Solo Female Traveler: My Experience Thus Far

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In Lecco, Italy, looking out at Lake Como and the tall, rugged mountains beyond.

Travelling abroad to Europe on my own was the most challenging thing I’ve done so far, yet it was the most rewarding experience. I’ve been to Europe twice so far: I spent two months in 2015 in Como, Italy, tutoring English in a family setting. During my second trip to Europe, I stayed for three months in Germany.

Unlike my first trip, in Germany I was alone. I wasn’t completely alone; I lived in a shared accommodation setting with two other women and the landlord for six weeks in the small Bavarian village of Prien on the shores of Lake Chiemsee.  Truth be told, I felt safer on my own in Germany than I did in a family setting in Italy. I also thoroughly enjoyed the freedom to come and go as I pleased; visit friends, travel and eat whenever I wanted.

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Visiting my friend, Angela in northern Italy.

I met amazing people on both journeys: I met Angela, an Italian and English teacher during my stay in Como in 2015. We become good friends almost instantly, so during my visit in Germany in 2016, I spent a week in Italy, visiting her and her husband, Alessandro.

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I reconnected with relatives who I haven’t seen since I was fifteen years of age and established a lasting friendship with them. I spent one week in September and two weeks in December with them. Shortly before I returned to Canada, Dieter (my Uncle) taught me how to ride a horse (in the photo above). I also met some of Janna (Dieter’s daughter and my cousin/friend) friends. Despite the language barrier everyone was kind and Dieter kept joking about cancelling my place ticket and enrolling me in a university in Hannover.

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Neckargemund Alstadt, a small village situated on the Neckar River, east of Heidelberg.

Shortly after I found out that my working papers weren’t approved to teach English in Rosenheim (a village in southern Bavaria), I packed my bags and decided to travel Germany for the remainder of time I was permitted to stay there on my Canadian passport.  I stayed at an AirBnb in every town and city I visited and met some wonderful people through that experience. Not everyone spoke English. In fact, some of the people I stayed with spoke little to no English. Thankfully I knew enough German to hold a conversation, albeit a basic one.

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At some point, I’m going to write in greater detail of every place I visited in Germany, I’ve already done so with Berlin. However, to sum it up here: I loved Germany! I liked every village and city I saw even though I wasn’t in one place for very long.  However, Berlin captured my heart. The city’s alternative culture, angst, creativity and conflicted history spoke to me, drew me in so much, it’s beckoning me from across the sea to visit it once more.

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Trier is the oldest city in Germany, dating back to 16 BC, the time of the Roman Empire. This is the Porta Nigra, a structure that dates from that time way long ago.

Trier was also a city that fascinated me.  It’s old history, ancient and medieval architecture inspired me to set my new crusades history novel, ‘God’s Kingdom’ in Saarburg, a village neighboring Trier.

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Even though I spent a couple of weeks with my relatives in Verden, most of the time, I was on my own. There were times when I felt really lonely and pined for someone, or a small group of friends, to be with and to share my experiences with. I also had to navigate the complexities of living in a non-speaking English country where the culture is different on my own. Thankfully, my German background (on my mother’s side) and my relatives helped make my integration into German society much easier than it otherwise would have been.

Even though I stayed in Germany for only three months, the German culture grew on me quite quickly. I had made some good friends and learnt to speak the language proficiently. It actually took several weeks for me to fully integrate back into Canadian society after my return home.

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The Speyer Dom. This cathedral is more than a 1000 years old. Daniela, a friend who I had met while I was in Rosenheim, told me about this cathedral.

Despite the occasional bout of loneliness, travelling solo was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself: it taught me independence, it gave me inner strength and courage, enhanced the confidence in myself to embrace new adventures, no matter how hard or challenging they may be at times. Travelling solo also enabled me to expand my network of friends which has given me reason to return.

