The truth about being a solo female traveller

A few decades ago the idea of a young female travelling the world alone might've set off alarm bells, but after doing just that, I'm convinced it's something every woman should do at least once in her life! Solo travel hasn’t seemed like too much of a big deal for me personally because I’ve been inspired by so many other solo female travellers who I've read about, watched videos of and followed on social media. Because I’ve been itching to travel for so long and didn’t have anyone to travel with, it ended up being the path I’ve taken. 

 A romantic sunset is just as romantic when you have the best company; your own

A romantic sunset is just as romantic when you have the best company; your own

The truth is, being a solo female traveller is badass and an incredible experience, but it isn't all sunsets and waterfalls. As with any kind of travel, it has its pros and cons. I've made a list of a few of the most important ones that I've discovered on my trip so far. 

Pro

You can see things your own way. 
I think everyone should travel solo at least once, men and women both. You might find it’s not for you, but you might also surprise yourself with how much you can see, who you meet along the way and what you’ll learn about yourself. You have the freedom to do whatever you wish, the world is your oyster, seize the day. So many cliches to pick from! When you travel alone there's no compromising with someone else and I think that's great for women as we still have to make a lot of compromises in our lives, no matter how progressive our society gets. If you want to spend 9 hours strolling through an art gallery, sure thing. Stay up all night to see the Aurora Borealis, go crazy. Feel like drinking sangria all night with new friends you made at the hostel and dancing on tables, ain't nobody gonna stop you! 

Oh, the places you'll go! - Dr Seuss

Con

It can get lonely. 
I would be lying if I said that my whole trip has been a whirlwind of crazy moments surrounded by amazing new people whom I now consider friends and I haven't had a moment to myself to feel lonely. Of course you will meet amazing new people from around the world and make crazy memories, but that's only if you put yourself in situations where that can happen, and doing so 24/7 is hard work. Some days I arrive at a hostel and just feel like a hot shower and an early night, or on a long bus ride I will choose to plug in my headphones and watch Netflix. Don't mix up being alone and feeling lonely, often when I'm alone, I'm loving it. But there are plenty of times where I get really lonely. It can even happen when I'm surrounded by people, so the two are definitely not mutually exclusive. 

 Looking cool, calm and collected at Nyhavn, but a few hours later I went back to my Airbnb and had a huge cry

Looking cool, calm and collected at Nyhavn, but a few hours later I went back to my Airbnb and had a huge cry

I did have one mini meltdown after leaving the hostel I was volunteering in for 3 weeks in Denmark. Once I'd left Aarhus I spent one night in an AirBnb in Copenhagen and had a big cry about being alone. Luckily I had a friend to call in a similar time zone (thanks Aliesha) and after a bit of a chat I felt much better. I think it was hard leaving behind a whole bunch of new friends and a city that I’d fallen in love with, and I had gotten some Snapchats from my friends back home which made me miss them as well. Luckily that's been the loneliest moment for me and I haven't felt as lonely since that. 

Pro

Solo Female Traveller - Snapchat

The internet brings us closer together. 
Although sometimes I hate it, thank goodness for the internet! I’m so grateful for being able to easily make calls with apps like SnapChat, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to friends and family when I need it. It also means I can easily keep most of them in the loop at the same time about my trip. The picture on the right is from a drunk night out in Santorini when I thought it was very important to let some of my fellow nugget-loving friends back home know that I love them and miss them. What a time to be alive!

There’s a really cool community online for solo female travellers so I hope that during my trips I’ll get a chance to meet some! I came close once but it fell through, but I know that there are heaps of ladies who have met up in real life after becoming friends online, or just travelling together because it was convenient. I’ve also found people to ride share with online too, which brought down the cost of my Golden Circle and south coast road trip in Iceland, so resources like this are really helping make the lives of solo travellers much easier.  

Con

Selfie sticks.
There will come a time when your own arm just doesn't cut it anymore. When you've had a million helpful strangers take your photo only to come away hating every single one of them (the photos, not the helpful strangers). You're sick of all the nice scenery shots of isolated places being empty and missing the key ingredient - you. The minutes spent setting up a good self-timer shot are starting to tally up. At this low point in your travels, you have a tough choice to make - keep trying the above, or bite the bullet and by a selfie stick. I am at that point, I feel a little defeated but I think it's time to join the hordes and purchase a selfie stick.

