Interview with a Female Solo Traveler: Kira Budai
Have you considered traveling solo? We interviewed a young female solo traveler on her recent experiences traveling to South America and Antarctica as she shares how to travel alone as a woman and what inspired her to begin this journey.
Name: Kira Budai
Age: 19 (birthday: January 30, 2000)
What inspired you to begin a solo traveling journey?
I’m a very curious person so I want to know as much about everything as possible. I’d also define myself as extremely independent and I love to travel so it was almost a no brainer to start travelling solo. I didn’t want to wait for other people in order to see things that interest me. And sometimes travelling with other people you have to compromise on what to do or what to see and I don’t want to compromise. So if I go by myself I get to see everything I want to and nothing that I don’t want to. It also helps me learn more about myself and what I’m capable of. Travelling by myself I push my own boundaries.
Can you share a bit about your solo travel plans and which destinations you are headed to?
Well I just got back from my month long trip through South America and Antarctica. My next big adventure is Australia in 2020. I will be moving there to work for 6 months which is unlike anything I’ve ever done before so I can’t wait! And on my way over there I’m going to backpack through Europe. Last time I was in Europe I was only 8 years old so I can’t wait to revisit things I wasn’t able to fully appreciate at such a young age.
After Australia I plan on heading to Southeast Asia and taking my sweet time exploring those beautiful countries before coming home.
How do you plan to visit all seven continents? What inspired you to create this bucket list goal?
My parents inspired me the most. They raised me and my brother to be curious. To question the world around us and to learn new things. So with that mindset I grew up always wanting to know more about the world. Our family motto is to seize every opportunity. And I believe that’s what I’ve done. There were opportunities to travel through school and I took them. Because of those opportunities I was able to check off two more continents. (Asia in 2017 and Africa in 2018).
My goal was inspired after my trip to Europe with my family when I was 8. We went for 6 weeks and we saw so much it was crazy. I learned how to travel on that trip. I learned about different cultures and important moments in history and I was left wanting more. The older I got the more I researched the world. And I couldn’t believe that all these countries and their different cultures and religions and ecosystems exist within 6 of the 7 continents. Knowing this only made me more curious and I knew I needed to see all 7. It also made me more curious about Antarctica. There’s an entire continent that has never been civilized. That’s not owned by any country. And that’s almost completely covered in ice. I knew I had to see this place for myself.
Is there anything you have to do to prepare to travel to Antarctica? Can you share more about this experience/or what you anticipate or plan for Antarctica?
Well I had never been on a cruise before so I had to sort of prepare for a different form of traveling than I’m used to. Especially since I’d be going through the Drake passage which is known to be the roughest waters in the world. So I had to be prepared with medication in case of sea sickness. Antarctica is also such a different ecosystem than anywhere else I had to be prepared for all sorts of weather conditions because you never know what you’re going to get down there. Antarctica has been described as the place where Mother Nature shows off but also shows no mercy. So making sure I had enough layers and extra gloves and hand warmers and such while also staying within the weight limit of my luggage took some planning.
Anticipation wise I tried not to research too deeply into what most of the tours do down there. I didn’t want to have any expectations. And even so I was still blown away. I can barely form words that are worthy enough to describe that place. All I can really say is that it was life changing. Everything I thought I knew changed and I learned more about myself than I thought possible.
How old were you when you started traveling?
I was 5 years old when I went on my first plane ride. My grandpa bought my family a trip to Disneyland. It is one of the most special moments in my life to date.
When I was 8 my family went to Europe for 6 weeks and I ended up meeting relatives over there I never knew existed. Those two trips really sparked my love for travel.
How do you pay for your trips?
Well I’ve had a part time job since I was 15 at McDonald’s and thanks to parents I’ve learned how to save my money. 5 years later I’m still at McDonalds but full time and as a manager. But when I booked my trip to Antarctica I knew I’d need to get a second job in order to pay for it. Just to be clear I paid for my entire trip on my own without any financial help from anyone.
So I took time off from college to work full time at two jobs in order to pay for my trip. Basically my schedule was 16 hour days working 7 days a week. Even though it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done it was worth every last cent.
Do you work while traveling abroad?
I haven’t yet but when I move to Australia next year I will be for the first time! I’m going to be an au pair for an amazing family with two adorable kids. So in order to do this I had to get a special work visa.
How far in advance did you plan for this solo trip?
I booked my trip to Antarctica in August of 2018 and the trip itself wasn’t until November of 2019. I booked it over a year in advance and it took me just under the one year mark to pay it off. And for Australia I’ve had it arranged since June of 2019 and I don’t start there until September 2020. I might be a little too organized but I like planning so far in advance it gives me something to work towards.
Favorite travel destination?
Well Antarctica is definitely incredible but I’d have to say it’s tied for first place with Senegal. By no means were either of these trips relaxing vacations but they taught me the biggest life lessons. And for that I am forever grateful.
For Antarctica, I went to answer my curiosity and find peace within myself.
For Senegal, I gained perspective I didn’t know I was missing. My view of the world has never been the same since. I know for a fact that I will go back one day and when I do it will feel like coming home.
How did you prepare for your solo travel?
To be honest I don’t think I did. At least mentally. Financially I worked twice a day every day for a year to afford it but mentally I didn’t do a thing. I just kept reassuring myself that I got this and that I’m independent and can do it. I think I felt like I needed to prove something to myself. And in the end I feel like I’ve done that.
Do you ever feel lonely while solo traveling and if so what do to alleviate those feelings?
