A solo female adventure blog by Serena Coady. Serena Coady is a human lady who has written for some of Australia's most beloved publications since not bothering to finish her communications degree. Beyond Luna, Serena's hopes are simple. She dreams of making it to Eurovision.
Most nights, I drive to the gym late. It’s a 24-hour gym, ghetto as all hell, but there are less gawking types after 8pm. Yep, 8pm is considered late in my city.
Tonight I went at 8.30pm. Way to outwit my routine, I know. I had spent eight hours at work, two hours volunteering and an hour on the phone to someone who might as well have been asleep. I needed time to myself. I felt like feeling alive without having to answer to others.
After making ape-like breathing faces by four walls of floor to ceiling mirrors, beads of sweat absolutely savaging one of the most tasteful sports shirts I own, I shuffled into my car. The familiar odyssey of gym, night reveries and home begins.
Every night when I leave the gym, I feel formidable. It’s a three-minute thing. A soft yet aggressive sensation, as if I could charge off into the night but also float off course on a rogue wind. The few minutes driving home are never enough. I want to keep going.
Tonight, the need to keep driving past my street, out of my city and out of my life hung in my chest. But home I went. I parked my car, and just sat there.
The outlines of the trees sloped over me, black leaves peppering the salmon clouds in the night sky. A possum could tear through my open window, unleashing its infant to shred my hopeful face.
It would feel like defeat to admit that I’m not happy, but in my still car, could I say it?
The past two years felt good. Not exactly peak season, but good. These days, I feel tied to a love so far away, in heart and by country. And I ache to feel scared on a daily basis at work, and I don’t, so I work myself up into thinking I’m not challenging myself enough. Tied into this poop pile is this feeling of being tethered to a city I feel I’ve outgrown, even though it feels like I’m betraying this easy utopia of a place just by saying that.
This fills me with dread because I feel like it might get worse and I won’t be able to stop it. At least for a while.
Maybe I don’t want to stop. Maybe this constant uneasiness will compel me to take a leap, the kind of fuck-it-do-it move 20-year-old me lived for. But for now, I’m still sitting in my car.
The light comes on out the front of my house, and my housemate emerges with a hearty bundle of rubbish. I had forgotten, tonight’s my night to take out the bins.
Cameroonian-American blogger and lawyer Cyn travels NYC and beyond looking like a damn dream. I can barely put a look together out of my home wardrobe (let alone a suitcase!) so Simply Cyn is a constant source of “You’ve got this” when packing.
Trisha frames her travels with her proud and distinct Filipino perspective, writing about travelling the world when your parents ge don’t want you to, reverse culture shock and why #YOLO is overrated. She also has an empowering “Dear Girls of the World” series which involves various travel bloggers debunking travel myths for female travellers through their own experiences.um
Bani Amor @ Everywhere All The Time baniamor.com
Bani Amor is badASS. The queer Ecuadorian writer unpacks major travel issues through sharp feminist argument and captivating narratives. Bani’s blog is refreshing as it looks beyond the pretty pictures and endless destination listicles. Their piece “The link between tourism and settler colonialism in Hawai’i” set me off on a wild writing spree, prompting me to explore my own experiences as a culturally diverse woman abroad.
Being a fellow hiker, I was quickly drawn to Victoria’s work. But it’s through her unique voice as a translator, an immigrant and a sufferer of chronic illness that she really opens up the conversation and allows readers to explore an entirely different take on travel. Her piece “I’m a Latina who hikes” says a lot about the surprising social privilege of being able to hike.
Oneika’s blog has all the elements of a travel blog, except with more opinion pieces. Her posts weave immersive travel storytelling with social conscience and reality checks, coz let’s face it, getting paid to travel the world is bonkers and isn’t always entirely relatable. Oneika’s post “Stop pretending everyone can travel” provides a sharp take on travel privilege.
Swazilander Welile knows the meaning of life. Regular travels, spicy food and coooold tequila. Before you get into her detailed stories and colourful photography, ensure you don’t have an empty stomach or any flight booking tabs open. Temptation awaits, earnest traveller.
Are there any bloggers I’ve missed? Leave me a comment.
I don’t feel like I’ve seen a city unless I’ve scouted out the best rooftop. I know that’s totally something a rat or a pigeon or a chimney sweep in a musical would say – and yea, I’m a spicy combination of all three – but give me a minute, and you will be convinced. Moreover, you will be convinced to the point of tap-dancing on foreign rooftops with me.
