Are you planning to travel the world solo once the pandemic is over? What's it like traveling solo if you're a woman?
In this episode, Gabi Brody, an experienced traveler, and travel coach shared her adventures traveling alone in today's world. She shared some tips on the beautiful places to go, beaches to surf, couch surfing, saving a ton of money during the trip, and so many essential information that will help anyone interested in traveling solo.
Gabi also documented all of her travel in her vlogs.
Social Media Profiles:
- One year traveling—why?
- What did you learn about yourself?
- What did you learn about others?
- Best moment?
- Worst moment?
- Your photography is amazing—how do you set up the shots, and what equipment do you use?
- Rio carnival?
- Top three places on your list?
- How are you dealing with COVID?
- Do you feel safe traveling alone?
- Who is one person you met on your trips that you wish you had more time with?
- Did we miss anything?
Location: San Diego, California
Hello, hello, hello, everyone! Today, I have Gabriella Brody with me today. And I'm very excited to talk about anything that she would like to expose and I just love the year around the world trip that she did. So Gabi, you want to introduce yourself and let us know who you are and where you're from?
Sure, yeah. So I've been living in San Diego for almost 8 years now and originally from the East Coast but basically, decided when I planned to move out here that I wanted to learn how to surf. And so I'd only been once before ever in my life. I did a lesson in Brazil years ago and then pretty much started learning how to surf when I moved out here. I'm actually working as a surf instructor right now in San Diego.
And before I returned back to San Diego, I was traveling around the world and surfing wherever I got the chance to so...
Awesome. So from what I can see from the Instagram page, you did a 1-year trip around the world. Is that what you did?
Yeah, it was just a little bit over a year, like a year and 3 and a half months about.
Wow. And how did that even come to you? Did you have a friend that did it or did you read about it? How did that arise in your life?
Well, I've always loved to travel and I did have a couple of friends that also had traveled around the world previously that I had met through the couch surfing community. I'm not sure if you're familiar with that.
Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that for people who don't know.
Sure. So basically, it's a community of people who love to travel. And the whole premise behind it is that when you travel to a place, instead of staying at a hotel or a hostel, you can stay with the local. And so you get a complete local experience, you stay with them at their home, they can take you out or give you tips as far as where to go but that way it's not so touristy and you really get to know the people that live there, to the places you're visiting.
That's amazing. So it's interesting. I also took a year trip around the world. My trajectory was a little bit different than yours, but I went on this 2-week vacation to Bali and I met this guy, this Australian guy. And I was like, "I'm so proud of myself." I was like, "Yeah, I just got 2 weeks off. I'm here in Bali, blah, blah, blah." He's like, "Dude, 2 weeks? I'm travelling for a year." And it wasn't before that moment that--I now looked at him and I was like, "Dude, is that even possible?" He was, "It's totally possible." So good on you for doing that.
Thanks. Yeah. Basically, it was over the corporate world and wanted a break and just decided to start saving up so that I would basically be able to take advantage of getting to travel to more places because it's hard to do that when you only have 2 or 3 weeks of vacation a year. So that way I could take advantage and once I was in 1 country in Europe, see everything else close by and same with South America.
And how did you pick the schematic? Because you went to Europe and then South America, from what I could tell.
Right, yeah. So I had a very rough plan of where I wanted to go but the 2 main things was just knowing what I wanted to see as much as I could within Europe and South America. So instead of just doing a few countries on each continent, I was really trying to see as much as I could in each area, in each region. And those are really the ones that just grabs my interest the most. So I pretty much just found the cheapest ticket I could find to Europe one way and ended up finding one to Norway. So it works out convenient that that was all the way north and then I could just work my way south and just really just go from one border then to the next like that.
Wow, so you started in Norway. That's awesome. That's where my ancestors are from so...
That's really cool. There's a place in, I don't know exactly, it's like in a Fjord somewhere where there's supposed to be really good surf in Norway. The window's like 6 weeks long. Other than that, it's super cold all year, but I've always wanted to go there.
It would be amazing. It's just super cool, like you said, in those areas.
So did you start in Oslo or where did you start?
Yeah, I flew into Oslo. That was my very first stop on the trip.
Awesome. And then from there, where did you go?
So I did Oslo and then I made a couple other stops in Norway. Stavanger and I'm forgetting the names now.
Yeah, that's alright.
With the B...
