Cork To Cape Town Overland – Announcing My Big Adventure


Most people that follow me on social media will know of this epic adventure already, as I fear it’s all I have talked about for the past two months. However, it came to my attention this week that many of my friends and family members that may not be as addicted to Instagram or Snapchat as I am, had no clue what I was up to or where I was going. So, dear readers, friends and family members, in case you did not already know, on Monday August 22nd (thats….TOMORROW!!) I embark on a 9 month overland trip from Cork to Cape Town. The catch? I am not allowing myself to take any flights!

How did the idea come about?

Lot’s of people keep asking how this idea came about. in truth, it’s something i wanted to do for a long time and is the culmination of a lot of crazy ideas as well as a not so nicely worded email from a friend suggesting I stopped flying everywhere!

Essentially, I’ve been a little obsessed with Africa ever since I lived in a remote township in South Africa when I was just 18 years old. I had just graduated from school and jetted off to South Africa to teach Business and Economics for a year. This incredible, and testing, 12 months honesty shaped me as a person cementing my love for travel and starting a decade-long love affair with the African continent.

Teaching in South Africa, 2004 - 2005

Teaching in South Africa, 2004 – 2005


Teaching in South Africa, 2004 – 2005

Don’t be fooled into thinking I’m ‘incredibly brave’ (as some people keep putting it) to be travelling through such a long list of unusual destinations. The truth is, I’ve been to most of the countries on this list before when I was a lot younger and a lot more naive! During University, I spent every summer either travelling or volunteering in East Africa, exploring remote parts of Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. I also returned to Kenya for a month to study WASH projects in the remote North as part of my Masters Thesis project. East Africa honestly feels like my home stomping ground and I sometimes feel more at home in Africa than I do in Ireland.

This was before digital cameras, social media and LONG BEFORE I had a travel blog. This means this will be my first opportunity to properly document my African adventures – something I’m very excited about.

Making new friends in Kenya, Summer 2006

Making new friends in Kenya, Summer 2006

Making friends while writing my Masters Thesis, Easter 2012.

Making friends while writing my Masters Thesis, Easter 2012.

At first, I simply thought about booking a one way flight to Cape Town and just winging it. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I could happily live there for a few months hopping from one awesome hostel to the next. That seemed like too easy an option, however, and wouldn’t be the most interesting read! If I wanted to go to Cape Town, I should at least attempt to follow in the footsteps of Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor and take the long way down!

Finally, as a travel blogger it can be very hard to differentiate yourself from the crowd. As a blogger that focuses on solo female travel and tips for those planning long backpacking trips on a budget, I believed I needed to do something really epic to keep my already awesome readership more engaged. I wanted to do a trip than no one else I know has done – one that will set me apart from the crowd. Whether this trip will be enough or now…only time will tell. If you’re read this far at least, do me a favour and leave a comment!! ;-)

What’s the route / itinerary?

Not surprisingly, the second most asked question this summer has concerned what route I plan to take. How exactly does one get from Cork to Cape Town without flying?! Every Generic John, Ais and Niamh From Across The Road seem to have had their own opinions on what route would be best, why I should not bother going to X and Y and some pretty outlandish suggestions about how I should do the trickiest part of the adventure – getting from Turkey to Egypt. I myself have settled for the Cargo Ship option…whether that is a success or not..we’ll see!

While I do have a rough itinerary, it has already changed quite a lot in the past few weeks and I have no doubt it will change again. It feels incredibly liberating to have no time limit for the trip, a factor that means I can choose to stay in certain countries for months at a time if it feels right.

Below is my rough 6 – 9 month itinerary for Cork to Cape Town.  

Following a 16 hour ferry ride from Ireland, it will take me across these 14 European countries: France, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Turkey.

Then following a two day cargo ship journey to Port Said, it will take me through the following 14 African countries: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa.


What are you MOST excited about?

I don’t want to give away too much, but I will be partnering with some amazing hotels, activity providers and tourism boards long the way. Right now I am most excited about a 6-day Grand Train Tour of Switzerland that we’re taking at the end of August. We’ll be touring one of the world’s most beautiful countries in Panoramic Trains with big glass windows and stunning views. We have partnered with some funky hotels and hostels around Switzerland too, which I can’t wait to share with you.

