Meet Alejandra, Ecuadorian Female Traveler

Introduce yourself: what do you do and where are you from?

I’m a 25-year-old Ecuadorian graphic designer currently based in Hamburg, Germany. I do infographics for websites and newspaper, so pretty dry stuff to earn a living. In my free time, I love to travel and experience new things, so I try to either go on a trip or do something new and challenging every month.
I graduated from Art School in 2016 and following that, started a job in Hamburg. A steady pay-check allowed me to visit over 10 European countries since then. When I’m not traveling, I challenge my body or my mind by joining a high-intensity interval training or visiting a museum, an art class, or going on a sketch walk.
I love to travel, I love discovering new places and people. I love learning about others and their past. I love sitting around somewhere and drawing what I see. If you want to laugh, check my visual rants on my Instagram

When did you start traveling?

I started traveling at a very young age. My mom is from Honduras and my dad is from Ecuador so they would make an effort and save money every year to go visit my mom’s family at least every couple of years. I must have been around 2 when I took my first international flight. 
Between the age of 8 and 15, I attended a German school. As they offered a student exchange program, when I was 13, I took my first transatlantic flight to live in Germany with a host family for 7 weeks. When I turned 15, we moved to Mexico because of my dad’s job and as I turned 18, we all moved to Germany.
That same year, together with my cousin, I took my very first parent-free trip to Italy and France. At 19, I moved to Hamburg for school. Yet, after failing horribly, I moved to Lübeck with my sister and worked there as a waitress whilst studying Graphic Design. I started taking solo or ‘solo-ish’ trips for my birthdays.
2017 was for me the year of travel and it all started with spending the last few days of 2016 in Paris. Right after that, I took my 80-year-old grandmother to Portugal and France, went to the Czech Republic together with some friends, and later on escaped the G20 craziness by hopping over to Poland. In the following months, I went to Belgium to work on a children’s book with a friend, traveled to Austria, Slovakia, Spain and finally ended in the Netherland to celebrate Christmas and NYE.

What was your favorite travel experience?

There are way too many. From seeing Hunchback whales in Ecuador to searching through the city of Valencia looking for (and actually finding) a friend’s bag with her passport and camera while fighting a killer hangover. 
An experience that I hold close to my heart was in Manchester. I went there for my 25th birthday and after celebrating with bachelorette parties at a Drag Club called the Birdcage, I ended up stuck in the main station for two hours waiting for a train to take me to the airport. The station was packed with drunk people and I was a bit nervous and out of money so I sat next to a very very tanned older woman who turned out to be a 60-year-old motorcycle junky that just spent a month in Isle of Man driving around and attending various festivals. We talked for hours and hours about everything and anything until we went our separate ways at the Airport. I had such a great time exchanging stories and learning so many things from a woman that had almost nothing in common with me. 

Which place(s) do you want to go to next and why?

My next trip at the end of the month is taking me to The Netherlands to attend a SofarSounds Event. After that I want to go back to England – I have been there twice but for some reason never to London. Also on my list are Luxemburg and Switzerland since they are the only two countries with direct borders to Germany that I haven’t yet visited. I would also like to go to Ireland for my 26th birthday.

Who do you prefer traveling with?

I love traveling with friends and family, but I love traveling solo just as much. Those are two completely different experiences. When you are traveling with friends and/or family, you strengthen relationships and create memories that you will treasure forever. At the same time, you also have to adapt to what others want and you can’t really do your own thing. In the end, it can also get a little exhausting to spend every single minute of your day with someone. 
I love traveling solo because I can decide what to do and when I do it. I met a lot of really cool people when I’m on my own, something that wouldn’t happen when traveling in a group. Of course, there are moments when it can get a little lonely but then, I just take out my sketchbook and start drawing the first thing I see. That’s my way to fight that feeling of loneliness with my passion for art. I believe that when you travel on your own, you are more present in the places you visit and learn the most about them and yourself.

What is your main concern when traveling solo?

Finding a safe place to sleep. I’m not naive, I know that a woman traveling alone is a target for some people but I keep my wits about me and follow my gut. My biggest worry is finding a safe place when I’m at my most vulnerable: when I’m sleeping. I always try to find somewhere central so getting there and leaving is as easy as possible – and in case things go south, I have other options nearby.

What is your worst travel experience? Or any country you would not recommend for solo women travelers?

My worst traveling experience was in Austria in November 2017. I had just arrived in Salzburg with one of my best friends, it was late so we went straight to the hostel I booked for us. It was a chain, pretty okay place, a bit creepy because of the super long halls but good enough. We booked two beds and ended up in a room for 6.  We were tired from walking hungover through Vienna all day so we had a beer and went to bed at around 12.
At 2 am, the hostel nightmare started. Four people came barging in, left their stuff and walked out of the room. Three came back at around 5 am, all very drunk and very loud. The guys kept wrestling, the girl kept screaming and playing music wanting to keep the party going. One guy went to sleep, another tried as well but the girl kept slapping him to keep him awake. The last guy of the group entered the room and started telling people to go to sleep but they kept being loud. The nightmare continued early next morning when it was time to wake up. This was easily my worst experience at a hostel but I’m grateful it ended up being just annoying. 
Of the countries I have visited, all were good for solo female travelers. However, since I come from Latin America, I know that not everywhere is safe.

What would you recommend to solo female travelers who want to explore the world?

1. Always have plan A, plan B, and plan C.
2. Keep your wits about you! Always assume super friendly people have an ulterior motive, it’s better to be wrong about them and be pleasantly surprised than to end up in a bad situation because you trusted a stranger.

3. Always know how to get out of a situation, know where the exit is and how to get to a safe location.
4. Always let someone know where you are and make sure people know about it. A friend of mine met up with a guy at a bar and showed him how she checked-in her location on Facebook and that people knew where she was. A couple weeks later she found out the guy was drugging people in bars.
5. Walk with confidence and purpose.
6. If something happens, keep calm and only fall apart when everything is over. Very few things can’t be fixed, you can always make more money, buy a new phone or get new documents. Keep yourself safe, there is only one of you out there.
7. Restaurant bathrooms are an excellent place to hide and airports are a good place to sleep in.

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