Burn or burn? I forget the name, yeah.
Yeah, me too.
Yes, that was it, exactly. And then Sweden and Denmark and kept working my way down.
Nice. Did you get to surf in Europe at all or were you..?
Yeah, I did. It was kind of unexpected too because I didn't know entirely when I was traveling even where I would get to surf or I didn't know all the areas you even could surf. Like in the UK, for example, I didn't know they had so much surfing available in the UK.
Yeah, it's so good. Cornwall and all that area.
Yeah, exactly. But then, unfortunately, the time of year I was there, a lot of places, there wasn't really much waves so I didn't get to surf everywhere. But I ended up going in England while I was there which was unexpected, in Bournemouth which is on the coast.
Nice, nice. And from there did you get down to France?
Oh, yeah. I also did--I did the Netherlands and then France, all of the UK and Ireland and Spain, Portugal. I didn't surf in all those places, but that was some of the trajectory of the trip.
Yeah. And how did you decide? Did you do 6 months in Europe and then 6 in South America? Or was it just on the whim sort of decision?
My general goal was about 6 months in each. And then the tricky part with Europe is that at least if you're a US citizen, we have 90 days in the Schengen Zone, which is a lot of the European countries make up the Schengen Zone, which means you get 90 days total between I think, it was about 26 countries. So that made it really difficult to see a lot. So I had to work around that. And then I spent more time in the UK because they're not included in that Schengen Zone. And then I ended up going to Morocco for a little bit to also extend that time.
But I got to spend more time in South America because I didn't have that restriction. And that's how the trip kept getting longer and longer.
Yeah. And in Morocco, did you get a chance to surf?
Yeah, I did get to surf there and that was another unexpected one. But I was in the northern part of Morocco and this little beach that very not touristy at all, I was staying in a shack on the beach, but I did end up surfing there 1 day so that was fun too.
Nice. Yeah, I surfed in Taghazout, which is a little bit more in the south, and...
...waves are really good down there. Yeah. And what's it like? Did you take--you were traveling alone weren't you, this trip?
What's it like being a single woman, traveling alone in today's world?
Yeah. I know a lot of people asked me that along the way on the trip, but traveling in general and just alone, you always have to be street smart and definitely be aware of your belongings and, especially in certain countries more than others, just be always aware and alert of what's going on around you. But overall, it was an amazing experience and I got to meet so many wonderful people along the way that I feel like when you're traveling with other people, a lot of times that limits you because you tend to stick with those people. So for me, it was a really great experience and I feel like I got to do a lot for the fact that I was alone and I could just go anywhere or meet someone and that could change my trip and go to a new destination and kinda just play everything by ear.
Yeah, my trip was also alone and I totally recommend it. I think it opens up so many more possibilities and you don't go to what feels comfortable. Like if you're with somebody, you just hang out with them. So yeah, I think it's totally rad to do that. So 6 months was over and then what would you say your best moment in Europe was?
My highlight really of Europe, which was also unexpected, I feel like everything I didn't expect ended up being my favorites, but I loved Ireland and in general, I love the sun. So I'm not a fan of rainy weather, although we did have some nice weather there. But I just loved the people more than anything. They're super friendly and funny. Everyone has a great sense of humor there. So I just really loved the vibe and the culture there, and then, of course, it's so green everywhere so it's just beautiful. Everywhere you go, there's rolling hills just covered in grass. So I really liked it.
Wonderful. And your worst moment in Europe?
I can't think of something specific in Europe. There are a lot of things that came up where it was change of plans or last minute, something didn't go the way that I expected, but I always found a way to work around it. So everything I feel like always sort of worked its way out in the end.
Awesome. So then you--what was the first country you landed in South America?
In South America, I started in Colombia. So that was the start of my trip.
In that portion of the world.
Yeah. And how did you like Colombia?
I liked it. People also were friendly there. Tourism's newer over there in South America because obviously, things have changed a lot over the years. So they're still excited to have people visit, whereas other places are over tourists in the area. But overall, I had a good time there and met a lot of different people that were friends of friends of the family. And just everyone was super welcoming and just trying to help you out any way they could, which was cool.
Yeah. And then you go to Brazil after that or where...?
Not right after that. I actually ended up going to Panama because I had been to most of Central America before but missed Panama and that was close by. So I ended up going there next before returning to South America.
Wow. Did you go by sea or because of the Darién Gap..
