In today’s edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, I spoke with Lisa Eldridge, the blogger and world traveler behind Girl About the Globe. We chat with Lisa about the importance of solo travel in her life, conscious travel, her favorite things to do in one of her top destinations around the world, and much more. Check out her best advice for those who want to travel and find out where she’s off to next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
Since the age of 21, I have been travelling and living abroad. I’ve always wanted to travel and made a collage of all the places I wanted to travel to when I was a teenager. I never went abroad with my family as we always had caravan holidays in the UK so the first time I even went on holiday was at the age of 17 when I went to Spain with a friend. My first solo trip was to France to work as a chalet girl and I missed home so much that I only lasted a week. Then I worked on a cruise ship and the fear and homesickness set in again and I lasted 2 months. I gradually built up my confidence until I was away for a year. I was so shy and unsure of myself back then but each time I came back to the UK, I knew that I should have stayed longer so I went away again. I set a bucket list and I’ve been travelling ever since.
What does travel mean to you? Why do you feel it’s important?
Travel to me – especially solo travel – means a journey of self discovery. Travelling alone really puts you back in touch with who you are. Every time that I travel I learn something new about myself and about the world around me. It gives me an education that I can’t learn from text books and opens me up to new experiences and serendipities.
We are so fortunate to be able to travel and to visit corners of the world which many will never see. Being able to see different landscapes, immerse yourself within different cultures and experience life in a different country is such a privilege.
The way that I travel has changed over the last two decades. As well as solo destination guides, journalism articles and inspiring stories, my focus is on how to travel consciously and seeking projects that are helping local communities.
You run a travel blog called Girl About the Globe. Can you please tell us a bit about it? How did it come about? What makes it unique?
I created Girl about the Globe in 2012 to help support solo female travellers like me, and as a way of documenting my solo travels after my divorce. My aim was to give an unbiased view of what solo travel is really like and show the personal transformation that it brings. Five years later and it has grown to be an award-winning travel resource which inspires and empowers women to travel consciously and help vulnerable girls about the globe as they do it.
What makes it unique is that it shows how solo travel really is behind the pretty Instagram pictures. I show how you are perceived as a woman travelling to the country alone, the local issues in the country and how to be a conscious traveller. Girl about the Globe has always promoted conscious travel and it’s great to see how much awareness this now has. I’m currently working on a pledge for travellers to take to promote conscious travel even more.
You’re a big proponent of solo travel. What are some of the benefits of traveling solo as opposed to traveling with a group?
I love figuring it all out by myself and going to countries where I can’t speak much of the language and meeting the local people. When you’re travelling solo you have so many more adventures and more interaction with people than you do as part of a group or a couple. For me, it gives me the best experiences. I think I’ve been travelling so long by myself now that I find it hard to adapt to travelling with someone else for a long period of time. I am so used to my independence, plus I work on the road and that’s difficult when you’re travelling with others who just want to sightsee and be on a permanent holiday.
Travelling solo gives you the freedom to choose your schedule, go where you want and with who you want. There’s no one to answer to and if you decide you don’t like somewhere, you can just move on or stay longer if you love it. There’s so many more people choosing to travel by themselves so you’re never short of people to team up with if you need company but if you prefer your own space, it’s perfect!
On your website, you talk about traveling consciously. For people who may not know, what exactly is conscious travel? What can we do to travel more consciously?
Conscious travel is a mindfulness for the world and its people whom we encounter upon our travels. It’s about thinking differently about the way that we travel: changing our values and perception of the world and seeing a destination through a local’s eyes.
To travel consciously means to think about our actions long-term. Buying a plastic bottle of water versus taking a water filter with you to avoid waste is a great example of being sustainable. Ensuring that your tourism dollars go to local people instead of large corporations is another example. To do this just think local: buy from local shops, book tours through locals and dine at independent restaurants. Look for social impact restaurants such as Shayona in Cape Town who give back to charitable organisations in South Africa. Find tour companies and accommodation that have their own foundations such as Mad Monkey Hostels who help provide clean water to rural villages in Cambodia. Being a conscious traveller is easier than you may think.
How many days/weeks do you travel in any given year? What types of places do you like to visit?
