The magic of solo travel

Although many of us choose to travel solo, it’s a concept that can be difficult for some people to understand. I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m afraid to travel on my own. Several female friends and acquaintances have come to me with different queries simply out of interest or because they are looking to embark on a solo adventure themselves.

Solo travel is something that I think everyone should do at some point in their lives. You learn so much when you only have yourself to rely on and you develop a sense of confidence that makes you feel like you’re capable of anything (and you are)! One apprehension that many people have is that traveling solo might be lonely. Traveling on your own doesn’t mean you will be alone the entire time. You will notice that there are many other people doing the same thing as you. It’s been inspiring to see how many other solo female travelers there are out there. Over the years, I’ve met some amazing people and made lifelong friends this way.

I used to be incredibly shy; traveling to foreign countries on my own would have never crossed my mind years ago. Even if it had, I would have never believed that I was capable of doing it. Living and working in Australia completely changed me. I realized that I was capable of doing anything I set my mind to. If I could move that far from home, find a job, make friends and create a life there all on my own – what couldn’t I do? I have now traveled to 10 countries solo. I’m by no means an expert on the subject but I do think that I’ve learnt a few valuable lessons over the past few years. Through trial and error, I’ve learnt what works, what doesn’t and how to get the most out of your solo experience. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy having travel companions and I’ve had some great ones over the years; but there is something really special about doing it all on your own. Plus, if you have to wait for someone to go with you, you might never go. Many of my friends are married, have children, careers and other commitments that understandably, do not allow them to pick up and go on a whim.

Here are some of the tips and tricks that I’ve learnt over the years. Some of these can apply to travel and life in general. Any other questions/comments or things to add, please feel free to get in touch.

  1. Start off small. Try a weekend getaway close to home for your first solo adventure. This way you won’t feel too overwhelmed and it will give you a taste of how it would be to travel on your own. This won’t be for everyone but for some of you; it will be a life changer.
  2. Keep going. It’s inevitable – at some point, you’re going to panic. All solo travelers have been there (myself included of course) but it’s important to remember that the feeling is temporary. So many questions can race through your mind…what if I get lost? What if no one speaks my language? What if I get lonely?…Take a few deep breaths, sit down at a coffee shop and take a few moments (or as many moments as it takes) to collect yourself. Everything is going to be okay and this feeling is going to pass. Bring a notebook with you (I always carry one wherever I go) and jot down how you’re feeling. Grab a map from your hotel and make a plan of action. Do one thing at a time and don’t feel that you have to fit too much in. I always ask myself – what’s the worst thing that can happen? I get on the wrong train. I get lost. Big deal. You can always ask someone for help and Google Maps is always there to help guide you, should your map fail you. Just regroup and keep moving – you’ve got this! As the wonderful Carrie Fisher said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
  3. Do your research. I find that I’m more at ease when I’ve done a bit of research before I take off on my adventure. It doesn’t mean that you have to stick to a rigid itinerary but it’s nice to have a rough idea of what you’d like to see before arriving at your destination. When it comes to museums and art galleries for example, they might be closed on certain days. It’s good to know that ahead of time, so you don’t miss out. I also like to find out the best way to get from the airport to my accommodation just so I have a plan when I arrive. This is especially a good idea for first time solo travelers. It will be one less thing to worry about. When in doubt, you can always ask someone for help.
  4. Pack light. Don’t bring too much with you. It can be a pain lugging a heavy suitcase around. I recommend investing in a travel backpack from your local outdoor retailer (MEC, Patagonia). Have the staff help you find something to suit your needs regarding weight and size. This will all depend on what kind of trip you will be taking and in which climate. For example, if you’re a hiker/climber, you’re going to need a larger pack for your gear. If you’re heading to a colder climate, you will also require more room for additional layers of clothing. In all cases, it’s best to bring only the necessities.
  5. Stay safe. The most common myth about solo travel, especially for females is that it’s dangerous. Some countries require more caution than others of course, but this would be true regardless of who you were traveling with. Always trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your intuition. Ask the locals for advice and don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do back home (ie: going out to a bar on your own and drinking too much). Always let someone know where you’ll be, especially if you’re going on an extended trip. I usually send my itinerary to my mom so that someone always knows my schedule and where I’ll be on any given day. Just use common sense and pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t worry – you won’t end up like Claire Danes in Brokedown Palace!
  6. Live in the moment. Take the time to “stop and smell the roses.” Sit in a coffee shop and watch the world go by. Listen to music, write in a journal, read a book – do whatever makes you feel content. Travel teaches you about different cultures, it opens your eyes to different ways of life and it provides you with a sense of adventure. It can also teach you to live in the moment and appreciate what’s going on around you…if you let it ❤