 I hate to admit it, but deer selfies would've been much easier with a selfie stick

I hate to admit it, but deer selfies would've been much easier with a selfie stick

Pro

You're only responsible for yourself
I have travelled with other people in the past and it's always when I'm with someone else that something I've booked has gone wrong. Or maybe it's just a matter of perspective, because when I screw up something for myself I just deal with the fall out and make a new plan, but I hate the stress of potentially ruining someone else's day or their whole trip. Ok...I haven't stuffed up that badly! But in the past when I've travelled with others and something has gone wrong, I've been 10x more stressed than when something has gone wrong and I'm alone. It's also easy knowing that you only have yourself to excite or disappoint, so the pressure is off in that regard.

Con

You need to be more cautious. 
Sometimes people brush off the added danger of being female when you travel but I don't think it should be ignored just because society is becoming more progressive and female-friendly. I’m always cautious when I travel anyway, but even more so when I’m alone and especially because I’m a woman. So far I haven’t travelled anywhere where I’ve felt very unsafe being solo, but there’s always a bit of anxiety that I could be seen as a more easy target than a man. And there’s always the looks that men give women, that’s present everywhere you travel to some extent and it will always make me feel uneasy. When men ask me if I'm travelling alone, I usually say that I am but am meeting up with friends soon, or something similar, and I never give away my whereabouts just in case.

Make sure you have travel insurance too. You never know what could go wrong and if you don't have someone else there with you, you'll really be grateful that you found yourself a good insurer to sort out the problem. I was so surprised at what my travel insurance covered (gifted to me by Worldcare Travel Insurance, thanks again!); things like strikes and emergency dental care. They're things that hadn't even crossed my mind as scenarios that could happen while I've been away, so it definitely pays to look into it properly so you don't get caught out. 

 Also, be cautious when sitting on bridges...you never know. 

Also, be cautious when sitting on bridges...you never know. 

Pro

It's easier to meet people.
This one is definitely true for me at least. Even though I can be antisocial at times, I know that I won't make new friends if I don't put myself out there, and making new friends is awesome! When I've travelled with others in the past it's been easy to just talk to them the whole time and not bother striking conversations with strangers. If you're in a group situation, you're much less likely to be approached by someone alone, but if you're alone too they'll find it easier to come over and say hello. You never know what could happen when you talk to a stranger on the plane, or start a conversation over breakfast at the hostel. 

The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me. - Ayn Rand

Pro

A sense of camaraderie, from both genders. 
I’ve had a lot of really nice responses from people when I tell them I’m travelling solo. It’s a wicked feeling when someone is impressed that I’m travelling alone but I’m quick to tell them that it’s actually easier than they might assume. When I meet other solo travellers we have that instant bond over common ground, we’ll share our stories and travel advice, as well our gripes and complaints. When I meet other ladies out there doing it like a pro I just want to give them a high five, but don't because I assume they're just too cool for that! 

Pro

No worrying about awkward money chats.
Maybe a small win, but I hate the conversations you have when you're travelling with people on a different budget to you and they want to split the bill. I always seem to be the one on the tightest budget who just drinks water and orders the cheapest item on the menu. There's no worrying about keeping a running tab of who owes who how much either. 

Pro

You'll never have so much freedom. 
Travelling alone gives you a wonderful sense of freedom. As mentioned previously, you don't have to compromise on your trip, but there's also the freedom of not having to answer to anyone. Of course, if you're a solo female traveller who has left her partner/family at home it's slightly different, but I'm just relating this to my experience. I have the freedom of going off the grid and finding myself a small little island hut and not worry about explaining why I'm being a weird hermit. I don't have to consult anyone about my next step because I'm the only one it affects. In saying that, do let your mother know you're still alive from time to time, they tend to worry ;) 

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure. - Freya Stark
Solo Female Traveller - Aarhus

Iceland - the Golden Circle and south coast road trip

Iceland was expensive, out of the way and very cold (obviously), but totally worth it! I knew that I had to visit Iceland on my Europe trip this time around, even though it wasn't Aurora season and I'm so glad I made the journey up there. 

I wasn't there for long, just a four day trip and really wanted to see some of the highlights, so I opted for the Golden Circle and some of the highlights of the south coast. 

