Seven Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo (At Least Once)

You love traveling with your friends. The jokes, the memories. It’s those times wandering through Time Square or getting lost in Barcelona that you’ll remember for a lifetime. But you will also remember the first time you successfully navigated the London underground by yourself or sat on the Spanish steps eating some delicious gelato pondering the meaning of life. Traveling Solo is an incredible experience and one that everyone should try at least once.

Build Self Confidence

If anything is going to help you build some self-confidence it’s traveling solo. You have to make all your own travel plans and ensure they are carried out. If you want to talk to someone, you’ll have to break the ice. If you get lost, you will be the one to find your way. There is something empowering about traveling solo – especially in a foreign country. I will always remember my first solo journey in New Zealand and my first adventure in the country. I took a ferry from Auckland to Waiheke Island. I ventured around the island visiting wineries, finding hidden beaches, and devouring the most delicious burger I’ve ever had.

Mt Cook NZ

What You Want

This is a big one. No more agreeing on what sites you want to see or what hikes you want to do. You don’t have to worry if one friend wants to go rafting, but the other wants to zip line. If you are on a road trip, you create the itinerary and even better you are in control of the playlist. When you travel solo, you can do whatever you want, no questions asked.

Quad Ride Peru

When You Want

What you want, when you want. I was on a water taxi crossing Lake Te Anau getting ready to hike the Kepler Track. There were two other guys in the water taxi and we were all traveling solo. The driver asked if we liked traveling solo and in unison, we said, Yes! We can do what we want when we want. If your alarm goes off, and you want to hit snooze (for a few more hours) you can do it. You set your own schedule and you choose if it changes. There is truly something liberating about traveling solo.

Make New Friends

Either someone will see that you are by yourself and approach you or you’ll be craving for a conversation that isn’t on your phone and you’ll strike up the conversation. I believe it’s almost easier to make new friends when you are traveling solo vs with a group, and especially with other people also on their own. While traveling through New Zealand, I sat down for breakfast at a table with two girls and we started a conversation. I mentioned how I would be traveling to Ireland soon, and one of the girls said she lived in Ireland, and I should hit her up when I was there. Not only did I see her in Ireland, but I was headed to Scotland in a few weekends and she also had plans to go to Scotland with some friends, and we met up again! It was so much fun!

Rose and Keelie Ireland

Learn About Yourself

When you only have yourself to rely on, you tend to learn a lot about yourself. Like if you are good at directions, what type of activities you like the most and how you want to spend your time. You learn your limits like how long you want to spend exploring a city or how adventurous you are willing to get with the local food. There is no one there to persuade you in a direction and every choice in one you made.

No Expectations

Timon and Pumbaa said it best – “It means no worries.” When it’s just you, you are forever on island time living the island lifestyle. You might have some bad days, but no one but you will know. And tomorrow will be a brand-new day filled with brand new adventures. Create your own schedule and go with the flow. It’s relaxing when the only needs to service are your own and there aren’t any expectations to meet.

New York Skyline

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

I always thought of myself as a shy person. The new people I would meet were through friends or we would be paired together somehow whether it was school, work or a sporting team etc. And I usually took the safe route. I went to the safe school, took a safe job. But when I was in a foreign country all on my own, I had to broaden my horizons a little. Eat foods I wasn’t used to eating, jump off rocks I thought were a little high, and strike up a conversation with countless strangers. I love traveling with my group of friends, but I think we tend to be complacent when we are around people we know. When it’s just you, the limits tend to get pushed and you step out of your comfort zone.

Vatican Rome

So what do you think? Have you traveled solo before and it changed your life? Do you have an reservations about a solo trip? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me at @keeliec5 and let’s get the conversation started!

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

Which Country Has the Prettiest Sheep?

This is a little outside my normal realm of blogs, but with an open mind, it should be entertaining nonetheless. When I was planning my trip to New Zealand, I read numerous articles about there being more sheep than people on the small island. This is 100% fact. There would be times when I would go on a walk and not see anyone for hours, but I would see about 500+ sheep. There are also a lot of jokes between the Aussies and Kiwis about how they treat their sheep – perhaps a little too friendly. After returning from my trip, my friends had found a movie for me to watch titled Black Sheep. It was a horror film about New Zealand and their sheep.

