Karen is a globe-trotter and travel agent who can make your travel dreams come true. Her personal travels have taken her to over 50 countries, spanning six continents, and in a variety of travel styles from adventure backpacking (both independently and with a group), budget travel, packaged tours, luxury travel, and solo globetrotting. She is behind the inspiring blog and website: Solo World Wanderer.
Introduce yourself: what do you do and where do you come from?
My name is Karen, and I am from San Francisco, California!
When did you start traveling?
I started traveling at a young age. When I was 15 or 16, I finally convinced my parents to take me to Europe. The one caveat was that I had to book and plan the whole trip. This was before the days of the internet, so I researched fares through the Sunday travel section and rang up travel agents myself.
What was your favorite travel experience?
Just one? Over landing in Sub-Saharan Africa, visiting the more off the beaten path parts of Sri Lanka. Exploring Spain’s small towns and villages, also off the beaten path.
Which place(s) do you want to go next, why?
I think India and Nepal will be the next “big one.” Sri Lanka prepared me for India, and I love Indian food. I want to experience the culture, colors, smells, and people first hand. And Nepal just looks amazing with its national parks and Himalaya scenery.
Who do you prefer traveling with?
Solo! I will sometimes take a short trip with friends, or do a trip with G Adventures to a country that I don’t want to travel solo in (or don’t have time to plan), but I prefer solo travel. Traveling on my terms without compromise.
What is your main concern when traveling solo?
Prices. It is cheaper to split costs on certain things such as rental cars and hotel rooms. I am too old for shared room hostels, so I always spring for a private room.
What is your worst travel memory? Or country you would not recommend for solo women travelers?
My last time in Central America was a really tough go. While I loved Panama, Costa Rica, and El Salvador, I had no travel chemistry with Guatemala. It is also a place I do not recommend as I was constantly harassed there. I am quite well traveled and have been to plenty of developing countries, but Guatemala did nothing for me, and for one of the only times ever, I was excited to get on the plane to leave.
What would you recommend to solo female travelers who want to explore the world?
If it is your first solo trip, start with a place that is more familiar (culturally) or has an established travel scene. Most European countries or Thailand are both great places to start. Also, less is more. If you only have a week or two, don’t try to cram in multiple countries. Slow travel is so underrated, and it really gives you a chance to explore a new place in-depth.
I’ve read your article on digital nomads: can you tell me more about it? When did you start being a digital nomad? In which country have you been living as a digital nomad? What is the ultimate advice you would give to someone who wants to be a digital nomad?
I first started with the digital nomad lifestyle nearly seven years ago. I took an ob with Airbnb, and at the time, 90% of their hires were hired on as remotes because the office space was small (and they were seeking worldwide talent). Most of my colleagues eventually started working in the office, once they got more office space. But not me! I was already starting to love “the world is my office” culture so much, and did not want to give that up. During my six years at Airbnb, I worked from four continents and several different countries. It was a dream. Last June, I left that job for more flexibility and to really focus on my own travel consulting company.
Ultimate advice: if this is the life you crave, make it happen. Look at your strengths, your professional background, and find a way to make that remote. Whether it is finding a job with a company that will allow you to work remotely, freelancing, or starting your own company, there are many ways to make it happen. But it is so important to play on your strengths and professional background. I’ve seen many digital nomads try to freelance in areas that they have no professional experience in. A few countries I’ve worked from: Spain, Argentina, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Italy… there are more!