Travelita Interview Rollerbag goddess Charish (Part 2)
7. Do you remember how you felt when you traveled alone for the first time?
After I got my layoff notice from the financial institution where I worked, everything in the office changed. All of us were distracted, disheartened, scared and bored. People lost their motivation and became depressed. It was hard to watch and even harder to be a part of. You feel yourself getting sucked in to a very dark place. And that’s never a good place from which to go job hunting. It’s like a bad cologne; people can smell it on you.
I needed something to look forward to. I needed something to make me feel alive again. And I had always wanted to backpack in Europe.
So, I put in my notice, quit the job and packed for my first solo international trip. I burned the layoff packet in a fire pit the night before I flew. It felt good. It felt like I was regaining control over something that had happened to me, and was turning it in to something that I could make happen for me. I drained my savings, and set out for France, Germany and Italy. My husband was able to join me in Paris for four days, and I stayed with friends in Frankfurt, but I was otherwise alone. And I loved it. Traveling alone helped me realize my true nature, and it was the first time I really got to explore on my terms, at my pace. It was so fun! And instead of shrinking in proportion to the worthlessness you feel when you get laid off, I felt like I was growing. It was magical, and no doubt the best investment I could have made in myself at that time. I wish everyone who felt stuck in life could find their way to transformational travel, to change their perspective and give them a clear view of the big picture.
(Regarding fears – see above)
8. Is there a place where you have been and you would definitely not recommend it for women on their own and why?
It’s always wise to educate ourselves about places that may be unsafe for travelers, but I’m not sure if there are any particular destinations I wouldn’t recommend for women. To me, it’s less about not going and more about finding a safer way to go. I’m heading to the Middle East for the first time in December. A lot of people have fears about traveling to that part of the world, and some perceive it to be particularly dangerous for women. Since it’s my first time there, and because as a travel writer I want to experience travel in all of its many forms, I’m going with an organized tour for the first time. It may not be exactly the type of travel I prefer to do, but it will be a good experience.
The truth is, dangers exist both at home and abroad. My country is not always safe for women, and just like other places, we solo female travelers have to look out for ourselves and one another. To not go is simply, for me, not an option.
I see so many articles about travel safety tips for women, which frankly puts the responsibility upon women to address an imbalance we did not create. It’s a necessary, but unjust reality. Likewise, I’ve never seen one article about how destinations can make themselves safer for solo female travelers, or how we can create a world culture that eliminates gender-based violence so that women can travel alone safely. And that’s a bit disappointing, to be honest. I’d love to start a think tank of women travelers, an advisory group that could put together a list of recommendations for destinations that wish to become safer for solo female travelers. It’s worth their while, as women are traveling alone in record numbers. Setting guidelines and brainstorming solutions could be a powerful start to changing the travel space for women.
Until that happens, until we see a worldwide cultural shift, there will have to be female explorers who brave the unknown. The strong pioneering spirit within us can help us create that shift, simply by saying, “We’re here.”
9. Do you still have this excitement when you go for a trip?
I still get butterflies every time I book a trip, and every time I head out on a new journey. Travel is among my life’s greatest joys.
Here is a story – maybe a little funny, but there is also a lesson involved!
I was traveling in Marrakech and really enjoying the traditional breakfast foods. My hotel near the medina in Marrakech provided these three items every morning: a bubbly pancake; a square, buttery, flaky crepe; and a small, round loaf of bread. I was reading up on these foods in my travel guide, and decided that my favorite was the crepe-like food. Somehow I decided this was called beghrir, which I pronounced “BAH-jee.”
Later in the trip I declared to the cook at another inn (in French), “I LOVE beghrir!” She didn’t speak English, and I spoke just enough French to convey this, as I felt it necessary to share my enthusiasm for the crepes she had just placed on my table.
The next morning, everyone else got the crepes, and I mean everyone. The cook, with a big smile, put a plate of bubbly pancakes in front of me. I could smell the crepes in the air. Had she forgotten? Or had she willfully denied me? It seemed like an insult, particularly when the innkeeper and the cook sat down at the table next to me with crepes of their own! I didn’t say anything, but quietly—and a little sadly—ate my little pancakes.
Two cities later, I was watching a street vendor in Rabat make the crepes. I was shocked when she said the crepes are called msemen. I’d been calling the crepes by the name of the pancakes, and the cook at the inn had proudly made those pancakes especially for me, thinking it was the Moroccan food I love the most!
It’s an important lesson: often our perception of a situation can be skewed, or we may misunderstand a cultural moment. As travelers, it’s vital that we not jump to conclusions, and that we be open to continuing to learn while assuming that others have positive intent.
10. What are your top 5 destinations and why?
This is such a hard question! I think the destinations a traveler chooses should be selected based on where they are starting and what they want to get from the experience, so it’s nearly impossible to just pick a top five. But here are some of my personal favorites.
1. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam
This is a great Southeast Asia trifecta for transformational travel, particularly for westerners. Go for a month or two if you can. These are also wonderful budget destinations. Get out of the big cities for the most culturally-rich experiences. Any of these are wonderful destinations if you feel stuck in your life and need to get your mind blown.
Lisbon and Porto have the simplicity and efficiency of traveling in the EU, but at a bargain price compared to other countries in Western Europe. The wines are great, the food is delicious, the waterfronts are bustling and beautiful. As a plus, Portugal hasn’t yet been totally gentrified, so you can still enjoy some of its rustic charms.
3. Santorini, Greece
What some believe to be the Lost City of Atlantis is an awesome destination in the off-season or shoulder-season. Go to capture gorgeous photographs of the caldera and sunsets over Oia. Bathe in hot springs, feast on phyllo-wrapped goodies and sip ouzo. Divine.
4. Tallinn, Estonia
If you’re already in Scandinavia, Tallinn is a great stop for a few days. Again, it’s budget friendly (in a region that is notoriously expensive to travel). It has all of the medieval charms of Prague without the stifling crowds. It’s not totally off the traveler map–you’ll find abundant restaurants and shops to enjoy, as you stroll its charming, cobblestone streets.
5. Tucson, Arizona
I’d be remiss if I didn’t put in a good word for the place I call home: Tucson, Arizona, which has been making top 10 travel lists frequently of late. The city is the first ever UNESCO City of Gastronomy, and boasts the best 23 Miles of Mexican Food in the United States. There’s epic desert hiking among the saguaro and other cacti, a vibrant downtown scene, the Historic Hotel Congress, the Mission San Xavier del Bac, and we’re surrounded by five gorgeous mountain ranges. The sunsets are unlike any I’ve seen in the world. Come, check Tucson out!
12. Call to action?
Part of the mission of my travel blog is to amplify the messages of women travelers who share my values:
- slow, deep, immersive travel
- social justice
- human rights
- peace and international relations
- preservation of our planet
- solo travel for women
- creating inroads to understanding and empathy
I’m always looking to profile women travelers who embody these values, and I welcome guest blog posts from writers about topics like these. We are “never sponsored, always honest,” so our readers know they are getting travel writing that is not influenced by advertisers or PR, and we seek out partnerships with like-minded bloggers and organizations. If you fit this description, or you want to nominate a female travel blogger who is a fit, please contact us through our website: www.rollerbaggoddess.com
Charish Badzinski: writer, travel blogger and founder, Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications (rollerbaggoddess.com). Home: Tucson, Arizona.