Sola Travelers: A friend in every city

The woman who warned me that “las mujeres nunca están seguras,” when I inquired about how safe it is for me to walk around at night in San Jose is not just the owner of an introspective quote for a blog post. Yogurt isle lady from the Automercado is part of a tribe of women who understand what it is like to walk around in our bodies. How we rarely feel safe in streets, no matter if the sun shines. Despite what Vice-President Mike Pence believes, women play a greater role in the workforce than temptress, so we often travel for business. Other times, we travel for pleasure — to discover what else that is out there. When we want to explore; go out at night, lay out on the beach, read a book in a sunny park, dance to music from a new culture, or perhaps shop, get our nails done, find a sexy dress, we do not always feel safe doing it alone in a foreign country although as long as we are women our native communities also do not offer complete safety.

That sad reality is why Founder of Sola Travelers Valeska Toro started her company Sola Travelers a few months ago; to give women a friend in every city in case they want the safety of companionship.

“During one of my travels last year, a stranger at a bar harassed me. I didn’t think that it would affect me that much, but the next day, I was still pretty upset about it. That day, I met a woman over lunch and told her about the incident. I had never met her before, but she understood exactly where I was coming from. It was in that moment that I realized that women around the world share a common understanding and connection. It made me think about a world where women could support each other and help each other travel.”

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When Valeska is not building mobile apps, she likes to go to small venue concerts, live DJ spin classes or one of her favorite restaurants.

The man who assaulted Valeska is not unique; he is also part of a band, this one is made up of sick men who believe a woman’s body is made to please them. These men have hands that know no limits, dirty lips that cat-call, and eyes that search for vulnerabilities. This gang is one many women fear.

So what’s the solution? 

Women, like myself, enjoy travel and there are times when we prefer to or have to do it alone. There are countless articles out there about how to stay safe in a foreign country — I read quite a few on BuzzFeed, TripAdvisory, Travel Noire, Independent Traveler, etc… before booking my trip to Costa Rica, my first solo viaje. If you plan to travel alone, I suggest you do some research as well.

There’s also Valeska’s budding company, Sola TravelersIt is now based in four locations: New York City; Orlando, Florida; Washington D.C.; and Costa Rica (San Jose and Playa Hermosa). 

“It’s interesting. During one of the women’s marches, we found a picture of a woman holding up a sign that read ‘I don’t want to be afraid to travel alone’ and when you think about it, it doesn’t have to be this way. We, as women, have the power to change this. With Sola, we want to give women a platform to become an Insider and help other women travel to their city while at the same time earning extra income on their terms. Alternatively, we want to give women around the world the ability to travel freely and have piece of mind knowing that they have a network of amazing women to support them.”

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Photo: @ivacaminando

Given Valeska’s vision and the tribe of intelligent women she has on her team, I’m sure Sola Travelers will find a way to keep you safe, empowered, and exploring wherever you are as the company continues to grow.

My experience with Sola Travelers 

Sola Travelers has recently expanded to Costa Rica (San Jose and Playa Hermosa), and I was their first trip. What are traditionally tour guides, Valeska has deemed Sola Insiders, women who consult, create an itinerary for you, and/or take you out. My Sola Insider is Andrea Pacheco. 

Andrea
Andrea Pacheco works as a Program Manager, loves to dance, and enjoys going to pilates class, concerts, and the beach.

The beauty of Sola Travelers is that it matches you with a friend in every city. It truly feels like I have company in Andrea. Before taking me out on Saturday, she and I Facebook messaged and spoke on the phone. From our conversations, she determined my interests and sent me three options for our field trip. This social media and phone personalized process was unique to me. Normally, travelers will go to Sola Travelers’ website, find what they want to do, and book it there. The Sola Insider then reaches out to the Sola and they plan from there. 

After Andrea and I hung out on Saturday, we stayed in touch. I’m the kind of person who likes to go with the flow in my personal life so I don’t have a solid itinerary. When I see something interesting, I forward it to Andrea. Typically, she’ll tell me whether that area is on the safer side, how accessible it is by taxi or Uber, and whether she knows a friend nearby. If you prefer consulting before you arrive to your respective city, that can also be arranged through your Sola Insider. How cool is all this, right!

