Travel gear / packing
I try to travel with carry-on luggage only, whether I'm on a one-week or four-month trip. I've become expert in fitting everything I need inside a small backpack and a daypack (total: 15 kilos). I have developed a generic packing list that I can send you if you ask.
Health & safety
Being a solo female traveller, I'm always concerned with safety. I make sure to research my destinations and check for any advisories before I go. Interestingly though, the greatest day-to-day dangers travellers face are not what beginners think! Since nothing can ruin a trip faster than being sick, I'm rather fastidious about health precautions. Although you should always check with a travel doctor first, I can tell you what you need to watch out for, and how to stay healthy around the world.
Travelling as a female (especially a solo female) comes with its own set of challenges. The truth is that the world is still a very sexist place. Besides having to deal with unwanted attention, there are also the practical matters such as finding hygiene products and the lack of toilets on some long bus rides. I've survived 23 years and 56 countries as a female traveller. I'll answer your concerns and questions.
Always trying to travel longer by travelling cheaper, I've picked up many tips and tricks over my 23-year budget travel "career". I don't stay in hostels anymore but still manage to travel in many places for $50/day or less (and those are Canadian dollars)! In more expensive countries, I save on accommodation costs by house-sitting. I can tell you how to get started with that if you're interested. Budget travel is at the heart of my blog.
I travel solo on most of my trips. The longest one was 20 weeks in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Egypt when I was 34. I've also travelled solo in Europe, Latin America, and South Africa. Like everybody, I was apprehensive at first, but it quickly became intoxicating. Travelling solo gives you the freedom to go where you want, do what you want, whenever you want, and meet lots of people, both locals and travellers, along the way. It also does wonders for your self-confidence. Ask me anything!
I was born and grew up in and around Montreal. Since 1988 I've lived in Toronto. I have the most Canadian expertise in those two cities. I also lived in Manitoba for 2 years, and travelled around the country. The places I visited most recently are Quebec City, Montreal, Niagara, Ottawa, Kingston, and Victoria.
I've spent a total of four months in Ecuador over two visits, the most recent being for three months in 2013. Half that time was spent in Cuenca, so this is the city I know the most. Other places I have visited are: Quito, Otavalo, Mindo, Baños, Riobamba, Vilcabamba, Loja, and the Galapagos.
French being my first language, France is the first oversea country I visited! Since then I've gone back five more times, the last being in 2014. I have two friends in the country (Paris and Bordeaux), and one who goes back to Nice pretty much every year. Here are the cities/regions I've visited (most recent first): Paris (many times), Bordeaux, Alsace, Metz, Montpellier, Nimes, Rouen, Calais, Grenoble, Alps, French Riviera, Lyon, and Provence. I can provide ideas on what to see and eat!
I've travelled to Mexico five times in the last 14 years for a total of four months. I know Oaxaca the most for having recently lived there for six weeks. Other places I've visited (starting with the most recent) are: Campeche, Merida, Valladolid, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Angangueo, Uruapan, Patzcuaro, Morelia, Zihuatanejo, Puerto Escondido, San Miguel de Allende, and Guanajuato.
My two visits to Argentina (2005 and 2011) totalled three months during which I travelled all over this diverse country. I saw (most recent first): Mendoza, Cafayate, Salta, Purmamarca, Humahuaca, Córdoba, Buenos Aires, San Rafael, Neuquen, San Martin de los Andes, Bariloche, Calafate, El Chalten, Ushuaia, and Iguazu Falls (based in Puerto Iguazu).