Straight from the Journal: Austria and Czech Republic

Dearest Journal,

Vienna was wonderful. We arrived at about 5pm on June 12th and headed out shortly afterwards for our night tour. I was dropped off about 1km away from Maria Theresa Platz where I was to meet Andy at 7pm. Andy is my brother’s Viennese friend who stayed with us for a few weeks last July. We spent hours walking and talking, and about 0.5 seconds woofing down vegan chocolate gelato.

The following day, some Contiki friends and I headed off to see Hundertwasserhaus: one of many outlandish buildings designed by Austrian artist and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Its bold colours and peculiar shapes add character to an otherwise monotonous street.  At the souvenir shop, I purchased a special notebook embellished with pictures of Hundertwasser’s works and quotes of his that resonate with me. It’s the first souvenier I’ve bought so far.

About an hour later we wound up at Wiener Rathaus (city hall) where the 2017 Life Ball was held three days prior. Life Ball is the biggest charity event in Europe, supporting people with HIV and AIDS. This year’s guest stars included Naomi Campbell, 2014 Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst, Susan Holmes and Amanda Lepore. It isn’t usually open to the public outside special events, but we were lucky enough to be granted entry during clean-up from the ball. We were welcomed with grand staircases and opulent chandeliers. Outside, a large LGBT flag was fixed to the hall, dancing in the wind as though my camera was its audience. I feel very privileged to have walked on the same ground as some of the world’s most inspirational and influential people. We spent the night at Prater Fun Park and Andy came along. There were rides aplenty, no lines and good food. I LOVED it! One of the rides was a giant pendulum that performed 360-degree swings for a generous 3 minutes; I was citing my own eulogy in-between squeals.

Vienna City Hall


Vienna City Hall

On June 14th we made our way to Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic, before coming to Prague. It ties with Dubrovnik as my favourite town so far – another fairy tale land. I was speechless. We were only there for two hours but I made the most of it and snapped some good pics.

Cesky Krumlov


Cesky Krumlov

Prague was very hot today. We had a city bike tour that involved dodging cars and praying for the best. Australia is relatively new to the whole ‘sharing roads’ thing, so I’d rate it as one of my top 5 near-death experiences. It’s up there with the time I fell out of a 3m high cubby house and prepared for the afterlife: ‘You’ve lived a good life,’ I consoled my seven-year-old self. We paid visit to the Torture Museum which was a stomach churning experience. I can’t fathom what it would be like to live in those times. The John Lennon Peace Wall was a much-needed mood changer. It’s a major tourist attraction where people go to write messages of love, encouragement and peace. Whilst the wall gets repainted over regularly to create a blank canvas for new tourists, it’s nice to know that each layer is personalised by people from all over the world, including me. I wrote, ‘Smile awhile. When you smile, another smiles, and soon there will be miles and miles of smiles. Life is so worthwhile when you smile’ on behalf of Dad who shared the quote with me.



Tomorrow we’re off to Dachau and Munich. Two more days ‘til I’m 21. Wow.

Night Journal, you precious thing.

P.S Everyone’s been admiring you.



7 Tips for Solo Travelling as a Woman

I’ve dreamt of travelling for as long as I can remember. Sixteen months ago, I decided it was time to pull myself out of my rut and see as much of the world as I could on a budget. I was determined to do it solo. Albeit, I’ve always been paranoid when travelling alone, and that’s before adding foreign places and cultures into the mix. If ever in a secluded place at night, I would walk with my car keys wedged in my clenched fist, scanning my surroundings incessantly. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fearful, but I knew it wasn’t enough to stand in the way of my goals. That’s when I made the decision to shove my fears into the backseat and impulsively book the return flights of my 3 ½ month Europe trip. I knew there’d be plenty of time to panic about my decision later. ‘Have you really thought this through?’ I was asked. No, I hadn’t. I accepted the fact that there was no way to emotionally prepare myself for what was to come and how it would change me. When I was in a mild panic at the airport before embarking on my adventure, I had to remind myself not to get overwhelmed about everything that could happen, and just focus on the now, which was boarding the plane. Then it was navigating my way through Bangkok airport at the stopover, and then going through customs in London, and then finding my way to my accommodation.

I read a lot of tips on travel websites and blogs that were all very useful, but often focused on tangible things to pack as opposed to the mental equipment you may need to handle certain situations. I’m no Gandhi, but I’m going to impart all the wisdom I gained whilst away, most of which I learned from what not to do. I hope my advice is useful to you on your future endeavours abroad!


