How is it to travel and work at age 19?

Verena from Germany is one of the sweetest girls I met traveling. She is so young (19 years old) and so smart! I met her in hostel Mondala in Puerto Escondido in Mexico. It always surprises me when I meet travelers who are younger than 20. When I was 20 years old I used to travel by bus from Bratislava to Vienna (60km), I didn’t travel in Latin America ☺ I interviewed Verena for the #Travellerswithcourage series, because I wanted to share her story of a “young solo female traveler” and also her way of earning money for traveling.

Verena, is this your first long trip – more than one month?
Yes, this is my first long trip. I did a road trip from Germany to Dubrovnik in Croatia before. I also discovered some big European cities, but I never traveled for more than a month.

Why did you choose Latin America?
I was always fascinated by the Latin American culture – by their “cariňo” (cariňo can be translated like affection). I didn’t come here with lot of expectations and I wanted to be surprised. What most surprised me was that people who don’t have money help you the most. People make you feel that they are interested in you and not in your money.

What did your parents say about your travel plans?
They were not happy about my decision and they said that I was not allowed to go alone on a trip like this. They preferred that I would go through an organization. It was hard for my father to understand why I wanted to travel alone to “dangerous countries”.

But you traveled anyway?
Yes. I worked for 6 months in Germany. I had 3-4 jobs to finance the travels on my own, so I could be independent from my parents. When I saved enough money I started traveling.

Hammocks are amazing!! :)

Hammocks are amazing!! 🙂

Which countries have you visited during this trip?
Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and USA.

How was the first night of your trip?
I missed my connection flight, so I was very tired when I arrived to my final destination – Costa Rica. When I stepped out of the plane, it was very humid and the weather was so nice that it made me happy. I felt a bit disoriented, because I didn’t know where to go first, but it was a great feeling to arrive and start my trip.

What kind of equipment did you bring along?
I was not prepared at all. I had a suitcase! ☺ I had too much clothes and that was wrong. I bought a backpack after 3 weeks and threw away the unnecessary stuff or I gave it to someone. I learned that “less is more”.

Verena showed me how to dance samba.

Verena showed me how to dance samba.

Have you experienced any dangerous moment during this trip?
Everyone has a different perception of what a dangerous situation means, but I felt scared when I had to cross the boarder from Costa Rica to Nicaragua. I didn’t know where to go and where to find a bus station. One man approached me with a business card and offered me help to find the bus station. He brought me to a place where there was nothing and he was telling me to walk really fast. I started walking with him and when I wanted to leave he grabbed me and tried to force me to continue walking in his direction. I left. It was a weird moment and until now I don’t know what he wanted from me. I listened to my instincts and I didn’t regret it.

Any more challenges that you experienced?
Unfortunately, when I was in San Jose (Costa Rica’s capital) I fell into a water channel on the street. I had a backpack on me and I scratched my leg badly. It bled a lot and it was really hard to walk afterwards. The bone was cracked and it was very painful for a month. But…. It didn’t stop me, I kept on traveling ☺

Do you have any recommendation for a solo female traveler?
Be prepared for machismo in Latin America. Don’t admit to men that you’re on your own. If they annoy you, tell them that you have a boyfriend and even when your boyfriend is back home, you’re not interested in meeting anyone.

I know that you work while traveling. Can you share that with us?
I worked in a school, I was a receptionist, later on I worked as a bartender and in one bar I was given the opportunity to try something new to increase the profit. So I started making my own coctails and the profit increased, which made me more self-confident. When you’re thrown into the cold water, you have to swim. I believe that in Costa Rica it’s possible to find work just by asking around. I speak Spanish, but there were many opportunities for people who spoke English only.

Verena and our friend Kate with their "Puerto Escondido" famous quesadillas. Yummy!

Verena and our friend Kate with their “Puerto Escondido” famous quesadillas. Yummy!

Did you meet travelers your age?
I met some travelers my age, but they came to Latin America through an organization. I found out that they would like to travel on their own, but they were scared. I think that it’s possible to travel on your own. The age is not important when traveling.

What was the funniest moment so far?
Explaining the fact that I’m German, but I don’t fit in the stereotype. Some people wouldn’t believe me. I had to show them my passport sometimes.

I want to share with you…
I think that it’s very important to trust your instincts.

What are you’re future plans?
I will most probably return to Europe, work and travel again. I want to travel more, because it helped me to know my self better and I want to have more of this experience. I want to find out more about what to do with my life ☺

Thank you Verena! Safe travels and dance some more samba 🙂

Do you want to read more about the courageous travellers I met traveling? #Travellerswithcourage series!

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