As women, it can be intimidating to travel especially alone. Independently traveling is daunting – national and international, alike. However, as women, international travel can be done on our own. Case in point, I am sharing a bit of my classmate, fellow woman in STEm, and good friend Abi’s experiences as a solo budget-friendly traveler. Abi is one of the most adventurous and sweetest people that I have met. Her travels have inspired me and I hope they inspire you too!
Tell me a little bit about yourself!
I am honestly never sure how to answer this question. My name is Abi. I am 21 years old and an avid solo traveler. I am a double major in Spanish and Computer Science at Meredith College where I am currently finishing up my Sophomore year. I am from a tiny mountain town in Colorado and I like to call myself an adventurer.
I know you are both a Computer Science and Spanish major at Meredith College. What made you choose two such different majors?
Well my reason for choosing each of my majors is drastically different. In high school I took AP Computer Science and I fell in love with coding. I knew almost instantly that I wanted to find a way to continue learning to code during my time in college. I really like the way coding makes you think, and it has always come easy to me.
Spanish on the other hand I have never been very good at, but in my home town there is a large population of native Spanish speakers. During my Junior year I was recruited to help with the ELL(ESL) program that helps students who have English as a second language succeed in school. I became fast friends with all of my tutees and they inspired me to continue with my Spanish career. I heard at one point that by 2025 about 50% of Americans will speak Spanish and I want to be on the bilingual side of that statistic. I love people and being able to help and communicate is something I strive to be able to do in all aspects of my life.
How do you plan to use both of your degrees upon graduation?
Honestly, I am still not super sure what I want to do after I graduate. I am hoping to find a job where I will have lots of opportunity to travel and meet new people. At this point I am considering becoming and app developer, and with such a large portion of the population of the USA speaking Spanish I am sure there are endless ways that it will be a wonderful skill even if not directly implemented in my job. I plan to start taking Mandarin this coming semester and if I can find the room in my schedule maybe by graduation I will speak all 3 of the global languages and be able to communicate with almost anyone on the planet.
You’re from Colorado and attend Meredith College in North Carolina, what made you choose to attend Meredith?
Lots of things lead me to Meredith. The first and foremost was the fact that private women’s colleges statistically give the most aid to high achieving students. When I was looking to apply for college after my gap year I knew that I was looking for a small university somewhere on the East coast to be closer to my extended family. I applied to a good number of schools, but Meredith offered me a position in the AWE-STEM program and that was the deciding factor of my choice in college.
What is your favorite thing to do at home in Colorado?
I am from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and while I am not the biggest fan of skiing I love to go white water rafting. My home county holds the headwaters to the Colorado river, that cuts the Grand Canyon, and we love to raft down it. If anyone doesn’t know what white water rafting is basically you get into a boat made out of rubber and paddle/float down river rapid. It is both exciting and fun, kind of like a natural roller coaster.
What is your favorite thing to do at college in North Carolina?
I am still learning to explore North Caroline to be honest Covid has made it hard for me to find cool things to do. I really have only lived in NC for 9 months with a whole year cutting that time down the middle. When our school got closed I had 5 days to move out and nowhere to go so I moved to South Carolina with my Grandma to finish off the semester then back home to Colorado for the one after that. I am now thankfully back in NC and hoping to find fun and Covid safe activities to do here.
So share with me a little bit about what made you choose to start travelling independently?
To be honest some really awful things happened in my personal life that threw off my plan. I had originally intended to go to Hollins University in Virginia, but life got in the way and it wasn’t meant to be. So I took a year off to find myself again and figure out who I wanted to be. I first toured Europe, the first half with one of my high school friends whose family was from the Netherlands. We visited 4 different countries together and by the end of our trip to Spain I felt confident enough to travel by myself. I visited both the United Kingdom and Germany by myself before returning to the states.
You took a gap year between high school and college to travel. How did your gap year shape you into the woman that you are today?
I think if it taught me anything my gap year showed me how much kindness and love there is in the world. Wherever I went and anything I did there was always people will and wanting to support me on my adventures. The realizations about the world made me a far more confident and component individual. Solo traveling means you have to make every decision and get yourself into and out of any and all situations that may arise. It makes you really sit with yourself and discover who you are and who you want to be. I highly recommend it to everyone I meet. Most people tell me they could never do what I did but every grand journey starts with a single step and I am sure any and everyone could successfully solo travel if they set their mind to it.
