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Travelling Solo But Not Completely Alone

Karen Zabawa is a freelance writer who lives near Toronto, Canada with her children, ages 19, 21 and 24 plus their assorted parrots, budgies, cockatiels and a macaw. She is planning a return trip to Australia via China in the near future. That's because she loved her first trip so much. Karen writes...

Mom Talk

Bleary-eyed, out of sorts, and looking less than my best after the 26-hour flight from Canada, I flop onto my bed at Madison's Ward Avenue Hotel in Elizabeth Bay. But before sleep, bath or a proper meal, I dial the local number I had been e-mailed two weeks before. A woman's voice answers; a cheerful voice in a country where I travel alone, and know not a soul.

"Teena?" I ask.

"Karen! You made it! Welcome to Sydney!"

We talk, talk, talk...

Fatigue and hunger are forgotten as Teena and I talk, effortlessly and endlessly. We plan to meet downtown the next morning. I can't believe I'm finally here in Australia!

Until now, I had been one of those people who say, "Australia? Oh, I've always wanted to go there!" but who never actually get around to going: It's too expensive, too far, there's no time, and there's no one to go with. But last October, when I read about an incredibly low fare to Sydney, poof! went obstacle number one. Other revelations followed: there's no time like the present; and if I go alone, I can do what I want, when I want. Yeah!!

Yet, once I had my non-refundable ticket in hand, panic set in. Sure I had read the guide books, but what was it really like? What problems would a woman alone face? So when Evelyn, the editor at Journeywoman, posted my notice and linked me with Teena in Sydney, I couldn't believe my luck! E-mail flew fast and furious as Teena answered my many questions.


We finally meet face-to-face...

Now here it is, the next morning in, and armed with instructions from Teena, I set off for the bus. And there, in the milling crowds at Circular Quay, between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, is the "5'2", silk artist, Web page designer and Mac specialist I've gotten to know over the Internet.

We explore one of Sydney's oldest areas, The Rocks, with its many weekend market stalls and buskers. We shop for my birthstone opal, watch a man play a didgeridoo, and pick out souvenirs. When I invariably check the wrong direction before crossing a street, Teena keeps me from getting smacked by oncoming cars.

After several hours of sightseeing, we take the ferry across the harbour to her home in Kirribilli. I catch up on my e-mail, admire Teena's silks, then collapse on the balcony to watch boats sail past on a harbour made brilliant blue by the golden late-afternoon sun.


I'm blinking back tears...

Teena plays tour guide to my tourist, taking me to her favourite Thai restaurant for a bowl of spicy Laksa, and to the Bali store that sells colorful sarongs that Teena says are perfect for tropical travel. She's right! Sarongs are bathrobe, beach cover-up, skirt and shawl in one, and oh-so-easy to pack.

Over the next few weeks, I come to realize that, had I not been traveling alone, I would probably not have met Teena. I found that when you're by yourself, people are more likely to talk to you. When you're with others, people assume you have company and leave you alone. And for every time I wished for someone with whom to share an experience, there were many more times when I reveled in my self-indulgent freedom!

On my final night in Australia, Teena and I meet in Kirribilli for dinner. Now the distance between Canada and Australia seems greater than ever. Who knows when or where we'll meet again? As I leave to catch the ferry back to Sydney, I find I'm blinking back tears that tell me I'm going to miss my new friend.

Ed. note: Teena's story is just as much fun! Click here.

Journeywoman thanks our sponsors...

All of the information in this article has been researched independantly by We thank the Australian Tourist Commission, Air New Zealand and South Corp Wines for sponsoring GIRLTALK AUSTRALIA, a women's cyberguide to Sydney and Melbourne.

This cyberguide is constantly being updated with new articles and tips. If you'd like to be notified when new additions are posted or if you have a woman-friendly travel product related to Australia that you feel will be appropriate for inclusion in this guide, please send an e-mail to with AUSTRALIA in the subject line and let us know.





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