of 1902. It has been taken apart and reconstructed several times before finally making its home in the northern neighborhood of Santa Maria.

Although it is of Mexican origin, the structure has clear Islamic influence. It’s painted patterns bear an exact resemblance to a mosque. The top of the kiosk with its circular top and star designs feels ethereal- like it is a direct transport to the heavens.

The park holds more than just the kiosk. It is a popular area to host shows, dance lessons, outdoor movies, and orchestras. On the side opposite the kiosk is the Geology Institute that holds a lovely collection of fossils, rocks, flora, and fauna from around the globe. Space is lined with benches and plenty of grassy areas to pick up a few snacks at the calm food vendor’s standing around the circumference of the park. You don’t need any drugs to get a trip out of this beautiful park in Mexico City.

 

Biblioteca Vasconcelos + Botanic Gardens

Vasconcelos Biblioteca is the Moby Dick of libraries. It is named after the progressive José Vasconcelos Calderón who was a Mexican philosopher and politician in the turn of the century. He contributed heavily to the arts and educational programs. However, this library was built with more than one influential Mexican in mind.

This mega-library is 409,000 sq ft and large enough to hold 5 libraries in it-which it technically is. Each quadrant of the space was created in honor of some of the most literary minds that Mexico has raised and nurtured: the poet Ali Chumacero, political advocate Carlos Monsiváis, diplomat + historian José Luis Martínez, writer Jaime García Terrés, and diplomat + intellectual Antonio Castro Leal.

The building is grand but peaceful; you feel a tranquility the moment you step inside. It is the kind of silence that almost lets you hear new ideas sparking within young scholars studying away.

The transparency of the structure adds to the calmness. The open shelving, large glass walls, and expansive ceilings make you feel like you are walking around the skeleton of a whale- its ribcage all exposed. On the ground level, the stacks of books hang above you as if they are suspended by spells.

As you walk up the stairs, your perspective is always shifting through the hive like shelving, like walking around in a Rubix cube. The top layer allows you to peer down at the urban landscape surrounding the building. The edifice is surrounded by endemic Mexican flora: cactus, lush ferns, and trees with trumpet-shaped flowers dangling like Christmas ornaments.

Parque Mexico

Parque Mexico

This park has a special place in my heart. Located in the Condesa neighborhood. Art Deco architecture is dispersed through the park, shaded by wild, untamed foliate and trees. It feels like walking through a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book, where the tranquility of the nature and abstraction of the art warps your sense of time and reality. It is a magical respite from the rest of the obstreperous city.

Nature weaves around play areas for children, skateboarding spaces for teens, grassy sections for couples, and benches for the elderly to sit and observe the youth run around them. There are canopies of pink flowers elegantly draping themselves over wooden structures, like elegant women fainting.

The park used to be a race track with domesticated horses running around the park in an endless infinity loop until the last one breaks. Now, these paths are replaced with an air of laziness- old couples moving at a snail’s pace, lovers meandering with nowhere else to go, and toddlers haphazardly jumping about. This perfect oval is surrounded by old Spanish architecture holding cute cafes and restaurants, chocolate shops, and bookstores for you to meander in and out of.

It is sometimes so quiet you can almost hear the trees inhale our co2. It’s a wonderful park in Mexico City that literally reminds you to breathe.

Inhale:Exhale

 

Conclusion

As you sit under one of the pine trees in Chapultepec, peacefully meander through the stoic cacti of Parque Mexico, or are hypnotized by the geometric patterns of the kiosk, you will understand the dedication the locals have made to preserve the magic of this land. The parks are a rare space between the known and unknown world. Space where we can be reminded of life’s mysteries.

The land that encompasses Mexico City has always been deemed sacred. A place where people have traveled thousands of miles just to get to; a place others stumbled upon, anticipating other lands. A place that has mesmerized all walks of life; where people have loved and died, killed and protected. A place where you can now sit in peace, shaded by a Mexican Cyprus, under the same sun the Aztecs once worshiped. Disfrutar.

 

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If you want more tips on what to do in Mexico City, check out my post about the 5 Most Unique Adventures in Mexico City with the wonderful travel blog the Solitary Wanderer travel blog.

5 Things You Didn’t Know about Being a Solo-Female Traveler- Guest Post with God+ Wanderlust

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It was a total pleasure writing this guest post for God+Wanderlust. It is a wonderful blog that focuses on what it is like to travel the world as a solo-Muslim woman. It is incredibly insightful and has built a strong community of fierce Muslim women who want to go farther than they ever have!

