Solo Traveler Interview: Probe Around the Globe (Naomi)

Solo traveler interview series - Probe Around the Globe travel blog by Naomi

 

For this month’s solo traveler interview I am excited to introduce you to Naomi of Probe Around the Globe travel blog. Naomi is an inspiring and adventurous woman who lives in the Netherlands. Her love of train travel has taken her to some incredible locations including Tibet, Mongolia, and Turkey. Naomi geeks out on historical sites. And she recently returned from her first solo trip to Lebanon.

In this interview Naomi reveals why she doesn’t let chronic illness stop her from traveling alone, her current stage of travel planning OCD, and why she started a travel blog.

 

SM:  What is your favorite solo travel destination so far? And why?

Naomi:  It was surprisingly Iran. I had such a good travel experience and it was my best solo experience ever.

Iran was such an unexpected surprise. I’m not going to lie, I was so scared before heading out. My boyfriend didn’t like me going, everyone I spoke with said: is it safe? And I had no idea what to expect. As soon as I had my first 24 hours in Iran, all the worry and stress just slipped from my shoulders and it was a full 2 weeks of care free solo travel.

Iran was really easy to travel around. I didn’t speak two words of Farsi, but everywhere I went, friendly locals wanted to talk to me or help me. As soon as I arrived at the local bus station, people would check my ticket, guide me to the platform, show me how the number on my ticket matches the bus number etc.

I saw amazing sights, like my trip to the desert, I ate mouth watering food, like the lamb stew with pomegranate seeds and I met so many friendly locals. I’ve traveled before in countries like Morocco or Turkey, but it was nothing like in Iran. No constant harassment to buy something or look at a shop, just friendly people inviting me for a conversation and some tea. I know Iran is not for everyone, but for me, it was the most pleasant solo adventure I took!

SM: Iran is big on my list of places I want to travel. And going to a country for the first time, alone as as woman, it can be daunting, so this is good info about Iran.

 

Solo trip to Iran visiting Persepolis ruins

Taking in the sights at Persepolis in Iran

 

 

SM:  You have a boyfriend, but you travel solo too, how does that work out? Why do you travel solo sometimes?

Naomi:  Mainly because my boyfriend doesn’t have the same travel budget and amount of days off from work. But I also like to use these opportunities to travel to places he’s not interested in traveling to. For example, Iran. He would never go there in a million years but I’m very curious about the Middle East and after Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Jordan, I’ll soon head to Lebanon for a solo adventure. He doesn’t like the region and he couldn’t enjoy himself there. And I don’t think I could either, as I would feel responsible and have to watch him and myself.

It did take some time to come to peace that we don’t like the same things, as travel is my life and it hurt my feelings that he didn’t like the same things that I liked. But I don’t want to feel restrictions as to where I travel. I do miss him when I travel solo. It is nice to have him by my side on other travel adventures, to look forward to trips together, and experience them as a couple, but being able to travel solo also enriches my view on the world, that I couldn’t see it the same way if my boyfriend was with me.

SM: Well I think it’s cool that you still travel alone. Often, in relationships, people feel they can’t go travel on their own, or it simply causes too much friction within the relationship.

 

Solo female travel to Tibet - visitng Potala Palace in Lhasa Tibet

At the Potala Palace in Lhasa Tibet

 

SM:  What is your preference for accommodation while traveling alone?

Naomi: I prefer a single room with ensuite bathroom in a hostel type accommodation or guesthouse. However, I choose more and more boutique hotels when I travel to the less backpacker friendly places because I really value my sleep more than the social aspect.

SM:  I can soooo relate to you on the sleep aspect, I need my sleep, like 7 to 8 hours, or I am a grumpy girl.

 

SM:  You’ve got this great post about travel planning OCD. Briefly describe what it is and how is it going? What step are you on now?

Naomi: Ha! Funny that you ask. It seems things get worse and worse! I love to plan a trip. Maybe even more than actually going on them. (I still love it, but I love to plan an itinerary too!). Especially with the blog, I research interesting topics and potential stories before I go.

I planned my whole Lebanon trip back in October last year. I was looking forward to it. But at the moment, life has become so hectic, that I seriously doubted if I should go now. I was torn. But the idea of not completing my set itinerary, or mixing it up, or just go and not do all the things I have planned, was unbearable. So, I’ll leave for Lebanon, as planned. And, to answer your question, the travel planning OCD is in full swing and I’m afraid I’ll never be cured. Not sure if that is a bad thing (denial!) but for now it works well for me.