What do you pack for such along, crazy trip?

Good question, want to come help me pack?! I’m not going to lie guys….i’m struggling!! I am a big fan of packing light but when you work as a travel blogger you need to travel with an insane amount of photography equipment! My “gadgets” are currently taking up over half my backpack leaving just a teeny bit of room for slightly less important things like: clothes, shoes, towels, toiletries etc.

Here’s the (slightly ridiculous) amount of equipment I’m bringing with me in my backpack:

  • GoPro Camera (plus accessories).
  • DJI Phantom Drone and controller. 
  • Canon DSLR.
  • 3 extra Canon Lenses.
  • Macbook Air.
  • iPhone.
  • My old Samsung (just in case!)
  • Skyroam Hotspot device (to stay connected).
  • A million chargers and adapters.


Previous African adventures 

Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the crazy adventures I had while travelling in Africa about 10 years ago – funny stories that I (for the most part) never shared on this blog!

  • Celebrated the Millennium TWICE due to the 7.5 year time difference in Ethiopia
  • Bought a flight to Addis Ababa to meet a guy…booked flight 72 hours before leaving.
  • Got stranded on a remote island in Uganda with nothing to eat but Pineapples.
  • Attempted to hitchhike to South Sudan with Russian truckers.
  • Waded through a crocodile infested river.
  • Hitched a life home on top of a truck load of fish.
  • Lived with Irish nuns in a missionary compound in Kenya.
  • Taught Business and Economics in South Africa and 12 months.
  • Taught English in very remote Kenyan village in Turkana.
  • Wrote my Masters Thesis on Comprehensive Security problems in Kenya.
  • Got both Malaria and Dengue Fever (5 years apart in different countries).
  • Suffered terrible side effects from taking too much Anti-malarials.
  • Hitchhiked to Mozambique at the age of 18.
  • Saw a Lion Kill in Kruger National Park.
  • Found a man murdered outside my hostel in Maputo.

I’m thinking I will update this list as I go, so leave your questions below and I can edit this post and answer them for one and all to read. For now all I ask is that you…. WISH ME LUCK! 

Janet x


Hostel Review: Curiocity Backpackers, Johannesburg


When arriving in Johannesburg one does not exactly have the highest expectations. It has been listed as one of the top 7 most dangerous cities in the world and the most dangerous city in the world by The Guardian. Not exactly what you want to read when setting down in South Africa’s largest city.

Curiocity Backpackers, located in an up-and-coming urban redevelopment area called The Maboneng Precinct, is one of those places that you love from the minute you walk through the door and dispels all myths about inner city Joburg. It’s one of those places that us writers and bloggers find very difficult to describe, unsure what exactly makes it so special, unable to pinpoint the exact feelings it evokes in us.



Arriving in the hostel at around 5pm on a Saturday meant the place was totally alive, an eclectic mix of stylish locals and not-so-stylish backpackers who have probably been wearing the same clothes for two weeks! I was immediately given a flying tour of the hostel by a very friendly employee (for the life of me I can’t remember his name!!) and introduced to the main hot spots around the hostel such as the (now hopping) bar, very chilled out balcony area and the hostels very own outdoor Jacuzzi!

I was seriously impressed with the 8 bed dorm I had booked. I think it’s probably the cleanest, most spacious dormitory I have ever stayed in. I love the crisp white sheets and high ceilings, and was happy to see an extension cable to ensure all occupants could charge their phones / spare battery packs / laptops etc. Us backpackers no longer travel light, it would seem!



One of the best things about Curiocity Backpackers (in my opinion anyway) is the wonderful, amazing, super fast free WiFi. Just thinking about how fast it is makes me smile. Other digital nomads and travel bloggers will nod their heads when reading this, as nothing frustrates a blogger more than staying somewhere with no WiFi connection!

