Kami is a Polish female solo traveler who tries to balance full-time work with a love of being on the road. She spends every free moment exploring new places or returning to old ones. She’s already visited 45 countries (mostly in Europe but not only), but new adventures are still ahead, she always has new plans where to go next!
Hey Brandon! Big thanks for having me here, it’s a pleasure to me to answer your questions! At the moment I’m in Warsaw, Poland where I live and work at the railway company (planning trains schedule, I really enjoy it!). But the rest of the year looks really promising to me! Not only I want to explore my country a little bit better but I’m having some cool trips abroad planed as well! In October I’m going for 5 days to Estonia and shortly after that I’ll spend a weekend with friends in Vilnius (I’m really not used to travelling with a bunch of people but we’ve already been to Lviv together this summer and it was so much fun I’m sure we’ll have a great time in Lithuania too!). In November most likely I’ll spend 2.5 weeks in the Balkans. I’ve been interested in that area for years and finally visited it last year. I loved it big time, it was so much better than I expected, full of recent history, amazing landscape, hospitable people, interesting cities and awesome food, so I’ve decided to go there again. This time I’ll focus more on southern Balkans, I want to explore Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania but I’ll also return to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia on the way. For whatever reason I’m interested in genocide so not only I want to visit Sarajevo again to track down some of the war and siege remnants but I’m also hoping to visit places like Srebrenica and Vukovar… Then in December I’m planning to go to Hamburg, just for the weekend, to see the famous German Christmas market. Just after Christmas I’m heading for 2 weeks to Middle East! This area has been on the top of my bucket list so I’m really excited to be able to explore it a little bit soon. Sadly due to the political situation I’ll visit only Israel and Jordan but better this than nothing. I’m sure it’ll be unforgettable experience anyway!
Also, just the other day I got the email that I was chosen to volunteer during Winter Olympics in Sochi next year. So if everything goes well I’ll spend a month or so in Russia! And I’m already thinking how I could use that time to see as much as possible, so far Abkhazia and Crimea are in my mind! Ah, just talking about all these awesome places that are waiting for me makes me super excited!
–Can you tell my readers a little about your style of travel? How do you choose the destinations you visit? Does safety ever come into the equation, as a solo female traveler? What is a packing necessity for a women traveler?
I’ve been travelling solo since I was 18. At first it was more a must than a choice as thanks to my parents’ work at the rail once a year I had a free train ticket in most of the European countries. It was up to me if I want to go and see the world and stay at home and miss such a great chance (do I really have to say what I’ve chosen?). Sadly no one of my friends had this opportunity too so I was forced to go on my own. That’s how I became a solo traveler and well, very quickly I’ve realized it’s the best travel style for me. All the advantages of solo travelling have been discussed so many times that I don’t think there’s a need to repeat them again. For me the most important thing is the independence I have, the capability to spend the time just on my own, to soak up the new place in the way I want to do it. Travelling and exploring new places is such a precious experience I don’t want to have it spoiled by people who have a different concept of it. Of course I tried having a company on the way but I learnt the hard way that even the best friends back at home can make the worst travel company. Now there are maybe 3 people I can easily travel with.
There are so many places I'd love to see one day but of course among these there are places I'm just itching to visit! These are destinations not so obvious for solo female travelers. Russia, all the post Soviet -stans, Middle East, Iran are on the very top of my bucket list. But very often life has better plans for me hence I go to places totally different, such as China or Canada. I'm very open when it comes to choosing destinations and when I see a really good offer somewhere interesting I book it right away, without much thinking (that is also why I travel solo, it takes time for most of the people to decide and when they finally do so the cheap tickets aren't available anymore). That's the most important reason why I travel to these particular places. Sure, I think about my safety but I'm also not super paranoid and I don't think that there are many places people shouldn't travel to. I was on my own in countries like China, Quatar, Bosnia, Serbia, Armenia, Georgia or Morocco, all of these are considered dangerous for solo woman yet there wasn't even one situation that I felt in danger. I believe that common sense is the most important thing when you travel, no matter where and no matter with who. Just don't be stupid and don't do things you wouldn't do at home and you'll be fine!
–In many cultures, woman are, unfortunately, looked at quite differently... Sometimes even horribly differently, like in some Asian and African cultures... Do you have an opinion on this treatment/outlook? What’s some specific advice for woman interested in traveling solo to these regions? What are the biggest disadvantages of being a woman traveler? What about advantages?
Sadly I could see this treatment very well during my travels and even if I don’t agree with it at all I don’t think there’s much we can do about it. I assume it comes from the certain culture and religion that we are not part of, we can only observe to make our judgments. I guess most of these woman who are treated so badly, according to our standards don’t even realize they are in such a bad position… I hope it all will change one day but it takes time, a lot of it. Sadly this affects woman travelers in certain areas, such as Asia and Africa, too… I always try to do my research before going to such place, find as much as possible about the local culture so I can prepare myself mentally. When I visit a new place I want to respect its culture, religion and local people, even if only by dressing properly (i.e. covering the hair).
