What an honor, friends, to share that my story has been featured in Flutter Magazine! I sat down with the Editor and shared my story—from taking a leap of faith in quitting my job at a Fortune 100 company to traveling through Europe by myself to becoming a destination wedding photographer. Thank you so much for the incredible honor, Flutter! Scroll down for the full story.
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“PACK YOUR BAGS! We’re inspiring an uninhibited adventure where free spirit meets self-indulgence. It’s a personal quest to wander, experience, and self-reflect— solo. Photographer and world traveler Molly Carr is sharing insight into the art of travel for one. She’ll leave you prepared to ditch your feelings of daunt and jet set on your dream journey with joy.
Why travel solo? When I was 25-years-old, I quit my corporate marketing job to pursue my dreams. During the same timeframe, I began to feel an undeniable pull to explore the world, but due to circumstances at the time, I didn’t have anyone to travel with me. Initially I was resigned to the fact that it was a pipe dream, but little by little the idea began to grow and take form in my head until I could no longer ignore it. Although I didn’t know a single woman who had ever taken an extended international trip alone, something deep inside of my heart told me it was what I needed to do. So finally, after many restless nights, I booked a flight to Europe, and two weeks later was on an airplane flying into the great unknown.
My time traveling through Europe alone was even more incredible than anything I could have ever dreamt of. The memories of waking up in an unknown land, not knowing what the day would bring, the creative inspiration that seemed to overflow from within me–I felt like my heart was on fire and I somehow just knew, deep down in my core, that I would never be the same.
The experience of traveling through Europe solo was one of the most formative of my life, and it truly shaped me into the woman that I am today and set me off on my career as a destination wedding photographer. I came home empowered, understanding for the first time in my life that I could truly do anything that I set my mind to. I learned so much about my hopes, my dreams, and my place in the world, and can honestly say without a doubt that taking that leap of faith was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
Where have you traveled solo? My favorite solo travel experiences have been when I have explored Europe on my own, including several trips to France, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Italy, and England. The combination of cultural and visual inspiration, paired with Europe’s easy to navigate railways makes it a perfect place for solo female travelers.
What (if any) are your safety concerns? Ensuring that I feel safe is always my number one priority when planning a solo trip, as being comfortable is of the utmost importance to ensure a positive travel experience. My two biggest concerns are finding a flat that is in a safe, highly populated area, and to avoid theft, keeping my expensive camera equipment out of sight while in touristic areas and keep my engagement ring turned inward.
When researching flats, I make a concerted effort to learn about the different neighborhoods of a city to decide which one will be the best fit for me. Typically, this is a residential neighborhood in the city-centre that is highly walkable and offers a large variety of shops, restaurants, and accommodations. In winter months when it gets dark early, I will often eat dinners within a few blocks of my flat so that I don’t have to risk getting lost in an unknown area at night, so having access to several great restaurants is always a perk. However, if I’m ever feeling unsafe I will simply order an Uber – reason enough to pay for an international data plan – and get home that way.
Being a destination wedding photographer, it is quite common for me to travel with expensive photography equipment, so I am always extremely diligent to ensure that I keep my cameras well protected while in highly touristic areas that are more prone to pickpockets. To me, the easiest ways to do this are to simply dress like a local and keep my cameras in regular purses versus around my neck or in traditional camera bags. Simple precautions such as wearing clothes in neutral colors and staying aware of your surroundings make such a difference in providing an air of confidence that is absolutely critical when traveling alone.
Do you ever get lonely? While traveling solo I do occasionally feel lonely, as my husband is the best travel partner on Earth, and of course I miss having him by my side. However, FaceTime is an incredible way for me to always stay connected to him and my family at home when I am gone.
Asides from that, I really embrace the time alone to invest in myself both personally and professionally as a destination wedding photographer. For me, that sometimes means taking a cooking class or an architectural tour and sometimes means spending an entire trip simply following the light with my medium format film camera. I relish in the opportunity to give myself time to really follow my passions and contemplate exactly what I want out of life.
Solo travel is such an introspective experience. It is truly and completely an investment in yourself. I firmly believe that my experiences traveling the world have made me a more confident, independent, and creative woman, and in turn have made me a better business-owner, friend, daughter, and wife.
Where do you stay? Typically when I travel solo I prefer to rent a flat. Being a destination wedding photographer, I often stay in a city for an extended period of time and I make a concerted effort to find a flat that feels comfortable. For me, comfort means having ample space to store all of my belongings and my photography equipment, lots of natural light, a safe, walkable location, and those special little design details that make the space feel like home.
What is one of the best experiences you’ve had traveling solo? For me, the self-growth and discovery has been by far the greatest experience that I have ever had while traveling solo. From watching the sun rise over the Aegean Sea to striking up conversations with fascinating artists, creatives, and entrepreneurs while sitting at a café, every single day offers something to be explored. As a destination wedding photographer, I’ve had the opportunity to meet countless incredible people in my industry who have become friends.
Have you ever run into any issues? Have you ever not felt safe? I am very lucky in the fact that all of my solo travel experiences have been extremely positive. I typically conduct a significant amount of research before all trips, especially while traveling solo, and play close attention to ensuring the neighborhoods that I stay in are safe, walkable, and have a relatively high amount of foot traffic. Google Street View is a must for me when planning a solo trip, and I always ‘explore’ a neighborhood before booking my accommodations to make sure that I feel comfortable.
Who is the most inspiring person you’ve met traveling solo? One of the things that I love the most about traveling solo is that it allows one to be much more approachable to other people. When you’re with a friend, family member, or partner, you can often spend the entire trip wrapped up in conversation with each other. While this is absolutely wonderful in it’s own right, traveling solo is a completely different experience. It allows you to meet fellow travelers and locals in a way that you might not have if you had been with other people.
