Not only do we have an awesome Q&A today with a traveler and writer, we also have my first-ever giveaway! A copy of The Art of Solo Travel. I’ll explain how to enter after the interview.
The author of that book, Stephanie Lee, is here to share advice on traveling solo and tell us about her experience publishing an e-book.
Stephanie’s a life-long traveler; she grew up in Kuala Lumpur and San Francisco, then studied architecture in Sydney. After six years of working at architectural firms, she left everything behind for an around-the-world trip. When she returned to Sydney, where she now runs a private architectural practice and sells eco-friendly homewares, she wrote her first book, The Art of Solo Travel.
Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie! Can you start by telling us about your travels? Where’d you go? How did you fund your big trip? Why’d you decide to go solo?
To date I have travelled to over 100 cities spread over 30 countries and four continents. Travelling solo was something I had always wanted to do but I was constantly sidetracked by something or other — long architectural studies, relationships, career, the usual expected milestones in life. After obtaining those things, I felt in limbo and began to think about my dreams of solo travel again. In the end I decided that I would really regret it if I never did it, so I needed to live that dream. To do that I needed to let go of my conventional life, so gave everything up to wander the globe with a free mind and spirit.
In terms of funds, I prepared and saved for almost 11 months in order to have enough money to travel without worrying about looking for work. I understand most people would not be in the position to do this, but I only managed it because I started late (30) and by that time I had enough disposable income to travel how I wanted to.
Why’d you decide to turn those experiences into a book?
As any solo traveller will tell you, it gets really lonely and boring at times. Keeping a travel blog and documenting all my new experiences and sensations really helped with combating both loneliness and boredom. In the middle of my trip I thought it would be fun to write more stories and tips about my travels, and approached Indie Travel Podcast with some pitches. They graciously accepted me and I started writing monthly articles for them. At the end of my travels, I realized that there were so many new things I learned that could benefit other aspiring solo travellers. These slowly developed into a manuscript. After months of pro bono contributions to ITP, I pitched my book manuscript to them, and they were keen to work together publishing it. The rest is history as they say.
So is it more of a how-to book or a memoir of your experiences — or both?
It’s more of a how-to book, or a guide to inspire and help other to-be solo female travellers.
What are your top three tips for women traveling solo?
1. Be organized. There are many logistics involved with solo travel, especially transport and accommodation. It’s a good idea to plan at least two weeks ahead when it comes to accommodation. If you’re not sure where you want to stay until you get to a new place, at least have the details of two hostels/hotels just in case.
2. Pack light. When you’re alone, the last thing you want to do is worry about lots of luggage. As discussed in my ebook, keep it to one bag only, preferably 15kg or under. I managed to stick to this weight while travelling for well over nine months by sticking to my tight packing list (which still allows for an acceptable level of hygiene and comfort, so don’t worry, there’s no need to dry yourself with a t-shirt). You’ll be able to access the full list in my ebook.
3. Keep an open mind and heart. You’ll meet lots of people and encounter many situations on solo travel. There will be good and bad times. The important thing is to remember that these experiences will stay with you forever, so stay positive and embrace any possibilities.
What would you tell women who are looking to travel alone but worry about their safety?
It depends on what countries they plan to travel to. In most urban cities I was never very worried about safety in the day as there were always lots of people around me. In countries with reputations for theft and crime, it’s a good idea to join tour groups and also to meet other single travellers. Always walk in the opposite direction of traffic if possible so someone in a bike can’t come behind and surprise you. Try to meet up with other solo travellers at night for company and safety’s sake. You can find them on Travbuddy or one of the local couchsurfing groups.
I heard you did quite a bit of couch-surfing. Can you explain what that is and why you felt comfortable doing it as a woman?
Couchsurfing is a form of connecting with locals by literally ‘surfing’ their couch. This basically means locals offer travellers an opportunity to sleep at their home – for free – in exchange for friendship and learning about culture from one another. I travelled using this as my only method of accommodation for well over six months, and in the process I made many lifelong friends I would never trade for the best hotel in the world even if I could afford it. As a solo female couchsurfer, the one-on-one connection with my hosts (50/50 male and female) was my main reason for travelling this way as it is like having an old friend in every new city I visited. However, always read someone’s profile and references (left by others who have previously couchsurfed with them) and if you feel uncomfortable, leave immediately.
Why’d you decide to publish an e-book rather than go the traditional publishing route? Is that something you’d recommend?
Craig and Linda, who run Indie Travel Media (my publishers) are full-time travellers and work and earn income through a location-independent lifestyle. As I was also travelling at the time my book manuscript was being developed, all communication was conducted via e-mail. Due to the logistics, an e-book seemed the only viable option at the time, also to ‘test’ the potential audiences before maybe thinking about a print version which will require all of us to have a more permanent address!
Also, since the e-book is targeted at travellers, an electronic version is also much handier than carrying a traditional paper version.
Can you tell us more about the logistics of publishing an e-book? How does an e-book author get paid differently than a traditional author?
I put together a manuscript myself and my publishers (Indie Travel Media) did the editing and the rest. I’m not an expert on traditional publishing, but I believe book authors who get published that way usually receive a cash advance. In my instance, there is no advance but I only get paid if a copy gets sold.
Readers, if you want to ask Stephanie about traveling solo or e-book publishing, the floor is yours. She’s promised to swing by to answer your questions.
And now, the giveaway! To enter to win a copy of Lee’s e-book, The Art of Solo Travel, from Indie Travel Media, choose one of the following:
Your chance to enter ends Friday, August 6. We’ll pick a winner at random and let you know who it is on this blog next week. Good luck!
UPDATE: The winner is Melanie at So Very Vienna!