Karen Sze

Karen Sze

I have been traveling since I was 8 months old. This world is too beautiful and needs to be seen up close and personal. I want to learn about different cultures, their approach to life and what we take for granted in the First World Countries. Now I have created "Single Woman Travels" to inspire more women (and men) to explore this awesome place we call home. Now that I have left my 9 to 5 desk job, I'm ready to explore new career paths and the world. Let's travel together and share our knowledge.

Spirituality + Travels = Alchemy of Self

Former Structural Engineer. Constant Traveler. Amateur Photographer. Film addict. Yogini.

More About

  • # Visited
    36 countries
  • Next Trip
    2013 - Antarctica, Brasil, Argentina, Chile, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos
  • Dream Trip
    Antarctica
  • Travel Quote
    Do something - anything.
  • Home Country
    Canada

Social Profiles

 

As the countdown to Antarctica begins, I’m looking online for past travellers blogs and write-ups. However, at the end of the day, I think I will rely on my own past experiences and tailor the gear to my own biological behaviours.

Spending portions of my childhood between Hong Kong and Winnipeg, and now my adult life in Toronto, Canada have proven to be very helpful.

Hong Kong is known for its humid, hot summers and humid, cool winters. The “coldest” day I’ve experienced in Hong Kong, I saw the thermostat dip down to +10 degree Celsius. Flocks of people rushed to the top of The Peak to see frost. These days, I walk around in Hong Kong with a long sleeve shirt and a pair of jeans while my friends don 4 layers of clothing plus a heavy down coat/parka.

Winnipeg, Canada has a nickname “WinterPeg”. It’s known for its dry, COLD winters with lots and lots of snow. The “coldest” days I’ve experienced in Winnipeg, the thermostat hovered around the -35 degree Celsius mark. Then there’s the “Windchill factor” to consider; it is a measure of the cold with consideration of the Wind speed felt on exposed skin. Trust me when the wind is gusting at 40 km/hr when it is already -30 degree Celsius outside, you’d want to crawl right back in bed under layers of blankets and not know that it feels like -45 outside!! However, all that’s really necessary for me is a good windproof jacket, a fleece, a pair of gloves, a hat of some sort and a pair of boots.

Toronto, Canada is a bit of both those scenarios. Downtown Toronto is humid and cold with less and less snow as I live here longer and longer. Thanks to global warming, Toronto’s thermostat doesn’t really dip below -20 degree Celsius and there was hardly any snow in 2011. Because of the humidity though, I have resorted to buying my first down filled parka 3 years ago. Humid cold is the type of cold that goes to my bones and some days I can’t warm up. I’ve also invested in some waterproof rubber boots as I’m tired of the salt saturated slush destroying my precious leather boots. Just remember to wear a pair of nice thick wool socks, or you can buy the fleece liners that Hunter sells for their gum boots.

Human beings are very resilient – we adapt to our environments; sooner or later. I still prefer the dry, cold winters but am slowly accepting the humid, cold winters.

So what to consider as warm clothing when you want to travel to a COLD country in the middle of their winter or Antarctica / the Arctic in their summer?! Here are a few things to consider…

Find out their humidity levels

Humid (40% or higher) => consider getting a down filled jacket or parka, especially if you have always lived in a warm climate zone and this is your first trip.

Dry (less than 40%) => depending on the thermostat, perhaps a warm fleece is sufficient. On windy days, make sure the windproof or wind-resistant shell is handy. They are also good for rainy or snowy days (clothing with double duty are great!).

Is indoor heating available?

There are many countries or regions within a country which do not have central indoor heating. This means walking around the hotel, shops with as much clothing as you would wear while walking around outside in nature.

Boots – Rubber / WaterProof / Fashion statements?

Judge according to the weather condition but if you’re doing lots of walking in the city or in nature, I would consider a pair of waterproof hiking boots with warm, wool socks to be a good alternative.

Must Have’s:

Gloves OR Mitts – whether they are made from leather, wool, cotton or some synthetic material do your fingers and thumbs a favour –wear them. Your hand will thank you.

Hats OR Beanies OR Toques OR Hood – about 10% of your body heat is loss through your head. Also, I can assure you when I heard one of my blood vessels burst in my ear – it’s a very scary experience! Luckily I wasn’t outside long enough to get frostbitten.

