Tag Archives: solo travel

Beautiful Rome

Rome is such a magical city.  Unlike many other European cities, there are no skyscrapers dotting the skyline, casting shadows over their ancient and medieval monuments.  This is a city whose inhabitants consider themselves Romans before being Italian, and take great pride in their heritage and their food.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to Rome…I had heard it was a bit dirty, and the chance of being pickpocketed was higher than other places.  I found it to be rather charming, though.  Sure, there’s trash on the streets here and there, and the sidewalks are crowded with tourists and city dwellers.  I’ve been to many European cities and villages, and Rome had its own unique atmosphere.

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It was early November when I arrived.  The sky was dotted with clouds, and most of the weather forecasts called for rain almost each evening.  I live in Seattle, so a little rain isn’t going to scare me away.  Rome can be notoriously hot in the summer, so I was glad to be there in the fall, when there are also fewer tourists.  I booked this trip kind of on a spur of the moment.  I had been there once before, but only for about a day and a half…certainly not enough time to experience all that the city has to offer.

I had purchased a pass that included entry to several different attractions, but I didn’t use it.  I found that, with so much history surrounding me, I needed guided tours.  There’s a wonderful company I had heard about while surfing YouTube for travel ideas.  The company is called Walks of Italy, and they specialize in walking tours around the city, and grant visitors with unprecedented access to some of the city’s most famous sites.  I went on more than one tour with them: Pristine Sistine, Gladiators’ Gate at the Colosseum, the Catacombs, and an extensive tour of the ruins at Palatine Hill.

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Of all the tours, I think Pristine Sistine was my absolute favorite (they were all fantastic, though).  Our guide, Davide, was animated, funny, and very informative.  He’s the one that told us that Romans consider themselves Roman over Italian.  This tour gave us early access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.  We didn’t have to push through large crowds, and it felt like a very intimate, private event.  There were only a handful of us in the group, too.  The tour ends inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, so tour groups are awed from beginning to end.

Seeing the Colosseum was a dream come true as well.  I found myself going there several times during my week in Rome, sometimes just to stand outside and marvel at it.  It’s so amazing to see this behemoth that was constructed 2,000 years ago, and picture the masses of people sitting around the arena.  IMG_2332

The catacombs are a definite must-see, as well.  I had a mishap with my camera, and pictures are not allowed inside the catacombs, so there aren’t any pictures of my tour.  We saw three different sites: The Capuchin Crypt, one of the least visited Roman catacombs, and the Basilica San Nicola in Carcere.  You can find out more about that tour, and see pics here.  In the catacombs we visited on this tour, we saw the oldest known painting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, painted in the 200’s AD.  Even as an atheist, I found this tour very interesting.

The food was beyond amazing!  To replenish my body at the end of the day, I would gorge myself on carbonara and tiramisu.  Historia La Vacca won my vote as best restaurant in Rome.  The food was so good, I ended up eating there twice.  IMG_2740

If you haven’t been to Rome yet, put it on your bucket list.  Everything about it makes it a must-see.  Take a little peek at my Instagram: @thesolovoyager, for more pics of my trip.  Due to an accident with my camera, most of my pics were taken with my iPhone.

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Solo Trip To Stockholm

People often ask me if I’m ever afraid to travel alone.  The short answer is yes and no.  It can be a bit daunting to jump on an airplane and travel half way around the world, especially when you’re going to a country you’ve never been to.  Certain places are off limits as a solo traveler, in my opinion.  There are places where I would not feel safe going by myself, and would much rather have a travel companion or go with a tour group.  For instance, I would not want to explore Egypt on my own.  There has been conflict in Egypt, and that part of the world, and I just wouldn’t feel safe going by myself.

Stockholm is definitely not one of those places, though.  Everywhere I went in Stockholm, I felt safe.  I was still cautious of my surroundings, but I felt safe and secure nonetheless.  I guess I’m a bit selfish when it comes to traveling.  I want to have the freedom to start and end my day whenever I please, eat when I want to, and stop and take pictures without inconveniencing a travel companion.  I love using my camera to soak in all the beautiful sights so I can feed my memories for years to come.  I also want to share what I’m seeing with my friends and family.

I did plenty of research before I left for Sweden.  I watched tons of YouTube videos of other people’s voyages to Stockholm, read blogs and books, and talked with people who had been before.  Everyone commented at how safe the city is, and I immediately noticed this first-hand while I was there.  People would ride their bikes to work, for instance, and they would just leave them unchained outside their buildings.  No worries or cares of someone coming along and snatching them up.