I love how rooftops can strike perspective in the mind of a weary traveller, fresh off the plane with a desperation to find oneself in a new and unfamiliar city. For no reason other than being bloody higher up than normal, it’s the quickest way to visually get your bearings and plot out where in the city you could see yourself.
For me, rooftops happen to be the ideal place to spot my dream hunchback swinging from cathedral bell to bell. Rooftops are also where I can make my long-awaited transition from woman to stone gargoyle.
In Prague, my thirst for the perfect rooftop was more than sated. The city’s sepia tones and uniformly gothic architecture makes it undeniably bohemian, its lack of skyscrapers means no-one’s competing for the best view. Here’s where to start.
CODA Restaurant at Aria Hotel
Enjoy seasonal wines and Czech cuisine amidst the heart of Bohemia. If there’s only one Prague rooftop you have time for, make it CODA”s. With sweeping views of Prague Castle and the Vlatva river, you’ll be a happy traveller. And it won’t just be because of the aforementioned wine. Once you’re done, venture down to Aria’s Vrtba gardens.
The Powder Tower
Be ready to powder that nose, this tower is 186 steps up. I assume this is the meaning behind the “powder” portion of the name. Prepare to see why Prague is basically one big ol’ movie set.
The Astronomical Clock
Not to be confused with the Gastronomical Cock, the Astronomical Clock is a Prague icon. Once it reopens in a few months, take the spiral staircase all the way to the top. In the meantime, wander the streets below for bustling markets, craft Czech beer and yummy trdelníks.
Head to Starbucks (yep, these buggers are everywhere!) on the Prague Castle grounds, plop on top the barrier and pose away. People will stare, but hey, they’re the ones who have come all the way to Bohemian Europe to drink a triple macca wappa soy frappicazzo.*
*I’m not much of a coffee drinker.
Your riverside digs
Jump on Airbnb.com to book a colourful rooftop apartment. These are surprisingly cheap in Prague, and it feels pretty unique to have a Bohemian rooftop all to yourself. Mine was in the yellow building!
Until I was 18, the bush fringed every home I lived in, working its way into so much of my life. When I lived in the Blue Mountains it meant gullies of opportunity for me. It also meant failure, a reminder that I squandered what at the time I believed was my life’s enterprise: to build a gum tree cubby.
When I was a little older and living in Canberra, the bush became my hideaway, my imperfect paradise, my gym, my pal. Home life wasn’t great, but I liked that within a few seconds I could be out the gate and into the bush without anyone behind me.
Most of the time I begrudged having a family that didn’t share my outdoor interests, but in these moments I felt tailor-made to this environment. In 2009 I wrote:
Crunching dry dirt
I’d sooner be barefoot
But I’ve seen a spider bite
Couldn’t tell the difference between red earth and the blood
Eucalyptus arms reach out and up
Mirrored in my mind
With aching branches my thoughts intertwine
Sent up to tangerine skies
Make for the blue hills
Iodine waves lapping
Towards a silver moon
Grazing ‘roos the only hurdles on my path
Ask me why I’m back so late
Just enjoying a red October
Headphones happily forgotten
Learned the cantata de cicada
Nowadays, I live half a kilometre from the bush. Tough life. It’s the furthest one of my houses has been from it, but this has created new opportunity, you see.
Some evenings after work, I loiter in the bush. I think I freak people out, but they’re just the night joggers and they only see me for a moment. Really they ought to focus on keeping pace and making their Fitbit orgasm. I think.
Long after the sun dips behind the Brindies, I loop through suburban streets, homebound. I watch everybody in their houses, they’re usually alone too. The way people’s routines intersect and diverge is oddly magnetic to me.
I see late dinners, backs to the window, TVs flickering on bodies shuddering over ironing boards. Makes it sound kinky, right? It rarely is. At times I wish I glimpsed somebody nude in their house. Not nude as in sexy nude, just in a lazy vanilla way.
Figures ghost past me, across the road and beneath the trees. The few others who, like me, have more business out here than in there, feeding and de-wrinkling. When they pass I don’t see their faces. Sometimes it gives me goosebumps. It’s the invisibility right in front of me that gets me.