..it prevents, right? A lot of people don't know that. You can't actually drive between Panama and any country in South America because of this really dense forest called the Darién Gap.
Yeah, I was looking into taking a boat there, sailing. They have trips that you can go between Panama and Colombia and it's usually around 5 days. But in the end, I ended up flying there because it was quicker and then I was going back to the States over the holidays so I only had so much time and that just got me there quicker. So I did end up flying to Panama.
Cool. Did you like Panama?
Yeah, I really liked Panama. They have so many beautiful islands over there, so I got to check out a lot of different islands. That was also one of the places that I got to surf. In Bocas, in Panama.
Yeah, great wave.
So that was really fun there. And I really enjoyed that island. Had a really cool vibe, too.
Nice, nice. Then after Panama, where to?
We're following you around the world.
So after Panama, then I flew to Ecuador.
Yeah. I really liked Ecuador as well. I feel a lot of people don't know about it or skip over it, but I really enjoyed it. It was one of my favorites, I would say, in South America. And then I did get to surf in 2 locations there, which was also really awesome. So I got to go to the Galapagos, which was amazing. And that was also one of my other favorites of the trip in South America.
Yeah, I actually surfed out there.
Yeah. I took my surfboard and then went out to, you have to walk into the park and I was the only one around surfing. And of course, there were a lot of critters in the water, too. There are everywhere but it was great.
That was actually my favorite experience, surfing the whole trip and also another unexpected one because I didn't even know you could surf there. I just went because I heard it was amazing. And then I ended up having one of the best times there on San Cristóbal, and there were just 2 of us out in the water. No one else was there. The waves were amazing and it was so much fun. I really enjoyed that.
And all the animals is the trip, isn't it? All the animals they come really close to you like...
Yeah, they're everywhere.
...they've never seen a human before. It's awesome. That's really cool you got to go there.
Yeah, I love that. And then I also got to go to Montañita, which is another beach surf town in Ecuador. And that was fun, too. The waves weren't great, at least when I was there, but it was just a fun place to visit and walk around and hang out. They're known for partying a lot, but it was just a nice beach town. I liked it.
Nice, nice. Then Peru, of course, right next to it, right?
Yup, yup. I ended up going to Peru next. Most of the time I was buzzing around everywhere. So I really only flew if I had to. Was mostly just taking the cheapest way to get around.
Yeah. But I got to go to Organos which is near Mancora, which is in the very north of Peru, for surfing. And I was couch surfing there. I couch surfed most of my trip actually, but when I couch surfed there, I was staying with some people that had a little surf shack and they rented out boards.
So that was super convenient. I got to use one of their boards and go surfing there. And then a friend of mine had also on a trip prior been to Chicama. So after I heard about that, I had to go there, so that was the 1 destination purely for surfing that that was the sole reason that I went there. So that was fun, too.
Yeah. For all you left handers out there, goofy footers, that is, I would say, one of the best left hand waves in the world. I have really fond memories of that place.
Yeah, I loved it. The only thing again, when I was there, I think it was in the prime season. So you had to go really, really, really far walking down to the left of the beach to even get to where the waves were breaking. So it ended up being a 45-minute walk just to get down there to where you could catch the waves. And then, of course, 45 minutes walking back. So, a lot exercise.
I remember when I was there, there's that one fancy resort on the cliff and they had a boat so all of us were walking and then like that 1 resort had, they had a small little boat going back and forth with the guys and the girls that were staying there. That was classic. That's a great way for everyone out there. That's awesome. I love Peru. Peru is a great travel destination.
It's just hard with the food because I feel like once I hit Peru and Bolivia then you're constantly worried about what you're eating. And as far as digestion and everything goes, it's not quite the same.
I'm a vegetarian. I've been one for years. So some of those places are really hard in Peru. In fact, in Chicama, I can remember going to the store and buying some fresh vegetables and beans and rice and taking it to the cooks in the restaurants. And because they would normally cook with lard and...
...others I didn't want. So as long as I brought them the ingredients, they were fine with it, which I thought was...
That's really cool.
..very gracious. Very gracious. So that's really cool. So Peru and then what was next?
So after Peru, I went inland so I went to Bolivia from there.
