Adventures of a Crazy Cat Lady

In my last post, I wrote about my upcoming trip to Europe with my best friend, where we’d be traveling from country to country as cheaply as possible by volunteering via the online platform Workaway. Well, we’re here! And we’ve just completed our first volunteer experience at the Let’s Be S.M.A.R.T shelter in Kouvaras, 40 minutes south of Athens. And let me tell you, it’s been an amazing experience!

We arrived at the shelter in the middle of April and spent two-and-a-half fabulous weeks helping Diana, the shelter manager, look after 37 of the cutest, snuggliest, and sweetest cats, all desperately in need of their forever homes.

Stella, one of the beautiful cats ready for adoption at the Let’s Be S.M.A.R.T shelter in Greece

Our days began with a few hours of chores that are imperative to the maintenance of the household and the wellbeing of the cats and humans that live there – vacuuming, mopping, steaming, emptying litter trays, giving fresh food and water – before we were free to play with and give lots of love and attention to the cats. Most are there after being rescued from the streets, some have been surrendered by their owners, and some come and go as they like, eating and spending time outside in the yard when they choose to, but otherwise free to roam the neighbourhood as they please.

Julie, the founder of the organisation, is often busy arranging the vaccinations, medical treatments and transport of adopted cats to their forever homes in Europe and the United States. If you are looking to adopt a new furry family member, please consider the cute and cuddly friends I made in Greece.

The surrounding hills of Kouvaras, Greece
Looking out over the town of Kouvaras

But my time in Greece wasn’t just about helping the cats in the Let’s Be S.M.A.R.T shelter. I was also able to explore the surrounding areas and enjoy all that the Attica Peninsula has to offer.

One of the most beautiful places I visited was the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion. The ancient and impressive marble temple was built in 440 BC and strikes an imposing sight atop a cliff 200 feet above the sea. There is an entry fee of 8 Euros, but in all honesty you can get a great view of the temple and panoramic views out over the Aegean towards nearby islands without paying anything. There is also a lovely restaurant (although fairly touristy) at the base of the temple which serves generous portions of traditional Greek food and thirst-quenching local beer and wine. A climb up and over the rocks to the left of the restaurant allows you to soak in the incredible views out to sea from atop the cliffs, always with the temple in sight. Be sure to visit the barely noticeable ruins of the Temple of Athina which is located behind the Temple of Poseidon. Although not much is left of the temple, it’s worth exploring and you can see down to the bay and resort area of Sounion. From here you can also walk down a rocky path to a small cove to go for a swim or simply get your toes wet. Getting to Sounion is as simple as catching the KTEL bus from Athens – the journey takes approximately two hours – or organise a tour guide to take you there and show you around.

Temple of Poseidon, Sounion, Greece
The small cove where you can swim or just soak up the sunshine

Another incredible trip worth taking from Athens is to Meteora, where monks built great monasteries atop giant rock formations in the 14th-16th centuries. Getting to Kalampaka (the main township at the base of the Meteora monasteries) takes about five hours by either train or bus from Athens. The two townships of Kalampaka and Kastraki are lovely to stroll around and find a bite to eat (Kastraki is a little less touristy as it’s not the main arrival point from Athens). But, it’s the monasteries you’re here to see!

The Monastery of Varlaam

Monks began building the monasteries in the 14th century, a time when Greece was under increasing attack from the Turks. The monks used ladders and ropes to haul themselves, as well as food, water and building supplies, up the cliffs – an astonishing feat when you consider the average elevation of the Meteora rocks is 1027ft! Of the 24 monasteries that still exist, only six are functional, and you can visit each one for a small fee, however they each have their own opening hours and at least one is closed to the public each day. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing that covers your shoulders, and for women it is advised to wear a long skirt as opposed to pants or be prepared to tie a shawl around your waist for modesty.