Best affordable eats in Dublin

  1. Pho Ta – I’m pretty picky about my pho, as it is one of my favourite foods; Pho Ta does not disappoint. The noodle soup here is really delicious as are the spring rolls but if you’re not in the mood for soup, they have a variety of noodle and rice dishes and a great selection of appetizers. Located away from the crowds on Cope Street in Temple Bar area, Pho Ta is a breath of fresh air. The service is excellent and the soup is sure to warm you up on one of Dublin’s rainy days!

Chicken Noodle Soup.

2. Neon – Located on Camden Street (also one of my favourite streets; great pubs along here), Neon is an Asian street food inspired restaurant with a diverse menu. Try one of their fabulous curries or wok dishes – the portions are quite large so make sure to share or save it for a meal the next day. If you have room, there’s free ice cream after your meal – what more can you ask for? This is one restaurant you won’t want to miss in Dublin.

3. Pitt Bros – There’s a reason they keep paper towel on the table at Pitt Bros – things can get messy (in a good way of course). I had the burger and fries and it really hit the spot. They also have ribs, pulled pork, chicken and other delicious items to choose from. Definitely not a place for vegetarians but meat lovers can rejoice – you will leave satisfied and still have money left in your pocket. Check them out at South Great George’s Street in Dublin 2.


Pitt Bro Burger & Fries.

4. Yamamori – Sushi is one of my favourite foods; I could definitely eat it everyday. I’m used to going to all you can eat sushi in Canada so when I came here and realised there is no such thing, my heart broke a little. But then, I found the award-winning restaurant Yamamori. It’s not all you can eat but it is absolutely delicious sushi all the same. The prices are a little higher than I’m used to but I’m willing to spend a little more to eat something that I really enjoy. Their spider roll with black rice is incredible as is their ramen. If you’re a sushi lover like me, you must try Yamamori. They have several locations around the city serving a variety of Japanese cuisine. Check out their website for more information

5. Musashi – Of course I had to include another one of my favourite sushi spots. Musashi has a few locations; I’ve been to the one on Capel Street and it is superb. It can get quite busy so it’s best to book ahead or show up right at noon if you’d like to have lunch.


Vegetarian Bento Box with Salmon Nigiri.

6. My Meat Wagon – Another great place for meat lovers. Located in Smithfield Square, beside the Lighthouse Cinema and Oscar’s bar, this is a great place to have dinner before seeing a show or heading out for a drink. You can choose from ‘Meat in a box‘, ‘Meat in bread‘ or ‘Meat on a board‘ and all their meat is 100% Irish. Their sides are quite good as well, you can choose from fries, coleslaw, mash, beans, sausage or corn. Yum!


“MEAT IN BREAD” – Burger & chips.

7. Bunsen – With the tagline ‘Straight up burgers,’ Bunsen does one thing really well – make a delicious burger. Their menu is extremely simple which I love; they have a regular burger, cheeseburger and doubles of each as well as a choice of hand cut, shoestring and sweet potato fries. Their fries are also really delicious – I always go for the shoestring but they’re all great. Because of its popularity, Bunsen often has a queue but you can pop out for a beverage or a walk and they will give you a ring on your mobile when your table is ready. There are two locations; one in Temple Bar area and the other on Wexford Street. I have no idea why I’m writing this near lunchtime…I’m really craving a burger now!