And then worked my way down to Argentina. And then from Argentina, I went to Chile and then it was actually really interesting because during my trip, I wasn't planning to go to Brazil because I had been there before and my visa had already expired. So I decided, "Okay I'm not going to go back and pay for the visa again." And while I was traveling, the rules changed and US citizens no longer needed a visa to go to Brazil.
So I ended up making my way from Chile and flying to Brazil just so I could squeeze that in on the trip, too.
Awesome. Yeah, I saw your pictures from Rio, the Carnival. And that the Carnival time is just--anybody who would like to visit the best party on the planet, they have to go to Brazil during Carnival.
Yeah, definitely. It's so much fun.
It is insane. Yeah, that's awesome. And I was looking at your photography's so good on your Instagram page. How did you--because it looks like a lot of the shots, they weren't just selfies like you set up for the shot. So kind of walk me through how you were thinking about that and how you did that.
Well, it just depended what it was. I was using just my iPhone on the whole trip because it's just too much to bring a separate camera.
And then I would, through the phone, make whatever edits I needed to just possibly brighten the picture a little bit. But most of the time, if they were panoramic type of pictures or scenic things like that, I would just use my phone to take the shot. If it was a picture of me, I would ask people here and there or if I was with someone at the time to take the photo. But I like photography. That's always been a big hobby of mine and I love traveling. So combining the 2, I'm always taking pictures when I travel.
You have a great eye. So that's definitely an area that you should dig into because...
If you were to--I thought you were taking those on a professional camera. It looked like you were setting up and then putting a tripod.
I actually didn't use a tripod at all on my trips. So I think if I needed to, I would just kind of use what was around me to lean on something if I had to. But mostly I was just taking it solo, just using my hands.
Yeah. Wow, it's amazing. Cool. So what was--because when I look back on my trip, we travel, it's an outward journey, but it's also an inward journey, right? You're alone, you're spending so much time with yourself. If you feel like going there, what are some of the things that you learned about yourself or about life that you probably wouldn't learn had you not taken that journey?
Yeah, I think it's always such an eye-opener traveling around the world and getting out of your comfort zone. And I know that's hard for a lot of people, but I personally love to always push myself there and challenge myself, and traveling is a great way to do that. So just seeing the way other people live and then again, getting to couch surf so you really do get to meet locals and experience their way of life and see what it's like to live in their home and all those sorts of things. It definitely made me appreciate my life even more because I feel like here we have so much and of course, so often take it for granted. And then in other parts of the world, they have so little in many places and they're fine with what they have and they're content and they're happy. And it's just a lot, it's more of a simple way of life that I think we forget about, getting back to the roots.
So I definitely was just even more appreciative of everything that I've been given in my own life and my own opportunities. Like a lot of people, what I would tell them that I was traveling, they would be like, "Oh, I would love to do that. But there's no way, I could never afford to do that." or "How did you do that?" And I saved up for a while. But at the same time, they were like, "That would take me so many years to be able to save, to travel."
And it definitely just makes you very appreciative of what you have in life. And again, not to take it for granted and just opening up to people, sharing your story and listening to others, and making those connections. Yeah, it was a great experience altogether.
That's awesome. And did you--obviously now things are a lot different, right? Like you, I love to travel. I travel multiple times a year for surfing. But now we're hit with COVID. So how are you handling that? And are you planning any trips or what do you...
Yeah, definitely I haven't been traveling much since I've been back from the trip. If anything, they've been more short local weekend type of trips. And then on the one hand, because I also, part of that, I guess, light bulb moment after traveling was not wanting to go back to just getting a regular desk job and going through the grind and the day to day, 40-hour workweek, I really was just wanting to do something that I enjoy.
And so that's what got me to working with the surf school, which I enjoy. But then on the other hand, of course, it's not the highest paying job, which makes it harder to save to travel. So there's always a catch-22. And then with COVID now, it's like no one can really travel anyways so I'm almost in the same boat as everyone else with that circumstance. But I'm hoping just over time again I'll be able to save up some more money and then hopefully next year things will be a little better as far as COVID goes, where borders are open more and we're able to travel more.
Now, when you did that trip, did you have a budget, that daily budget? And when you were preparing for the trip, did you say, "Okay, I want 10,000 dollars in the bank and then I'm going." or did you put a date and said, "I'm going no matter what."