As I continued my travels, I found more sheep. These countries didn’t necessarily have more sheep than people, but they still had a lot of sheep that were a huge part of their economy. This sparked a debate amongst my close group of friends. Which country has the prettiest sheep? I told you this blog was going to be entertaining.

Ireland

I was in Ireland for about a week. I had hired a car and planned to drive around the whole country. It was February, so not a lot of tourists, and I felt pretty lucky with the weather. I’d heard an Irish winter can be quite rough. The countryside was beautiful. Lush rolling green hills, pristine beaches and old castles and churches. When I would reach my nightly destination, each town was as lively as the next and offered a true Irish experience. Cold Guinness, and a lot of Irish folk music. I was driving from the Dingle Peninsula to the Cliff of Moher and would spend the evening in Galloway. Driving on these tiny roads on the left side was a little challenging for me, but I was gaining more confidence each day. On this particular day, I turned a tight corner and saw a herd of sheep! They were headed right for me and taking up the whole road. At this point, all I could do was stop the car and grab my camera. I just stood still while the herd of sheep swarmed me and the car. The farmer was close behind on a quad and continued to herd the sheep past me. Welcome to Ireland, Keelie.

Peru

I went to Peru with two intentions. I wanted to hike to Machu Picchu and I wanted to do some volunteer work. I was there for three weeks. I volunteered at a local school where I helped make lunch in the morning and taught the children English in the afternoon. It was a humbling experience. After my volunteer work was complete, it was time to hike Machu Picchu. If you would like to learn more about the Lares Trek, you should check out my blog on Machu Picchu. During the trek, we walked through villages and farms of alpacas and llamas. They were everywhere! I know alpacas are more related to camels than sheep, but they have some sheep like qualities. I did manage to find some sheep sprinkled throughout a herd of alpacas, but they looked a little out of place.

New Zealand

The sheep capital. Technically, there are other countries that have more sheep than New Zealand, but they might win the category of most sheep per square mile. When I was on my Hobbiton tour, our guide told us that they used to let the sheep graze near the Hobbit house to keep the grass short. The Hobbit houses consist of the outside, and enough room inside for someone to walk in and shut the door. All the filming inside the houses took place in a studio in Wellington. Anyway, the guide said they can no longer use the sheep to mow the grass because one day a sheep wondered inside the small area inside the house and managed to shut the door on itself. The sheep panicked and busted out the fake window of the Hobbit house and destroyed the front area. It was quite expensive to fix, so now sheep are not allowed to graze near Hobbiton.

Another funny story about sheep and Hobbiton is that when they were filming Lord of the Rings, they brought in stunt sheep. The country of New Zealand has around 30 million sheep, but they thought the sheep looked too happy and the landscape wouldn’t look like dreary England. So, they hired some sad looking stunt sheep for the films.

United Kingdom

Speaking of England, the UK is home to a lot of sheep. While most of the sheep can be found in Wales, I did see some when traveling around England and Scotland. It was winter, so the weather was rather dreary, and the sheep were grazing through grass and mud. Stonehenge is located near a sheep farm, so as I gazed upon the ruins I also saw sheep, I couldn’t help but think about how they had to import sheep from England to New Zealand because they needed sadder looking sheep. And then it started to rain. Yeah, I’d be kind of sad too.

Now that you’ve heard my stories and seen pictures of the sheep, what country do you think has the prettiest sheep? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me at @keeliec5. Hopefully, my stories weren’t too bias to sway your opinion. 😊

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

The Emerald Isle: Back to the Uk

My trip is silly so far. I have gone from USA > UK> Africa> UK>Ireland> UK> Ireland> UK (where I am currently in Scotland). I was driving to Northern Ireland to visit a friend of mine I had met in New Zealand. This would be the second NZ friend I have met in Europe. I now have friends all over the world. Its wicked. It was a long drive to her house