While most people staying here are just passing through, having either just got off an international flight or en route to do a 4 day safari in Kruger National park, it also seems to be somewhat of a melting pot for locals. I spent all day Sunday lounging on comfy bean bags on the balcony with 6-7 locals who were nursing their post-pride hangovers with some cold beers and reminiscing about what seemed like one crazy night out in Joburg. They were so welcoming and encouraged me to join their little posse within minutes, ensuring I got another glimpse of what it might be like to live in this crazy city. While some were born and bred here, others were from the US or France and had simply found themselves never wanting to leave this eclectic city. They said they loved chilling out at Curiocity some weekends as the accommodation was cheap, the beer is cheaper and it’s in a pretty cool area. You know you have checked into the right place when even the locals praise it.



As I often try to bring in interviews with digital nomads and entrepreneurs to this blog, it should be noted that the story behind this hostel is a pretty interesting one. One of the co-founders, Bheki Dube, was just 21 years old when he set the hostel up in 2013, a true entrepreneur who is trying to show tourists that there is more to Joburg than first meets the eye. He set it up to give both locals and backpackers an authentic experience of the city and to help them leave with a better understanding of what makes Joburg such a special place to many. Before taking on this venture, he worked as a tour guide (Founder of Main Street Walks, a walking tour on inner city Joburg) and as a photographer. His love of art can be seen all over the hostel, with interesting photographs adorning every wall.

You will also see the passion and dreams of Dube, the staff, famous South Africans and even of the backpackers who arrive here each day written on the walls of the hostel. Inspiring quotes about travel, love and life and a quick insight into what the building was used for years before Curiocity backpackers was even set up.

This hostel is full of character, the staff are incredible and it has already opened my eyes to whole new side of a city I would have overlooked in the past. If you are passing through Johannesburg, you know where to go!



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Hostel Review- Curiocity Backpackers, Johanessburg



Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is Actually The Best Advice Of All Time


There are different types of travel, just as there are different types of people.

Just because we can’t all move to Europe to pursue a masters degree or spend a summer sailing around the Greek Islands on a yacht with a group of other twenty-somethings, does not mean we cannot travel. Or, at the very least, does not mean we should be dissuaded from doing so, as Chelsea Fagan does so articulately in her recent Medium article entitled, ‘Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is The Worst Advice Of All Time’.

Fagan says that travel is ‘a way for the upper classes to pat themselves on the back for being able to do something that, quite literally, anyone with money can buy.’ I would argue that travel is not something that one can simply ‘buy’. People can buy flights, and buy bus tours and buy expensive meals in exotic locations, but money cannot buy genuine experiences. Money cannot buy new friendships, an appreciation of different cultures and an insight into how people live in other parts of the world. That is all up to the individual. That is all up to the traveler.

I believe that most people in this world could drop everything and move to another country, if that is their inner most desire. It’s not just about money, it’s about courage. The courage to let go of possessions, normality, relationships, friends. The courage to do something that might not work out for the best. The courage to do something that perhaps nobody you know has done before.

Fagan writes that ‘nothing about your ability or inability to travel means anything about you as a person.’ I would argue the exact opposite is true. How can such courageous and often life-changing decisions not say anything about you as a person? I believe it says everything about you as a person. It shows your desire to learn, your appetite to experience new cultures, to meet and interact with other nationalities through different languages. It shows your need to grow as a person and your willingness to understand more about this great world we live in, accepting there is more to this world than the small bubble of your home country.

Travel does not always mean dropping everything and following your dreams. It doesn’t mean you will, for one second, totally forget about money and bills and healthcare and every other type of worry we are burdened with on a daily basis. But that should not, for one second, stop anyone from at least dreaming of a life overseas. It should not stop us from writing down our goals, our dreams, our inner most desires, in the hope that we can one day achieve them.

Just because you don’t have a lot of money does not mean you cannot travel. Just as there are different types of people in this world, there are also different types of travel.

First of all there is the nomadic type of travel, reserved for people looking to get back to their roots and to live in nature. Reserved for people who might not have very much money, but who are also lucky enough not to have to provide for their elders or look after their younger brothers or sisters. They are free to wander the world at a slow pace, living off the land, walking or hitchhiking wherever they go, camping by lakes or on mountains and relishing their (temporary) distance from civilization.