It was a little bit of both because originally I didn't honestly know what that would even take like how much money. And when I talked to my friend that had done it before, he saved up a lot of money. And I was thinking, "Okay, there's no way I'm going to save up that much money." But I pretty much decided I wanted to travel a little bit, a year out from when I was decided I was going to do it, a little over a year, so I was trying to figure out what I could save within that amount of time, and my goal was to save around 20,000 dollars.
So I ended up with about 17,000. But I pretty much had that date of like, "I'm gonna go beginning of May." And I bought the ticket. And whatever I have at that point, I'm going to go and then see how long that lasts pretty much.
And did it last the whole time?
Yeah, it did. I definitely found ways to stretch it out and I was definitely traveling very cheap, not spending a lot of money, I wasn't eating out a lot and again doing couch surfing that's free. So that definitely saved a ton of money and I wasn't flying everywhere. So taking long buses and things like that helped out. So it worked out for me. And I know a lot of people say this or when you meet other travelers, but people always think you need a ton of money to travel. And that's not the case. Of course, it depends how you want to travel, but there are definitely always ways to do it. And I met people that were traveling for way less than me even. So, it just kinda depends what your comfort level is as far as what you want to give up or what you're willing to do to save money and those sort of things. But there's always a way to make it work.
Yeah. I've done a couple of trips to India and once you travel through India, you realize, people can live on a dollar a day.
Wow, that's amazing.
And I met a couple girls, which is really interesting, a couple of French girls on my trip while I was in Montenegro and they were actually dumpster diving, which to many people probably sounds disgusting, but when I talk to them more about it, it was really interesting because basically, especially in Europe, too, there's just so much food that goes to waste that is tossed out from bakeries and grocery stores and food that's totally good food. It's just tossed.
So they actually hardly spent any money on food because they would go at the end of the day when pretty much they tossed out all this food that was perfectly fine and just use that stuff instead of letting it go to waste. So there's definitely so many ways you can do things if you're trying to save money while traveling.
Did you have any moments on the trip where you're like, "I'm going home. I'm done."?
No, not really. I mean it definitely got exhausting. And I was moving pretty fast because I did want to see and do so much. But at the same time, I'm just all about new experiences and I love to travel. So even when I was tired, I was never to the point of I just want to stop altogether and go home.
Did you get sick and did you have health insurance and all that or?
Yeah, I did get travel insurance. I got food poisoning once on the trip, but for the most part, I was pretty okay actually, I think. And when I was in South America and then again, like Peru and Bolivia, I feel like that's just a constant where depending on what you eat, you're just not feeling good. But then when I continued south in South America, I know there are a few times where it was more of a cold, but it just lingered forever.
But part of that was also the fact that I wasn't stopping and I was always just like, "Well, I want to keep going and I want to do this hike." So I wasn't just letting myself fully rest and recover. And so it lingered longer, but nothing serious, thankfully.
That's awesome. Was there 1 person on your trip, I just thought about this question, that you met that you wish you had more time with?
Yeah, well, I'd probably say that one of my closest friends, although we did end up spending more time together than anyone else on the trip, but she is Argentinian and we met in Brazil. So we ended up getting to travel together for a little while, but we were definitely sad to leave each other and I know that's one of those people that I'll see again at some point. But she was a really good friend from the trip.
Nice. And you're giving surf lessons now in San Diego proper or where...?
Yeah, in Pacific Beach.
Sweet. Good. Has there been any swell lately?
It's been pretty small lately, but there's still enough to get out there. It's always fun just getting out there.
Nice. And you have so much great content with all the photos and I saw you had started a vlog at some point. Are you thinking about continuing that on your next trip or...?
Yeah, I have thought that, and again, it's hard to say right now, but if I were to do another big, long trip, then I would want to continue that because it was something really nice to share with friends and family at home can follow along on your trip. And also, even now, I'm still going back through my videos and watching them and kind of reliving my experience. So it's really nice to have that to look back.
Yeah. And what are the top 3 locations on your hit list right now?
As far as where to go next?
I'd really love to go to Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, that whole part of the world. I'd really like to see more of it because I haven't been over there for the most part.
Yeah, you'll love it. You'll love it. Awesome, Gabi. Did we miss anything? Is anything else you want to say or..?
I think we covered about everything, in general.
Awesome. I really appreciate you coming on and I'll link you up and in the show notes for anyone that wants to know more about you and yeah, just appreciate you sharing your journey with us.
Oh, great. Yeah, it was my pleasure. It's a lot of fun.