You can check out the original blog post here and read an excerpt below!

You will become more aware of your identity.

I have always been pretty “girly.” As a kid, I didn’t wear pants until the second grade, and now I can’t live without mascara (only because people mistook me for being sick when I am au natural). However, I never felt defined by my femininity until I went abroad. The way I thought about myself changed once I was walking through another culture. I felt new eyes upon my body and look at me through different perceptions. I was out of the environment that raised me and understood me to be the many-layered individual that I am. Now, the world could only see me in a box. I wandered the world for the first time as a “white woman.”

In certain areas, I felt that my skin tone stood out like an elephant in a herd of antelopes. But then in areas of my heritage, I blended in like a zebra, unable to be distinguished from the locals. In non-English speaking countries like Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, people would approach me and immediately begin to speak in their mother tongue. The would talk with a rapidness that expected me to understand the nuances, the ironies, or innuendos in their message. I would respond with a contorted face and reply in a grammatically unstructured sentence, “No speak- American!” My cover was blown. Their body would repose, smile and break out in flawless English, as I internally grumbled at my country’s lack of interest in speaking other languages.

It’s a sometimes uncomfortable feeling when you are perceived as an in-group, but you know you don’t belong. That was something I never felt back at home. It was the first time I felt like I didn’t belong somewhere, which I know people in my own homeland feel more frequently than I do. It felt like a spotlight was following me, highlighting to everyone around me that I wasn’t one of them.

Overall, I would say out of all my identity labels, being an American was the most interesting. People responded differently to me in unexpected ways. My nationality was often used for random things. One time, I was crossing the border on a bus from Greece to Albania. I was with a group of women on the bus, and we needed to pee. We got off the bus and walked to this dingy border crossing shack that had one bathroom. The owner wouldn’t let us use the bathroom unless we bought something, but since we had just come from Greece, we had no money to purchase anything.  One of the Albanian woman took me and shouted at him, “She’s an American!” like it was some kind of “pass Go, collect $200” card. Needless to say, it wasn’t worth that much, as I popped a squat behind the shack.

It was a moment where I reflected on how silly it is that some nationalities are perceived to hold more clout when at the end of the day everybody pees the same.

You make so many more friends than you thought

When you travel in groups or pairs, you don’t seem as inviting. You are socially satisfied, and it is harder for an outsider to penetrate a tribe of two or more. I once traveled with an ex-boyfriend for two months throughout Mexico. I hardly made any spontaneous friends from that time because, together, we didn’t seem as approachable. I made more friends the day we forever parted ways than the two months we traveled together.

I personally find the most freedom when I travel alone, and that opens me up to more people.

Additionally, when people recognize that I am traveling alone, they tend to be curious about me. This curiosity has helped me meet a range of people, from hitchhiking with a gaggle of English gals throughout Ireland to long beach walks with Costa Rican locals I met under a waterfall, to sleeping on the floors of London with new friends I had met in Italy weeks prior. The world is filled with almost 7 billion people, and there are hundreds of soul-mates, partners in crime, and lovers out there, waiting for you to find them.

When you travel alone,  you become more open to the adventure of meeting new people and letting it see where it takes you. Like the time I hitchhiked from Amsterdam to Eindhoven in the Netherlands. I got picked up by a South African man, Roan, who spoke English, and he was living in Eindhoven at the time. He asked me about my adventures and why I was hitchhiking. One thing lead to another and an hour later we ended up in this warehouse turned artist’s residency outside of Eindhoven that was having a huge open house. There were endless rooms of random interactive art installations, food carts, and sleek styled fire pits in a courtyard where everyone was drinking beers and gluvine. I ended up having a great time with him and his friends, and they laughed when I told them how we met. “ Typical Roan!”, they said, and threw back local brews.

We had such a great time that he let me stay at his place. I ended up chatting with him and his roommates about Morocco until 4 in the morning. Then he got ready for work and dropped me off at the airport. I have yet to see him again. But I will never forget the adventure he gave me.

 

AMX

 

 

You become more centered within yourself.

When you travel alone, you see yourself and your actions outside of the influence of others. You are never in a complete vacuum and will be swayed by the chaos around you; however, you get to choose where you want to go for whatever reason, even if you have no real reason at all. You don’t never need one.

I have found that when I travel alone, I am able to submerge myself mentally in a space. I become more observant of my surroundings whether it is walking through the Guatemalan rainforest, biking through the streets of Rome, or boating on the small strip of sea that separates Spain from Africa. I am able to be in the moment and not have it obstructed by someone else’s opinion, perception, or distractions.