Next you have the working abroad option, perfect for people who have always dreamed of living and travelling in another country but cannot escape financial responsibilities such as student loans, a mortgage or providing for family members. Take teaching in South Korea, for example, where your return flights are paid for, your accommodation is free for the year and you will probably be left with more disposable income that you had back at home.

You could choose to be a nanny in Russia or an Au-pair in Ireland, or you could get yourself to Australia and work very long hours on a rural farm or in a mine and earn more money than you could ever dream of.

Many people opt to volunteer abroad, a perfect option for those with basic savings but not enough to fund long-term travels. I’m not talking about the ridiculous variety of ‘volunteeting’ chosen by upper-middle class gap years, who pay 1,000’s of dollars to play with lions or spend 2 weeks in a children’s home in Cambodia.

I’m talking about programmes such as Wwoofing and HelpX, which give slow travelers a place to stay, food to eat and a small allowance in exchange for a few hours of work each day. Programmers like this allow for people ona very small budget to travel exotic locations such as South America or even Europe for up to six blissful months.

Travel does not have to mean saving 1,000’s of dollars and leaving your job. It could be working from your computer as you go. If you are sufficiently skilled at copy-writing, blogging or have a specific skill set you can sell online, you could consider becoming a digital nomad. If you can make the same amount of money you were making in the US and in the UK, but were suddenly paying 90% less on rent, money (or lack there-of) would no longer be as big a burden.

Money is important and you should never brush it aside as something trivial, but it also should not be the sole thing stopping you from travelling if that is your dream.

Apply for travel bursaries or student scholarships in countries you have never heard of. Hitchhike, sleep in tents, couchsurf. Work for food and accommodation. You could sing on Grafton street in Dublin and make up to 200 bucks a day then continue your travels around the country.

There really are options for everyone, if you open your mind wide enough to see them.

This article is also live on Medium, you can read it here.


Travelling Overland From Kenya To Sudan

102a. Girls from the Turkana tribe - Kenya

This post is an extract from my travel diary, which was written 9 years ago! The musings of a somewhat naive 20 year old backpacker, with big dreams of someday being a travel writer. This post is about my hitchhiking adventure travelling overland from Kenya to Sudan (now South Sudan). Enjoy. :-)

Imagine a small cowboy town in northern Kenya, ten hours away from any form of civilization. The atmosphere of this outback town was ecstatic; Turkana tribesmen adorned in animal skins, and hundreds of coloured beads, herding their goats through the narrow dusty streets, the naked man sitting on the street corner. Children playing with old tires and with little toy cars made of used milk cartons while the old ‘gogos’ sit around cooking maize and gossiping with their friends. This entire scene is happening to the beat of booming Congolese tunes played on repeat by the local bad boys. This is Lodwar.


Kerrie, Beth and I had been living here for nearly two months, surviving on goat and small rations of water. Everyday here was an adventure; we never knew what would be waiting for us around the next corner, when we would get our next shower or when and what would be our next meal.

Our crazy weekend away all started at a local disco on the Friday night. We hitched a lift into town on the back of a locals pick-up truck, shaky start to a shaky weekend. We arrived to the scene of 200 local boys breaking it down to Sean Paul and jamming to Bob Marley under the light of a full moon. Our arrival, three strange white girls, caused quite a stir.

Hours later after twisting and shaking to every song under the sun, chewing ‘miraa’ and tasting jungle juice we got talking to some guys dressed in camouflage. It turned out they were troops from the African army on their way to Sudan on a peace-keeping mission. We befriended them quicker then lightning with the intention of bumming a lift to Sudan. After much begging they obliged and told us to meet them at the local prison at 5am- very random!


Our friend Teddy collected us at our little hut inside the missionary compound. To our dismay, he was still drunk so he let Kerrie take control of the taxi!! She flew the car down the bumpy desert road, right across the airstrip, narrowly avoiding a tree and zooming up the hill to the old jail. We’re lucky to still be alive! The guard on duty who had very little English must have thought we were 3 insane ‘mzungos’ when we ran inside and explained why we were there: “Hello we met the soldiers at the disco and they told us if we met them here at 5am they would bring us to Sudan”.