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The streets were clean, and the people were friendly.  Not overly friendly, but always willing to help when I had questions or needed directions.  They even seemed happy to welcome me into their country, and would flash a huge smile when they found out it was my first time there.

Public transportation in Stockholm was a breeze.  It was super easy to get around the city by bus, tram, and ferry.  It’s also very easy to get around the city on foot.  Most of the tourist areas are compact and close together.  Walking, you may be more inclined to pop into a shop or attraction that you may have missed had you been on the bus or tram.

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I even felt safe in the evenings.  There seemed to always be large groups of happy Swedes shopping and tourists soaking in the sights, no matter what time of day it was.  Police officials were not far from reach either, which made me feel even more safe.

Does anyone have any suggestions of other places that may be perfect for someone traveling alone?  I’m thinking Tokyo might be my next solo trip.

Stockholm, Here I Come!!

The date is set for September 24th.  I cannot even begin to express how excited I am!  This trip is going to be full of firsts: first time to Stockholm, first flight on the beautiful Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and first flight with Norwegian Air Shuttle.  I booked everything through Expedia, which is where I found the best deal for the flight and hotel package.

FLIGHT:  Seattle has a decent-sized airport that handles many international flights daily.  However, I found a better deal by booking my trip out of LAX, and purchasing a cheap round trip ticket between SEA and LAX.  A word of caution if you do this: the airlines will probably not accommodate your connection plans if anything happens to your connecting flight.  So, if my flight from SEA to LAX is late or cancelled, and I cannot make my flight to Stockholm, I may be screwed.  I’m opting for an early flight out of Seattle, and a really late flight for the return, so that I have plenty of wiggle room  Booking this way, though, helped me shave about $1,000 USD off my trip package which will certainly come in handy later on down the road.

When traveling internationally, I usually like to spend a bit extra on my flight and purchase business class seats. Usually, business class gives passengers the ability to sleep with lie-flat seats and excellent service.  Norwegian does not offer such a class, but does have a Premium Cabin, which teeters somewhere between Business and Premium Economy.  I have seen some excellent reviews online, however, so it should be a lovely experience.  norwegian-premium-cabin

Judging by the pics and videos I’ve seen online, there’s quite a bit of space and the seats appear to have a decent recline to them.  I think I’m most excited about flying on the 787, which I have been dying to fly on since they were introduced into service.  boeing_787_of_norwegian_landing_at_osl

I should mention that Norwegian is a low-cost airline.  If booking in economy, expect to pay for each piece of luggage, as well as in-flight snacks and beverages.  From what I hear, you get the bare-b0nes for your ticket, but the service is still outstanding.  I’ll follow up after my trip.

HOTEL:  While shaving some money off my trip, I was also able to pick an upgraded room with my hotel.  This was all done through Expedia, of course.  The hotel I will be staying at is called the Elite Hotel Marina Tower.  I decided to upgrade to a Junior Suite, which is said to offer a sea view.  The hotel appears to be a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of the major tourist areas, but has its own ferry station right out front.  elite-marina-tower-stockholm-fasad4I prefer to be away from the major crowds, and I hope this hotel lives up to the wonderful reviews I’ve read.  I can’t wait to share my experiences with you when I return (and while I’m there).  My one complaint thus far, though, is that I can only seem to find the spa offerings in Swedish.  I’m assuming they’ll have more information at the hotel, and I definitely plan on at least one spa treatment while I’m there.

ATTRACTIONS:  There are so many sights I wish to see while I’m there.  In order to save money, I’m going to purchase The Stockholm Pass.  This is offered through a company called Leisure Pass Group, which offered The London Pass that I purchased for my trip to London earlier this year.  The Stockholm Pass appears to offer a more robust selection of attractions than The London Pass, so I’ll surely be giving this a HUGE thumbs up when I return.  The person who thought up the Leisure Pass Group is a genius in my book!

I also hope to experience some Swedish nightlife while I’m there, and get to know the gay culture of Sweden.  From what I understand, the Swedes are much more progressive than we (Americans) are, so I look forward to meeting people and possibly finding a Swedish husband…I won’t hold my breath on the husband part, though 😉

I’ll certainly be snapping photos left and right, and sharing them here.  A bulk of them, though, will be housed on my Smugmug page, once I return and get them edited.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended in the use of these photos.