Sunglasses – sunlight reflected off snow can be very, very bright. Also, you’ll see snow falling while the Sun is out with a blue sky overhead. This is why I prefer snow over rain – any day.

Sunscreen or Sunblock – any exposed skin in the winter time is subjected to the wind and UV. Also, I think I read somewhere that the ozone is thinner in the winter time. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen under your chin, UV rays will bounce off the snow and give you a nice sunburn there.

Optional’s:

Scarves OR Neck Gaiters – when the air is really cold and dry, it’s nice to breathe through some layers of fabric so the moisture from your breath gets trapped.

Earmuffs – if you chose the hat gear option and your ears are still left exposed, this would be a good consideration.

Long johns OR Thermal underwear – if you know you’ll be outside in the cold, consider investing in some synthetic or wool or silk thermal underwear. I would personally rather be warm than freezing cold and cutting short on the outing.

ALWAYS dress in Layers. I never lived by this rule as a child, I would walk out of the house with a t-shirt under my ski jacket. However, as I mature, I understand the benefits of dressing in layers. Having the option to add or remove a layer provides flexibility of your activities during the day.

NEVER stick your tongue to anything metallic!!!! This is fair warning, if you insist on trying it for yourself, have a friend close-by with a bucket of luke warm water handy…

Now go pack and learn to make some snow angels! Bon Voyage!

So you’ve decided to hit the road, by yourself – talk about being adventurous and brave!! Congrats! :) Whether this is something daunting or just a walk in the park for you, here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you…

  1. Have a meal by yourself in a restaurant (before leaving home) – This might not be a big deal to some, however, I’ve met a couple of women who refuse to sit down in a restaurant and eat alone. Personally, I still have days where it gets difficult to be the only person in the whole restaurant eating by myself – especially during an extended journey and homesickness is setting in. I would look around and every other table is either occupied by a lovey-dovey couple, a group of friends or a family. You will meet new friends as you travel (trust me, you will!) who’d share meals with you but there will always be a meal or two where you have to go it alone and room service isn't an option. So this could be an experiment for you. Take yourself to a nice restaurant tonight. Do not check your smartphone every 5 seconds. Do not plug in your headphones. Do not bring a book / magazine / newspaper. Try to enjoy your meal and the atmosphere of the restaurant. Crack a joke with the wait staff. Surprise yourself.

  2. Familiarize yourself with your camera – especially if you bought yourself a new one for this upcoming trip. I have done it before and will probably do it again in the future – treat myself to a new camera and not have enough time to learn the functions. Aside from learning how to turn the camera on and off, it’s nice to know a few more basic functions. For example the Date/Time setting, I have countless photos taken during the day but the date stamp says ‘pm’ – very silly, really. The camera manufacturers are coming out with very user friendly models, however, sometimes it’s more fun to leave the Automatic setting behind and play around with the other shooting modes. If the User Manual isn’t too bulky, take it along on that long haul plane ride.

  3. Be able to read a city map and/or a transit system map – unless you are comfortable with wandering endlessly. These days with many people dependent on their cars and navigation systems, it is not surprising that people are not able to orient themselves with a map. That familiar robotic voice might not be there, suggesting you make a left turn in 500 m. I’m not suggesting you need to know how to use a compass… well you should if you are going camping or hiking. It just increases your independence and confidence when you can get yourself from point A to point B with minimal assistance. [N.B. The free maps they hand out in Paris do not show many of the little streets/alleys. So pay attention to street names instead of just keeping count how many street you have crossed – personal experience.]

  4. Upload photos of your family and friends onto your phone OR carry the prints with you – you never know when you need to look at a familiar face to comfort you. They are great for those homesick days. They are also great as conversation starters. Many times on my travels, complete strangers who are locals have approached me to start a conversation – sometimes they are simply curious and friendly, sometimes to practice their English. It is fun and it’s safe.

  5. Take a walk in a park or down a quiet street at night – find your comfort level. You are still in your “backyard”, so you know the area but a street can feel completely different at night and empty. To minimize the potential shock to your system of being alone, test your boundaries beforehand. Take along a small flashlight or torch (waterproof if possible) on your trip, it will come in handy, especially if your destination is known for brown outs.

Sometimes a little mental preparation can help make your journey a lot more enjoyable. Bon Voyage!