The Golden Circle (partial)

 Seljalandsfoss on the southern side of Iceland

Seljalandsfoss on the southern side of Iceland

I decided to do the Golden Circle myself because the cost of tours was quite high and I heard it wasn't all that necessary to do one. Because I didn't organise much of my trip in advance (I was hoping to find someone else to travel there with but had no success), I didn't do a very good job with the car hire and had to cram a lot into one day. The Golden Circle takes around 5 hours return from Reykjavik, and I also wanted to do a lot of things on the southern coast, so my road trip lasted from 8am until about 7.30pm.

I posted my journey on a noticeboard in the hostel and Samferda, a carpooling website and found two people, one from each, to join me on the trip to split costs so I was very happy about that, it was not cheap for petrol and I did a lot of driving. They gave me 5000 Icelandic kroner towards petrol. It definitely helped so I would recommend it, even just asking around in the hostel to see who has a car or who needs a seat.  

 Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park

 Geysir on the Golden Circle route 

Geysir on the Golden Circle route 

We headed along route 36 to our first stop, Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, where we just stopped briefly to take some photos of the stunning lake at a couple of different points. For the whole journey we had spectacular views but the clouds were moving so fast across the sky and a lot of the time it was very ominous. We didn't hang around at the National Park too long and didn't head down to the lake but I think there are a few waterfalls around there. After that we headed to Geysir, which was fun to wait for and try to time photos and videos for. But the area around it wasn't overly spectacular so once we'd all gotten a couple of successful shots we moved on to Gullfoss, which isn't far up the road. 

Gullfoss did not disappoint. I think it was the highlight of the trip actually. It's the perfect example of the power of nature and it took my breath away. I think my eyes might've watered up a bit! I've got a few photos but none of them do it justice! Thousands of litres of water cascading down a wide "staircase" and then down two giant drops into a 32m/105ft crevice. The waterfalls so hard that the spray shoots up a few metres above the falls in a thin mist. There are a couple of paths that you can take and they're both fairly short and easy; one takes you down along the waterfall's side and the other goes along the top of the ridge that looks down over the waterfall. Both offer stunning views and are very easy walks, just make sure to watch your footing as the little rocks can be a bit treacherous. 

 The power of Gullfoss

The power of Gullfoss

 The view of Gullfoss from above

The view of Gullfoss from above

Southern coast highlights - waterfalls and black sand beach

After that we started the detour that took us down to the southern coast. It was gravel road for a little while which made me nervous with the rental car but I pushed on and after about 20 mins of dodging potholes we were back on tarmac. The journey was windy and very much back country, I could see that you wouldn't want to go through there in winter with a small rental car like the one I had. The weather got worse and worse as we went south which was such a shame because the scenery would've been amazing. Just before we got to Seljalandsfoss there was this huge rock with some buildings at the bottom, it was such a neat little find. 

 Little huts built into the rocks

Little huts built into the rocks

There are actually a few waterfalls on the cliff side near Seljalandsfoss, the other prominent one being Gljúfrabúi. We parked near Gljúfrabúi because if you park at Seljalandsfoss you have to pay. We sat in the car for a bit and had some food in hopes that the weather would get better (they say in Iceland if you don't like the weather just wait 15 minutes and it'll change), and when it was slightly better we headed to the falls, Gljúfrabúi first. I would've loved to go inside but it was just too cold and rainy to get my Nike's wet and I didn't have much in the way of rain protection and we still had a long way to go. So I got a shot from the outside and have sworn to return one day. 

 Gljúfrabúi Waterfall - you can see why the locals kept it a secret for so long! 

Gljúfrabúi Waterfall - you can see why the locals kept it a secret for so long! 

As we walked along to Seljalandsfoss, the rain didn't let off. It was pouring down by the time we arrived at the waterfall but we had to go inside. It was so incredible, the waterfall was crashing down and spraying us, but we still walked the whole way under; we were already soaked. It was just very hard to take photos because I could hardly feel my fingers. 

 Behind the Seljalandsfoss waterafll

Behind the Seljalandsfoss waterafll

By the time we drove to Skógafoss I was freezing and wet, and not all too keen to spend much time out of the car in the harsh winds, so our trip there was quite brief. It was so powerful and you could feel the spray of it from 50 metres away. I wish I'd gone for the walk up the top but I think I would've frozen up there and become Iceland's newest tourist attraction. 

 Skógafoss was magnificent!

Skógafoss was magnificent!