Andrea and I at Irazú

Companion

That’s great, but how much does all this cost 

According to Valeska, Sola Insiders have control over what they charge and it varies by city.

“Our experiences currently range from $50-300 depending on what city you’re in and what you’d like to do.”

No matter what experience a Sola chooses, she will receive real-time support from a Sola Insider during her stay.

My afternoon with Andrea 

  • Andrea picked me up from the Feria Verde Organic Market where I spent my morning eating, strolling, speaking Español, and writing.
  • I selected option 3: a trip to Irazú Volcano in Cartago and a late lunch. The drive up to Irazú was about 40 minutes. On the way up, Andrea and I spoke about our experiences traveling, work, culture, family, and Costa Rica. One of the benefits of going on a trip with a Sola Insider is that you get a one-on-one course on the city you’re exploring.
  • When we arrived at Irazú, I actually had no idea I was inside of the volcano; Andrea made that known. She showed me where the craters are, told me about the Coati, a small animal that lives in the area, took photos of me, and when I wanted room to roam alone and write, she gave me my freedom.
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I keep on falling in an out of a volcano without you! *Alicia Keys voice*
  • On our way back down to San Jose, we stopped at Linda Vista, a local town restaurant best known for its delicious food and walls covered in business cards. At Andrea’s recommendation, I had a sweet cup of warm agua dolce and we shared a plátano maduro con queso. I topped that off with a lomito encebollado. 
  • Andrea had also planned a nighttime outing for us, but I decided to skip out given I have been fighting a cold all trip. What’s important is she was prepared to continue our day as planned.

As Andrea drove me around, she answered difficult questions with facts and passion; I got the feeling she truly believes in Pura Vida.

“I really like my city and my country, and by showing it to others I think it makes me be grateful. Its a reminder to not take things for granted.”

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Andrea pictured in Amsterdam on one of her solo trips. She enjoys traveling and sees Sola Travelers as a way to give back to all the people who have helped her make her way.

Want more of Sola Travelers?! 

Come back daily to find out what adventure I jump into next! 

Jumping Flose

All photos in this post taken by Andrea Pacheco. 

Peace at the Feria Verde Organic Market

Costa Rica has such a great reputation for honeymooning, yoga retreats and nature, but I think it needs to start advertising itself as the place to give your muscles and heart a great workout while checking out amazing views.

Yesterday, I spent the day at Manuel Antonio Park and when I tell you my legs woke up screaming this morning, I’m not joking. They were like, no more walking Flose, but I made them take me to the Feria Verde Organic Market then we checked out Irazu Volcano in the province of Cartago. I’ll be blogging about my experience at Irazu and with Sola Travelers tomorrow.

Feria Verde Organic Market 

  • Opens 7AM – 12:30PM!
  • It’s a small market where you can purchase organic vegetables, meditate, and listen to music. Their is a nearby basketball court and a large field where a group of 20/30 somethings were practicing some sort of frisbee game.
  • Today there was a Monk who ran a meditation class that I sat in on. The main take-away from his session is that we are responsible for our own happiness and that in the same way we brush our teeth twice a day or clean a pair of glasses, we need to clean/clear our minds. To learn more visit, Peace Revolution. 
  • It’s the kind of place where folks smile at you, children tug on their parents, and food smells fresh.
  • I enjoyed a delicious cold fighting juice from Mandalafruta.
  • And topped it off with a mozzarella, kale, eggs, mushroom, pita plate of deliciousness from El Lonche.
  • I broke my no shopping rule for a gorgeous neckless and earrings combo from P FOR POPPINS because the jewelry is made from real butterfly wings; I found that quite unique. No butterflies are harmed in the process, each wing is collected after the lifecycle.

  
  

Come back tomorrow, I’ll be blogging about my experience at Irazu Volcano and with Sola Travelers.