Our soldiers, however, were nowhere to be found. Our lack of sleep caught up on us and while waiting on a wooden bench inside the prison walls we conked only to awake an hour later to the sound of all the prisoners shouting at us and clanging their bars and all the local guards lining up with AK 47s in hand. Time to get out of here…


We walked the three kilometres back into town as the sun was rising only to be met by a huge convoy of UN and Red Cross trucks. Suddenly a huge, white, gold tooth clad Moldovan trucker shouted over to us ‘Oi, White Ladies, truck! Now! Sudan! Go!’ so in we hopped without any hesitation and off we went in what was to become our huge Moldovan mobile disco – starting the most random morning of adventure in our personal histories. Our toothless, bald driver proceeded to complain about every thing he believed wrong about Africa, while he chugged back beer chucking the bottles out the window, while driving!! “In Africa, houses SO SMALL, In Russia, houses BIG, very big!”, he repeatedly told us.

Five hours and two breakdowns later (including one outside Kakuma refugee camp) and a headache from the booming Russian dance tunes, we arrived in Lokichoggio where we felt we had dived into the movie set of ‘The Constant Gardener’. After a long trek to the boarder posts in 40°C heat and further flirting with Immigration officials our luck ran out. It turns out it isn’t that easy to just go have lunch in a country thousands of people are fleeing daily. We spent the night drinking in Loki with all the aid workers and truck drivers who gave us Irish a run for our money.


We had to hitch a lift home to Lodwar early Sunday as we had been invited for dinner with Father John and the Local Nuns. It made for a very conservative evening, in vast contrast with the weekend we had just experienced. We never did make it across the boarder but the journey trying to get there; the road to Sudan was one of the most exciting adventures I have EVER had and which I will never forget.


9 Things That Only Happen When You Travel Solo

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So last week I wrote a blog post entitled, ‘9 Reasons  Not To Travel Solo – Seriously’. No word of a lie, it took me about 30 minutes to write (most of my posts take hours of careful thought and consideration) and was a nice little therapy session, allowing me to take out all my frustrations about solo travel in 1 simple little blog post.I knew writing something controversial would result in many hits to my blog and would hopefully open up the debate on the pros and cons of solo travel.

To say that many people didn’t like what I had to say would be a HUGE understatement. My phone literally beeped all night long from the moment I published it. Blog comments, both good and bad, a crazy amount of tweets and endless FB debates started overnight. I actually received hate mail (bit extreme) and my blog benefited from almost 20,000 hits in less than 12 hours. It was all a bit mad.

While I don’t regret writing it, and I stand by all the points I made, I wanted to write a more positive post about the merits of solo travel. In the interest of a balanced debate, and so that people deciding whether to make that big leap and head off on a solo trip have both positive and negative posts to read, let me share with you all the incredible things that have happened to me while traveling alone. Things that definitely would never have happened if I had a travel buddy or group of friends by my side.

That’s the thing about solo travel. While it’s daunting and scary and sometimes dangerous, it’s also one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences you will ever have. You open yourself up to the world, and suddenly the world and so many of its amazing people, open themselves up to you.

Below are 9 incredible things that only happen when you travel solo. Well, they happened to me anyway.

9. You’ll meet the kindest strangers

The amount of times I have encountered the most generous and helpful strangers while traveling solo is unbelievable. In fact, from the minute I leave home on a solo trip, good things seem to happen all thanks to the kindness of strangers. I once had a millionaire (250 million, that is) buy me drinks and dinner at Heathrow airport. The same man once famously said, “The departures lounge at international airports has been the best education!” and it’s hard not to agree with him.

Another kind man also shared his table with me at an airport and when I left to pay, it turned out he kindly paid for both his meal and mine. Also, when coming home from my travels last year, my ATM card stopped working and a guy in the queue saw my panic-stricken face and offered to buy my ticket for me. I asked for his contact details and he simply said, “I know you will pay it forward to another traveler in need someday.” More wise advice from an airport departure lounge!