The Monasteries Varlaam and Great Meteoron
The Monastery of Varlaam, surrounded by the giant rocks of Meteora
Kastraki, at the base of Meteora
Watching the sunset at Meteora is a must!

For the month of May, my travel partner and I have gone our separate ways – I’m in Galliate, a small town in northern Italy, while she is in Istanbul, Turkey, both of us staying with local families and experiencing life as the locals do. When we reunite at the beginning of June we will again be in Greece, this time exploring Patras and Ioannina, before venturing on to Albania for our next Workaway position in a hostel in Saranda.

Stay tuned!!!

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My best year yet?

The last time I decided to pack everything up and travel overseas indefinitely was in 2016 when I moved to Vietnam to teach English. And since returning home after eight months abroad, there’s been one thing on my mind: when can I do it again?! But of course, leaving everything behind and flying off to an unknown land requires some level of planning and preparation – unless you’re totally comfortable ‘winging it’, which I am not. So, for the past two years I’ve been a ‘proper adult’ – you know, get a real job, find a place to live, etc, etc – and now I’m done! This version of life is not for me! And that’s why in a few months’ time I will once again be leaving my job, packing up and storing my stuff (thanks mum!), and venturing overseas for another indefinite adventure.

Teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam

Unlike the majority of my previous adventures, I won’t be doing this one alone. My best friend has decided that she too needs to see the world and we’re going to see it together. And because we want to be able to travel for as long as possible we’re planning to do it as cheaply as possible, but still in relative comfort (so no 16 bed mixed dorms with shared bathrooms, thanks). And what’s the biggest expense, other than airfares? Accommodation! So we’ll be using three awesome platforms (Airbnb*, Workaway, and HouseSit Match) that will allow us to travel and stay in some amazing places for next to nothing, and in some cases, actually nothing!

So what does my Best Year Yet look like, you ask? Well, the first few months will be spent picking up as much work (as a substitute teacher) as possible to put as much money into the travel kitty as possible. Then, in April, we’re off! First stop – Athens!

There are some really affordable Airbnbs in and around the centre of Athens (we’ve managed to nab one for just $30 a night) that will serve as a handy base for five days exploring this ancient capital. After being a tourist for nearly a week, it’ll be time to move on to our next experience as Workaway volunteers in a cat sanctuary in a regional area south of Athens. If you’re not a cat lover then you probably can’t relate to our excitement about doing this, but bear with me! For two weeks we will be responsible for feeding, cleaning, and snuggling a menagerie of furry critters that have been rescued from the streets, nursed back to full health, and then hopefully adopted by loving new families. Bliss! In our free time we plan to explore as much as we can – my bucket list includes Santorini, Paros, Corfu and Meteora!

After three weeks in Greece, my friend and I will go our separate ways for a month as I go gallivanting across to Italy for my second Workaway experience, this time living with a family in the small town of Galliate, near Milan. This is my dream! Living like a local, experiencing life well away from the tourist trail, in my favourite country – to say I’m excited would be an understatement! My role will simply be to spend time with the family (mum, dad, and three kids), help them with their English (and improve my Italian) and basically provide them with a cultural exchange. I think I can manage that!

Milan Cathedral

Then, in June I’ll meet back up with my friend and head to . . . we don’t know yet! Maybe Albania? Or Macedonia? Or Croatia? Wherever we want! We’ll keep applying for Workaway positions and see what opportunities arise. Because that’s the point, isn’t it? To seize opportunities, say yes to new experiences, to not have everything so rigidly mapped out that you miss out on the true joy of travelling? I think so.

Stay tuned for updates as more of our trip comes together! And remember to follow me on social media for photos and snippets of our adventures!

Bec @ loveshetravels

* Use this link to get $55 AUD off your first booking

Travel accessory must-haves

2019 is the year that I once again pack up my life and head overseas for an extended stay. Which means I need to/get to update my travel gear and accessories! These are my must haves for my next international getaway . . .

Please note: none of these product recommendations are sponsored in any way, they are simply products I already own or wish to purchase.