Our last stop for the day was the black sand beach at Vik. It was getting late and we were so cold so we didn't stay long. I'm not sure if we went to the best part of Vik but it was nice seeing some horses stroll across the beach while we were there, and the ocean was very impressive. After that it was time to return to Reykjavik! We arrived back around 7.30 which was my prediction. I had used about a whole tank of my little Opal rental car. Music and good company definitely made the 10 or so hours of driving much more manageable and it was a wonderful trip!

 The majestic horses of Iceland

The majestic horses of Iceland

 The black sand beach at Vik

The black sand beach at Vik

Have you ever been to Iceland? Did you do the Golden Circle or head down to Vik? 

10 free things to do in Aarhus, Denmark

Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark, and a place that I have fallen in love with. Named the culture capital of Europe in 2017 (which they are very, very proud of), it’s filled with plenty to see and do. And the best part is, there's heaps to do for free! This is particularly good when you’re traveling on a budget; all of the Scandinavian countries are incredibly expensive for foreigners. 

 The Circle on the beach in Aarhus, looking at Marselisborg forest

The Circle on the beach in Aarhus, looking at Marselisborg forest

1- Deer Park (Marselisborg Dyrehave)

Let's start with my favourite place, Marselisborg Dyrehave. The Deer Park is located about a 40-60 minute walk from the city centre, but as is the Danish way, a bike ride will probably only take you 15 mins. I went at least twice a week during my stay, either with friends or while on a run. The park is filled with sika and fallow deer, and there is a special area for wild boar but this is fenced off and not open to people. 

 Me and a deer at Marselisborg Dyrehaven

Me and a deer at Marselisborg Dyrehaven

 A deer at Marselisborg Dyrehaven

A deer at Marselisborg Dyrehaven

It’s free to enter the deer park and you can take carrots or apples to feed the deer. They love it! As soon as they realise what you have, they swarm around you, hoping to get fed. It could be a little intimidating if you’re not comfortable around animals, especially if you’re short! There is is no closing time which is handy because a lot of things seem to close quite early here. One of my tips is to take lots of small pieces of fruit because once it’s gone, you’re no longer of interest to them. 

2- The Dome of Visions

You'll need to go here in 2018 because next year the Dome of Visions is moving to another city in Europe. The idea of the Dome is to utilise unused spaces in a city, like the empty dock in Aarhus, and help people connect in a space that is something between urban and nature. Shaped like a half dome with a glass exterior, it is filled with comfortable seating arrangements and plenty of greenery. You can chill out, use the free wifi and have a coffee (10 kroner if you have your student card) or experience one of the many events they host. I was meant to go to a free gig there but we went on the wrong day….oops. 

 The dome of visions in Aarhus

The dome of visions in Aarhus

3- Salling rooftop

Take the elevator or escalator to the top of the Salling department store for one of the best views of the city. I was actually using their free wifi while I wrote half of this post, enjoying some late evening sun and doing a bit of people watching. There's also a platform you can walk out onto (also free) which looks down onto one of the main shopping streets through a glass floor. It makes me nervous so I prefer to enjoy the view a bit further back. 

 The view from the Salling rooftop

The view from the Salling rooftop

 People enjoying the sun on the Salling rooftop

People enjoying the sun on the Salling rooftop

You can see out to the harbour and all around the city, including icons like the church and AroS, and my hostel, Danhostel Aarhus City. They would argue that theirs is the best view of the city, but I think Salling takes the cake because of the viewing platform. The food and drinks are a little pricey and I’m not sure how they’d feel about you smuggling your own in, but might be worth trying!

4- Risskov park

I really rate this park. Nestled just to the north of the city and right beside the water, it offers amazing views and the perfect mini escape from city life. You can access a couple of beaches, work out for free or head to one of the higher spots for a great view of the entrance to the harbour. I’ve seen a couple of squirrels too and at the start is a dog park if you love animals. Be warned though, the beaches there are open to nudity, which was quite confronting for me when I was out for a run with a friend and we decided to stop at the beach. I've never seen so many naked old men in one go. I got over it quite quickly, but initially I was quite taken aback because I wasn't expecting it somewhere like Denmark. I guess maybe most of the continent are pretty open about it, unlike us prudes in New Zealand!!

