Karen Muller has a penchant for exploring the world’s most captivating destinations a solo traveller. Hailing from Cape Town, South Africa, Karen’s journey into the realm of solo travel began with a career as a flight attendant, providing her with an opportunity to traverse the globe extensively and nurturing her love for travel.
For Karen, solo travel is a transformative experience. It’s about connecting with people from diverse backgrounds, cherishing the thrill of the unknown, and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.
Discover what inspired Karen to embark on expeditions to the polar regions with AE Expeditions, learn more about what it’s like to travel with Aurora as a solo traveller, and find out why Antarctica and the Arctic hold a special place in her heart.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background as a solo traveller.
I thrive on meeting new people from all walks of life, but find meeting locals to be the most enriching experience. Learning about new destinations, viewing animals and just getting lost in experiencing destinations and nature is the highlight of my life. Solo travel gives you the power to experience it for yourself and you will never be the same afterwards.
On one of my favourite trips, I travelled for 10 months my myself, visiting everywhere I could: South America, where I followed the Inca Trail and Amazon River; Southeast Asia, where I cycled around Vietnam; and one final hop back to Europe to walk the Camino de Santiago.
Antarctica and the Arctic were different for me – I love them so much! Visiting the polar regions left me fulfilled, emotional and in awe.
How do you select your travel destinations, and what factors do you consider when choosing destinations?
I have travelled extensively and try and visit a different destination every time I travel to experience more of this wonderful world.
I’ve fallen in love with the polar regions and would like to experience even more or these regions. They are very different from South Africa, where I live. Their remoteness, scenery and animals cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and visiting them changed my life in a very positive way. Antarctica and the Arctic are the first destinations that left me totally emotional and in awe when the journey ended.
People always ask me, why the polar regions? My answer is, why not? There are millions of reasons why and no reasons why not to.
What inspired you to travel with AE Expeditions?
I did a lot of research on Antarctica and the Arctic, and Aurora ticked all my boxes:
- Small, high-quality ships that can get you closer to the action and help you experience destinations to the fullest;
- Loads of activities, so you can choose what to take part in;
- Kayaking as an add-on activity, which was mind-blowing and extremely rewarding (the kayak guides are very experienced and make the experience of kayaking in nature with the silence and ice crushing around you even more incredible – I would recommend this to anyone);
- Being educated by a highly qualified and knowledgeable Expedition Team who are all extremely interesting; and
- Participating in actual scientific research as part of the Citizen Science Program.
How do you connect with fellow travellers or locals when you're travelling?
Travelling solo really opens your eyes and makes you experience places and what they have to offer through a whole new perspective. When you only travel with friends you can be caught up in your group, but with solo travel you get to know so many more like-minded travellers.
The polar regions are wonderful places to meet like-minded people and get out of your comfort zone. On my expeditions to both Antarctica and the Arctic, I met fellow travellers as early as at the airport and connected with them. Once onboard, I could not stop smiling, which really helped me to meet new people. I liked to spend a lot of time on the deck to take it all in at different times of the day and get to know every one. Kayaking in a small group was also a great way to develop close bonds with fellow travellers.
As an experienced solo traveller, I am always happy to connect with fellow passengers of all ages and on Aurora, I have always felt like travelling solo is a welcoming and rewarding experience.
Do you have a favourite moment from your time in the polar regions?
There are too many to choose from, but some of my stand-out experiences include:
- Kayaking with humpback whales breaching out of the water nearby;
- An inquisitive minke whale entertaining us by playing around the ship;
- Learning about and experiencing icebergs of all shapes and colours; and
- Spotting polar bears.
Did you have any surprising or unexpected encounters or discoveries?
The silence of the polar regions and pure nature are life-changing experiences.
In Antarctica, I often sat out on deck just to listen. It’s something you can only understand when you have visited Antarctica and even returning home, it cannot be put into words. Not even photos or videos can explain the experiences I had, you simply have to experience it for yourself. It goes without saying that the animals in Antarctica were incredible.
In the Arctic, we saw five polar bears! That was a huge dream come true for me.
What advice would you give to people who are thinking about solo travel for the first time?
Travelling solo broadens your horizons, and although it might be scary at first, you learn and experience so much.
I have made so many close friends from all over the world while solo travelling. You just have to be ready to open yourself up to new experiences. I would highly recommend solo travelling to anyone thinking about giving it a go!
Looking for solo travel inspiration?
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