Meet Kathleen, our traveller of the week. She lives to travel and each year, she discovers a new destination solo. She dishes on the incredible places she’s been, the challenges that can come with travel, and what she’s planning next.
5 Questions with Kathleen
What do you love most about travel?
I love seeing the world, learning about other cultures, and going on new adventures. Travel opens my mind and makes my heart and soul happy. It fulfills me. It teaches me that my way of living is not the only way and that it’s okay because our differences are what make us unique. When I’m visiting a new place, I have moments where I just sit there to take it all in, while observing interactions and listening to the locals speak a language that I don’t understand, simply appreciating the beauty that surrounds me. There is something so fascinating about discovering what the rest of the world is like.
What’s the most memorable trip that you’ve taken?
This is a hard question! Two trips come to mind – my five-week solo backpacking trip to Europe last year and trekking Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu a month ago.
Every year, I go on an international solo trip. Last year, I jetted off to Europe for what turned out to be an unbelievable five-week solo journey through 13 countries. Travelling has always been my passion and despite feeling physically exhausted due to the constant movement, uncomfortable train travel, lack of sleep, and eating way too much bread, my heart was full of joy because I got to do something that truly fueled my zest for life. It was also my first time staying at hostels, which I proudly did for a whole month despite everybody saying there’s no way I could survive it. I wanted to fully immerse myself in this whole backpacking experience, and so I did… and I came back home with a bigger smile, a stronger upper body resulting from lugging a backpack that is almost half my body weight, a ton of great memories, and newfound friends from all over the globe.
Last month, I finally accomplished something that has been on my bucket list for years now. I climbed the sacred steps of Machu Picchu in Peru. I lived in the high Andes for four days with no electricity, showers, proper toilets or, gasp, WiFi, camped out in a tent for the first time in 18 years at an altitude that I had to train my body to get accustomed to, experienced all four seasons within a day (hail and winds while climbing Dead Woman’s Pass, anyone?), made new friends from all over the globe who share the same passions for travel and trekking, witnessed how incredible and bad ass the porters really are for carrying 50 lbs. on their backs while climbing all 45 km of the Inca Trail with no walking sticks, and was blessed with the opportunity to lay eyes on something too magical to be real – I did it. Through the sweat, sore legs, lack of sleep, tears, and surviving the elements, I somehow found the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other – I did it. Trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is, without a doubt, one of life’s greatest experiences.
Any advice for solo travellers?
Right now is the youngest you will ever be. Be bold and fearless. Never let anything stop you from experiencing the world on your own. Don’t wait around for people to travel with you. Make it happen for yourself. Don’t wait for the “perfect” time. Pick a destination that is close to your heart, do some research and planning, then pack your bags and go.
Try not to worry about being lonely when you’re in a foreign place all by your lonesome. You will realize quickly how strong and confident you are when you have nobody to rely on but yourself, so embrace the unknown. I have found myself in countries where I don’t know anyone nor do I speak the language, but I have always been impressed at how kind and helpful the locals are. Try learning the basic words that you need to start a conversation. They will appreciate your effort! Also, you will meet amazing like-minded travellers from all over the world who will share parts of your journey with you. Exchanging stories with them will remind you why you travel to begin with. Remember this: travelling alone does not mean being lonely. The key is finding a balance between enjoying your solitude and leaving your comfort zone.
In reality, things do not always go according to plan. Airlines may lose your luggage (firsthand experience here, unfortunately), flight and train delays may happen, the weather may not cooperate, things may get lost in translation, but you can either choose to be annoyed and frustrated or roll with the punches and make the most of the situation you’re in. Sometimes, you will learn this the hard way.
What have been your biggest takeaways from your travels?
The world is big and there are so many interesting places and wonderful experiences that await you. Travel is a beautiful gift. All you have to do is decide to go.
Where are you planning to travel next?
I will be travelling to the Bahamas next month (with friends I met in Barcelona a few months ago), Morocco in March, then Nepal and India in the fall. So far, I have only told my best friend this, but I will be doing the Everest Base Camp trek in October. This means that most of my spring and summer weekends will again be spent training and climbing mountain ranges in Colorado, California and BC. I am so looking forward to it all!
“Remember this: travelling alone does not mean being lonely.” – Kathleen