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

. And I never went through another town since I left Galway. I was in the middle of nowhere Ireland. There is no border patrol. Didn’t even know I was back in the UK until I tried to pay for my chocolate milk in Euros and the cashier looked at me silly. “Oh..you want a pound.” My friend lives in the middle of nowhere. I drove about a half hour off the main road through farms until Siri said my destination was on the left. I tried calling Rose to let her know I’m nearby because I wasn’t entirely sure which house was her’s. No service. I aimlessy walked around utill I found reception. I had dropped my car off at the fish and chips shop. I was in the right area. Siri told me I had arrived about 30 seconds to late. Rose was impressed. She said she will now tell her other local friends that they have no excuse if they can’t find her house. The American girl found it. She had another friend over (Cardessia…I know I didn’t spell that right). Long story short there was a lady who had been sick. The doctors didn’t really have an answer for her as to why she was sick. Cardessia had a relic of a powerful Saint someone had lent to her. Her and Rose were going to lady’s house to say a few prayers and bless her with the relic. My next observation about Ireland was that it was very religious, but the Irish also like to party and have fun. I had come to that conclusion before I arrived at Rose’s. I hadn’t seen so many catherdrals and churches in such a small area. But I haven’t been to Italy yet. We went to the lady’s house. On our way there we saw a wake was going on at her neighbors. Rose asked the guys standing out front who had passed away, and if they new where house Mcgholin was. They knew. Small town. Frances was a lovely women. Bless her. She made us tea, brought out crackers. We chated for a bit. Turns out she used to take Cardessia’s Granny to mass when she was wee. The girls wanted to make sure I wasn’t feeling uncomfotable. I said not at all. I was getting a local Irish experience I would remember for the rest of my life. Some stories were told. Tales exchanged. We said some prayers and blessed Frances. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but my sister Fraine came to surface and some tears were shed and more prayers were exchanged. God works in mysterious ways. And we all agreed he doesn’t take those who aren’t ready, and have served their time on earth. It’s still tough because she didn’t need to serve long. We went back to Rose’s house and ordered some take out. Since it was Valentine’s Weekend most of the restaurants were fully booked up. Rose and I were going out that night with another friend of her’s named Ciara. I said my goodbyes to Cardessia. We went to a little bit bigger of a town. Kind of like going from Gridley to Chico, expect the big town is Gridley. And Gridley has about one street full of pubs. We drank, we danced, we chated. I had a blast. We got back into Rose’s house late. My drive was shorter the following day, but it had been a long week. I was made a traditional Irish breakfast which was brillant. Rose showed me around a few more highlights in her town which included some cottages, the lake they live near, and the chapel. This is how I know I wasn’t possesed back in Killarney. I walked into the chapel and even spoke with a Father. No spirit would have been able to do that. I said my goodbyes to Rose, but they were only temporary. Turns out she has a friend in Glasgow, and will be visiting her the same time I’m in Glasgow. What are the chances. I drove to Dublin, and walked around. I checked out the Temple District. The whole week I had been listening to Irish radio, and all they talked about was a shooting in Dublin. The gang problem in Dublin. How violence had risen, and the cops were scared of the mob. I was a little hesitant to be walking around Dublin on my own at night, so I made sure to stay in crowded areas. There was an awesome band playing a free show on the street. It started snowing. Lots of couples since it was actual Valentine’s Day. Dublin was okay. I didn’t get to see lots of the usual sights because I ran out of time. That was my last night in Ireland. I made it to the airport. Returned the car okay, and faced no problems coming back into England. Actually I didn’t even go through immigration. Go figure.

