Welcome to the Solo Female Traveler Series! This series features solo female travel experiences drawn from across the globe, featuring long and short-term travels and moves abroad. If you’ve ever thought to travel to Latin America, this interview is for you! While Dora reflects on many other travel experiences, we aim to share her experiences as a solo female traveler in Latin America.
Taking on the globe as a solo female can be a daunting idea to take action on and I hope that with a diverse group of stories, we can inspire women from all around to take on their global goals no matter what they are.
Today I’m pleased to introduce one of the many inspiring solo female travelers I met in Central America…
Dora! From Montreal, Canada.
1. What’s your name, where are you from, and how old are you?
My name is Dora and I’m from Montreal, Canada. My parents are from Nicaragua! I am 30 years old. Woop woop 😊
2. In your current (or most recent travels), where did you go and how long did you travel?
I visited many countries in the past such as Italy, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey but my latest highlight was my backpacking adventure around Latin America.
I planned to visit many countries in Latin America for 1 or 2 years. I started with Panama in October 2019.
I went to Nicaragua in December 2019 and I left at the end of February 2020 to visit Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, I stayed only 1 week as it was a bit expensive for my budget.
Then I went to the Dominican Republic. I wanted to stay there for 2 or 3 months but ended up only staying a week because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I came back to Montreal mid-March.
3. What inspired this journey?
I was working as a procurement agent for an aircraft manufacturer and had 3 weeks of vacation per year. After a couple of years working, I realized 3 weeks of vacation was not enough for me to visit all the countries I had on my list, and most importantly spend quality time with myself alone and with the locals as well.
I also wanted to take this opportunity to do the things I didn’t have time to do when I was working in Montreal, such as dancing and reading.
4. From your experiences, what are the biggest lessons you learned about yourself?
I belong to myself and wherever I am. I will stay true to myself as much as I can.
This trip put me to the test, and I was glad to see I was able to adapt to different places and rules persons but I didn’t lose myself in this wonderful and challenging journey.
5. What about the biggest lessons you learned about the world and the cultures you visited?
If I talk about my last trip, I believe that I have a better understanding why my parents act in certain ways.
For instance, I understood why they keep many things they don’t use often even if the house can look cluttered. I already knew why but I lived different experiences this time in Latin America. I saw other people living in scarcity and understood the “real” cost for them to buy new things.
My parents don’t come from rich families nor from the capital. Therefore, not only some items can be very, but they can be hard to find. Knowing how hard it is to get a job, you might have a tendency to keep everything you buy in case you will need it in the future.
Reading it is so different from seeing it and I stayed long enough to see how common this is.
6. What is one or are some of the most memorable moments or events during this journey?
I had the chance to celebrate the birthday of an 8-year-old girl who became my friend during my stay in my Airbnb in Diriamba, Nicaragua. We spent the whole day together and she was so happy.
I invited her and her grandmother to a Chinese restaurant in Jinotepe, next to Diriamba. Then we went shopping. We saw a pharmacy where they were face painting kids. We were so excited that we got our faces painted. After shopping, we went back to Diriamba, her family bought her a “piñata” and a cake to celebrate all together.
It was nothing fancy but I believe she will remember that day as a very special day!
7. If you had to give a piece of advice to women wanting to travel but aren’t certain, what would you say?
– Read about the culture but don’t assume everything is true. You must go out, see by yourself, and live your own experiences!
– Buy a SIM card in every country you visit to make sure you have Internet connection wherever you go and you can make calls anytime you need to.
– Download the map of the city where you’re staying to look at it offline in case there’s no Internet.
– Learn how to say “thank you” in the language of the country you’re planning to visit.
– Be ready to listen to people with different opinions than yours and take it as an opportunity to understand cultural differences and not as an attack.
8. Being a woman can suck sometimes — did you ever have any negative experiences that stemmed from cultural norms around gender and what did you do about it?
When I went to Morocco (I was traveling with a group though), I had to be careful with what I was wearing… I didn’t like that. I’m so used to the freedom that I have in Montreal.
I still decided to follow the rules like covering my knees when I went outside. It was my choice to follow their rules, nobody forced me to visit this country. I still had a great time!
9. Traveling solo can get lonely! What did you do to combat loneliness and what are your best tips to make friends?
I prepared myself very well mentally to feel comfortable with the fact of traveling alone. I don’t think I would have planned to be a solo traveler for 1 or 2 years if I wouldn’t be prepared for this lonely journey.
I had a couple of experiences in the past traveling solo for 1 to 3 weeks (including Georgia where almost everybody was looking at me because of my skin color but not in a mean way though). I knew how hard the challenge could be for a longer period of time.
I talked to some of my friends that traveled for months, listened to podcasts, and watched Youtube videos about this topic and entrepreneurs. Yes, entrepreneurs’ interviews as I admired their courage to present and defend their ideas, and their ability to stand alone.
This helped me to stay true to myself and know that the only person that I need to have by my side at the end of the day is me, no matter where I will be in the world! Only me!
About making friends, I believe that, just like anywhere in the world, you need to know a bit about the culture of the city or country you’re visiting. You adapt your personality in accordance with what you read and your perceptions on site, but you don’t have to change who you are.
Authenticity is key! Most of the time, nice people will come to you or you will recognize who they are and you will go and meet them.
I have to say that I’m more an extrovert than an introvert. Talking to strangers is not an issue at all!
10. Did you ever face issues with a language barrier? If so, how did you handle it and how would you encourage others to travel if in a similar situation?
Yes, and it was great! I went to the country of Georgia in 2014.
At the time, Georgia was not very touristy which means that they didn’t translate their street signs and menus from Georgian to English. When I wanted to order food, I ordered from the pictures they would have in their menus.
When I wanted to negotiate with taxi drivers, I had to show the location where I wanted to go on Google Maps, type the price I was willing to pay on the calculator on my cell phone and negotiate that price with hand gestures!! Just thinking about it makes me laugh, haha!
11. What meal still makes your taste buds tingle?
Well, I love dessert and I can’t stop dreaming about the Dominican “Majarete”. It is like a “corn pudding,” such a delicious discovery!
12. Any last words?
Thank you for inspiring young women to travel. I had a lot of fun answering your questions, Kayla. It allowed me to look back at my pictures and memories during my confinement. I wish you all the best in Taiwan!
My response: Thank you so much Dora for answering my questions — you are one of many, many solo female travel inspirations and I’m so glad I could meet you! Someday we will cross paths again 🙂
A special thanks to Dora for sharing her story! You can follow her updates from Montreal here on Instagram.
For more solo female travel inspiration, check out our page dedicated to women who take on the world!