Bunsen, Temple Bar.

8. Umi Falafel – This is one of my go-to spots for delicious food at a great price. You can either take it away or sit in. It’s a pretty relaxed environment with great service. They have a variety of tasty falafels, salads and an assortment of appetizers. Make sure to try their minted lemonade! They have two locations in Dublin; one on Dame Street and the other in Rathmines.

9. Kimchi – Just tried Kimchi recently and had to add it to the list. The food is delicious, service is quick and the prices are very reasonable. There’s a bar right beside the restaurant which is great for meeting up for a drink before your meal (160-161 Parnell Street). I’ve tried the Chicken Katsu, beef, calamari, salmon sushi/sashimi and a few other kinds of sushi and all were fantastic. If you’re a fan of Japanese & Korean food, Kimchi is not to be missed.


The delicious Korean dish Bulgogi.

10. Leo Burdock – ‘Burdock’s’ has been around for over 100 years and there’s a reason for that – their fish & chips are delicious! Great prices for the portion sizes; you will definitely leave here satisfied. They have several locations in and around Dublin that have attracted a variety of celebrities over the years such as Snoop Dogg, members of Metallica and Hilary Swank. This is the place to get your fill of fish & chips while in Ireland.

11. Xico – If you love Mexican food like I do, you will love Xico. They serve a variety of Mexican inspired dishes and offer a range of unique cocktails. As soon as I walked into this underground cavern, I knew it would become one of my favourite places. On Tuesdays, they offer a choice of 6 Taquitos or Tostadas for €15 or you can add 2 drinks for €25. Xico is located on Lower Baggot Street in Dublin 2.

12. Smokin Bones – I realise that this list is heavy on the meat but it seems that BBQ joints are all the rage in Dublin. The ‘Pitt Nachos’ and ‘Dirty Fries’ are to die for. They also have Mac n’ Cheese (suitable for vegetarians), Beef Brisket, Burgers, Ribs and a variety of tasty side dishes. Smokin Bones is located in the heart of the city at 34 Dame Street.

Dublin Nightlife: Best Bars & Pubs

1. Whelan’s – By far my favourite place to have a drink in Dublin. I saw the American folk band Joseph here and it was a night I won’t soon forget. (By the way, if you haven’t heard of them – do yourself a favour and check them out. They are three incredibly talented sisters from Portland, Oregon). Whelan’s has incredible live music events. You can check out their website for upcoming shows here There’s something for everyone at Whelan’s whether you like to get up and dance or just sit back and relax with a pint. In a city filled with great pubs, Whelan’s is not to be missed.


Joseph at Whelan’s, Dublin.

2. The Brazen Head – Ireland’s oldest pub; established in 1198. Definitely a touristy place because of its history but a great pub all the same. Many locals still head to The Brazen Head as it has great food, reasonably priced drinks and it’s away from Temple Bar area so it doesn’t get as crammed. I highly recommend checking out The Brazen Head if you find yourself in Dublin and want to visit a classic Irish pub.


3. The Liquor Rooms – Really cool cocktail bar in the city with great decor (very retro) and a fun atmosphere. It’s a perfect place for an after dinner cocktail or two – have anymore and you’ll be bringing out your inner Beyoncé on the dancefloor. If you’re not a big dancer, settle in on one of their cozy vintage chairs and people watch until your hearts content. The bartenders are seriously amazing at what they do – I watched one of them prepare several of these gorgeous cocktails in a matter of moments.

4. The Grand Social The Grand Social hosts a variety of music gigs and is an all around great place to have a drink or two (maybe more – I’m not here to judge). They even host the Ha’Penny Flea Market every Saturday from 12pm-6pm. There are a variety of vendors selling everything from jewelry to records and it’s indoors so you can enjoy it rain or shine (this is Dublin we’re talking about so that’s definitely a plus!).

