Margaux McDonald // Administration Support // Australian
Tell me about yourself!
I’m 39 years old and live in Melbourne, Australia. I have had 3 trips overseas. I am unmarried and fabulously single which allows me to go where I want, when I want.
What was the first trip that you traveled solo?
In 2001 I travelled to the USA through the summer camp programme. I taught gymnastics at a summer camp in Maine for 10 weeks before setting out to see a little bit of the USA, planning to visit some friends along the way. The Australian dollar was only at USD0.50 so I wasn’t going to see much on my meager budget. I said goodbye to my fellow camp counselors in Boston, MA and set out exploring. From there I visited a friend in New Haven, CT before heading to New York, MAN, then Washington DC. I flew across to Portland, OR, and then travelled to Bend, OR. That’s when September 11th happened when the tower I had climbed but a week before had been taken down by a terrorist attack and Washington DC had been hit too. It was very surreal. I spent a week in San Francisco, CA and flew out once flights were back up and running.
What motivated you to travel solo?
To be honest it was to catch up with my ex-boyfriend who lived in New Haven, CT to gain some closure. I had always wanted to travel, though, and have been away a couple of times since then. I have grand plans of seeing much more of the world but I’ll just have to wait and see what life brings.
Favourite country that you have traveled to?
France. I love trying out my rudimentary French on very tolerant French speakers. I have a couple of friends in Paris which is nice, one is an old university friend and the other I met Couch Surfing in 2009.
When you travel do you plan each trip? Do you use any online tools?
For my last trip in 2013 I decided to go 2 weeks before my flight departed. I kidded myself into believing I could do it on the fly. I ended up having half of my trip planned which was a must since I was dropping in to visit international friends again in 2 different countries. To plan I use Hostel World, Couch Surfing, and Trip Advisor. In 2009 I purchased a copy of The Rough Guide First-time Europe - Everything You Need To Know Before You Go. It had some useful tips about the schedule for getting shots, travelling on a budget, and where to go. On that trip I only managed to see China, Malaysia, a little of the UK and Paris. So much for planning to conquer Europe!
Where do you stay? (hostel, airbnb, couch surf, hotel, etc.)
In 2013 I used a combination of friends’ couches, couch surfing, hostels, and hotel in Milan as a treat because all of the hostels had reviews of bed bugs.
Some women are hesitant to travel alone because they feel that they will be alone during their trip. What is your experience?
I’ve heard stories. You just have to stay vigilant and not forget yourself just because you’re having a good time travelling. It is easy to fall into trusting strangers but not everyone that you meet on the road has good intentions. In New York, MAN in 2001 my bunk share room was robbed one day when we were all out. I had everything of value on me and the emergency travellers check that they found in my bag was useless to them. A girl from a different camp lost most of her camp payment which she had received in cash. Through this experience I met Jillian as her room was also robbed. We became travel buddies for our time in NY.
What's the funniest thing that happened to you on a trip?
In 2009 I managed to get directions from an off duty mime on his way home from work. His English was basic, my French was basic, but I managed to find the free public bike station just in case I missed the final train back to my couch surfers home after my drink with an Egyptian veterinarian that was working as a bartender in Mont Marte, Paris.
One of the main concerns about traveling solo as a female is safety. Were there any times that you felt scared? What actions did you take?
The first hostel that I stayed in in San Francisco, CA was a total dive. I was constantly surprised when my bag was still in my room when I returned of an evening. I’d paid for 4 nights and checked out after 3 finding a better hostel near Chinatown and meeting Stephanie, my San Francisco travel buddy. That’s before I knew about Hostel World.
What did you learn about yourself during your travels?
That I can be resilient and change my plans. Travelling solo gives me a great feeling of independence.
Any tips for keeping travel costs low?
Interact with other travellers as they generally know what is free or low cost if you don’t know already. Use the web but guide books are still useful to plan your trip well.
What advice would you give to gal who wants to travel solo?
Do it! Keep your wits about you. Be brave but not stupid. If something sounds too good to be true; it probably is too good to be true. Most of all, have fun.
// Connect with Margaux!
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