The Emerald Isle Night 2-4

075I woke up at a decent time. Showered, had breakfast, explored Cork long enough to get myself a pair of earings and Mckenna her jersey and then went up to Blarney. I parked a bit away,  but I enjoyed the walk. The sun came out for a bit even though the grounds were muddy. I wasn’t sure if there would be a queue to “kiss the stone” so that is where I bolted. No queue, and we actually had to ask another visitor nicely if she would press the button to take the picture of me kissing it. The stone is in a really random location, and you have to go backwards off the edge of the castle and kiss the stone upside down. I’ve now been blessed with the gift of gab. The castle is ancient, and narrow. Unsure how the hefty Winston Churchill made it up that staircase. I explored the castle and its surrounding grounds. I found a witches stone. Apparently she is released from the stone every night. There were a few other superstitious relics around the castle grounds. Something I’ve noticed about the Irish. They are superstitious. I noticed some people walking around with a black dot on their forehead. Oh! It was Ash Wednesday. After lunch in Blarney (where people were having pints, not me, I was driving) I made my way to Killarney. Once again about 1/2 hour before dark. I made dinner and then walked around the town a little bit. Checked out one pub, and then I found out they had a LOTR pub! It was called the Shire. I had to go there! I walked through the Hobbit door to find out I was the only one in the pub who didn’t know the bartender. There were only 3 people in the pub. I drank my Gandolf ale and left. I needed to be up early tomorrow anyway. I woke up bright and early and drove into the National Park. It was really pretty. My first stop was an old abandoned abbey surrounded by a graveyard. My second notice about Ireland is that its creepy. Its haunted. The roof of the abbey was gone, but there was a corrider that went down into the basement. I shined my cellphone light down there, and hell no. There was some sort of spirit down there waiting to posses my body and take over my life. In a roundabout way, I ended up down in the basement anyway. I sprinted through the corrider and up the stairs toward daylight. In case you’re wondering, I haven’t been posssed. I’m pretty positive. And youll see why later on in my trip. I went for a wee walk to the waterfall. I saw some Irish deer. They look weird. The waterfall was cool. Ireland is green. Very green. I decided to drive through the park a little bit more, and thats when I was blessed with the amazing views of the mountains and the lakes. The mountains aren’t very tall in ireland. But it adds variety besides rolling green hills. There are goats, and some mountain sheep. The sheep were in my way of a pictuesque shot and wouldn’t move. Darn sheep. I had a second road trip to comeplete that day, so it was time to leave Killarney and head to Dingle. After lunch I decided to conquer Slea Head Drive. One of the most scenic drives in all of Ireland. And was it. The cliffs aren’t as tall as the Cliffs of Moher (but that is what makes them special) but they were still divine. The sun was out for a bit, so I took proof that sun in Ireland does exist. I was really becoming an expert driver on the left hand side. We will see what happens when I go back to the US. I would probably pullover ever 2 kilometers or so. That might be an exaggeration, but a 35 km route took me 3 hours or so. I did go for a longer walk at the end though. The sites were memorizing. At one point I noticed a large herd of sheep coming at me. They were on the road. This road wasn’t big enough for the two of us. When they got closer I stopped my car so the sheep could go around. They were confused at first, but eventually figured it out. I could see the dog and the farmer behind them. Darn sheep. Always in my way. As I rounded the peninsula, (STAR WARS SPOILER AHEAD) I am pretty sure I saw Luke Skywalker’s island. I know it is off Dingle. Tiny island though. Not much else there except Luke. I went for a good 1/2 hour walk or so, to probably one of my faveorite views. I didn’t realaze Ireland had so much hiking. Killarney had tons, and so did Dingle. Good to know If I return in the summer. I returned to Dingle and checked into my room for the night. I got some dinner. That town was dead. It is purely a summer town. Have the shops were closed for the winter. But luckily I found a pub to serve me beer and food. I had another long day tomorrow. I was headed to Cliffs of Moher and then Galway. The drive to the Cliffs was fine. Long but fine. The Cliffs were breathtaking. I lucked out and got some sun towards the end of my visit. It was really muddy out there. My pants and shoes were fiflty. I laughed at all the girls walking through the mud in heels (just a small heel) or white canvas shoes. You can walk to the edge of the cliff. I couldn’t do it. I had visions that a gust of wind would come and blow me off the edge. No one would know I was missing, until I didn’t return to London in a few days time. The park would wonder why my car was left overnight. They would probably assume quickly that I fell off the edge. But to put two and two together for my family in England to find out that it was my car at the Cliffs and that I probably fell to my death, I thought that might take 5 days or so. I stayed away from the edge to play it safe. And I had heart attacks for the people who would stand on the edge or dangle there feet. I am now curious how many people have died at the Cliffs of Moher. That was my highlight for day 3 in Ireland. I drove to Galway which is probably my favorite city. The city center was cute. I loved the pubs and all the live music. I would of loved to spend more days there. But that was becoming a theme for my trip. As long as I get a different immigration lady, maybe one day I’ll go back. (Might be the only overseas place I can get David to go to anyway) 🙂 I had yet another long day tomorrow. I was driving to Northern Ireland near Belfast. That trip needs an entry of its own.