 Trees of Risskov forest

Trees of Risskov forest

 The view of the harbour from Risskov forest

The view of the harbour from Risskov forest

5- Marselisborg Palace  

If you're going to the Deer Park, you'll be just around the corner from the Marselisborg Palace, which is the summer residence of the royal family of Denmark. It’s free to enter the grounds and have a walk around the palace. Though they aren't overly grandeur, I think they’re beautiful in their simplicity. Danes don’t like to toot their own horns, so it’s quite fitting. I’m yet to see the other palace but it’ll probably be just as nice, and probably a bit bigger. 

 Marselisborg Palace and garden

Marselisborg Palace and garden

6- Godsbanen

Godsbanen is a really cool space for creative types. You can walk around for free and explore the area filled with containers that have been transformed into little cafes and stores for artists etc, or spaces to host events. There's a main building there for larger events too. I've heard that it isn't permanent though, and the landlords are going to build on the land so you might only have a year or so to visit. 

 Stores and cafes in Godsbanen

Stores and cafes in Godsbanen

 Godsbanen and the skate park

Godsbanen and the skate park

7- Botanical Garden

 Me eating an ice block in the Botanical Gardens

Me eating an ice block in the Botanical Gardens

On a sunny day, this is the perfect spot to enjoy some beautiful nature both outside and in the indoor botanical gardens, which feature plants from around the world. There's a huge hot house with butterflies too, so definitely worth taking a stroll. It's free for both indoors and outdoors, and the heated rooms would be a great place to escape the cold Scandinavian weather. I couldn't stay long with the butterflies because I was already hot from the sunny day we were having, but lying outside in the afternoon sun was the perfect end to a beautiful Spring day. 

8- Take a photo of ARoS

Unfortunately there is a fee to enter ARoS, but that doesn't stop you from from admiring the amazing rainbow walkway atop one of Northern Europe's largest museums! It's worth going there to take a look, there are some quirky sculptures in the yard too. 

However, you can get in for free if you purchase the Aarhus card, which would be good if you are tight on time but want to see ARoS and a bunch of other attractions. I didn't purchase one because I was able to explore at a more leisurely pace, but you can grab one for a specific amount of time and it will give you free entry to over 25 museums, attractions and galleries, free travel and a bunch of other discounts. The initial payment isn't super cheap but a lot of the things it includes will add up over time anyway. Food for thought. 

10 free things to do in Aarhus 13

9- Come for a festival or event

Aarhus reminds me a lot of Melbourne; it has heaps of great festivals and events, quite a lot of which are free. Apparently they have a huge celebration for Carnival which is always before Lent and Easter, which sounds amazing, and just when I was leaving there was the Spot festival which was a music event with free and paid gigs. I went to one on the water near my hostel, I have no idea who was playing but it was just so cool, everyone was standing around on the street or sitting by the river listening.

 A gig from the Spot festival in Aarhus

A gig from the Spot festival in Aarhus

Another huge event in Aarhus is the University boat race, Kapsejlad, which attracts thousands of people; I'm struggling to find an estimate for this year but I heard it could've had up to 30,000 attendants! I was stoked that this year the event was during my stay, so I headed along. I arrived at about 1pm but most people had been drinking for hours; some camp out at 5am to get a good spot, and I guess they just drink to pass the time. I didn't get to see much of the actual race because it was so crowded, but from what I could gather, there are a bunch of faculties who each have home-made boats that the students have made, and the students have to race the boats, while drinking. I'm unsure of how long the race is, what the rules are, how much they're drinking, or what's at stake, but I had a great time watching drunk, sunburnt Danes party all day. It was a really fun event. 

 Thousands of people watching Kapsejlad at Aarhus University

Thousands of people watching Kapsejlad at Aarhus University

10- See the new waterfront with the Iceberg

It seems like all of Denmark is currently under construction; big things are on the way! The waterfront of Aarhus is currently having dozens of new apartment complexes built and they're aiming to have thousands more people living there in the next few years. One of the buildings is called the Iceberg, and you can easily see why. Tucked away on the corner, The Iceberg is a quirky, iconic apartment block that is worth a look. There's also a sculpture of giant sunglasses and a little canal running behind some apartments where the owners can climb a ladder from their boat up to their waterfront balcony. 

 The Iceberg apartment complex in Aarhus

The Iceberg apartment complex in Aarhus

Let me know if I've missed anything, or if you have plans to go to Aarhus/Denmark soon, I can't recommend it enough! 