  1. Entrada 65L Women’s Pack

I’ve owned a lot of different styles of luggage over the years, but never a serious travel pack. Not for much longer! This pack is an absolute must-have for long-term travel as it will make life on the road so much easier. There are a few things I like about this pack. Firstly, that it’s specifically designed for women’s bodies. Given that women and men can have vastly different proportions, this is really important for comfort and to prevent injury. Another important feature is the luggage-style opening, meaning you don’t have to go rifling through the whole bag to find that one item you’ve packed at the very bottom. I also love that it comes with a detachable day pack, making exploring even easier.

Edit: I ended up purchasing the Interloper gridTECH 70L Women’s Backpack instead. I found the lumber support to be much more comfortable than the Entrada, which, for me, is super important to avoid a back injury!

2. Naot Sabrina Sandals

I haven’t always been the most sensible traveller when it comes to shoes, either packing too many pairs or the wrong types of shoes. So on my next trip I’ve decided to limit myself to two pairs – a pair of runners for outdoorsy activities and a pair of walking sandals that look stylish enough to wear out to dinner and that I can match with a dress or skirt. These sandals from Naoto are super cute, the colours go with everything, and, most importantly, they are insanely comfortable. The footbed is the same as the iconic Birkenstock, meaning it will mould to the shape of my foot and keep my feet comfortable while exploring new cities for hours on end.

3. Skyroam Solis Wi-Fi hotspot

Relying on patchy hotel or hostel Wi-Fi can be frustrating, and it can be incredibly costly to use international roaming on your phone when out and about exploring. The Skyroam Solis simply connects to local cellular networks to provide you with fast, strong and secure Wi-Fi access wherever you go. Skyroam works in 130 countries and costs just $9 a day for 24 hour Wi-Fi access for up to five devices. It also has an inbuilt power bank, so you can charge your devices on the go. Clever tech at its best!

4. Lifestraw

These reusable drink bottles are a game-changer! They have an inbuilt filtration system that eliminates 99.9% of bacteria and parasites, allowing you to fill up from any water source (even a dirty puddle!) and drink the water without fear of becoming ill. The Lifestraw is particularly useful in countries where the tap water is not safe to drink, eliminating the need to constantly buy bottled water – good news for the environment and your wallet!

5. Packing Cubes

Where have these been all my life?! Possibly one of the best travel inventions of the modern day, packing cubes keep your luggage neatly organised, making life so much easier when you’re trying to find something specific within the depths of your suitcase or backpack. I like the ones with mesh covers as you can easily see what’s inside each cube and it allows airflow if you’re keeping dirty laundry or shoes inside. They come in a range of colours and sizes so you can find the right cubes for the type of luggage you have.

6. Power Bank

Another handy gadget to have when travelling is a portable power bank for charging devices on the go. They range in charging capacity, from 800mAh to 27000mAh – I can get about 4 complete charges of my iPhone before my 10000mAh power bank needs recharging – and come in various shapes, sizes and colours. Most are small and light enough to carry easily in your handbag or day pack and are so useful, especially when you’re out and about using your phone’s camera and map functions which can quickly drain its battery.

Got a burning travel question? Need some inspiration for your next trip? Leave a comment, send an email, or reach out on social media.

Five things solo travel has taught me

I caught the travel bug in 2008 when I went overseas for the very first time at the ripe old age of 21. It was to Thailand with my friend, and we spent two glorious weeks travelling around the country, taking in the sights, smells and tastes of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. We went to Bali the following year, and my passion for travel grew even stronger.

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Nusa Lembongan, Bali

While Southeast Asia is beautiful and exciting, we knew we wanted to venture to Europe on our next overseas adventure. I’ve always been good at saving money, but my friend, less so. So after talking about going to Italy for over a year, and with my friend’s bank balance struggling to grow, I made the decision to go it alone. A solo traveller was born!