  • Trust your instincts. There will be times when you’ll receive unwanted attention and may feel uncomfortable standing up for yourself in fear that you’ll come across as rude or misguided. This became a recurring issue of mine, for I didn’t want to assume that just because a man was being friendly, he had ulterior motives. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten my instincts were right and I wished I’d spoken up sooner. For instance, when I was in Malaga one evening, I rode a Ferris wheel and was accompanied by a staff member in my carriage. It was just the two of us. When we reached the top, it stopped for about five minutes, which hadn’t happened during any of the other cycles. It was obvious that he and the operator had an arrangement to stop the ride if he was ever with a woman. It wasn’t until after he touched my leg, kissed my cheek and asked to see me the next day that I mentioned a fake boyfriend. In hindsight, I could have avoided the situation if I’d been upfront and told him I’d rather ride alone.
  • Know where to go, when. In places where the culture is vastly different from yours, contacting your embassy may be better than going directly to the police. When I was with a group of girls in Budapest, we used a bathroom that we assumed was connected to a train station. But as we later discovered, we’d accidentally trespassed (lesson learnt: if you’re not 100% sure, ask someone). While we were waiting for the last two to finish up, a security officer came and starting shouting at us. He didn’t speak English but it was clear that he was demanding we leave. We pointed to the toilets to show that we were just waiting for the others, which is when he yanked us by the arms and pushed us down the hallway. As I turned back towards him and gestured at the cubicles, he pushed me to the ground. Another friend stepped in and he slapped her across the face which bruised her eye and broke her sunglasses. Whilst none of us were severely hurt, we felt we needed to report it. The police were quick to hold us responsible and we ended up dropping the complaint and walking away. In hindsight, it would have been better to contact the Australian embassy for the best course of action. Bear in mind though, your nearest embassy may be in another country.


  • You can’t stop for everyone. As someone who always felt obliged to chat with sales reps in shopping aisles, this was a huge lesson for me. In major tourist cities and attractions, there will be many people who will try and sell you something on the street. At the end of the day, they’re doing their job, but so are you. Your job is to make the most of your trip. It’s important not to feel guilty when you avoid someone. It’s as simple as SDW: smile, decline, walk. The main people to watch out for, though, are scammers. Assessing a scam before you fall victim to it is crucial. Some people will tag team; as one talks to you, the other pick-pockets. Some will forcefully tie a bracelet to your wrist as a ‘gift’ and then demand money for it. Everybody handles situations differently, but the general rule of thumb is to disengage when skeptical. Granted, you may be avoiding people who had the purest intentions, but rest assured that anyone who pulls you up at random on the street probably isn’t after a chinwag.
  • Download the Google Translate app. I can’t tell you how handy this would have been for me. Half the languages can be translated sans internet and common phrases can be downloaded. This is particularly useful if you have special dietary requirements like myself or need directions. You can also take photos of signs and have them translated instantly.


  • Be night-savvy. If I was cocooned in bullet-proof bubble wrap knowing that nobody could harm me, I’d contemplate nocturnality. There’s no doubt that evenings evoke romance and serenity, but we have to be cautious as female foreigners by themselves. The key is to plan ahead. If you know that it’ll be dark on your way home from the bar and public transport isn’t convenient, plan for a taxi or Uber to take you home. The fee sometimes stings, but your safety is invaluable. Alternatively, find people to walk with. I was always equipped with a downloadable map when walking at night – accessible through app stores and very cheap, if not free.
  • Know your emergency numbers. Whilst I (thankfully) never needed to dial help overseas, it’s always best to be prepared. If you go to Wikipedia, you’ll see that 112 is the most internationally used emergency number. Even in Australia, dialling 112 or 911 will redirect the caller to 000. I’m not sure how many countries recognise 000, so it’s a good idea to know the emergency number of each country you’re travelling to. Even without a sim, most countries allow free emergency calls, but if yours is an exception then a sim card may be best for you.
  • Just go! If there’s one piece of advice I would give to anyone considering travelling, it would be to just make the leap. Granted, the ability to travel is circumstantial, but for those of you whose only barrier is yourself, there’s no better time than now. If needed, book well in advance to plan, save, notify work, and most importantly – psych yourself up for the time of your life!


Oh, and use that camera. You’ll thank yourself later.


We take photos as a return ticket

to a moment otherwise gone. – Katie Thurmes