5. The Dawson Lounge“Probably the smallest pub in the world” is what the signage says out front and it is probably correct. It is a very tiny bar with room for no more than 50-60 people at capacity. It’s quite a cute little spot, very cozy and laid back – definitely a must see if you’re visiting Dublin. I’d recommend popping in on a weekday if possible, as it can get quite busy on the weekends with all the tourists.


“Probably the smallest pub in the world” – The Dawson Lounge.

6. Against The Grain – Located across from Whelan’s on Camden Street, Against the Grain is owned and operated by Galway Bay Brewery and has a tremendous selection of craft beers. They also have a delicious menu consisting of fish and chips, stews, burgers and so on. The staff is also really friendly and knowledgeable which is a bonus.

7. Thomas House – This is my local as it is not too far from my neighbourhood and I love everything about this place. The music is fab and it reminds me exactly of my regular back in Canada. Reasonably priced drinks and a variety of craft beers, good music and a rockabilly vibe – what more can you ask for?

8. Hogan’s – This is a pretty popular spot, especially on the weekends. It gets quite busy but it’s a fun atmosphere and the service is usually pretty quick even when it’s rammed. Fun place to spend the night with some friends, have a laugh and do some serious people watching.

9. The Foggy Dew – Another one of my favourite places to head for a pint and a chat. I’m not a big fan of going to clubs or bars that are so busy and loud that you can’t hear yourself think, let alone hear the person you’re chatting to. This is a great place to grab a seat, enjoy a drink and watch a match or just chill out – especially after a long day of exploring.


Foggy Dew, 1 Fownes Street Upper, Temple Bar.

10. The Beer Market – Another one of my locals. It’s very inviting and cozy and on weeknights it’s usually not too busy. They have plenty of places to sit on multiple levels and there’s even a pool table downstairs if you’re so inclined. It’s a very chill atmosphere a little outside the city away from the crowds and they have a great variety of craft beers. Can’t go wrong with that.

11. Garage Bar – Great little dive bar located in Temple Bar area. It does have a garage feel complete with sawdust on the floor, petrol pumps and tires. The staff here is great, the prices are good and they place some great music (punk, grunge, soul, ska). It’s definitely one of a kind and worth checking out.

12. The Bowery – This place is deadly! It’s like stepping inside the interior of a ship; complete with port holes, wood paneling and floorboards. The Bowery is an incredibly unique musical venue and rum bar that’s definitely work checking out. See their upcoming shows here


Shawn James & the Shapeshifters at The Bowery.

13. Frank Ryan’s Bar – Reminds me of a place I would frequent back home in Toronto (it even has the same street name). Great beer, pool tables, live music and a resident dog (my favourite part of course) – what’s not to love?


Frank Ryan’s Bar, 5 Queen Street.

14. The Back Page – Located just outside the city in Phibsborough, The Back Page is one of my favourite pubs in Dublin. Their pizzas are delicious and they have a great selection of craft beers. They also have a variety of board games and tvs showing whatever match is on. Great place to come if you’re looking to get out of the busy city.


Best cafés in Dublin

  1. The Fumbally – Finding a café that I can set up shop in for a couple of hours is, at times a difficult task. Many of them are quite busy throughout the day and don’t have a lot of seating options. The Fumbally is quite a popular spot but I am usually able to find a place to settle in for a while, as their seating is communal. Everything on their menu is incredibly fresh and they use local and organic products whenever possible. They have both daily specials and permanent breakfast and lunch menus. Whether you’re looking for your caffeine fix for the day (they have great coffee too by the way) or something that is both nutritious and delicious, The Fumbally is not to be missed. Check out their menu here

Avocado on toast with beetroot & fresh chilli.

2. Taste Food Co – The staff here are very friendly and they have excellent coffee and a diverse menu. This was the first place I had breakfast after arriving in Dublin and they made me feel right at home. I had the smashed avocado on poached eggs (one of my favourites) and it did not disappoint. I’ve been back several times since and have always had a positive experience. They also have a lunch and dinner menu as well as a fabulous array of desserts made in-house daily by their pastry chefs.

