Today I want to welcome to the HYPE team Lisa Eldridge, of Girl About the Globe. Lisa focuses on solo and sustainable travel, and will be joining us for some regular features over the next few months.
Based mainly in Medellin, Colombia, Lisa Eldridge has been a blogger since 2012, after her divorce. “I got married at 29,” she says, “And after we separated, I had lost a bit of direction. But I decided it was a good time to fling myself back into the world—I had forgotten how empowering travel was, and it helped me find myself again.”
Lisa had been travelling, often solo, ever since she was 21 and working at ski resorts, on cruise ships, and in coffee shops. Her first solo trip was in Australia, when she and a friend decided to split up for a bit after nine weeks of travelling together. When she decided to pick up solo travelling again, years later, she started with some countries not often chosen by travellers looking for an easy break—China and Mongolia were two of her first stops.
“I had a few challenges by myself, like language difficulties and managing visas. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a website, for other people who are travelling alone and need advice and emotional support?” So Girl About the Globe was born, to be a one-stop shop for solo travellers looking for advice. “Even if you travel a lot, it’s easy to forget things,” Lisa cautions, “so I wanted to put all my advice and recommendations in one place for travellers to reference.”
Lisa focuses heavily on choosing socially- and environmentally-responsible companies to hire. In scouting out sites to include on Girl About the Globe, Lisa does a lot of research. “It’s hard because there are so many travel companies that aren’t sustainable or responsible. I do check out every company, and try to include smaller companies that may not have much money for a website. The important thing is to see the company is doing the best they can with the resources and environment they have.”
She’s clear that you can make the choice to support a local economy and protect the local environment no matter what your travel style. “I’m realising more and more that there are different types of travellers—for example, I knew an Irish friend who decided to spend some time living in South America, but was always in Irish-themed hostels and bars. I struggle to speak Spanish, but in Colombia I live with a Colombian girl and try to keep Colombian friends, so that I can immerse a bit more deeply.”
Her advice to travellers looking to add some local experiences to their travels is to seek out services that put you in contact with local people. She recommends TravBuddy for finding someone to enjoy the sites with, as well as local tour guides for an afternoon out. “For people who want to get out of the resort for a day independently, local guides are a great option—you see places that the bigger tours don’t necessarily get to like good restaurants, and your money goes directly into the community.” Couchsurfing, one of the most popular sites for budget travellers looking for a spot to crash, can also be great for just meeting someone and finding your way around—Lisa tried it herself on a trip to Paris, and ended up getting coffee with a new friend.
“The older I’m getting, the more I like all-inclusive, truly. I’ve done a lot of it, and if you’re alone it’s actually very easy to meet people. In Cuba, a friend and I started at a resort and then struck out on our own after a few days for a bit of balance.”
When she’s been on the road for a while, Lisa’s biggest indulgences are getting a massage, or a haircut. But maybe the best indulgence is to have a room all to herself. “I focus on budget travel, so am often in hostels or shared spaces. But if I’ve done five days of that, I treat myself to two days with a room—and a bathroom—to myself!”
I asked for some advice to nervous travellers, who haven’t yet plucked up the courage to go it alone. Lisa’s advice was reassuring: “There’s no right way to travel. But if you want to try travelling solo, then start with some planning. The more knowledge you have, the more confidence you’ll have—at least plan your first night, and how you’ll get to your accommodations from the airport. Planning helps you get excited, rather than nervous, about your trip.” She also recommends trying not to arrive after dark, and starting somewhere without a major language barrier.
At the end of our chat, Lisa offered what I think is some of the best advice around for people looking to start doing some solo travel. “Just book the ticket. As book as you book the flight, you’re committed.” And maybe, if you’re like Lisa, you’ll find that a solo adventure in your dream destination… well, it’s not so far-fetched, after all.
Images courtesy of Lisa Eldridge.