My arms continue to prickle at every passing car. (Might I like to get that checked out by a professional of the medica persuasion?) Their headlights meaning they see me, I can’t see them. The notion that it could be just about anybody fills me with life. Do kids still log onto Chatroulette? Hope not. Nightwalks are where it’s at.
As I walk it’s almost silent. Canberra is a small place! When I do hear something it’s a cheeky kangaroo steaming it from dry bush towards curated ‘burb turf. Please don’t get hit by a car again. I’m serious.
Where I live there are no streetlights. It’s a pretty rash oversight of the council if you ask me. Or an oversight by the game designer, if I’m right – and I am – about living in a simulated reality. This dimness has meant I’ve tripped over two dogs in the past year. If you’ve ever wronged a dog before, you’d know it is considered the highest sin.
When I’m done perving on the living, swanning about in cicada-soaked air, I take inventory of the shit strewn out front the houses. Council clean-up offerings. In my town you get two a year. I don’t use up my two because I don’t buy shit. Simple!
I listen to Big Mama Thornton songs… I go a little mad. I imagine cavorting about my house, fussing over six defunct washing machines, a basketball arcade set-up and just the ass part of a swivel chair. Street-strewn items I’ve treated myself to. “You won’t tell me where you been / Whiskey running all down your chin.”
I arrive at my doorstep sans the trinkets, thank Zorp.My house is dark, empty and cozy. I’m grateful for no flickering screens.
It’s easy to feel a bit average when you arrive in Mykonos. The people of Mykonos are a mighty fine bunch. Everywhere you turn there’s perfectly browned skin and crisp white shirts. Kaftans also dominate the summer uniform of the Meditteranean’s elite. Think styles of an apocalyptic Burning Man wind smock nature, rather than an Eastern ‘burbs Camilla.
Aside from learning how to write truly out-of-character sentences about farshun, I learned to appreciate the mystique of Mykonos.
The white-washed – never thought I’d use that phrase in a positive sense – exteriors of Mykonos celestially glowed with otherworldly charm, a contrast to my home country’s red brick suburbia and taupe gum trees.
Yet this small-town idiot still had a lot to learn from the island where hedonism is a given. It’s an island of the gods, baby. Be as extra as you like.
First, I was to ditch the monk-like sack dresses and high school footy shorts I’d wear by default on lazy summer holidays.
It helped that I was travelling with my mate Breanna Espina, a ridiculous Eurasian Megan Fox / Angelina Jolie hybrid who is always immaculately styled. When we’re together, I look like her girly teen son who she would’ve needed to birth when she was 10. But her effortless, fashion-forward ways had a positive impact on me that trip.
Like always, she influenced me to make an effort, and ensure we captured these rare moments with a helluva lot of photos.
Exploring the Island of the Winds first – without taking photos – meant we could properly learn the secret and not-so-secret corners of Mykonos before we returned to attack with our cams.
Along the way we also picked up immeasurable tips, like:
Don’t wear heels. Cobblestone streets and Greece’s triple portions of alcohol are a Dionysian error.
Get your tan but definitely try to avoid heatstroke because your m8 might have to give you an ice bath and supervise you when you’re about to faint on the toilet
And for your pictures…
Go early! It’s simply the only way to achieve the calm, crowd-free aesthetic you’ve seen all over Instagram. If you’re lucky you might come across a few leftover revellers who offer you gyros and ask you to snap pics of them.
Little Venice’s alleyways
Ninnolo Ice Cream Shop
Kato Milli Windmills
Kick it at home
Little Venice waterfront
Petros the Pelican (wherever he is)
Agios Sostis Beach / Kiki’s Tavern
Follow the smell of Gyros
The cliffs of Northeast Mykonos
– – –
If you’re lost without me, follow Lost by Luna on Facebook, Instagram, orTwitter. I wouldn’t recommend my Twitter though.
Being solo in Scotland provides the perfect backdrop for adventure. Whether this quest involves living out the plot of Outlander, conquering the rugged outdoors or finding yourself at the bottom of a peaty whisky barrel, the highlands will give you fuel to dream and the freedom to act on it.
I’d travelled solo in eastern Europe and in the more dubious parts of Asia, so for me, Scotland was a solo gal’s dream. But Scotland was more than just a victor by comparison and by default, the country put me at ease in more ways than I could twirl a kilt and a crank a bagpipe at.