Over the years I have had kind strangers go totally out of their way to help me when I was lost. One woman in Warsaw went 30 minutes in the wrong direction just to direct me to my hostel. When hitchhiking, both in Ireland and abroad, I have encountered the most generous souls who offered me so much when they found out I was alone. I have encountered kind Canadians in Kenya, who invited me to stay in their place for free. I have been offered free rides, free food and once even found myself on a free flight!

The kindness of strangers is, often times, only something you encounter when you open yourself up to others, and solo travel is the key to that openness.

8. You will become fearless

I would say there is nothing scarier than packing up your life into a bag, hugging your friends and family goodbye and setting off on a solo trip. You are saying farewell to a comfortable lifestyle, security, great friendships and a sense of belonging. Solo travel is an absolute roller-coaster of an adventure and will force you to face up to any fears you may have. 

I’ve had to use squat toilets that had snakes both in the toilet and hanging over the toilet. I’ve had to check my shoes for poisonous spiders in Australia. I’ve gone to bars alone, found hostels alone, got dodgy taxis alone. I have had to sit on squeaky buses for hours on end as they trundle along roads that are seemingly perched on cliff tops. I’ve had to sit in buses that have men with AK47 guns in rural Kenya and have fed wild Hyenas meat from my mouth in Ethiopia.

I’ve experienced crazy turbulence on long distance flights with no ones hand to hold, no one to say my last thoughts to. I’ve been picked up by a murderer in Detroit (or so he said), and I’ve been locked in a car by a man high on drugs. I have had men expose themselves to me and try to attack me in Dublin city. I’ve been held at knife point in South Africa. One thing can be concluded from all these crazy experiences while traveling alone; solo travel will turn you into one seriously fearless human, something that will most certainly help you as you go through life.

7. You will become more tolerant

I took my first solo trip when I was only 16 and I was probably a total brat. I was totally unaware of other people’s cultures, had no real understanding of how things work differently in other countries, and wasn’t always that keen on learning. The more I traveled, and the more interesting people I met from all over the world, the more tolerant I became.

I strongly believe people who travel, especially those who travel alone, become some of the most tolerant people you will ever meet. Travel teaches you that everyone is different. You realise that there isn’t always a right and a wrong no matter how strongly you may feel about it, or what you may have been taught in school. Some people will look down on you for wearing short shorts, while you will look down on others for wearing a burka. You will find it strange to eat with your hands, while others think you are strange for using a fork.

The more of the world you see, the more you realise that it’s not as black and white as you previously thought. Not all countries use toilet paper. Not all people hug or kiss or shake hands when they meet new people. Religion and language and hand gestures and etiquette can all be confusing and frustrating, but learning from others makes us better people and will teach us to love and cherish and welcome everyone we meet, regardless of however different they may be from ourselves.

6. You’ll totally lose track of time

I have to admit, this is one of my favourite things about setting off on a solo trip. Working life and life back home can be so controlled. You work Monday – Friday, you eat your meals at the same time, you do roughly the same things each weekend and go to bed at roughly the same time each night. You always know the time, the day, the date and you can never just get lost in the city, miss your train and decide to sit in the park and read your book for 5 hours. Something that I absolutely love doing when travelling solo.

When you are alone, there is no one waiting for you, no one relying on you. A huge weight is suddenly lifted off your shoulders as you realise you have a new-found freedom. You can eat at whatever time you like. You can sleep all day and party all night, if that’s what you want. There’s no one there to judge how lazy you been. The fact that you spent 6 weeks in Sydney but never bothered to see the Opera House. The fact that you spent 1 week in Bangkok and pretty much never left your hostel.

You can wake up on a deserted beach off the coast of Cambodia, like I did last summer, and have no clue what day it is. You ask strangers what time it is and they always reply with the same answer, “Who cares?” And they’re right, who does care? If you’re hungry eat. If you’re thirsty, have a beer. Solo travel is the freedom to do whatever you like, whenever you like.

5. You’ll master sign language

Even with a travel buddy, communication can be the toughest part of traveling. When left alone, you really have to get creative and find yourself doing the oddest of things to get people’s attention or to get your point across.