3. The Bagel Bar – Bagels aren’t as much of a big deal over here as they are back home. The Bagel Bar is great because they have a wonderful selection of bagels ranging from your basic bagel and cream cheese to the ‘Beef Philly’ bagel and everything in between. They also have wraps, sandwiches, salads and an array of desserts if you’re so inclined. Prices are very reasonable, leaving you feeling satisfied without breaking the bank. Great place to stop in before a day of exploring in the city.


Spinach bagel with bacon, cheese, chive cream cheese & guac.

4. Brother Hubbard – Middle Eastern inspired menu, excellent coffee and friendly staff – what more can you ask for? Brother Hubbard has two locations: Dublin North: 153 Capel Street, Dublin 1 & Dublin South: 46 Harrington Street, Dublin 8. If you’re looking for something light or if you’re in the mood for Sunday brunch, this is the place. They even have an evening menu from Wednesday to Saturday where you can build your own meal choosing from individual plates. You can also select from their set menu; take a look on their website here I will definitely be back to give it a try.


Mocha & 7-seed & oat scone at Brother Hubbard North.

5. Brick Alley Cafe – Located in touristy Temple Bar area, the Brick Alley Cafe is a great place to take a break from sightseeing. Most places in this part of the city are quite expensive and usually quite busy. The Brick Alley Cafe is a breath of fresh air in that prices are reasonable and the food is tasty. The staff is also quite friendly which is a bonus.

6. Kaph – This trendy café is my go-to spot when I want to get some work done. It’s a busy place but they have extra seating upstairs so I’m usually able to find a spot. They have great coffee and an array of treats if you have a sweet tooth. It’s a great spot to catch up with friends or get lost in a great book. Bonus: they play great music (Queens of the Stone Age, The Smiths & Kurt Vile to name a few).


Kaph, 31 Drury Street. Dublin 2.

7. Queen Of Tarts – Located on Cow’s Lane, this café and tearoom serves the most exquisite desserts. I tried the lemon meringue tart and it was absolutely delicious – not too bitter and the meringue melted in my mouth. I am also in love with their vintage teacups (I have a collection of them back in Canada). If you’re not into sweets, they also have savoury items to choose from such as soups, sandwiches and salads. Love this little gem!


Lemon meringue tart & green tea.

8. Cracked Nut – Both healthy and delicious, the Cracked Nut is a real gem. In addition to having excellent coffee, they serve a variety of gorgeous breakfast items including pastries, granola, porridge and french toast. Sandwiches, soups and salads are on offer at lunch – perfect if you’re busy at work but need a nutritious and filling meal to keep you going. They even have a catering service and offer an array of platters, fruit and the like.


Cracked Nut, Camden Street.

Packing tips for a move abroad

Packing for a big move can be quite stressful – especially if it’s to another part of the world. However, being well prepared will help to keep you calm and ready to conquer any issues that may arise. I‘m an incredibly organized person (perhaps a little too much so at times according to my loved ones) so I have this down to a science at this stage of the game. Additionally, I’ve done it a couple of times now so I know what works and what doesn’t. When I moved to Australia in 2011, I definitely brought too much with me, not knowing what to expect (how was I to know that my heated hand warmers wouldn’t be useful?) That’s okay though – trial and error is a wonderful way to learn. I’m moving to Dublin, Ireland today (I’m currently writing this from Pearson Airport – told you I was organized!) so I thought I would give you an idea what I’ve taken with me.


If you haven’t worn something in the last 6 months, it’s pretty safe to say you won’t wear it at all (Tip: whenever you wear something from your closet, put it back with the hanger facing the opposite direction of your other clothes…this will allow you to see what you wear and what you don’t with ease). I am constantly going through my clothes and donating what I don’t use. (Side note: If you have trouble with this, I highly recommend the documentary The Minimalists which is now streaming on Netflix. I’ve had many people tell me that after watching it, they were able to part with a lot of unnecessary items). As I previously stated, I brought far too much to Australia and I ended up wasting a lot of space in my suitcase. If you’re going somewhere hot, don’t bring your parka. If the weather will eventually cool down, you can buy a jacket when you’re over there. Of course, it depends on which country you’re going to and at what time of year. Some items are harder to find in certain places so always keep that in mind. Do some research on the climate and what to expect in that part of the world. Also consider which activities you enjoy; I’m a hiker so I always need warm, breathable apparel and comfortable shoes. Always make sure to check your baggage allowance for your flight – this will help you determine how much you can bring. Also, rolling your clothing will save space and keep them wrinkle-free.