This year (2019) was a hectic year for travel. I stayed still for 5 weeks maximum and spent weeks and months on the road travelling to Europe and Africa. I like to visit emerging countries. With over-tourism being such a big topic I want to encourage tourism to destinations that really need and want it. Azerbaijan and Georgia were two countries that I travelled to last year that really surprised me and I hope that I’ve inspired more women to travel to them. I also love visiting places that give me the biggest transformation such as a month-long camping trip in West Africa which really took me out of my comfort zone. This year I would have travelled to 17 countries.
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
Travel changed my life and I want to encourage others to feel that transformation too. My aim for Girl about the Globe is to empower and inspire women to travel to new destinations, overcome any fear of travelling solo, and learn how to do it safety and consciously, equipping them with all the knowledge and confidence they need to go. Discover solo female-friendly companies and learn how to help others as you travel and visit their native lands. All accommodation and tours have been recommended by solo female travellers. I also want to entertain readers with my storytelling and teach them something about the world that they don’t already know.
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
I have so many! Cambodia is one of my favourites. The people seem so humble and happy after such a horrible history with the Pol Pot regime back in 1975 where 1 out of 3 Cambodians were killed. To come out of something so brutal and be happy with the little they have is remarkable and very humbling. Bosnia as well for a similar reason. Visiting Sarajevo and seeing the bullet holes in the buildings and learning about their history with the war and how seeing their resilience, just made me appreciate the country even more. But then on a complete contrast, I love Dubai with its man-made structures and artificial palm island. I guess deep down I’m still a city girl.
Give us your ‘Top 5’ list for one of your top 3 destinations. Like a mini-guide or a to-do list of sorts. It can be anything from your favorite hotel, the best place to have lunch, the best sightseeing, etc.
Oslo is in my top 3 destinations for solos. The city is really safe and gorgeous to walk around and is full of friendly, helpful people if you get lost and need a hand.
- The best sightseeing – Vigeland Sculpture Park. This beautiful park attracts hoards of visitors each year as the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. Completed in 1949, inside its grounds you’ll find over 200 pieces of artwork created by Gustav Vigeland. The sculptures are made from wrought iron, bronze, and granite and depict human life from birth to death. Don’t miss the fountain of life too.
- The best place to stay – Saga Poshtel Oslo Central. This hostel is in an excellent location near Karl Johans Gate and there is a 24 hour reception so you’ll always feel safe. Meet other travellers in the lounge area or over the buffet breakfast (which is included). Choose from a 4,6, 8 or 12-bed dorm or your own private room.
- The best place to stroll – At Aker Brygge where you’ll find the trendy crowd hanging out in lounge bars. Stop for something to eat and drink at one of the bars and restaurants. Stroll the full length of Aker Brygge to visit the Astrup Fearnley Museum with its nice contemporary art collection, then pop into the Ibsen Museum before heading back home for the night.
- The best place for lunch – Have lunch inside the Opera House by the waters edge. It’s free to enter inside and there is a nice cafe amongst the Italian marble and white granite with views of the water. After lunch you can walk along the unique sloping roof for great views of the harbour.
- The best day trip – Buy a 24 hour public transport ticket and you can get on and off as many ferries as you like. Hovedøya is the closest island to the city. Explore the old ruined castle, forests and empty stony beaches. Lindøya is 20 minutes away and has gorgeous colourful summer cottages and a nature reserve. Gressholmen has a forest trail and a little cafe where you could find yourself being the only customer. This island is connected to Heggholmen and Rambergøya (a nature reserve) so you can spend hours here exploring all three and seeing the sea birds that nest on the bay between the islands. Take the ferry from City Hall Pier 4.
How many countries have you visited so far?
131 and 100 of these solo. I’ve also been to several territories which aren’t independent countries. My aim is to visit all countries in the world but with so many conflict zones at the moment that may take me a lifetime.
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
I love the freshness of the food in Thailand. Especially the Pad Thai that you can find being cooked on the streets. I’ve yet to find one outside of Thailand that tastes authentic.
Momos in Nepal. I love these small dumplings with swirls on top. I first tried them in Nepal then found something similar in Uzbekistan (but not quite the same). Momos are steamed dumplings shaped into a ball or moon-shaped crescent. Filled with minced meat or vegetables they are just so tasty and melt in your mouth. You simply have to try them if you go to Nepal.
Being a Brit, I have to say fish ’n’ chips. It’s my favourite British cuisine and always on the top of my list whenever I go back to England. Beer-battered fish with soggy thick chips covered in salt and vinegar is my favourite thing about home.