I’m allowed to let my body aimlessly wander in no particular direction and let my legs have a life of their own. They end up bring me to corners I might have missed if a travel companion wanted to turn around. I can go as far as I want for as long as I want. There are no compromises, no juggling between needs, waiting around for someone else to get ready, or disagreements over what to do. You are allowed to be completely selfish. Which also means you have to be completely self-reliant. That is where the real fun begins.

If you are lost, you got yourself there, if you are found, you got yourself there as well.

When the chaos of your life and world falls away, you are left with just yourself- you see which sides of you are essential and which can soften. The endless bus rides, conversations with new people, and time spent away from home shows you the potential of who you can become. The outside expectation that make up your home dissolves, and you are able to clearly see what drives you.

You learn that you can take on the world.

I learned more about myself in the first six months I traveled on my own than the 4 years of college.

I vividly remember the moment I got health insurance by myself when I was living in Prague. I was part of a six-month study abroad program when I was 20 and our health insurance had to be renewed 5 months in. I took a tram to a part of town I rarely visited, applied and paid for health insurance while speaking in broken Czech, a language so fragmented already I’m sure my ineptness didn’t help, and walked myself home.

When I was ten minutes away from my concrete communist styled dorm, it settled that I had just bought health insurance in a foreign country on my own. That was so easy.

Granted my future travels have also shown that travel is often not a smooth ride, but it gave me the belief that, if I can do that on my own, I can probably do a lot more. What gets me through the bumps is my determination to conquer the world.

The world is more protective than predatory.

This notion surprised me the most. In the beginning of all my travels, I always think people are out to get me. That I’m standing out like a vulnerable antelope that walked into a lion’s den. But again, people are more curious than malicious and once they realize that you are alone they become more protective than predatory. There was one time I was hitchhiking in Germany and this older couple picked me up. The woman was driving, and she said she was so worried for me, which is why she pulled over and told me to get in.

“Oh, it isn’t like in my day where you could easily get a ride from Berlin to Munich. People are dangerous now.”

But how did humans become more dangerous when statistically we are in the longest moment of peace? I believe that the advent of 24/7 news cycles and the velocity of social media has skewed our perception as to what the world is like. Now we can find out about a hurricane in Puerto Rico, a nuclear plant exploding in Japan and a famine in India all within three minutes of each other.

In actuality, most people are boring and live mundane days, but our brains are wired to remember the anomalies, the horror stories, and the bizarre happenings. So, we end up believing that things are worse than they really are. My travels have always been based around the benevolence of complete strangers who took me into their homes, fed me, let me wash the world off my body, and join in their company.

“But, you picked me up,” I said to her. “And you’re not going to try to kill me, are you?”

I try to show them the kindness within themselves.

 

If you want to read more of my interviews, check out my post with Digital Travel Guru, all about how to be a solo female traveler.

Interview with In Africa+Beyond!

 

 

IA+B2It was a pleasure being interviewed with Sara from the In Africa+ Beyond travel blog! It’s a fantastic blog about travel, events, and experiences in Africa, and the rest of the world – specializing in couples travel and family travel – and often with a luxury focus.

Here is an excerpt from my interview and you can view the original post here! 

 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a storyteller of many mediums. My first podcast, Strangers Abroad, is just the beginning of my love affair with the medium. It is a narrative podcast that follows my journeys while I travel and documents the conversations I had with strangers I meet while abroad.  We discuss the importance of travel, self-growth, world improvement, and the social/psychological aspects of travel. I desire to hit every country before she dies (with modern medicine, I still have plenty of time). Additionally, I am a travel writer, live storyteller, and mean pie baker.

2. What is your earliest travel memory?

My first real trip out of the country was when I was 19. I took a leap and lived in the Czech Republic for 5 months, having never left the country prior. It was groundbreaking. I remember physically feeling my brain expand from all I was learning and experiencing. It broke the mental cocoon I had spun for myself while living in upstate New York. My happiest memory from that experience was when I reapplied for my own healthcare on my own, in ( fragmented) Czech, and walked myself home. I realized, if I can do this much adulting abroad, I can do anything.

3. Where was your last holiday?

Mexico City.

4. What was the best thing you did there?

I am enamored with Mexico City and am completely elated by just walking around the city. The last time I was there, I walked 12 miles through numerous neighborhoods and ate all the street food along the way. I didn’t need anything more.

