Hug a Pink Elephant #4

I profile several friends and family members in Hugs. Here is an excerpt featuring my friend, Dawn, who was the first to teach me to relax a bit about planning and booking my stays. I always think of her when I’m deciding on my next step. I met her in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and happily spent time with her, and a few other friends, poolside, playing dice and drinking… Ah, the good old days.

dawn in oman
Dawn, in Oman

One of my passions in life is traveling, not just traveling, but traveling as a single woman.  I guess I should start at the beginning and how I became inspired. 

I’m a small-town girl from Northern Ohio that moved to Washington, D.C. area with friends.  The day I landed a job in D.C. was the first step towards altering my life and thoughts forever.  I work for company that employs people from all over the world.  Now I could have just worked there and stayed in the frame of mind I had when I left the small town, I’ve seen it happen, but as I talked to people, I realized how naïve I was. 

I had done some traveling but only as a tourist never a traveler.  There is a big difference.  My early goal was to spend one week during the summer at a different Caribbean island starting with Antigua, Aruba and Dominica Republic but always with my boyfriend or friend and always staying at resorts. 

Don’t get me wrong, I always had a great time with the person I was with and I won’t cut myself too short since I did enjoy the different cuisines and would learn some history by speaking to the locals.  Then I met someone that completely inspired me and changed the way I traveled, her name is Catherine.  When I found out that she was quitting her job to travel for a year by herself, I thought to myself “Why can’t I travel by myself?”  It had never occurred to me.  Not only that, but to stop staying at the overpriced resorts.

There is a secret world and it revolves around staying at Hostels.  Some of the perks are meeting other travelers.  With that, you get a great advice and new friendships and as an added bonus, it is really inexpensive.  This allows you to do get more out of your time by using that extra saved funds for other experiences. 

I did take a trip with a friend to Spain and we stayed in really neat places that were called Pensions that had a lot of character.  Some with marble floors and staircases.  We started in Madrid.  After staying for three days we hopped on a train to Valencia for a day.  Then we flew to Majorca for five days, then to Barcelona for about a week, then back to Madrid for the last few days.  That was it, I was hooked on traveling.

I wanted to give this traveling alone thing a try but knew it would be best to travel to somewhere that people spoke English, so I traveled to the Bahama’s and even though I stayed at a resort; albeit a small one.  I ended up meeting so many people and had such a great time.  The next trip was a cruise to Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Cozumel still very touristy but again, I had a great time meeting people.  I knew it was time to take it to the next level. 

I’m fortunate enough to have more vacation time then the average American and a Boss that encouraged traveling.  My longtime dream was to travel to Australia.  Another inspiration developed from someone I worked with years ago and had lived there for a year.  I remembered the stories she told me.  So, it was time to plan my dream trip. 

Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Australia and Fiji for a little over a month.  Started in Sydney, took a bus ride south to the 12 apostilles and took a helicopter ride.  Then to Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Coober Pedy to mine for opals and stayed in an underground Hostel, Alice Springs to see Ayers Rock, then to Cairns to scuba dive around the Great Barrier Reef and back to Sydney. 

In addition to the other things I did, I had also gone white water rafting, jumped out of a plane, rode a horse on a beach over sand dunes, stayed under the stars in the middle of the desert in a sleeping bag.  After leaving Australia, I went to Fiji for three days before heading back home. 

I was on such a travel high after returning from that trip, I wished that I could swing the cost of traveling for a while on my own without employment.  While that dream has yet to transpire, I have since traveled to Germany, London, England, Panama (to see the Panama Canal), Kuwait, UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Oman, Belize (to see the Blue hole), Bermuda, Barbados and Canada. 

Most recently and where I met Kathy, I went to SE Asia.  Started in Bangkok, then to Vietnam (Hanoi, Hoian, Halong Bay, Ho Chi Minh City), Siem Reap, Cambodia, then returned to Bangkok.  At the time of this writing, my next trip will be either South America or Africa.  After I travel to those two places, I will have hit all continents except Antarctica, then the plan is to fill in the blanks.  If I had six months to travel and the funds, that would be the plan of action.

As I’m traveling, I’m considering the area for a possible retirement destination. I would run into Expats just like Kathy at times.  It is cheaper to stay in some other areas of the world other than the U.S. and many countries welcome us and our Social Security and some offer tax breaks.  But I also do it for education.  The places that are made out to be fearful due to mainstream media turn out to be just all hype in my experience.  Before I travel, I take the time to research the customs and traditions to try my best to not disrespect the people or their culture. 

The only regret that I have about traveling, is that I didn’t learn what I now know much earlier.  It can be done relatively inexpensively and is in a much more rewarding fashion.  Over the time, I’ve cared less and less about materialist stuff and more about saving for my travels, meeting new people and the education I gain.  I travel with a backpack with no real solid plans only an idea of what I want to see.  I found that just walking and allowing yourself to get lost, you run into things you would have normally missed.  Several occasions, I just went to the airport to hop on the next plane once I thought of my next destination.  Best of all once you get over your own vanity, you find that no one cares how you look or that you wore the same pants days in a row. It feels absolutely freeing.  

Author: Kathy Lynn Hall

I've embarked on the lifestyle of vagabond as a solitary woman and I'm excited about sharing my experiences with you.

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