Here are some things to consider as a solo gal in Scotland:
Friendly, fine folks
You’ve heard it. Sunkissed and jetlagged travellers returning from their trip abroad, asserting that THIS country and THAT country “had THE nicest people, just gorgeous”, but take it from ol’ Serene (me), Scotland’s it baby.
Just reminiscing on all the Scots I met brings a smile to my hatchet face and a Gaelic pipe tune to my pit of a heart. Let’s see, there was Alastair, the lovely gent who owned the Glenfinnian property where Harry Potter was filmed, Brian, the senior cyclist who guessed my star sign and Mary, the lovely woman whose Bed and Breakfast I never wanted to leave. Plus there was the entire town of Lochcarron, a seemingly utopian village where everyone was keen to fix my flat tyre.
I’m not crazy about hostels. I’m more likely to sleep in my car than stay in a hostel if I’m travelling on the cheap. In Scotland, however, the hostel scene is something else.
Rather than having overcrowded dorms, in the far reaches of the country are what I’d call wilderness hostels, lodge-like accommodation set against a spectacular canvas of snow-capped peaks, verdantly green valleys and moody, hidden forests. While the last one might be a red flag for you as a solo female traveller, fear not, because…
Scotland is safe
While I’m not off my rocker enough to issue a blanket statement on the country – things can always go wrong – from what I experienced, Scotland is a safe place. I never felt concerned about my wellbeing while in every other country on that European trip, I had.
As you might know, English is the primary language in Scotland despite the mellifluous tones of Gaelic also being spoken. So being an English-speaking lass, I loved being able to make my way around without any language barriers.
I’ve heard a buttload of people whining about the “indecipherable” Scottish accent, but for me this wasn’t an issue at all. Perhaps it’s one of the perks of being an Aussie, having an ear for rugged accents MATE.
JUST LOOK AT IT YOU BASTARD
Scotland is beautiful, you see. The highlands’ steep, gothic coastlines, surging waterfalls and glens teeming with life are a nature lover’s playground. Despite an almost constant drizzle, farewelling Scotland was a challenge.
I’m already fixated on the idea of living on a farm in Skye soon, so that my first novel might be birthed in Scotland.
Transport is a breeze
While I can’t speak about the trains or buses, I will preach about the Scottish road trip experience till I die. There’s nothing like the freedom of having your own whip: running on your own time, spending a little more or little less time wherever you like and being able to cover way more ground.
Plus Scotland’s quality roads and regular tourist signs made driving the highlands a breeze.
I understand going solo can make it a bit expeno to rent a car, but if you keep your eye out for good offers, it pays off. One sale to check out is theAvisEnd of Season Sale. Their snazzy rentals are currently a cool 25% off, which can make all the difference. Choose your ride here.
So if I’ve convinced you – or perhaps you’re really getting into Outlander at the moment – head here for some must-visit highland destinations.
Ethereal deer-filled forests, hillsides peppered with historical castles, Harry Potter movie locations and grass that’s green on every side. Scotland is a dronie’s paradise.
A location that’s surely already on your list, Eilean Donan is the classic Scottish castle site. Arrive before 8am and have the place to yourself. If it’s a clear day? (Goooood luck finding one of those, mate.) Get there for sunrise.
If you’ve ever dreamed of running away from home and heading for Hogwarts, you’ll know this fantastical destination. Arrive before 10.30am to capture footage of the magnificent Jacobite train coasting past the loch and through the highlands.
Fondly regarded as ‘The Jewel of the Highlands’, wee little Plockton does not disappoint. The coastal town is resplendent with its lush forests, sapphire blue waters and hidden historic ruins.
Home to the tallest mountain in the UK, the glen is where you’ll get the most classically Scottish nature shots. Waterfalls, rivers and munros abound in this quietly energetic valley.
Loch Loyne Wind Farm
Pull over, stretch your legs at this picturesque spot, and send your gadget to the skies. Capturing dozens of wind turbines moving in harmony is an unexpected treat.
94% of Scotland is considered rural. So get a good car!
While your drone might go far on its own, you may not. Soz. So find yourself a sweet ride. Whether you’re after a practical 4WD or perhaps a spiffy sedan is more your style, Avis will hook you up.
I got my Mercedes from these guys and I could not have been happier. On my highland travels I covered about 900 miles (unfortunately not 500 miles, Proclaimers style) and during the long journey, comfort and practicality were a priority.