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Me, in Mexico City, poorly attempting to climb a tree. 
5. What was your best holiday ever? Why?

I value all the travel experiences I have had and don’t categorize them into “best” or “worst.” Each one has taught me something, regardless of my enjoyment, and that in itself is value enough. I will say, the best days I had traveling were the ones where I had no expectations. I would research the areas I wanted to be in and just explore and give myself the time to talk to strangers and let the city present itself to me organically. That is travel advice I would give to anyone who has the time.

6. What is your favorite travel destination?

I don’t like the term favorite; however, there are certain places in the world that make my heart hurt. I think that every place speaks to you differently depending on who you are at the time and what lessons you are open to receiving. The ones that have spoken very loudly to me, in no particular order, are Prague, Mexico City, ChefchaouenOaxaca, and Arequipa.

7. What is the one thing one must do while traveling?

Find a high point for a panoramic view of the city. It makes me feel small.

8. Who is your favorite travel companion/s?

I love traveling by myself, but my close friend Carla and I are great at traveling together. We have traveled in the east and west coasts of America, traveled to 6 countries outside of the States, couchsurfed, hitchhiked, bussed, wandered and flew together for weeks on end and have never fought once.

9. Name one item you must have when traveling.

A notebook so I can write down all my thoughts and observations.

10. Your best travel advice?

Travel alone and for as long as you can while you are young. And always talk to strangers.

11. The one place you want to visit before you die?

Ta Prohm in Cambodia. It is an old Buddhist monastery that is being overrun by cotton trees.

12. Any embarrassing travel moments?

The time I didn’t have enough space in my suitcase to carry back everything I bought while living abroad, so I wore layers of clothing including all of my winter clothes. It was May 22nd, basically June. I looked like a walking pig in a blanket, lots of layers and a little bit of meat in the middle. It took me years to acknowledge any type of hoarding problem.

 

Cover and Title Photo credit to In Africa+Beyond.

 

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If you are interested in reading more of my interviews, check out my post with Jim Jones of Travel Images + Stories on how to be a solo traveler.

It’s Up to the Solo-Female Travelers

New guest post with the wonderful LyfandSpice travel blog!

Thank you so much for letting me guest post and discuss how important it is to encourage women to travel the world safely, independently, and with the support of other women.

Here is the original post but you can read below as well!

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Being a solo female traveler has plenty of misconceptions. Everyone thinks you are going to get kidnapped, sold into the KGB sex trade, and be found years later in a Moldovan heroin den believing your name is Klavdiya.

The world still questions whether women can travel safely on their own. As someone who has traveled to 30 countries solo, without the shadow of a man always beside me, I can say that I believe women can travel the world intrepidly and independently. It’s not that we should, but that it is imperative that we do. Not for the likes and the x off our bucket lists, but for the generations of women who were locked away in their homes, forbidden to go out, and explore beyond their own villages.

This is the first epoch in human history where women have the opportunity to travel freely through (most of) the world. Where the assistance and presence of a man is not required, where we can go to places of our own choosing, kiss people who don’t speak our language, and dance all night just to watch the sunrise over an unexplored city. Women’s abilities and independence outside of the home have always been doubted. People used to believe ludicrous “facts” about women like having erratic wombs that would float around our bodies, how reading would make us infertile, and how our brains were scientifically smaller. These stories are painfully, and only recently, proven false. Nevertheless, we can continue to debunk the stories that are imposed upon us.

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Our freedom of movement is a relatively new right that we are far too comfortable in it for its brevity. However, we must do it for our mothers who married too quickly, for our grandmothers who fought for our suffrage and our great-grandmothers who couldn’t even entertain such an idea. Now, we can travel alone, and, yet, there are still issues we face. However, these challenges will become your source of power.

People will question whether you can do it and you can prove them wrong

The first time I backpacked on my own, I got numerous questions, hesitations, and second guesses on whether I could do it alone.

I would get one of the following:
” Don’t you think that is pretty dangerous as a chic?” -misogynistic uncle
“ Don’t you want to travel with a (male) friend?” -boyfriend
“ Why don’t you wait until someone else can go with you?”- gender studies professor

And then they would be followed with the myopic knowledge of someone who has never actually traveled.
“ That’s really risky. I hope I see you again.”- ex-boyfriend
“ I wish I had done something like that, but it’s too scary.”- forlorn female bank teller
“ EMAIL ME EVERY TEN SECONDS.” – Mom

But the point was to see if I could do it on my own.

