PIc of the Week: Hong Kong skyline at dusk.

Hong Kong skyline at dusk.

Hong Kong skyline at dusk.

The Pic of the Week is typically drawn from photos submitted to the Solo Travel Society Facebook Group, providing an opportunity for solo travelers to share with us a favorite photo from their travels.

However, this week’s pic is submitted by Janice It was taken on the ferry crossing Hong Kong harbor.

Solo Travel Destination: Christchurch, New Zealand

We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Heidi, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Heidi is from the United States, and submitted the following report about Christchurch. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!

Solo travel rating: (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)

Languages spoken: English

photo, image, shipping container

Brightly painted shipping containers are used for stores at RE:Start Mall.

Reasons to go:  Wow. It took some time to process all that I saw in Christchurch. It’s a city that was crushed by earthquakes, first in September, 2010 and then an even more devastating one in February, 2011, when 185 people lost their lives.

I rented a bike on a beautiful, sunny afternoon thinking I’d be able to cover more ground on wheels than walking. The friendly owner of the Vintage bike shop showed me a map, drew arrows, circled highlights, and sent me on my way.

After a cruise through the park, the first stop was the Bridge and Arch of Remembrance, honoring those who fought in World War 1. The bridge was closed, however, and a fence surrounded the construction zone. It had been damaged during the earthquake, like so many other monuments had been. Across the street is the “RE: Start Mall,” which is just a bunch of shipping containers brightly painted and sitting at various angles. Retail therapy lives, if only temporarily!

Temporary seemed to be the word of the day. The 185 White Chair Memorial sign said it was only temporary “just as life is temporary.” The “Cardboard Cathedral” was built at the temporary location for the once magnificent cathedral in the center of Christchurch. Everywhere there are fences around damaged buildings awaiting demolition and detour signs blocking the direct passage to locations on my map. I felt like I was on the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. Signs indicating the new location of businesses are everywhere, as well as “For Sale” signs. Huge holes are all that remain of entire city blocks. I imagined the shaking of the earth while I stood staring at the ruins. It lasted 12 seconds. I heard the screams, the sirens, and the buildings crumbling down. Utter chaos and fear. Dust seems to be everywhere as heavy equipment operators move rubble from one place to another.

I dropped my bike off and the friendly shop owner asked me how I liked Christchurch. All I could say was, “I feel like I want to give every resident of Christchurch a hug!” He immediately changed his demeanor and nodded. Three years have passed and the city is still in shambles. I read somewhere that they figure it will take between 20 and 50 years to fully recover.

After leaving the bike shop, I walked through Hagley Park where enormous pine and oak trees grow! Joggers and bikers were out enjoying the perfect weather. Almost instantly, I felt better. The earthy smell of fall was in the air under all those massive trees. Acorns, leaves, needles, and cones carpeted the ground along the path back to my motel. I’m glad that I spent a few days here. I contributed to their economy and absorbed some of their pain. I wish I could do more.

photo, image, white chair memorial

The 185 White Chair Memorial for those who died in the February, 2011 quake.

photo, image, construction site

Clearing way to rebuild their city.

photo, image, Hagley Park

Hagley Park is a beautiful, natural respite from the city.

Solo Travel Destination Rating System

Safety - 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)

Language - 1 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)

Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)

Culture – 1 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)

Average Rating – 1 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)



The Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide is Here!!!

Thanks to everyone who helped make this guide possible.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this guide possible. Simply click on this image or any link in the post to download.

Putting together The Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide (with the help of friends and colleagues Tracey, Simon and Ana) has really given me a chance to think about where I like to stay as I travel.

And what I’ve discovered is that I like all kinds of accommodation. I knew this before but as I was reading the listings I found myself inspired by unique hostels, curious inns, interesting hotels and luxurious resorts – yes, the full range of possibilities.

I think this is reflected very well in my last trip. In Vancouver I stayed with family – visiting family is important to me.

In San Francisco I stayed at a hostel. San Francisco is an expensive city. Staying at the hostel for 5 nights made it affordable and the location was fantastic. At less than $50 per night it was perfect.

But, when I went to LA, after having spent so many nights in a hostel, I was looking forward to something more luxurious. I used a credit that I had with Hotels.com (you earn one night for every 10 you book with them) for a $300 room at Venice Beach. I landed in that room and I was so happy – a big grin on my face. While I had been happy in the hostel dorm, the luxury of a fluffy bed and TV was pretty sweet.

All this is to say, I’m glad this Guide (click here for the FREE download) covers such wide variety of accommodation. And I’m even happier for the fact that they have been recommended by you.

Which brings me to the sponsors.

Earn one night for every 10 booked through Hotels.com

Earn one night for every 10 booked through Hotels.com



The sponsors have played an important role in making the The Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide possible. I want to give them a big shout-out and I hope that you take advantage of their services.