 

Packing for Europe

Getting ready for a trip is a funny thing. For months and weeks, it feels like you have all the time in the world, and before you know it BAM! You're in Europe! 

I will let you in on a shameful (not so secret) secret of mine; I'm the worst packer. For over 10 years I would go away to a week-long holiday camp at least twice a year, but I would always forget something vital each time. Sometimes it wasn't too bad, like a hairbrush or pjs. Other times it was a toothbrush, extra underwear or my bedding. So, for my Europe trip, I did a pre-pack a week prior to departure and then, and like Santa Claus, I'd been making a list and checking it twice. 

So, what do you pack for an indefinite trip to Europe from late Spring to Summer, and potentially Autumn?! Well...who knows what you should pack, but this is what I'm packing. 

WHAT-TO-PACK.jpg

Electronics:

These bits and bobs weigh the most in my pack so I'm hoping to make the most of them. I've even downsized to just my iPhone 8 Plus instead of a big camera, and I was gifted a Sony DSC-TX30. While my phone is only splash proof, the Sony is waterproof without a case for up to 10 metres so I will probably whip that out in Greece or Iceland if I want to keep my phone safe in bad weather. There's also my GoPro for those situations, but I think the camera will have better quality shots so I'll save the GoPro for time-lapses and other situations that may arise. 

I have also packed my DJI Spark and the portable charging unit, neither of which I had any troubles with on either of my flights. That's been my biggest worry, that airport security won't let me take some of my drone equipment onboard. I was really good and went and bought a Lipo bag, which is fireproof, and I've put my drone batteries in it, along with my Moyork power banks. They're not lithium from what I can tell, but I thought I'd be on the safe side as a few airlines only let you have them in separate bags in your carry on, so I figure putting them in a fireproof bag is the best I can do. 

 The electronics I've packed for Europe

The electronics I've packed for Europe

And, of course, I have adaptors, extra cables and wall plugs for Europe and the UK with USB ports. 

I'm really happy that Worldcare gifted me their GoComprehensive policy; it's particularly comforting when you're carrying things that are really important to you! I've already had a few incidents with my drone so I'm very precious with it, and although it’s only covered when in my possession and not when I’m flying, it’s still a relief to have insurance. Worldcare offer some really decent options for travel insurance and I think it's worth getting it to have some peace of mind...especially if you're a worrier like me. Just be aware of the maximum value for electronic items and other expensive things you’re carrying, incase they’re valued at more than what your insurance covers. And, don't forget to use my code when you purchase yours to get 10% off! - THELOSTGIRLS10

Clothes & Shoes

Clothing has been a tough one. I'm not known for my minimalism, and it was hard packing for potentially everything from snow to sun. I'm currently in Aarhus, Denmark, where the days have been sitting in the low teens and the wind adds an extra chill so I'm glad I have my puffer jacket. I just wish I had a cool winter wardrobe like the Danish girls I see, they're all so stylish! I have 2 pairs of jeans on rotation and some t-shirts for wearing underneath my jacket. I've got a pair of white Chucks which are my "nice" shoes and my Nikes for comfort, then I have sandals and jandals for when I move on to warmer weather. 

When I head south I have a couple of pairs of shorts and a skirt, playsuit, two dresses and lots of chiffon singlets as they weigh practically nothing. I also had to limit myself on bikinis (at my mother's insistence, I wanted to take more), so I only have my three favourites. I've packed my awesome Piha Swimwear one for when I hopefully go surfing in Portugal, can't wait!!

 My favourite bikini from Piha swimwear is definitely coming with me! 

My favourite bikini from Piha swimwear is definitely coming with me! 

Toiletries

I won't go into a lot of detail about my toiletries but there are a couple of things that deserve a special mention. The first is Goodbye Ouch balm which I was given by a friend. It has over 80 uses but so far I have only used it for a few - lip balm, moisturising my hands and on my face to protect it from the wind. Oh, the wind of Denmark... Then there's my old faithful coconut oil. It's always my go-to makeup remover and you only need the smallest amount to remove all your mascara. I wish I had more though because I think my hair could really use an oil treatment. I guess I'll just have to see if I can pick up a small amount at a supermarket. 

What do you take when you travel? Are you able to pack lightly or do you take everything and the kitchen sink? 