I remember actually ‘mooing’ like a cow to a woman in Vietnam, trying to figure out what type of meat she was trying to get me to eat. I may have looked stupid, but I really wasn’t in the mood for more snake meat or maybe even my first taste of dog meat. She laughed at my odd noises, but knew exactly what I meant!

In Korea, sign language also helped me get out of some weird situations and I know that it managed to get my friend a massive discount when doing her grocery shopping!

4. You’ll meet that guy. Or that girl.

It doesn’t always happen, and it certainly doesn’t always last, but your chances of meeting some amazing members of the opposite sex (or same-sex depending on your preference) are a whole lot higher when you travel solo.

Whether it’s a romantic kiss on a beach in Bali, an impromptu travel buddy to entertain you for a few weeks in Thailand or someone who you fall head over heels for while backpacking through Africa, holiday romances are serious fun. When you travel solo, you push your boundaries a lot more than usual. You meet new and interesting people who you would probably never met at home.

You share cramped dormitories, squeeze next to guys on buses or boats or rickshaws. You dance the night away at full moon beach parties and have self-pity pizza parties together when you’re too hungover to leave the hostel common area. You laugh together, you cry together and you get lost together. And, as cheesy as it sounds, sometimes you get lucky enough to find each other.

3. You’ll question your life decisions

First things first, solo travel inevitably leads to questioning your sanity at some stage. You will scream at yourself wondering why on earth you decided to backpack through Ethiopia by yourself (I did, anyway!) and you might even break down a cry for a few hours wondering why you saved for months to stay in a rat infested hostel in the middle of nowhere!

You will then get over the ‘questioning your sanity’ phase and start questioning poor life decisions that you have made. You will look at your career choices (or lack there of in my case!) and wonder if you made the wrong decision. You’ll also question why people on the road keep questioning you, wondering if perhaps you are ‘running away from something‘. Are you? Should you be?

It’s funny because these things might seem bad, and sometimes they can be overwhelming, but in a way solo travel gives you that perfect chance to question your life choices, to look at things with some perspective, to think about life without any distractions as you lie on that over night train that will take 17 hours to cross Vietnam. Without influence, without prying eyes or bossy voices, you can figure out in your head what you want from life, what you really want from life, and then you can start making a plan about how to set the wheels in motion.

2. You’ll learn to budget

When you have 3 months to survive on whatever meagre savings you have accumulated, you will quickly become a master of budgeting. You’ll learn shortcuts. You’ll buy in bulk. You will probably never take taxis, unless you’ve found some other travelers to split the fare with. You will plan your meals and share with others. You will have to make decisions… big decisions such as whether you should buy yourself a nice dinner or a giant bag of goon (cheap, australian wine.)

You will have to be prepared, plan your route and try to stick to it to some degree. How much will your visas cost? How much are hostels? Is the train cheaper than the bus or maybe it is cheaper to just fly? Once you run out of money, that’s it. You friend, your boyfriend, your parents or no one else will be around to help you and good luck getting money sent via Western Union to a tiny village in Tanzania or a lake side lodge in Laos!

1. You’ll smile at the little things

While traveling solo can be really challenging when faced with difficult situations and it can be hard to just laugh off the little things such as a missed bus or a stolen wallet, the opposite is also true. I often find myself smiling like a mad woman at the smallest things when on the road, things I probably would not take the time to appreciate if surrounded by others. You learn to take notice of the smallest things in life and learn to really appreciate how beautiful this world really is. Sitting on a beach, watching the sunset over the Gili Islands in Indonesia as I sipped on a cheap Bintang is a memory etched into my mind. I was alone, I was happy, I was thankful.

Seeing street kids happily play with rope and rocks in the slums of Manila, watching a group of Kenyan boys play soccer with a ball made from plastic bags, being offered a free taster of some pad thai from an old lady on a street corner in Thailand. It’s these small, insignificant moments that make the difficult situations worthwhile.

I smiled then, and I am smiling now.

Author’s note: Delighted that this post has been shortlisted for Best Blog Post in the Irish Blog Awards 2015 and has also been shared over 40,000 times after getting re-published on Matador Network!

9 Things That Only Happen When You Travel Solo