Women’s independence might still be unsettling to some because we are still expected to be emotionally responsible for others and tend to be defined by our relationships instead of accomplishments. That’s also not to say that these people aren’t just being protective; however, I still get questioned on whether I can do it even AFTER I have traveled to 30 countries by myself. People in my life who understand me better have been extremely encouraging, but know that if you do decide to go off and travel, you might get the occasional micro-aggressive question on your own abilities. And you can totally f***ing do it.

Internalized Misogyny

It’s not always the doubts of others that you will have to push through (which you will), but the doubts you hold about your capabilities.

As women, we also have internalized misogyny. We begin to question whether we can take on the world mainly because there are few women showing us we can. Representation is a contributing factor to one’s perceptions of their own abilities. My own hesitations came from not seeing enough examples of other women exploring. I still have doubtful thoughts as I’m packing my bags the night before. Voices will run through my head that ask, “Why am I doing this? Women who travel with me are much safer…should I invite a dude? Am I asking for it traveling solo?” But, just because we have seen few embark beyond, doesn’t mean we can’t. There is a small pool of female explorers (recorded) throughout history. Let’s try to make the list longer.

You have to be culturally sensitive

You need to research the country you are about to travel to and now with the magic of ~* the internet*~ you can look up other female travelers’ experiences in specific countries and how to prepare for them. It’s important to know cultural hand + head gestures like how the “okay” symbol is chill in America but is extremely offensive in Brazil, Iran, and parts of Europe. Or the typical agreement headshake of nodding your head up and down in the states is a hard “no” in Albania (which is the bane of many food orders when you DO want extra fries).

And watch the clothes you wear

And while you might stand out as a tourist in certain countries (like how I stand out like an All-American sore thumb in Peru) I can control the clothing that I wear. I am in full belief that what people wear is NOT an invitation to be approached or touched without consent; unfortunately, not everyone or every culture has embraced this 3rd wave feminist philosophy.

So, be sure to research what is and isn’t appropriate. Some countries might not care if you wear crop tops and booty shorts but others will. I have lived in abroad and received unwanted attention for wearing dresses at knee length and then other places where bathing suits were acceptable as work clothes. You are the one that will have to be flexible.

 

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Practice Active Listening

Once you’re out there, you need to be aware that the world does function differently outside of your hometown. When you’re abroad, you may want to argue with the machismo men that they are being sexist or explain to women in burkas that they are being oppressed, but you are treading on THEIR TURF and imposing your beliefs upon them.

Not everyone in the world holds the same beliefs about how the world should run or live a life. You wouldn’t want someone coming into your home and telling you how to redecorate it after only seeing the vestibule. Even if you find specific aspects of a culture oppressive, insensitive, or harmful towards a specific group, don’t think of it as an opportunity to “educate” individuals (there’s a LOT of colonial baggage with that one). It is a better opportunity for you to practice active listening, which will increase your empathy and compassion for those you are interacting with.

When you actively listen to someone, you will hear what they are saying and not what you want to hear. When you listen, you will gain a better understanding for that individual or culture and maybe realize that they aren’t so different from you. Once they feel as though they are being understood, you might have an opportunity to discuss your point of view and be heard as well.

All you can do is provide an example that there isn’t only one way to live and should respect another’s decision to do differently. Keep in mind that you are also a walking example of what the world can be. When you travel (respectfully) in other people’s cultures, you are showing the locals that you yourself (an outsider) are no different than them and can help expand their worldview as well while you pass through their homeland. If there are countries that are supporting harmful acts that you are against, don’t travel there and support their economy. However, I do encourage you to adventure with cultures that do have contrasting values or opinions about how the world works.

Violence towards women is not country or culture-specific. Even after the global waves of feminism, achieving the right to vote, burned our bras, and embraced non-gender binaries, there are some places in the world that will not perceive you as equal (well, technically we aren’t here in America yet, so….).

Although some places are worse than others, violence against women is not culturally specific. Don’t believe that since you are going to a “progressively minded” country that you will be exempt from unwarranted behavior. Across cultures and histories, women have been perceived as sexualized objects and with most cultures inundated with sexually graphic advertisements and porn being three clicks away, these perceptions about women still ring true. You can be assaulted in Norway and treated with respect in Honduras. Rape culture is not exempt from any one place. However, don’t let the fear of assault thwart your travels. The probability of you being assaulted in other countries is lower than at home. Although rape statistics are notoriously under-reported and from the data, we have at hand, most rape victims know the perpetrator. Meaning that someone grabbing you in a back alley is less likely than it happens somewhere closer to your home.