Hotels.com - There is a widget on the right sidebar here. Every time you use it you’ll get a good deal on a hotel room plus, after you collect 10 nights stays you’ll get a night free. And you’ll be supporting Solo Traveler because I get a small commission once you actually stay in the hotel that you booked through the blog.

Hostelbookers – As you know, I love hostels. Hostelbookers is the go-to site for booking a hostel.

Skyscanner  – Typically known as a great flight-booking engine (and I can recommend them for this) please remember that you can also book accommodation with Skyscanner.

GowithOh – Apartment rentals have become a very popular style of accommodation. Every time I put something on Facebook about accommodation people always mention this. Check out GowithOh if you want to book an apartment.

But my biggest thank you is to you, the readers of Solo Traveler. Your contribution to the Guide and your support for the blog is deeply appreciated.

You can download the Guide here.

Warm regards,





Live Creatively and Travel More – 7 ideas

At the Vancouver Meetup.

At the Vancouver Meetup. From left to right, Rebecca, Ralph, Tony, me, Zuriel and I want to say Carol but I think I’m wrong. If someone can tell me I’ll update this caption.

Last month I attended two reader meetups.

One in Vancouver. The other in San Francisco.

Naturally everyone I met loved to travel. More interestingly, many of them chose a creative lifestyle so that they could travel more.

One person lives on a boat. Another downsized their apartment. Yet another rented out her condo to support herself while on the road. Me, I have a home with two apartments in it plus my own.

There were discussions about the best credit cards for points, the merits of couchsurfing, whether hitchhiking is safe… and so much more.

The common denominator amongst us was a desire to focus on experiences in life rather than material goods. To varying degrees, we were all willing to forgo spending on stuff to support our desire to travel. In the TED Talk Life Lessons from an Ad Man Rory Sutherland says that “if you want to live in a future world with less material goods, you basically have two choices: you can live poorer … or you can live in a world where intangible value constitutes a great part of overall value.”

My interpretation of Sutherland argument is that the solution is to find real pleasure in experiences rather than things.

View from my tent - Patagonia 2011

View from my tent in Patagonia, 2011. An intangible pleasure that I’ll remember forever.

7 ideas for a creative, low-cost lifestyle.

So I’ve been thinking about creative living as a way to support a travel habit and I thought it was a subject worthy of addressing. Clearly, accommodation is the most expensive part of anyone’s life so in this post I’m focusing on our homes. I’ve written plenty on how to save money for travel, Here are a few creative lifestyle choices that can help in a big way.

  1. Take in a student from overseas: My hairdresser takes in students – one at a time. Not only does she get paid for doing so, the student often becomes her friend. When she travels to their home town, she gets a free place to stay and a free tour guide. There are agencies that arrange short-term stays for students.
  2. Rent your home or apartment for a few days at a time. I have a friend who takes in couchsurfers but also has her apartment on AirBnB. Renting her apartment a few days here and a few days there can add up to a trip. She stays with friends and family while her apartment is rented.
  3. Rent your home or apartment while you travel long term. When I took a 10-month trip with my husband and children, we rented our house to a family looking for temporary accommodation. We raised half the cost of the trip that way. You can read about how to rent your home here.
  4. Consider moving to a less expensive area. Whether you move to Thailand or Third Street, if there is a less expensive place to live, move there.
  5. Go minimal. There are many blogs out there about being a minimalist – living life with fewer things. There is even the 100 Thing Challenge. It’s beyond my ability but it would sure go a long way to saving money for travel. Check out BecomingMinimalist.
  6. Consider the unconventional. Like the houseboat scenario of one of the readers at the San Francisco meetup look for options that are unconventional. Less conventional can be a lot less expensive and a lot of fun.
  7. If you’re buying consider a multi-unit dwelling. We thought it was a temporary situation but now, twenty-six years later, I’m still in the same triplex that my husband and I bought way back when. It has carried me through lean times and made better times richer. Yes, it can be inconvenient now and then and yes I have the plumbing in three kitchens and four bathrooms to worry about but this building has paid me year after year contributing to my life that includes a lot of travel.

There are other options, such as taking in a roommate, but I was looking for some of the less common ones.

I hope these have your creative juices running.

An interesting note about language and saving.

This has nothing to add to the notion of creative living but it’s fascinating and could explain why many of us are so bad at saving money. Keith Chen, a behavioral economist suggests that the nature of our language affects our ability to save. In the TED Talk below he says that “futureless language speakers are 30% more likely to save in any given year.” If you study two families in Brussels with all the same characteristics except for the fact that one speaks Flemish and one French, statistically you’ll find that the Flemish family are 30% more likely to save than the French-speaking family. The theory is that because the future and the present are the same in Flemish, the idea of saving is more real. For those speaking languages that differentiate between the future and the present, the future has less meaning and therefore they have a lesser tendency to save. The result, the futureless language speakers will retire with 25% more in savings.