Interview with Barbara

 Meeting Barbara, a travel writer from Athens

For the Solo Travel Interviews today I am meeting Barbara, a travel writer who loves to travel alone and embrace silence. Read my interview with Barbara here below.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do in life and how your passion for travel has started ?

I was brought up in Athens and I write travel books.  I’ve recently finished a trilogy on Italy, the country where I mostly live and where I learned how to observe details on artistic works, to taste wonderful meals and use its melodic language.  My passion for travel started in my childhood reading books about far away places and my curiosity brought me one day to start travelling in order to see the beauty of the world.


How was your first solo trip experience?

My real first solo trip experience was in September 2006 when I flew from Rome to St Petersburg, where I stayed 5 days and loved it. I didn’t speak Russian but as I was well prepared to discover this splendid city, there was no need to ask questions in the street. I visited the museums – the Hermitage was my daily pilgrimage, I didn’t get into taxis as I had been told it was dangerous for ladies travelling alone, so I walked …and walked in company with my silence. My family would call me every day, but I was happy to be alone. Then I took the plane and I flew to Paris and with a big smile I entered a taxi at the airport. I felt at home. The reason? I could talk in French!

What is the motivation for you to go solo? How often do you travel on your own?

I travel quite often solo, but even when I travel with friends, I like to keep my own personal space. My friends know it and they are discreet. The reason for this solitude, which is a positive solitude, is that I want to concentrate and to dream. As a travel writer my gaze is not superficial. It penetrates everything that catches my attention. A real traveller must not speak too much because there are so many scenes in front of his eyes that come unexpectedly and they go away on the spot. This I think is the motivation of travelling solo, because I am undisturbed. Certainly, I travel alone to cities and not in the desert or the mountains. It would be too scary for me.

The biggest challenge, fear or a weird situation you had to overcome in your solo travel trips?

Even if it sounds funny the biggest challenge when I travel solo is to catch the right train! From my student years I was always missing trains in Spain, France, Germany, Holland… Oh, travel at this age was not easy for me. My travel bags were heavy as I was a bibliophile and I would buy books everywhere I went.  I remember being desperate to catch the next train from Brussels to Bruges for instance, I started crying in the railway station. Strangely I don’t remember myself fearing anything. Maybe because I don’t put myself in difficult situations, even when I face a whale at the mouth of the St Lawrence river in Canada! I feel protected in a jeep or a motor boat. Weird situation I had to overcome? Yes, sometimes when local people talk to me and I don’t understand them, for instance a Masai, but my little secret is always to be polite, to say thank you and to smile.

Palmira, Siria, Barbara Athanassiadis

How do you choose your solo travel destinations?

It depends on the interests I have in a particular period. If it is baroque art that I study, I dream of visiting Dresden and Vienna for instance. If I want to taste the real French cuisine, I go to Burgundy or Perigord. If animals start moving in my mind, I dream of Kenya. It is exciting to fulfil your travel dreams. But if a place requires certain preparation and a true guidance on the spot, I follow little groups of archaeological mutual interests and we share our knowledge, our experience and lively impressions.

What do you think are the pros and the cons for travelling solo as a woman and how much does safety matter while on the road?

The first women travellers in the 19th century had to face many more problems than today. They would cross countries in the Orient on camel, on horses and not in jeeps. Fortunately they could afford to have people at their service to prepare their meals and the animals for the ride and the tents to sleep at night. Nowadays it is much easier to travel.


What have you learned from travelling alone over the years?

To be precise, to be in the best company of myself and to be prudent. When you travel alone you are not in your familiar ambience.

Any plans? What will the purpose of your next solo trip?

I dream of going to China, and I am studying this wonderful country not through geography but through its porcelain history. It is amazing how much you can learn about a place and its people through these delicate, precious pieces of art.

Any tips that you would recommend to any woman who would like to start travelling alone?

Travelling is an art. You should embrace it with enthusiasm, passion, knowledge and never forget that the world you will discover, will enrich and transform you. Take lots of pictures because your pictures will help you remember what your mind will forget after some years, and even if you are not talented, put in your travel bag a small sketchbook. Trying to draw a gothic window in Venice or a graceful antelope in the Savanna will give you such a pleasure, because what you observe will enter inside you and will become yours. These little drawings will be the gifts that your travels will give you.

Headshot Barbara Athanassiadis
You can read more about Barbara’s travels on her website
you can follow Barbara on Twitter @b_athaniassadis
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on Google+ Barbara Athanassiadis

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About the Author

About the Author: A solo travel junkie, sharing her adventures, bizarre travel .


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