Some things to keep in mind….

• Depending on the country you might be harassed more, especially if you are alone. Just continue walking and don’t engage if you feel uncomfortable.

• Women are often warned about walking around late at night. Take some time to get to know the area you are walking around in the daylight so you have a sense of direction once it gets dark out.

• Have fun but be careful. Watch your drink and bring the minimum amount of possessions with you and hide them in safe and indiscreet spaces (my bra is my wallet).

• Don’t be discouraged from going to certain places (or traveling at all). But know what your personal limits are and travel to areas you feel comfortable in or have connections + hosts in.

Which leads nicely into the lessons I have learned

The world is more protective than predatory.
I personally have found that the world tends to be more protective than predatory. I have had people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities help me get to the right bus stop, watch my luggage while I go to the bathroom, or even let me stay in their homes after knowing them for only a few hours.

I was often warned to be wary of strangers and skeptical of people’s intentions. However, my trips have always been based on the benevolence of complete strangers. I have couchsurfed with as many locals as possible and have done work-stays where I have lived with a host family. I would rather sleep on someone’s couch over a 5-star hotel any night. These people who showed me the world through a different lens, helped me carve out a clearer picture of the whole story. People are proud of their homes and want to give others a good experience of it. If someone is a d***, it’s because they are a d***- not because they are Swedish or Australian or Bolivian. Relish in the simplicity of kindness. It’s everywhere. You will overcome. We need to show the world examples of our strength.

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Travel evokes learning and disrupts the self. The opportunity for self-reflection has typically been thwarted away from women since our roles have historically kept others at the center of their attention.

When you take yourself out of the comforts of home, you get to experiment with different sides to you. You recognize what parts of you need to grow and soften and which parts are fundamental to your being. You can find what parts of you have always been misunderstood thousands of miles away from the land you were born. You are able to see your full potential. Being a solo-female traveler has helped me move beyond my gender and the limiting stories that accompany it.

So please, go.

Do it for the dreams of our for-mothers who only envisioned other lands from the stories of their male counterparts as they stirred soup on the stove with a baby cradled on a hip, chained to a life within the home. Do it to make travel safer for the unborn women who will someday stand where you have been fortunate to be. We can change the world, one plane ticket at a time.

To a world that does not always welcome women, I will wipe my feet at its doormat and say hello.

 

If you want to read more about how to be a solo female traveler, check out my other posts with some other inspiring travel blogs Digital Travel Guru and God + Wanderlust.

5 Most Unique Adventures in Mexico City

It was a pleasure writing a guest post for the Solitary Wanderer blog! Aleah is a Filipino solo-female traveler, and her blog is filled with great stories and travel tips.

Here is an expert of my writing. You can check out the full post here.

Follow the street art

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The Mexicans are known for their passionate forms of expression and you can see it on the streets. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and paint it for the world to see. The city is painted with a wide variety of street art, and you will typically find one on every corner.

The paintings range and include all of the influences that make up Mexico — modern takes on ancient Aztec or Mayan influences that blend with Catholic iconography or sometimes peyote trips. The symbols, passions, and priorities of the people are painted on the streets: day of the dead art, oppression, music, religion, nature, suffering and love.

They are hidden all over the city like Easter eggs. If there is a corner amiss with a mural or graffiti, the colorful houses will nevertheless make up for it.

Walk through the parks and eat mangoes

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As a daughter of horticulturists, I firmly believe Mexico City holds some of the most unique parks in the world. They are as lush as the city they grow in. Each park is overgrown with diverse native flora, from pine trees to cacti; their roots tangle together underground fighting for the same water. The trees are old and mighty and create expansive canopies that blanket the parks, allowing only random and soft streams of sunlight in between the leaves.

The parks don’t just harbor regional vegetation, hidden behind the layers of trees you will find avant-garde sculptures, hand-decorated shrines of Our Lady of Guadalupe, waterfalls, libraries, mosaic kiosks, and castles.

But these trees and flowers are not quarantined to just the parks. They are everywhere. Each street is shaded with large Mexican cypresses, sweet gums, or pine trees that twist and contort around the street and buildings like advanced yogis. Some areas are so densely covered with trees it feels like the city was built around the jungle. The people know that the city is too wild to be tamed. It’s like living in a tree house.