SM:  I think it’s great that you get so much enjoyment out of the planning stage of travel. When I go on big trips overseas I feel the same way, the anticipation is almost as spectacular as the trip, from the psychological side.

 

SM:  What is your current favorite travel gadget, gear or app?

Naomi:  I swear by Google maps. and Google in general.

SM:  I’m the same, give me my Google maps and I’m good to go. Anything else I can do without, but Google maps has saved me from a LOT of map reading errors, and u-turns, and cussing while driving. I am totally directionally challenged.

 

Train travel in Switzerland

Train travel in Switzerland

 

SM:  What is one of your biggest travel mistakes and how did you handle it?

Naomi: I went to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I flew out on Monday but arrived on Tuesday morning around 4am. I booked a hostel bed for Tuesday because that was the day I would arrive, right? But I didn’t realize, that when I showed up at 5 or 6 am after nearly 18 hours of travel, there wouldn’t be a bed available. There wasn’t even someone to answer the door as all buildings were so brand new and specifically built for the Olympics.

In the end, I found the hostel, opened the door and just went into a room to find an empty bed. Turned out I was in an all-male dorm (hence the smell). The next morning, I was moved to a different building with my female dorm bed and I slept until late afternoon.

SM: LOL I’m sorry, I do feel empathy for you, but it is funny at the same time. Also it’s just the way it goes when you are exhausted from traveling, you just flop down and sleep wherever you can….even if it’s an all male dorm…

 

Visiting the Inca ruins in Peru

Naomi at the Inca Ruins in Peru

 

SM:  You have Crohn’s disease. I know it’s unpredictable, and it impacts traveling. Please talk about how you deal with Crohn’s and give people a bit of insight into how you don’t let a chronic illness stop you from traveling around the world.

Naomi:  Yes, that is the hard part of solo travel. I got horribly ill when I was in Bolivia and all I could do was retreat in my room and feel sorry for myself. I couldn’t talk with anyone about the constant bathroom rushes (5 times an hour, every hour for 3 days!) and I felt so sorry for myself and I felt really alone. That is the reality.

But looking back now, it was only 3 days and I experienced some much needed kindness and understanding from some random strangers that helped me a little bit where they could. It made me appreciate the selfless kindness of other people, if you ask for assistance.

As I travel solo, I’m probably more aware of my condition and I spend a lot of time “inside my own head”. I mull over every possible doom scenario before I’m even close to have it happen to me. When I travel with my boyfriend, he distracts me quite a bit with his chatter and questions, which is a good thing in those moments. I do feel terribly guilty sometimes to rush to the bathroom, again, and leave him waiting, again.

SM:  I just want to say what a great resource your blog posts about traveling with a chronic disease are for others, especially solo travelers who can’t rely on a spouse or travel partner to help them out in times of need. Also, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 1988 right before a trip to Europe from Canada. But maybe it was a misdiagnosis though, because I had no problems for 25 years now.

 

 

Yurt accommodation in Mongolia

Yurt accommodation in Mongolia

 

SM:  You love traveling by train. (Naomi traveled on the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Moscow to Beijing.) Give us some tips on how to have the best experience when taking long train trips.

Naomi:  I love how time just completely faded on long train journeys. It is the ultimate challenge to not wonder where you’re going or when you’ll get there, but to enjoy the journey. That sounds very hippy-dippy, but it is true. No cellphone reception, no stimuli from the outside besides the very fleeting scenes outside your train window and just time to decompress and relax.

This was especially true on the Trans Mongolian Railway. At some point I thought I was going crazy by looking at all the birch trees passing by. Because it really is such a long journey where you pass through several time zones, you really detach from your home and everything that is there. I loved that about my big overland train journey to Tibet.

SM: Right, the time aspect is interesting, you get to let go. And no cell phone reception actually sounds quite appealing to me.

 

Solo traveler enjoying a beautiful sunset on the desert in Iran

Sunset at the Iranian Desert

 

SM:  What is your favorite train trip so far?

Naomi:  Well, the Trans-Mongolian Railway and onward journey to Tibet was epic in every sense. The length, the time zones, the different continent. It was one amazing experience to the next. But I also did really enjoy my trip from my home train station to Istanbul. Along the route of the Orient Express, I stopped at Munich, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest. It was like a whirlwind Europe trip and it was amazing too.

My most recent train journey, was when my boyfriend and I spent 2 whole weeks in Switzerland by train. We did all the scenic (luxurious!) train rides and each day was a highlight. I planned it to a tee, we had the most gorgeous September weather in human history, and we had such a good time together in Switzerland.