In the remote areas people don’t meet travelers all that often so most likely they will be extremely hospitable, taking care of you in the best way they can – let them do that and you will have unforgettable memories! That’s one of the good things about solo traveling as a woman, locals feel they should do all they can to make your trip as easy and comfortable as possible. Just don’t be afraid of people (but again, don’t forget about the common sense!). I don’t think there are all that many differences between men and women solo travelling besides the fact that you have to be more careful in certain situations (but I think that the same goes for your whereabouts at home…)
–What have you found to be the most profound difference in the way you travel alone, versus the way you travel with, say a partner, friends or family members?
Travelling alone gives me all the independence. I can go wherever I want to, stay there as long as I want to and the whole trip is the way I want it to be, if something goes wrong I can blame no one but me. I can also focus my whole energy on discovering and exploring the new place, getting to know it and finding my connection with it. These all are really important aspects of travelling for me and I kind of miss them when I travel with someone. Usually when I go with friend(s) I’m the one in charge of itinerary and figuring out the way around hence I spend too much energy on showing the place to someone, the energy I could spend on building my relation with the place. I really cherish the moments when I can sit down in the main square or in the café and observe the people around me and the world passing by – often when I travel with someone I have to skip that part of my itinerary. But still I like going somewhere with friends, usually these are places I know fairly well by now so I don’t need “my” time with them. As I’ve already mentioned, this summer I went with 6 of my friends for the weekend in Lviv, Ukraine and we had the best time ever! And it was a big pleasure for me to show them this beautiful city, one of my favorite ones!
I think the most often asked question about my solo travelling is if I don’t feel lonely. Well, I don’t. I’m a very sociable person here at home so when I travel it’s the time for myself, to recharge my batteries, to calm down, to get to know myself better. And when I feel like hanging out with people there’s always a chance to do so! There’re fellow travelers I meet in the hostels (for most of the time I stay in these) or locals I can get to know via Couch Surfing. Actually that’s another great aspect of solo travelling, you have better chances to meet great people that may become your friends, when you’re with someone you just don’t look for the company!
–Have you ever had anything bad happen to you while traveling? If so, could you please talk a little about that situation? What’s the most challenging part for you?
Fortunately not and I hope this won’t change anytime soon (or better at all!) But even if so far I keep repeating how awesome solo travelling is I need to say it’s not always only unicorns and butterflies. It’s super challenging too. You are on your own, you need to stay focused for most of the time to avoid all the scams and potentially dangerous situations, you depend on yourself and only on yourself, you’re the only person who decides how your day will look like and if something goes wrong you’re also the only one to be blamed. But still it’s all worth it as solo travelling gives you so many options you wouldn’t have when with someone by your side!
–What are some tips and tricks that you can offer up for some of my female readers who are thinking about traveling around the world, all by themselves?
Remember, solo travelling isn’t half as scary as everyone tries to tell you. First of all, don’t be afraid of people who you meet on the road. I believe people are good in heart and don’t want to hurt you for no reason. Keep smiling and saying hello to people you see on your way. Always trust your intuition, it’s the best adviser. Be sure that your family/friends at home know where you are and where you’re heading – it will make you feel safer. Always pretend to be confident, even when things don’t go according to your plan, this way you can avoid people trying to use you (like fake guides in Morocco). Before leaving google the place and its famous scams (i.e. the tea scam in Shanghai) so you’re prepared to what might happen (and when it actually happens you have so much fun laughing people who try to scam right in the face)
–How do you handle attention or advances from men of other cultures while traveling abroad? What are some of the best ways to work through these types of situations?
First of all I try to avoid potentially dangerous situations. I don’t walk on my own in the back streets in the evening, I don’t get drunk with people I don’t know – basically I don’t do things I wouldn’t do at home. When men hit on me (and in some places it happens way too often) I try to handle everything with the smile yet I’m very assertive in my rejections. If it still doesn’t help I simply walk away. When guys are mean or rude I don’t even bother with answering and pretend I didn’t hear what they were saying to me. Ignoring them seems to be the best option in such situations.
–Thank you again, Kamila! I’m sure you’ve instilled some confidence in my female readers – with some hope, they will start to seek out and experience how amazing the world is, and that gender doesn’t have to change who can and who can not have a fulfilling life in travel... Any last thoughts? Or words of advice? Or wisdom?
Don’t be afraid to travel! The world out there isn’t as scary as many people think, you just have to make the first step and then you’ll love it for sure! You just have to find the travel style that suits you the best, it doesn’t have to be solo travelling, it can very well be group tour. So stop finding excuses and go to see the world!