Go to Frida Kahlo’s house + Leon Trotsky Museum

Frida was a fierce and capricious woman who cultivated a home to keep her inspired. She understood that an artist must organize their space to keep them challenged yet comforted. In the neighborhood of Coyoacan, you can retrace the steps that she took every day in her house Casa Azul.

You can slowly pace around the rooms that were only big enough to hold her dreams, her pains, and ideas. You can observe her kitchen table where many philosophical conversations and fights happened between her numerous lovers and friends. Then walk through her studio overlooking her garden filled with palm trees, cacti, and ferns, and step out in the gardens themselves.

You can go up to her bedroom at look at her ceiling butterfly collection, permanently frozen in mid-flight. It hung above her head and they gently lulled her to sleep. In times of pain, she was often anchored to her bed, where she painted through her torment.

There is also an exhibit that has a selection of her clothing on display, including the body casts that she was often trapped in after a streetcar accident when she was 18. They are decorated with butterflies, tigers, communist symbols, unborn children, and stars.

It is inspiring to walk through the rooms of other fearless and adventurous women who made beauty out of their limitations.

If you are a huge history buff, you can also go to the Leon Trotsky museum, which is where he was murdered. Leon Trotsky and his wife sought asylum in Mexico City under the protection of Diego Rivera and Frida. A love affair between the Russian communist and Mexican painter quickly ensued.

Leon and his wife were kicked out once Diego realized the affair was happening, and they moved to a nearby house where Leon was later murdered by one of Stalin’s assassins. The house has been preserved as a museum that you can also walk through, and where his ghost remains.

Scream at a lucha libre fight

The only event that gets locals more riled up than football is their national sport of Lucha Libre (free wrestling). I honestly didn’t know I would enjoy lucha libre as much as I did. The theatrics are as dramatic as watching a Shakespearean play — hell it basically is one.

Each character has a backstory and rivals, lovers, and are typically part of an extended family with their own drama and history. They are almost like telanovelas (Mexican soap operas) with more stage dives, backdrops, and power strikes.

They are iconically known for their vibrant metallic masks that are influenced by ancient Aztec and Catholic myths, heroes, and symbols. Each luchador creates a mask that represents their character and helps distinguish their identity. If a luchador loses a match, they will be unmasked, revealing their true identity.

They also have luchadoras, female wrestlers, who are gaining more respect and credit in the community. The wrestlers are also often adorned with capes and boots, making them true superheroes or villains. There are matches that happen in the oldest lucha libre fighting ring Arena México on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.

Yoga in Spanish

There are several places in La Roma or La Condesa where you can do daytime or night time yoga. This is a great way to realign yourself after contouring your body on an airplane for god knows how many hours, and you get to practice Spanish.

The yoga class becomes more mentally enduring because you are listening, translating, and moving to the words more intensely than if it was in English. Although this is a bit more of a mental challenge, it is a great way to actively practice and associate the words you need to learn anyways! Arriba!

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If you want more advice on what to do in Mexico City, check out my guest post with Michael Gerber about the Best Parks in Mexico City!

Blue Hearted Glutton

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Blue Corn Goddess 

You can smell the streets of Mexico City from the airport. Once you step outside of Internacional Benito Juárez, the faint smell of caramelized onions, diced pork, and spicy peppers greets you. Welcome to a world whose obsession with food is not dictated by Instagram photos or Facebook likes. Although the restaurant scene is flourishing, the best food in Mexico City cannot be found in a Yelp review. It is found only by following the trails of smells that are carried by the wind.

The streets of Mexico City are lined with entrepreneurial chefs; their children hang about the area as their parents serve torta after tostada after taco. Their faces are always perspiring from standing over the grill and under the oppressive Mexican sun. There are more outdoor tortilla stands than garbage cans ( which is an issue in its own right).
Mexico’s classic meals are always served in these collapsible kitchens. There will be coolers filled with Mexican coke and aguas frescas ( fruit water) that mothers and babies guzzle down in between bites. Some stands specialize while others are versatile. Good food in Mexico City is a lazy man’s game. Although you will never have to journey far for quintessential quesadillas, there are still some secret ingredients worth hunting for.

Enter: the blue corn tortillas.
Like most inexperienced gringos, I first heard mention of the blue corn tortillas after watching No Reservations by the late Anthony Bourdain. He interviews a tiny abuela who stands outside by her portable kitchen. Her hands have turned a shade of periwinkle after spending hours squishing, flattening, and frying up these blistered blue patties. Once I arrived in Mexico City, I was on a mission to find them. It took me two days of slowing down by every tortilla stand to see if their pans were lined with blue pod delights. No luck. Although I was always full in Mexico City, my hunger for these tortillas continued to grow as the days passed.