SM: All of these train journeys sound like wonderful adventures. After driving across Canada last year I think a coast to coast train trip would be fun.

 

Train to Istanbul from Netheralands - solo travel adventure

Taking the train to Istanbul from the Netherlands

 

 

SM:  You describe yourself as a history nerd and cheese lover. Do you have a favorite cheese?

Naomi: Mmmhhh that is a tough one. I guess any cheese that is melted. I must have the quatro formaggio pizza or pasta when I’m in Italy. I love Parmesan in almost every dish, I love old Dutch cheese on my sandwiches, and I think fresh Buffalo Mozzarella is better than sex.

SM: Haha! I love fresh mozza with fresh basil and tomato and olive oil. I read somewhere that cheese has some sort of addictive ingredient that leaves us craving more. Maybe it’s true? Right now, I’m suddenly craving cheese, a trip to Italy, and sex :)

 

SM:  And what about a favorite historical site?

Naomi:  Wow, you ask some really tough questions. Favorite historical site. I guess I cannot just name one but my top favorite sites have all the same things in common: Roman ruins like an ancient city or bigger dig, easily accessible, with good information about function and use.

Among my favorites are the ancient cities of Ephesus in Turkey and most recently Jerash in Jordan. But I also loved Empúries at the Costa Brava which is a Greek and Roman historical site! And of course, Rome. I love Rome. Last year, I’ve visited it for the 4th time and Rome really is like an open air museum of art and ancient history.

SM:  I didn’t know about Empúries at the Costa Brava, adding it to my list! I couldn’t pick just one either – Jerash is one I’d like to revisit. And Rome, I still haven’t been, that’s something I should correct.

 

Traveling solo to Jordan - visiting the Roman ruins at Jerash

Visiting Jerash Jordan Roman ruins

 

SM:  What made you decide to start a travel blog?

Naomi:  I have written down my travel adventures since my first big trip on the Trans Mongolian Railway. That was over 12 years ago, and I wrote about my experiences in life and travel. It was in Dutch and just to inform my friends and family back home. When I moved into my own home in 2015, I finally had some peace and quiet time after work and realized I missed writing things. I wanted to share my stories, but especially with a bigger audience.

I read millions of Facebook posts of people wondering the most common and simple things about travel and I felt: wow I could help those people be inspired and help make travel easier. With my blog, Probe around the Globe, I try to make travel easier and I provide practical tips and advice. I also try to show how easy and rewarding it can be, to plan things yourself, without the help of a tour or group to guide you around.

Some people think travel is too expensive for them. And it can be if everything is done on a $375 private half-day tour. But some sights and attractions are really easy to explore on your own. I hope I guide people in the right direction with my blog.

SM: With your mad planning skills and love of travel you help many people discover the fun of traveling alone – you’re a great inspiration to other wanna-be solo travelers.

 

SM:  What are a few of the destinations topping your bucket list right now?

Naomi:  That is a tough one. I’d really like to go to Argentina and Chile. And I would love to explore Canada for a summer. But Italy is always on the list. And for some reason, I just can’t seem to go to Greece although I want to go there for as long as I can remember.

SM:  Oh, I want to go to all those places too!  I’m so glad you listed my homeland, Canada, it is amazing and the people really are super friendly, in my humble Canadian opinion.  But now when I visit, they ask me where I’m from, because evidently, I’ve picked up a Texas + Louisiana accent over the years.


Many thanks to Probe Around the Globe for taking time out to do this interview with Solo Trips and Tips travel blog.

Check out other solo traveler interviews with:

The Wildlife Diaries

Nomadic Matt

Linda on the Run

Portugalist

If you would like to be featured in this series please complete this form and I’ll get back to you soon!

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Solo traveler interview with Naomi of Probe Around the Globe travel blog

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

4 Replies

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  1. Pashmina says:

    What an inspiring story! Always a pleasure to read stories of other solo female travellers.

  2. Claire says:

    Wow, she has done SO much, and so much that I want to do myself! Particularly interested in the Trans Mongolian Railway, and I have a curiosity about the Middle East that she’s assuaged some of my hesitance about. Super inspiring, I went ahead and followed you both everywhere on socials so I can keep the motivation and good vibes alive in my feed. Thanks for the great interview!

    • Hey Claire thank you for the kind words and thanks for following! Naomi is truly inspiring to other solo female travelers, she makes me want to book a train trip right now! And Iran sounds like a perfect solo trip . Wishing you happy travels Claire!

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