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Friday, September 10, 2010

Woman Wandering Solo: Wendy Quast-Minkus

Women Wandering Solo is a series of guest posts that inform & encourage women who don't have travel partners to go ahead & take the trip anyway. There are so many amazing places to see in the world, & experiencing them solo could wind up being the best way to do it. To learn how you can share your own story with us, click here.

Solo in the Arctic

Wendy Quast lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and two step children. She has taken several solo trips and highly recommends it to any woman who wants to travel.

Rainbows flitted across the frigid arctic sky; dancing curls of green, red, blue, pink, and purples. I sat on a snow mound outside the research center bundled up like an Inuit Indian in a Carabobo skin coat and hat, down leggings and rugged boots, sometimes hopping up and down to warm my tingling toes and fingers. This was, undoubtedly, the most amazing of my many solo experiences. The bitter taste of subzero temperatures touched my tongue with each breath. Frost covered my eyelashes and the fur surrounding my face. Tears streamed down my face – from the shear cold or from the complete and total peace, I do not know. Either way, I figured that this was as close as I suspect one can come to Heaven on Earth.

My solo start

Traveling to faraway places in search of the exotic and the nearly forgotten came rather unplanned after leaving a friend behind on what would be the first of two disastrous trips with two different companions. I discovered that perhaps I was either a difficult person to travel with or just very sure of myself and what I wanted to do – or not do.

Although I still enjoy vacations with certain select individuals, my solo trips have provided me with the richest travel experiences and best friends across the continents thus far. My first real solo trip was more like a sabbatical in that I took off to ski in Europe after being laid off. I learned my most valuable travel tips on that jaunt that have saved me ever since.

Travel tips

• Pack only what you can carry for long distances on your back. I sent a suitcase and box home full of stuff.

• Showering every day really is optional.

• Don’t laugh, but yes, even underwear, is optional – and throwing it out as you go is perfectly acceptable.

• Always buy and break in new hiking boots before every long trek. If you cannot afford to, there is always Super Glue, a miracle cure for sealing blisters. Just don’t use it if your socks are already a bright red from your bleeding heals.

• Although hostels can be a great place to meet like minded souls, if you are prone to catching bugs, be careful of hostels as they generally are giant Petri dishes (I ended up with a virus similar to pneumonia and in the hospital in Frankfurt).

• Tour groups can be fun too! Especially if you join one from the country you are visiting. There you will meet many people from all over the world.

• Expect the unexpected.

• Wake up every day excited for the next adventure. Laugh and smile as often as you can, even if you are stuck with Interpol screaming in your face with absolutely no idea what they are saying or what you could have possibly done wrong.

• And finally, get over it! Whatever “it” is, just get over it and go with the flow. Immerse yourself in the culture and experience all of its richness.

Some final advice

Once you have experienced solo travel, I am certain that you will find that it is exciting, stressful, enjoyable, scary, fulfilling, and rewarding all at the same time, but you will never want to stop doing it. It’s addictive. Happy traveling! Maybe I’ll meet you on my next trip to the Amazon!

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