 

The afternoon of my last full day, I decided to take a long walk from my Airbnb to go to an unexplored neighborhood. I was walking off a large meal of huevos rancheros and cafe con leche, and, then, unexpectedly, I found them. There was a collapsible tent taking up a parking space, with plastic chairs and tables surrounding it, shading the customers and cooks from the afternoon heat. I slowed down to survey the area. And there they were. A few were lining the circumference of a large pan; the heat crisped the natural light blue into a steel grey. My eyes and stomach started fighting with each other. I ignored my stomachs begging to take a rest because, since I was leaving tomorrow, I might not get another chance. My food baby and I rolled up to the woman who was elbows deep into a bucket filled with a squishy shadow blue paste. It made the same pleasant sound of when your toes squish in the mud. I ogled at her for a while, watching her body undulate up and down, pushing and mashing and mixing this edible play-do. She was in the eye of the hurricane. Her assistants was constantly bobbing back and forth between customers, shouting and laughing at each other and people passing by, but she stayed transfixed on her job as if the world was only made of her and her tortillas.

She looks up at me; her hands scrape the bottom of the bucket,and I ask ( in passable Spanish) for a tortilla con queso y chorizo. She nods, doesn’t write anything down, and goes back to her patties. She takes a handful of dough and quickly passes it from hand to hand like she is playing catch with herself, and molds the amorphous blob of dough into a round patty. She then plops it onto the sizzling pan and squishes it down to form a large circle. She does this again, and again, and again, going back and forth in front of the fire until the entire pan is lined with periwinkle disks. She is cool-headed for all the heat she is taking.

I didn’t ask her the questions I wanted, like how long have you been here, why blue corn, how is it different from yellow, and how many burns do you have on your body. Instead, I fixated on the simmering meat pit behind her, sporting someone’s skull in one of its corners for ambiance and added flavor. At the other end of the stand were teens spending their Saturday afternoon chopping onions and peppers instead of playing soccer. From their banter with other workers, I’m not sure which they would have preferred.

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A beautiful vat of meat with a nonchalant skull. 

She has eight orders going on at once, but was able to keep track of the particularities of each one and served them to the correct customer. She walked me through her confederacy of toppings. Every color and texture necessary for the ceremony was accounted for: creamy green avocado, crunchy pink radishes, pickled green jalapeno peppers, soft queso blanco, and neatly sliced lime wedges. It was as colorful as a well-organized paint palette. I point at and poorly pronounce what I would like. She nodded and gingerly sprinkled on portions of guacamole, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and lime with her stained blue fingers.

Her helper rang me up, and I was alarmed at how cheap it was. The cost of the meal didn’t match the energy and love that I had just witness go into making it. Her actual sweat seasoned my blue corn tortilla, which I was happy to devour. That’s the beauty of Mexican cuisine, and why it is a caliber above the rest. It is a place that still insists that food should be made with your hands, not a machine. Where time is a necessary ingredient, and it is worth spending 16 hours making one large pot of beans that will be eaten in less than five minutes, lubricated with memories and anticipation. Where human fluids are seasonings- the nick of blood that gets sliced in with the tomatoes, the sweat that beads and streams over their faces and plops into the steamy pot of beans, and the tears that well up and cascade themselves onto a cutting board of freshly chopped onions. What makes Mexican food so sapid are the human emotions baked into them. I’m curious how homemade food affects us on a cellular level- if it is more nourishing than just the nutrients it provides and if we have lost something in our culture of processed food, microwavable meals, and fast food.

These were thoughts I had after I recovered from my food coma.

But what do I remember?

That I unwrapped the aluminum foil like a present that had nice wrapping paper I wanted to keep.

That it tasted a shade darker than its lighter friend- the yellow tortilla.That it was nutty and crisp- hot and flakey on the outside but softened by the tender romance of chorizo and plushy queso intermingling on the inside. It warmed more than just my mouth. It gently gave to each bite I took. I chewed slowly, switching each bite between both sides of my mouth, letting the flavors blanket my tongue. I was full, so that let me savor it even more at a pace at which I hardly ever chew.

As I felt my stomach push against my jeans, I knew it was worth it.

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If you want more tips on what to do in Mexico City, check out my other posts 5 Most Unique Adventures in Mexico City and Best Parks in Mexico City.