Well I met so many amazing people along the way so I am incredibly grateful for all of them. But there were moments where I was a bit lonely but I saw it as a good thing. It really made me learn to be okay with myself. I’ve been through a lot of hard times in my life so to be alone with myself gave me a chance to process everything. It sounds dumb but it’s like I re met myself. The person I was and the person I am now had a lot of catching up to do.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced with solo traveling?
Honestly I didn’t really have any problems. I’m very outgoing to I had no issues meeting new people and forming friendships. The only problem I faced on this trip was actually the customs agent in my own airport. I had just said goodbye to my parents and my best friend and I’m going through security and then when I went up to the agent and he asked me where I was going I told him Antarctica! And I was all excited until I spent the next 20 minutes answering all his questions and showing him all my documents because he couldn’t believe I was going on this trip all alone at my age and that I had paid for it all by myself.
What items do you travel with at all times? Do you have any packing tips for long trips?
I always bring my headphones, hand sanitizer and tissues! I’ve learned the hard way to always make sure I have those items on my at all times while travelling. My tip for packing for long trips is that you don’t need as much as you think you do. Even for this trip I was slightly overpacked. I think it’s a girl thing but we usually pack like double the amount of socks and underwear than the amount of days we’re actually gone. So yeah if you’re going to be gone for a month pack only as much as the amount of days you’ll be away. And pack clothes you can wear with anything and would be comfortable wearing more than once. It’ll change your life.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to female travelers in terms of safety?
I think as long as you have good instincts and are aware of your surroundings you’ll be totally fine! You have to trust yourself and be confident in what you’re doing. Little things that help keep you safer is making sure your purse/ bag is tight against your body and not easily accessible to other passing by on the street. I have a little purse I put across my body and I always rest one hand on the side of the strap so that it’s kind of protected. Also just in general for any traveller, depending on your destination you want to dress accordingly. By that I mean don’t flaunt all your nice name brands. It makes you a target. But other than that if your bag is by your side and you’re walking with confidence you’re good to go.
What are your favorite and/or recommended countries to solo travel as a female in?
Well I think we can go anywhere. I’d like to think we should plan our trips based on the places we want to see and that interest us and not just places we know are safe. There’s danger anywhere you go in the world. So to be afraid of it only in certain areas because you’re not accustom to that country and it’s people can hold you back. There’s places in the world where you might have to travel differently than you’re used to or be a little extra careful but that’s part of the experience. A lot of the popular destinations for female solo travellers are places like Europe, Southeast Asia and Australia. But there’s still news stories every now and then of something happening in those places. So I say go wherever you want. Girl power!
Do you have any specific tips for booking hotels, Airbnbs, and/or hostels?
Well hotels are nice but not for everyone’s budget so I think hostels are awesome. I use hostelworld to book and research hostels so I think it’s pretty great. Airbnb’s are good too but like I said earlier you have to be careful anywhere you go and just make sure to always do your research. Don’t look and two things and pick the one with the better deal. Booking and researching trips should be time consuming and hard sometimes. I like to make sure I have the best deal possible or at least the one that’s going to work best for me. Everyone’s needs and wants are different so you just have to make sure your booking according to your needs.
How do you typically keep your friends and family back home updated on your travels?
Depending on the strength of the wifi I usually talk to everyone through regular phone messaging or WhatsApp. I find if the wifi is pretty weak whatsapp will usually work better than other apps. But I don’t spend too much time on my phone while I’m away since I just don’t have time to talk to everyone like I would if I was at home so I tell all my friends and family to watch my Instagram stories regularly since I usually post stories everyday keeping everyone updated on where I am and what I’m doing.
What types of things should travelers research before visiting new countries?
Depends on the person really. I mean I don’t really research restaurants to eat at or stores to shop. I research things like the highlights of the places I’m visiting and currency exchange rates, cultural customs, the forecast for while I’m there. Those sorts of things.
What do you miss most from back home when you’re traveling for long periods abroad?
My bed. There’s nothing better than my bed. But living in Canada we have some of the earths cleanest drinking water so I’m very grateful that our tap water is safe to drink. That’s one thing I miss sometimes when I’m abroad and I have to pay for water everywhere I go. Because in Canada any restaurant you go to the water is free. And any hotel you stay in the tap water is safe.
Do you have any funny/interesting stories you can share about this trip or past trips?
Haha I’m sure I have hours worth of stories but it’d take too long to write out. Usually the best memories and stories from my trips are from the things that weren’t planned or expected. For example when I was in Senegal, we went to a private beach for the afternoon and it was pretty far from where we were staying so we had a long ride back and where I was in Senegal there aren’t a lot of roads and there very rough and bumpy so one of the tires actually popped on the bus on the way back from the beach. So we pulled over to the side of the road in this little village. It was going to take a while for the driver to change the tire so we all got off the bus and we’re greeted by the residents of this little village. I was one of the last ones off the bus so I walk around to the other side and see everyone gathering around in a big circle. I finally get over there to see what’s going on and there’s a bunch of little kids greeting us and wanting to play. Next thing I know there’s a little boy pulling on the button of my dress. I look down and smile and wave at him and he lifts his hands up to be picked up. I pick him up and ended up holding him for close to an hour. This little boy would not let me put him down. Every time I’d try to lower him down he’d bend his legs so he couldn’t touch the ground. It was the cutest thing ever. Me and this boy shared a beautiful moment together and I’ll never forget him. That entire experience was unexpected and only happened because our busses tire blew. It was serendipity at its finest.
Other tips/advice you’d like to share?
Go in to any adventure with an open mind and no expectations and that’s when you’ll get the most out of any trip you do. Have confidence in yourself and remember why you are where you are and how you got there. And words of advice from my family to anyone reading this: seize every opportunity.
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