Cologne - city of Bachelorette parties

I couldn't write about my time in Cologne without mentioning all the Bachelorette and Bachelor parties I saw! Apparently, it's tradition in Germany for the bride or groom-to-be to try and sell stuff to strangers when they're out for their party. We saw about 20 groups during the day, wearing matching outfits and doing challenges and trying to sell things like condoms, shots or random belongings. I'm sure it would've been a wild evening in Cologne that night! 

 Hen's do in Cologne

Hen's do in Cologne

What to see in Cologne

Along with the rowdy wedding groups, there's a lot to see in Cologne/Köln! My parents have travelled to a few German cities recently and they didn't love Cologne. I think maybe because it doesn't have as much of the history as other cities as a lot was lost in the war. But I really rate it, I had a wonderful time and saw so much!

Cologne1
 My friend and I in front of the Cologne Cathedral

My friend and I in front of the Cologne Cathedral

Both days I walked over 30,000 steps while exploring. The first day I woke up early and walked up to a local park before strolling into the city centre from my hostel (The Black Sheep) to meet a German friend. We had organised to meet in Germany at some point and she said Cologne was her favourite German city, which is why we chose it. We met outside the Cologne Cathedral but I didn't realise what an amazing building it was until I got there. At one point in the 1800s it was the tallest building in the world apparently! It's really incredible but it was super busy because of the lovely weather and we could only go inside the entrance, not the proper church part for some reason. 

Then we walked down towards the Hohenzollern bridge which leads across the Rhine. It is one of those bridges that are covered in love locks. Gross. When we got to the other side we went up a tall building that had a 360 view of the city (3E entry fee and cash only). After taking in the sights we headed back across the bridge and went to the old town for lunch. I wanted to try some actual German food so we stopped at a place called Ex-Vertretung and I had a flammenkuchen. It was basically a German pizza, which I accompanied with the local Cologne beer, Kolsch. It was quite nice! She then took me around all the shopping streets which are apparently the most popular in Germany, and advised me to buy anything I needed while I was there, as most shops are closed on Sundays! It definitely caught me out a couple of times on Sunday when I say something open, only to find it closed when I returned later. 

 Love locks on the Hohenzollern Bridge

Love locks on the Hohenzollern Bridge

When we were wandering around we passed through an area (sadly I can't remember the name of it) where there were heaps of people just hanging around on the street around a church, just enjoying some drinks and each others' company. It was so cool! 

 People hanging out around a church

People hanging out around a church

Getting around Cologne

The whole transport was a little confusing. My bus from Amsterdam took me to the International airport and it took me a little while to work out how to get to town. My hostel actually had really good instructions for getting into town (you catch any train heading towards the Cologne train station), and I think it was 2,90E and took about 15 mins I think? Getting back to the airport to catch my bus out of the city was a bit more difficult, German train timetables are really confusing! Luckily I saw a girl from the hostel who spoke English and she kind of knew what she was doing. I'd had instructions from 2 different staff at the station and still wasn't entirely sure but I got there in the end, even though the train was about 25 mins late and we had both started to panic. There is also a tram system which is a bit easier to use, and if you weren't keen to walk a lot I would recommend a day pass to get around. I think it might actually technically be an "underground" because some routes went below ground and the symbol for it was U, but nobody quite understood me when I questioned them on this so....best of luck to you! 

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Accommodation

I stayed in the Black Sheep Hostel for 2 nights because it was the cheapest option that was close to the centre of the city. It's located above the McDonalds near the Barbarossaplatz station which wasn't the nicest of areas, but from memory, it only took about 20 mins to walk to the city centre or 4 stops on the tram. The facilities were about as basic as the previous hostel I was in but I didn't like it as much because the kitchen/common area didn't have wifi so I didn't really want to hang around. Luckily my room had really good wifi because it was one of the closest to reception. The beds were clean and basic and the hostel had fun decorations but my room was incredibly noisy because it looked out onto the busy street where I think a lot of people were at night because it's a party area. With the windows closed it was much better, but when the days are 29 degrees it gets pretty hot at night with 5 bodies in an enclosed room with no air con. I have realised I need to start taking photos of the places I'm staying! 