The Emerald Isle Night 1

023I could see the Emerald Isle from the window. The sky looked blue, everything looked green. I was ready for a week with the Irish. I made made my way to immigration where there was honestly no one in line. It reminded me of New Zealand, and I instantly thought, “I already love this place.” I showed the lady my passport, and I don’t know what it was. Maybe my backpack, my shortness, because I am an American, because I had been to 3 continents since November (which I think is rad by the way). Whatever the reason, the Irish immigration lady did not like me, and she accosted me with questions. “Keelie, when was the last time you were in the US?” “How are you paying for all your travel?” When do you plan on going back to the US? What have you been doing in the UK since January? Where have you been staying in the UK? Oh with family (insert eye roll). What are you doing in Ireland? Where will you be staying? When are you leaving Ireland? “I’m leaving in a week,” I replied. Show me your flight out of Ireland!! I pulled it out. Then she asked how much money I had saved for my trip, and how I earned this money. She begrudgingly stamped my passport and I was allowed entry into Ireland. But at this point I’m now thinking. Do I want to be here? I made my way to the car rental place and agreed to two upgrades. One from manual to automatic, and the other for the insurnace. I was feeling nervous about driving on the left and didn’t want to take any chances. I got on the freeway and was on my way to Cork. I thought I was doing pretty good. GPS was working, and freeway driving is easy. I wasn’t going extremely fast, but I also wasn’t sure what the speed limit was. It was a two lane freeway, and I was crusing in the right lane, which would be our slow lane in the US.  The man behind me kept flashing his lights and putting on his blinker. I panicked. What is wrong with my car. Is something hanging from it? Is it about the explode? What is wrong? Then he got in the left lane and sped up next to me and kept staring. What did I do to piss this guy off? Is he going to run me off the road? What is wrong with my car? He sped off. Then another car came up to me, and this guy sped up, zoomed into my lane and slammed on his brakes. All while he had his left blinker on. Then I remembered a conversation I had with Karen. The right lane is used only for passing. You don’t drive in it. So the entire time there was nothing wrong with my car. These people just wanted me to go back to the left lane. I moved over no probelm. But my driving woes weren’t over yet. I saw a sign for Killkenny. Oh! I love that beer. Lets check it out. Benefits of having a car. So I got off the freeway and went to Killkenny. It ended up being a 50 kilometer detour but oh well. I noticed I kept drifing to the left side of the road. I kept driving over the warning bumps. The road to Killkenny was narrow and had a lot of pot holes on the side. I also kept hitting those. But the extent of my drifting didn’t really kick in until I got into town. The roads were narrow, there were cars coming at me and cars parked on my left. My rearview mirror folded in. I side swiped something. I just don’t know what. And then it happened again. I was mortified. I had only been driving for maybe 2 hours and I already wrecked the car . When I parked in Killkenny I assed the damage. I popped my rear view mirror back out, and my car was dirty. But that was it really. From then on I made a concious effort to hug the center lane. When I was driving through Dublin near the end of my trip, the car in front of me kept hugging the left line, and would actually drift over it slightly sometimes. Rookie left side driver I mumbled. I made it to Cork no problem, and with about 1/2 hour left of daylight. It had been a long first day in Ireland. I made dinner and went to the pub for some Guinness. There was a soccer game on, and the pub filled up quickly. Two pints later I was full, and feeling a slight buzz. I retired for the night. Big day tomorrow. I was going to Blarney Castle and then to Killarney. Let the Irish road trip begin!