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
This is a hard one. I usually travel on a budget and try street food which can be just as good as dishes that you find in restaurants. If I do choose a restaurant I love restaurants with an amazing view but sometimes you don’t always get the best food there. Israel has some amazing food as well as Puerto Rico.
What is your favorite travel movie?
It has to be Eat, Pray, Love. It is now a movie but when the book Eat Pray Love arrived at my door, I had no idea how much it would change me. The tale of a married woman who left everything behind to travel and find herself resonated with me and was the catalyst to me walking away from my marriage. It had been a hard decision to make but as I left my marital home and flew to India on the very same day, it was a journey that would change my life forever.
What is your favorite international airport?
I have two! Dubai airport because it’s so grandeur and has sparkly columns but my absolute favourite is Changi Airport in Singapore. There’s a reason why it’s the number one airport in the world. This award-winning airport feels as though you are in a garden with so many green spaces and an indoor waterfall. Fly through here just to see it.
Which city had the friendliest people?
Medellin. I absolutely love Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city. It just feels like home and the people are so proud to be called Paisas. They really embrace you and are so welcoming that you never feel that you’re an outsider. The Botswana border had the friendliest welcoming border I’ve ever travelled to!
Who is your favorite travel companion?
The best travel partners for me are other solos who also appreciate their own independence too. I really like my own space and travelling with someone for longer than a week is a bit of a challenge. One of my favourite travel companions is my Irish friend who I met in a hostel in Tel Aviv six years ago. We were both travelling solo at the time and teamed up to travel together. Since then we have been to 10 countries together.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
By learning! Learning from the culture on a cultural exchange, observing the locals, watching a documentary about the country that you’re in during those solo evenings or reading a book during travel time to help you learn a new language or educate you more about the world.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
I like to visit unusual destinations. Mongolia has to be the most unusual although it’s not really exotic in a Caribbean sense. It’s a country that none of my friends had been to and one that intrigued me. Riding a horse through the Mongolian plains was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.
The most exotic has to be Puerto Rico. I love this Caribbean island that is a U.S. territory. It has a Spanish flair and the cuisine is a fusion. I spent 5 weeks here and visited the two islands of Culebra and Vieques where I kayaked a bioluminescent bay which was incredible. I travelled here independently and just fell in love with the place.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
Embrace it. Embrace every second and minute of it. Take every single day as it comes and learn to slow down and not sweat the small stuff. If your trip feels overwhelming break it down into smaller steps and celebrate each milestone before moving onto on the next one. For example, step one could be getting to the airport, step two: taking the flight, step three: finding your accommodation. Travel is such a life-changing experience so make the most of your trip as you may never be in that place again.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
Ear plugs – I’m such a light sleeper that I need these when I’m on overnight trains or buses or sharing a dorm room with others. (My sleep mask too!)
My laptop – It’s my lifeline when I travel solo. I use it for watching documentaries, for writing, for updating my blog and for staying in touch with friends and family.
My journal – Spending so much time alone means that I do sometimes miss company. Having my journal to write down my thoughts or make notes about my day before I go asleep really helps me and helps to process any emotions too.
My Kindle – This really helps kill the time on buses, trains, and planes. If it’s too bumpy then I listen to audiobooks if I can’t read. My travel time is effective my downtime and I use it to read and learn.
What is your ultimate dream destination?
I’ve been so lucky to have been to so many of my dream destinations already. Rio de Janeiro was in my top 3 and I had that “can’t believe I’m here” moment when I was there. I still haven’t been to Japan so that is high on my list and hopefully a dream destination that I can visit in 2020.
What is your favorite travel quote?
“I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list.”
Where are you headed next?
My plans always seem to change but at the moment I have Santorini in the Spring then another camping trip in Africa in the summer. I’ve always wanted to see Ethiopia and explore this country so this is on my African itinerary along with three other countries in Africa. I’m also looking at Eswatini, Mozambique and Madagascar as well as Asia. Let’s see what happens next year.
Lisa Imogen Eldridge is the founder of Girl about the Globe, an award-winning travel resource for conscious female travellers; empowering women to travel solo ethically and helping vulnerable girls about the globe. Lisa has travelled to 131 countries and 100 of these solo. If she can travel solo, then anyone can.