Since then, I’ve travelled to 14 countries on my own, and have come to realise that travelling solo is actually my preferred way to travel. Solo travel is so rewarding, but it comes with its challenges.

Here are five things I’ve learnt from travelling the world solo . . .

1. I am so much stronger and more capable than I thought

This is the big one. While I knew I wasn’t some useless weakling dependent upon others for my very survival, I didn’t realise just how capable and independent I could be when put to the test. Navigating foreign airports and transport systems, communicating without knowledge of the language, making decisions about where to stay/eat/sight-see, being aware of your surroundings and personal items, it all takes a lot of energy,

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Milford Sound, New Zealand

organisation and determination. And, believe it or not, it was all so much easier than I thought. It’s funny how self-reliant I’ve become, even in my day-to-day life at home, preferring to figure things out on my own rather than relying on someone else to swoop in and help. Travelling alone promotes you to a level of independence that even Destiny’s Child would be proud of!

2. I like my own company

Being an introvert, this was something that was less realised, and more affirmed. I already knew that I enjoyed spending time on my own and never craved the company of others, but I was still apprehensive about whether I could cope with being completely on my own, in a foreign country, with no familiar faces to keep me company. I was worried I’d get lonely, or that the things I experienced and the sights I saw wouldn’t be as special because I didn’t share them with anyone. Well, I needn’t have been concerned. Being on your own gives you time to really soak in the experiences you have, to reflect on your day, to savour moments that you don’t have to share, that are made just for you. And if you do feel like some company, then there are plenty of apps/social media sites that help you find other travellers in your area, or you can simply strike up a conversation with people at a bar, or join a communal table that many cafes and restaurants have these days (in parts of Europe, communal tables are everywhere. I found this particularly the case in Germany, so pull up a seat and make some new friends!)

3. I have an excellent sense of direction

Before I set out on my own, I was the kind of person who happily followed along as my

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Narrow streets of Rome

friends navigated the way through airports, train stations and foreign cities. I actually came to believe that I had a terrible sense of direction because I could never figure out the way back from anywhere. But I didn’t have a terrible sense of direction, I was lazy. I let my friends to all the hard work and I just followed along blindly. I had no idea how we’d gotten to the restaurant/market/beach so I sure as hell couldn’t find my way back! But on my first solo adventure I realised I didn’t suck at navigating, I was actually quite good at it! Scoping out destinations on Google Maps and then roaming around foreign cities like a pro, AND finding my way back again, made me feel like I could handle anything. Sure, I’ve gotten myself lost plenty of times too, but that’s how you find the hidden treasures of a city that are off the well-worn tourist paths!

4. Airports are designed to be easily navigated

This one might seem like a bit of a “duh!” but having never flown overseas (or anywhere, for that matter) until I was in my 20’s, one of the biggest causes of my pre-travel anxiety was navigating airports on my own. I mean, they’re huge, they’re crowded, and if I get lost I could potentially miss my flight and my holiday would be ruined. But, funnily enough, I realised that (most) airports are actually pretty darn easy to navigate. Almost like they’re designed that way 😉 Also, if you’re an English speaker, or have a pretty decent grasp on the language, then you’ll be fine, as every sign in (nearly) every airport is written in English as well as the local language, meaning you will have no trouble figuring out where to go. And if you do get lost, airport staff are usually always extremely helpful. (This realisation also applies to train stations!)

5. I’ll (probably) never be happy staying in one place

I’m sure that one day, when I’m old and grey, the thought of packing up all my things and putting them in storage so I can gallivant around the world, will be less appealing than it is right now. But, that’s something future me can deal with. Right now, the thought of

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Look at that happy face!

being in the one place for any longer than two years gets me down; it makes me yearn for faraway places that I’m yet to experience and for adventures I’m yet to have. Travelling solo has given me an insight into the person I am when I’m free and happy and curious about the world, and this is in stark contrast to the person I am when I’m at home and at work, where I feel tired and restless and trapped. Travelling gives me new life, new energy and new outlooks on the world, things that I can’t achieve if I stay in one place and continue to live the day-to-day monotony. If you feel the same, if travelling is your passion, your dream, your purpose in life, don’t let anything hold you back – you can do it: solo travel is for everyone!