Some of my most memorable experiences have been when I met locals that invited me into their homes. I met a woman in Virginia who invited me into her country estate, and we spent hours talking about our shared love of France. Her entire home and rambling garden were decorated with French and Italian antiques – it was truly one of the most incredible spaces that I have ever witnessed. While photographing the exterior of a charming farmhouse in Provence, the elderly owner came outside and invited me in to tour his exquisite gardens. I spent nearly an hour with him and his wife, chatting in broken French about our love of dogs and roses. As we bid adieu they gifted me with fresh cherry confit from their orchard and the biggest bouquet of fresh peonies that I had ever seen.
To me, these experiences truly epitomize what solo travel is about – giving ourselves the time and opportunity to truly immerse oneself in another culture.
What does three days with you in Paris look like?
7:00AM Wake up at sunrise, explore the Luxembourg Gardens with my camera
8:30AM Sip a café crème and nibble a croissant at the beautiful Café Madam
10:00AM Explore Saint-Germain-des-Prés on-foot, taking time to stop into chic boutiques, explore quaint alleyways, and enjoy quiet courtyard gardens
1:00PM Lunch al fresco (avec un verre de champagne, s’il vous plait) at Petit Palais
3:00PM Explore the beautiful Musée Rodin
6:00PM Visit a nearby fromagerie to buy cheese and a market to buy fruit, bread, and wine
6:30PM Sit along the Seine. Watch the boats pass and write in my journal
7:30PM Walk to the Jardin des Tuileires and enjoy a picnic dinner watching the sun set over the city
9:30PM Walk back to my flat, stopping at a nearby café for a glass of vin rouge before bed
8:00AM Visit the Marche aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves – an off the beaten path flea market that is filled with amazing antique treasures
12:00PM Macaroon baking class
3:30PM Explore the charming streets of Le Marais and Île Saint-Louis, stopping for a café crème at Le Saint-Régis
6:00PM Pre-theatre dinner at classic Parisian brasserie Le Grand Colbert
8:00PM Ballet at Palais Garnier
8:00AM Walk to the Marché Bastille to purchase produce, seafood, bread, and cheese for my flat
10:00AM Explore the beautiful covered passageway – Gallerie Vivienne – for shopping and lunch
1:00PM While away the afternoon in the gardens of Palais Royal with my journal
3:30PM Antiquing in the charming shops in the Saint-Paul Neighborhood
7:00PM Top floor of Centre Georges Pompidou with my camera for an incredible view of the city at sunset
8:30PM Open a bottle of wine, crack the windows, turn on some music, and cook a quiet dinner in my flat
Do you rent a car or take all public transportation? If the public transportation system is sufficient then that is almost always what I will do – especially while in a foreign country. While I have driven extensively in Europe (a must as a destination wedding photographer) and found it to be much easier than I had expected, it does add another layer of complication that I think it the best to avoid when possible. However, a solo road trip can be quite wonderful if one is visiting a more bucolic destination such as the English countryside!
How long are your trips? I have traveled solo for as little as a week to as long as three months. To get the most out of the experience, I recommend keeping your trip on the longer end. I think one of the biggest mistakes that solo travelers can make is trying to do too much in a short period of time, as this almost always ensures that you will remain a tourist rather than being able to experience a destination like a local. Give yourself time to relax, time to breath, time to think, and time to truly get off the beaten path and explore. For me, those are always the moments that end up being the most memorable and impactful.
What’s the best piece of solo travel advice? My advice is to simply take the plunge, as nine times out of ten, the ideas that scare us are usually the ones most worthwhile. So many women express the desire to travel and to explore the world, but still subscribe to the limiting belief that if they don’t have a companion to go with them then they will never be able to fulfill their dreams. As women, we are so much stronger and more independent than we believe. I am confident that every single woman has the ability and the courage to travel the world alone if she just gives herself the opportunity.
What is a good solo travel budget? As everyone has different tastes, my main recommendation for one’s first solo trip is to not push yourself too far out of your comfort zone as far as accommodations, which are typically the most expensive part of a trip. If you are a budget traveler and have stayed in hostels before – great! Hostels are a wonderful way to travel the world on a budget and to meet fellow travelers. However, if you are used to staying in luxury hotels, this may not be the best time to try traveling on the cheap. Instead, I would recommend renting an apartment that ensures you will have the amenities to make you comfortable while also allowing you to save money that can go towards another part of your trip (or extending it!)
Personally, when I travel solo as a destination wedding photographer I recommend budgeting about $400/day for accommodations, $100/day for meals, $40/day for transportation, and about $50/day for miscellaneous expenses. However, depending on what area of the world you decide to visit and what kind of accommodations you are seeking, it could be significantly less!
I also recommend having some additional money set-aside for little treasures and souvenirs, as some of my absolute favorite items in my home have been collected over the years on my travels. A beautiful linen tablecloth, the perfect bottle of French perfume, an antique ceramic pitcher – these items are some of my most cherished and instantly take me back to the exact moment in time when I found them.
If you could recommend one destination for a first-time solo traveler, where would it be? For me, Paris was truly the perfect place for my first solo travel experience. The city is walkable, welcoming, has amazing public transportation, and is truly overflowing with creative inspiration. If you want a lively and active trip, you could literally spend weeks on end simply exploring one of the countless incredible museums the city has to offer. Or, if you prefer a quieter trip with more opportunities for self-reflection, simply grab a seat in one of the city’s many gorgeous parks and spend the day soaking up the golden Parisian light. Seeking something that feels contemplative but still connected? The French café culture is absolutely ideal for a solo traveler – you can literally spend an entire afternoon sitting on a terrace, sipping wine, reading, journaling, and people watching. It’s the perfect place to be alone while never feeling lonely.