Food

There was a lot of German food around, as well as the other European options like Italian, Turkish and English food. Also a lot of bakeries but I was getting a bit sick of carbs so we got salads for dinner. In terms of German snacks, I just treated myself to some Haribo candy which was a great decision. There were a few food places open on the Sunday but by the time I felt like dinner, they were all closed. I went with someone from the hostel down to the doner store, which I guess is like kebab stores back home but I made a huge mistake when ordering and had beef on chips with a tzaziki-like sauce....I thought there would be salad but the chips were instead so...not the best meal I've had in Europe yet!

Have you been to Cologne? What are your thoughts??

First stop - Amsterdam

Amsterdam was the first stop on my trip to Europe and spent just over 24 hours there. What a beautiful city! 

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Where I went

To be honest, I think I saw a huge chunk of the city. When you don't pay for any attractions or tours and just explore for hours on foot, it's amazing how much ground you can actually cover! I went all through the city, along various canals and stopped to enjoy the sights along the way. I saw the Noorderkerk, de Oude Kerk, the I Amsterdam sign, Rijksmuseum and Vondelpark. The park near Rijksmuseum was so lovely, there was a spot just outside with a fountain and heaps of seats where I stopped for a while and had a break. 

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I really liked the outer neighbourhoods where the smell of weed didn't hit you every few metres and the buildings were that beautiful old Dutch style. I particularly liked Jordaan and Amsterdam Oud-Zuid near the park, I think it was Museumkwartier where I saw some of the most beautiful streets. 

Accommodation

 I stayed at Bob's Youth Hostel for just one night. It was a pretty basic hostel without many bells and whistles. The beds were clean and comfy with large lockers, the bathrooms weren't in the best condition but they weren't dirty, the shower had good water pressure, it was in a great location and the wifi was very fast. There was no complimentary breakfast and the place had no kitchen and not much of a common room so it wasn't somewhere I would like to stay for too long. Also, I made the mistake of leaving my big pack at the back of their luggage room, and when I arrived back in the afternoon it was lost under the pile of suitcases and packs so I had to go digging. But at the end of the day, it was the cheapest place I could find in the city and it really wasn't bad so I'm happy. 

 Lake at Vondelpark

Lake at Vondelpark

Transport

As I mentioned earlier, I walked the whole time. It felt a bit like cheating because I should've been on a bike in Amsterdam right?! To be honest, last time I was there I went on a bike and it really felt like I was dancing with death. Even walking put me in danger a few times; I would forget which way to look then go to cross, only to remember last minute and jump back before getting taken out by a cyclist. The Dutch love their fiets but I prefer my own feet. 

I took a tram from Amsterdam Centraal to where my bus for Cologne left and that was an ordeal. I didn't find the directions at the station to be overly intuitive, but then I realised it was most likely because the app I used (Cityplanner) had actually suggested I take a tram, not a train. In the city you can buy an hour pass for the trams, I'm not sure if it works for buses too, but that was all I needed and the machine I used had English and there was also a friendly man from the station helping people with it, so I had no issues once I was in the right place.

The tram was good and now I'm sitting on the bus to Copenhagen. It's a RegioJet bus and I chose it because it was the cheapest and had no stops. I've started using Go Europe which lets me look at bus, train and plane options across different companies all in one go which is so easy, definitely going to stick with it from now. I was told previously that FlixBus was the best to go with for buses and Go Europe has them as well which is great. It's quite nice sitting on an airconditioned bus with free wifi and charging capabilities after spending hours walking around Amsterdam in the heat (it got up to 28 degrees yesterday!). 

Food

Hopefully you were not lead to my blog with the hopes of finding lots of amazing places to eat around the world. Unfortunately, due to my budget, I will not be enjoying the culinary delights of Europe as much as you might hope. At this stage I will mostly be sticking to quick, cheap and easy, including a lot of supermarket options and some fast food. I will try to share some good snacks with you from the places I visit though!

 Yummy Dutch Stroopwaffle

Yummy Dutch Stroopwaffle

The Dutch love their sugary treats and one of the most famous is the stroopwaffle. It's a small biscuit version of a waffle with a sweet but buttery filling. I had some of those and some chocolate from an Albert Heijn supermarket for snacks throughout the day and for dinner had a pretty average pasta from a new Italian restaurant, which was sorely disappointing. I was wandering around for ages, trying to decide what to eat, and when I finally decided on Italian there none in sight. I went with the first one I can across and I didn't even bother with the name because it was so average... Sorry to underwhelm you! But don't worry, I'll try get a German meal when I get to Cologne!

Have you been to Amsterdam before? What was your favourite part?!