Landscape Gardener and BeachBody Coach

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Months before I went to Germany, I wanted to slim down a little, tone up, build up my strength and my stamina. But I didn’t know what to do to achieve that goal or where to begin. I worked full time in retail, eight and a half hours on my feet, so by the time I finished work, I was too exhausted to do any exercise. I also walked the fine line between being a social drinker and an alcoholic. I would get home from work and drink one, two, often more glasses of wine at least three evenings per week. Rather than focusing my energy on my writing or on losing weight, I caved into my excuses for why I needed to drink. As the summer wore on, I decided I would put off my weight loss and fitness goals until I was in Germany. I decided that, once I was there, I would be walking so much that losing weight shouldn’t be a problem.

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Well, as much as I loved Germany, I didn’t lose the weight I had hoped to have lost. Though, the first six weeks I spent in southern Bavaria, a region where health and fitness seem to dominate people’s lifestyle and overall well being, I became inspired and determined to make health and fitness a big part of my lifestyle. However, in order to accomplish my personal fitness goals, I had to make a few fundamental changes in my life.

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The first change was; I gave up drinking. Just like that! After hearing my friends talk about being dry for two months, I decided to give it up myself. I didn’t do it because my friends did it: I did it for myself. Alcohol had become somewhat of a problem in my life. It was interfering with my goals and threatening to ruin my overall well being. Every time I resorted to alcohol to deal with stress or even to celebrate a minor victory in my life, it almost always left me in tears, wallowing in self pity, then feeling physically drained — and sometimes — sick the next day. It just got to a point where enough was enough! I will still drink a glass of wine or a bottle of beer on occasion, but never again will I return to that lifestyle.

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The second change: I adopted a ‘Can do’ attitude in place of a ‘Can’t do’ attitude.

While I was in Germany, I spent a good deal of time contemplating the vocation I was going to take up when I returned home to Canada. The summer prior to my trip to Germany, two of my good friends worked as landscapers. I envied how toned and tanned they were and how they had the opportunity to work outdoors. That’s something I pined to do. For those reasons, as well as a desire to learn about the nature around me and how to properly maintain it, I settled on a vocation in landscaping.

A few people doubted my ability to do work as physical as landscaping. Also, my stamina wasn’t the greatest. While in Germany, I could scarcely lift my 40 pound suitcase! However, I kept telling myself, “I can do this! This is the right vocation for me. Whatever job I get, it’s going to be amazing.” At the same time, I asked myself, “How can I improve my stamina and my strength in order to succeed as a landscaper?” I started with mini workouts on the living room floor coupled with hour and two hour long power walks around the neighborhood a couple of times per week.

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Over the winter months, while waiting eagerly for the landscaping season to begin, I took an interest in Instagram. I would post photos from Germany and from the Sunshine Coast (the place I call home) on a daily basis. I ended up spending more time than I needed on Instagram. In the process, I got connected with fitness coach, Nathan Campbell. Nathan was the person who messaged me on Instagram. He told me about BeachBodyCoach.com, a website that’s devoted health and fitness (for a reasonable subscription fee, you get access to over 500 hundred workouts and healthy recipes on BeachBodyCoach.com. It’s also easy for anyone to become a fitness coach on Beach Body).

Nathan encouraged me to become a coach. He mentioned that my story and positive outlook on life would be an inspiration to others who, like me, aspire to lose weight and be fit. I took his advice, subscribed to BeachBodyCoach.com and am ever so grateful I did. I am thoroughly enjoying the workouts and am learning lots of new moves. As for becoming a coach; it was around the middle of winter when Nathan expressed his desire to have me on his team as a Beachbody coach. I turned down his offer because, at that time, even though I was passionate about health and fitness, I knew very little about it. However, I never said I would never become a coach.

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Fast forward a couple of months….I am now working fulltime as a landscape gardener for Tapestry Gardens, a small landscape and garden maintenance company based in Sechelt. I enjoy the job very much, the physicality of it gives me enough of a workout throughout the week. The workouts I do when I’m not working are tailored to become a stronger, more efficient landscape gardener. Now that I’m a little more fit and a little more experienced, I feel more ready to become a BeachBodyCoach. So, I signed up to become a BeachBodyCoach.

I do firmly believe that landscaping and fitness coaching compliment each other well and aspire to tie in my landscaping experiences with my coaching. I also plan to travel and teach fitness in the off-landscaping season. Even so, this is still such a new field to me. I realize I will have a big learning curve ahead of me, but I am going to embrace this new challenge.