Thankfully, my Avis beast was perfect for that. The car had an intuitive interface for GPS and music, a roomy boot for all my equipment and the sleekest reclining seats. Even the window wipers automatically flung into gear when it detected a drizzle. When you get to the beautifully damp Scotland you’ll understand just how wondrous a feature this really is…
…Scotland is by no means a dry country, so:
When there’s a break in the rainfall, it’s go time. Take to the skies STAT.
Be wary of drone rules at each site.
Sites like Eilean and Glenfinnian only allow flights outside of standard business hours and with the property owner’s permission. So just be alert and respectful, and you’ll be more than fine.
To thank you for making it this far through my dribble, I’ve included a spicy treat, right at the end. Y’know, like in the closing credits of a Marvel film.
The superheroes at Avis are gearing up for their End of Season sale. If you book in before 29th September 2017 you can save 25% on the cost of your rental ride. Just ensure your pick-up is before 14th December 2017 to claim this offer.
So get your butt into gear and ready yourself for the road trip of a lifetime. Book here!
If you think I missed an opportunity to be punnier with the word Seoul, you aren’t wrong. But after all this travel time, the old brain ain’t churning like it used to, and so “Sold my Seoul” and “Seoul sister” are the only options I’m getting up in here.
Knowing I’d have only sixteen hours in Seoul, it was clear I had two options. I could either acquire one of those Hermoine time-turners to magically cover more South Korean ground, or, I could find a local to show me around. Just this once, I chose the latter.
I don’t usually go on guided tours – which is ridiculous considering my ways with a map leave much to be desired – but because of time constraints, I knew a tour had to happen.
And as my exception to the rule, This Is Korea knocked my socks off. Here’s what we did…
Incheon to Seoul central
Despite my flight being a delightful three hours late, I arrived at Incheon Airport to find my guide Matt waiting for me at the gates, wielding a sign with my name on it. The sign read: “Davidson Demelziano”, and this is the story of how I stole Mr Demelziano’s tour.
Ok. Fine. It said “Serena Coady” and if I’m being straight up, it made me feel like one of those well-loved people who arrive at the airport with an ecstatic welcoming party flanking the exits.
The journey into the city was surprisingly long, but you’d hardly know it. My guide Matt was unique in his ability to expertly tell stories without it sounding like he’d told them a million times before. He gave me a rundown of Korea, from the North/South split to the fact that Seoul has more Starbucks than any other city.
Despite me being as tired as Satan’s lazy lap cat Frank, I was wide awake thanks to my guide’s easy sense of humour and willingness to answer all of my questions about Seoul, no matter how left field some were.
While it was midnight by the time we reached central Seoul, I was determined to see at least one or two things before turning in. So in the surrounding streets of my accommodation, Matt showed me around the ethereally-lit laneways of Gangnam.
Naturally, I was not photo-ready after a 10 hour flight. Nonetheless, Matt sprung into action as chief picture-taker. I had forgotten that This Is Korea included a photo service.
Soon enough, he shuffled me onto the Gangnam Style stage for an unmissable photo op, and he whirled around finding angle after angle. His dedication to #DoingItForTheGram was a treat.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Early the next morning, we made our way to a historic Seoul village.
On the way, Matt continued with his historical tales and take on modern Korea. His English was perfect, but he drew diagrams just to help me out.
Next up was Gyeongbokgung, where witnessed the guard changing ceremony. The drumming was incredible in its precision and harmony, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want one of those skinny beard and moustache wigs.
While the cultural aspect was fascinating, the highlight was when Matt – I kid you not – slid onto the bare ground like a water snake. He wanted to snap a good angle of me and the temple. Matt, my one true Instagram Husband.
Jogyesa Temple and Korean dress-up
The final stop was Seoul’s main Buddhist temple, the nearby food spots as well as one last surprise.
After a bit of exploring – and the purchasing of a delicious waffle purposely shaped like an actual swirly turd – the thoughtful Matt took me to the Insa-dong Center where this happened:
Even though we both knew I’d never have the natural suaveness of a South Korean, I had the opportunity to dress like one.
So there it went, sixteen hours in Seoul. If you need some inspiration for your upcoming South Korea trip, visit This Is Korea on Facebook and Instagram and start planning your an adventure of your own here.