At 20 years of age, Gabrielle Larose journeyed to various countries.
Gabrielle Larose, a native of Harrow, London, took a 12-month trip where she visited 10 different countries. Now residing in Castlebar, County Mayo in Ireland, she continues to travel. We caught up with Gabrielle recently to discover more about her solo adventure around the world.
Why did you take your trip?
Before I left, I didn’t put a lot of thought into why I wanted to travel, I only knew that I did. I had family that traveled when they were my age and they set the example for me. Now that I will be leaving again soon, the things that I look forward to most are the new daily experiences, making new friends from all over the world, and having a unique type of freedom rarely found in any other way. I’ve been home for three months and I’m already getting itchy feet, traveling is addictive!
Where did you visit on your yearlong travel?
I started my trip in Canada, traveled down through the United States, and into South America. I spent four months in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia. I then spent a few months working in New Zealand, met a friend in Germany, and took a bus through France until I got to my final destination in the Jersey Channel Islands.
Where did you stay?
I spent a fair amount of time living and working on farms through the WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) website. They help locate families willing to let you live with them while providing labor as compensation. I also stayed in a wide variety of hostels through Airbnb hosts and Couchsurfing.
How much did your trip cost and how was it funded?
I don’t have an exact number for how much it cost. It was a long time and there were incoming and outgoing funds, so it was hard to keep track of. I had savings that my parents had started when I was a kid for university, a car, or something, I also worked for two years before I left, just shop work. I was still in school for most of it. Even so, traveling was more expensive than I anticipated. I was inexperienced as to finding the cheapest way of doing things, a lesson I think it’s fastest to learn the hard way. By the time I got to New Zealand, I was pretty much broke, but I found a job and worked for a few months to fund the rest of my travels home. It’s definitely possible to do it on your own, but I am so grateful to my mum for being the selfless person she is. I couldn’t have traveled the way I did without her, and I was lucky that I knew she was always there to help if I got stuck in a tight spot.
Did you feel safe while traveling alone?
Most people I met were generally welcoming and friendly. If I was lost, I never felt unable to ask someone for help.
However, there is something daunting about being by yourself in a country that has a bad reputation, like Colombia. I met fellow travelers there that had been mugged and there are always horror stories being passed around in hostels. It is important to use common sense and avoid deliberately putting yourself in danger. Whether I was just lucky, travel smart, or a combination of the two, I never had any trouble. For the most part if you avoid trouble, trouble will avoid you!
Since young women traveling alone may be more likely to be targeted, did that affect what you would wear?
My personal preference in clothing tends to be fairly practical especially while traveling. My normal clothes were hiking trousers, boots, and T-shirts; that tended to dissuade a lot of catcalling. I met a lot of fellow women travelers and most of them were dressed in practical clothing too. Backpacking doesn’t lend itself to the latest fashion trends! For anyone who does prefer dressing in more fashionable or revealing clothes, it’s important to be respectful of the culture you’re choosing to be a part of. If a country is typically very conservative it is a better idea to see what the locals are wearing and emulate that.
Were you ever concerned about encountering criminals or corrupt police?
South America particularly has a bad reputation for corrupt police, and I almost regretted doing research on Colombia before going there; it was nearly enough to scare me off. It was common to meet someone that knew of a friend being mugged. In one particular case, a man I knew from a hostel in Bogota was taken by the police and essentially ransomed off to his friends for his release. It didn’t stop me from going, but I was extra wary and took a few precautions. I even bought a cheap wallet to keep small bills in for day-to-day use in case I was robbed. Thankfully it didn’t end up being necessary and the only thing I had taken from me in the year was my phone- which I assume was pickpocketed.
Did you experience any discrimination because you are gay? What advice do you have for others?
I was surprised that I didn’t experience any overt homophobia while I was traveling through some countries.
For example, I was pleasantly surprised at the acceptance of a lot of places in South America. I took no steps to hide my sexuality and usually coming out isn’t considered a conversation starter with a stranger. If you do, that could be the time it goes wrong and ends with a hurtful comment or a hate crime. Being from the UK, one of the places I was more nervous about traveling to was actually the United States. It was recently placed on a list of
countries that would be risky for LGBT people to visit. There is not much advice I can give only that if you are
traveling somewhere known to be unwelcoming to LGBT people, don’t take any unnecessary risks. Personal safety is more important that anything.
Are there any places that you would not visit again? Why or why not?
Through my many travels, I have not yet found a place that I didn’t want to visit again. Every country has nice spots and bad spots. The great thing about traveling is the freedom it gives you; if you dislike one place, you can just move on to the next. Some parts of New Zealand I didn’t particularly enjoy, but I moved on to places I did!
What advice would you have for anyone that would like to plan a trip like this? My advice for people setting off is that while it’s useful to budget, after you’re finished, you may want to crumple it up and throw it out of the window as it’s going to be nearly impossible to stick to. But there’s always ways make traveling a little easier and it pays to do your research before you leave.