Where have you travelled independently?
I have traveled to Toronto, Philadelphia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and across Japan by myself. I have also road tripped across the USA by myself on my move back to NC.
What was your favorite place that you travelled to independently?
By far the best solo travel experience I have had was the summer I spent traveling across Japan by myself. I met so many amazing people and gained an incredible amount of perspective on the world that I never could have if I hadn’t been solo traveling.
Describe an experience during your travels where you had to problem-solve on the spot!
I think the scariest personal experience I had on my first solo trip was when I was on a train up to Whales in the UK and I couldn’t figure out how to open the door. By the time I found someone to help me I had already missed my stop adn road 45 min in the wrong direction and needed to ride the 45 min back to try and catch the boat I had a ticket for. I had to call my friend who I had traveled with the first part of the trip with’s family and get them to call the company that ran the boat to tell them I was coming since the representative only spoke Dutch. I made it with the help of a nice old lady, a reckless taxi driver and a mad dash to the boat but it was terrifying.
I know that you pride on being able to travel affordably. Share with us some of your tips and tricks for saving big on travel!
There are so many great way to save but every person has their own level of comfort they wish to uphold and different priorities so the first thing I do is a little bit of research and make an excel sheet of my trip expenses. Try to save in the areas that you don’t mind slumming it a little. I am rarely if ever in my “hotel” room so I love to stay at hostels. They do require you to share a room with strangers, but my personal policy is that strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet and while solo traveling it is great to make friends to share memories of your fun adventures with. I also don’t mind being sardined in on a flight so I try to find the cheapest flight possible I once found a direct flight from Raleigh to Denver that was $15. I was sore from the uncomfortable seat when I got off the plane but cheap flights are a great way to save. I like to find a flight on google and see what company it is on then go to their website to see if I can find a better deal. Most of the time (pre-pandemic at least) the cheapest flights are Frontier or Southwest. If you are not a pick eater finding a way to make your own food while traveling is also a great way to save money. Hostels will have kitchens to use and free food events. I always take advantage of those. If you are considering going to a hostel I recommend the Hostel World website/app as a woman. It can be scary to share a room but many hostels will have women only floors that adds an extra layer of safety. Hostel World also has a great review and comparison tool so you can find the best Hostel for what and where you are looking to stay.
What are some basic ways that any ordinary person can save on travel?
You can do all the things your ordinarily do to save money while traveling. A good thing to keep in mind is that regular people live there too. How are they getting by? Don’t go to the flashy tourist restaurant, go to the grocery store and buy food there or go to where the locals go out to eat. Only spend money on things you care about. Find free walking tours and parks and cheap or free things to do in the cities you visit. ALWAYS get a public transport card. They save you so much money on cabs or rental cars. Stay in Hostel if you are comfortable. They even have private rooms sometimes or smaller rooms, or gendered floors. Find ways to save money that is comfortable to you. The first thing is to think of what you are hoping to get out of your travel experience and cut everything else that you can.
Covid-19 has put a stunt into many of our travel plans. Through your experiences, how do you think travel will change post-pandemic?
My best guess is that airlines will require proof of vaccination to travel on them and that masks may be required in such tight spaces for a while into the future. I am not sure it will change much other than that it is hard to say. I don’t think that adventures will ever stop seeking adventure and we all want to make it as safe for everyone as we can so I am sure there will be changes but I don’t think they will be anything too drastic.
Where would you like to travel to next?
Funnily enough my plan before the pandemic was to travel to China and SouthEast Asia. It is one of the cheapest places to solo travel and has a great hostel environment. I am not sure when I will get to go there as the Visa I intended to apply for is no longer being offered to Americans but I am hoping to go on a Scuba diving trip next winter with my dad. And possibly on the Meredith study abroad Costa Rica trip next summer.
Where would you like to travel back to again?
I think I would like to go many new places before returning anywhere, but Japan was by far the best place I have ever been and I would love to go back someday.
Lastly, what would you tell yourself before you started your independent travels?
You will be fine. You’ve got this. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or directions when you need them.
You only live once in this world, like Abi did with her international travels, if you can dream it, you can do it, and you will be just fine.
XOXO – Katie <3