Here’s a list of clothing items & accessories that I’m bringing with me to Ireland:

  1. 2 pairs of jeans
  2. 4 pairs of leggings (they roll up tight and I wear them almost daily)
  3. a few dresses (lightweight & wrinkle-free are key)
  4. my favourite workout/hiking apparel
  5. running shoes & hiking boots
  6. a few sweaters (the climate is cool & damp in Ireland, best to keep warm)
  7. a couple of my favourite tops
  8. my lightweight army jacket (Canada is freezing this time of year, so my parka may be too warm for certain days)
  9. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, so I brought only a few of my favourite items that can’t be easily replaced
  10. a scarf, toque and mittens (these can pack pretty tight and are essential for keeping warm in this climate)
  11. socks and intimates (you don’t need to bring too many…you can always buy more from a discount shop once you arrive – Penney’s is a great place to purchase these items in Dublin)
  12. a business casual outfit (if you are going to be working like myself, make sure to bring something to wear to interviews)

Important Documents

  1. Passport (I always say that as long as you have your passport, visa if needed & money – you will be fine. Anything else can usually be purchased at your destination!)
  2. Visa required for the country you are moving to
  3. Hostel/hotel/Airbnb information (an address is usually required at customs when you arrive)
  4. Directions on how to get from the airport to where are you staying (I always look this up beforehand so I can find the most economical way to get there – ie: the Airlink in Dublin is €6 and stops right outside my hotel)
  5. List of activities you want to do/things to see (as I said, I’m extremely organized and while I love flying by the seat of my pants, I also like to do some research beforehand)


  1. Makeup (I don’t wear a lot of makeup, so I’ve only brought a few of my favourite items. In some countries like Australia, makeup is quite expensive so do your research and if there’s something you can’t live without, bring it with you)
  2. Tweezers
  3. Small scissors
  4. Nail clippers/nail files
  5. Hair brush
  6. Deodorant
  7. Toothbrush, toothpaste & floss
  8. Hand cream
  9. Feminine products
  10. Travel sized shampoo/conditioner/body wash (if you’re staying at a hotel/Airbnb you may not need these items but they’re good to have for hostels/staying with friends and they don’t take up much space)
  11. Razors (again, these items can easily be purchased if you are going to a country like Ireland, however, you want to have a few of them on hand for the first couple of weeks until you’re settled)


  1. Ibuprofen (I always keep some in my purse)
  2. Tums (always good to have a small package of these, especially for the plane)
  3. Allergy medicine
  4. Band-aids (always good to have a few in your bag, you never know when you might need one)
  5. Prescription medication
  6. Vitamins (essential when going somewhere without a lot of sun)


  1. iPod/Headphones
  2. Computer/iPad
  3. Phone
  4. Travel adapter (I usually bring 2 just in case)
  5. Camera
  6. External hard drive (I back up all my photos once they’re downloaded to my computer)
  7. Portable charger


  1. Journal
  2. Books/eReader (since books are heavy, I brought 2 of my favourites and invested in an eReader – reading is something I can’t live without so this is a must for me)
  3. Snacks (for the plane)
  4. Some local currency
  5. Backpack (for walking around the city/going hiking)
  6. Refillable water bottle

This list is tailored to a solo traveler, however, the idea of only bringing what is truly needed applies to everyone. I know this can be difficult but believe me, it’s also incredibly freeing. So, only bring what you need and if you forget something, that’s okay – you will likely be able to find it at your destination and you can always give your clothes a wash. Enjoy the journey. Happy packing!