Got a question about travelling solo or about travel in general? Pop it in the comments section or catch me on social media!

https://www.facebook.com/loveshetravels/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/935299136858135/?source_id=707979002897109
https://www.instagram.com/loveshetravels/
https://www.pinterest.com.au/loveshetravels/
https://www.twitter.com/loveshetravels1

Cheers,

Bec @ loveshetravels

To go, or not to go, solo?

Do you dream of travelling to far-flung places and immersing yourself in the culture/food/adventure of a place that is totally unknown to you? Having trouble convincing friends/family/significant others to go with you, or sick of waiting for that potential travel buddy to get their finances in check? Sure, the idea of travelling alone might sound daunting to a first-timer. But with a little bit of confidence and determination, you’ll realise that travelling solo isn’t just loads of fun, but more rewarding than you ever imagined, and more than likely, truly life-changing.

The ultimate ‘me time’

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably finding that your day-to-day life is making you give more and more of yourself and your time to others, and you’re spending less time focusing on yourself and your physical and mental well-being. You crave time to yourself, to indulge in some much needed ‘me time’. Well, when you travel solo, you can have all the ‘me time’ you want! You’re in charge of your own schedule, which means you can go where you want and do what you want, when you want and how you want. You can travel as fast or as slowly as you want, without having to justify your choices to anyone, and you don’t have to compromise on things like which sights you’ll see, where you’ll eat, how long you’ll spend at each stop, etc. You’re free to meet new people, or not, and enjoy your holiday in the exact way you want to. There is no one else to please but you – enjoy it!

Self-discovery

Travelling solo gives you the ultimate opportunity for self-reflection and development. Travelling alone allows you to be free of the influences of home and puts you in charge of making your own decisions without the burden of keeping others happy or worrying about what they might think. With no one to make decisions for you, or influence the decisions you make, your problem-solving skills increase, making you a more independent, more fearless person in the process. You will get to know yourself better than you thought possible, discovering strengths you didn’t know you had, and come to realise just how independent and capable you really are.

Fabulously single

In travel, as in life, there has always been a bit of a stigma surrounding being single, especially for women. The perception has long been that being on your own is somehow undesirable, unfortunate, and something to be pitied. And it is something that most single women have experienced at some point in their lives, usually from well-meaning friends and family. However, this perception is slowly changing. Solo travel is on the increase and, as more people begin to embrace it, the image of solo travel is being redefined more as a luxury, a chance to escape the rabble of daily life and do something just for you. If you’re already living a fabulously single life, then you already have all of the qualities of a kick-arse solo traveller. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and make your travel dream a reality – you won’t regret it!

Join my Facebook group ‘Love She Travels – Solo Travelers’ to connect with other solo travelers, ask questions, and share your own travel tips https://m.facebook.com/groups/935299136858135

Let the journey begin . . .

Cinque Terre, Italy

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by!

My name’s Rebecca, and my number one passion in life is travel, particularly solo travel. In 2011, I took my first solo overseas trip to Italy and ever since I’ve felt a yearning to see the world. And, I’m guessing, you’re in the same boat!

Travelling is such a rewarding experience. When you travel you realise how strong and capable you are, how independent you can be, and, for me, these feelings are addictive. I love proving to myself (and to others) how self-reliant I am, how I can support myself in unknown situations, and show a strength I never knew I had.

Travelling alone allows you to recognise things about yourself that you may never have had the chance to see when standing well and truly inside your comfort zone. It is for these reasons that I feel so strongly about taking steps outside what is comfortable, away from what you know, to really understand yourself and the world in which we live.

Thinking about travelling solo? Take the leap; you won’t regret it!