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Daniella Moyles flying solo: My most recent adventure

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Three stops, three glasses of wine per stop, no spit bucket — Daniella on the Wachau Valley Wine Tour

Three stops, three glasses of wine per stop, no spit bucket — Daniella on the Wachau Valley Wine Tour

'I’m not saying organisation isn’t important, it’s paramount. But I like to leave room for real life' —Daniella watches fishing boats come in on the island of Hvar in Croatia

'I’m not saying organisation isn’t important, it’s paramount. But I like to leave room for real life' —Daniella watches fishing boats come in on the island of Hvar in Croatia

Daniella poses for a selfie in the Vintgar Gorge, just outside the little town of Bled, Slovenia

Daniella poses for a selfie in the Vintgar Gorge, just outside the little town of Bled, Slovenia

Daniella in Split, Croatia, photographed by her boyfriend Dara, who joined her two weeks into the trip

Daniella in Split, Croatia, photographed by her boyfriend Dara, who joined her two weeks into the trip

Daniella with her new, temporary best friends during the wine tour

Daniella with her new, temporary best friends during the wine tour

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Three stops, three glasses of wine per stop, no spit bucket — Daniella on the Wachau Valley Wine Tour

I always get the same three questions: Do you mind travelling alone? Does it cost you a fortune? Do you plan your entire trip before leaving?

To answer the first question: I love being alone. I even crave it sometimes. I'm an enormous introvert and being around too many people for too long has been known to make me dizzy, so I think I have been given a biological upper hand for the  solo-traveller lifestyle. That's not to say that I don't get a rush of uncertainty every now and again, I just like the adventure too much to let it stop me.

Does it have to cost a lot? No. Here's a general guideline: if you have no money, then going away probably isn't a good idea, but if you have some money then there are tons of ways to travel smart and stretch a modest budget long and far. I am testament to that fact.

Do I plan my entire trip before I leave? Again, no, I usually book a one-way ticket and put together a general route plan. I'm not saying organisation isn't important, it's paramount. But I like to leave room for real life. Google Street View is a great tool but standing in the same city in real time is completely different. Flexibility for spur-of-the-moment decisions is what makes a trip unforgettable.

With a travel window of just over three weeks, my latest trip bought me to Central and Eastern Europe, beginning in Vienna, Austria. Vienna is chic. Like the backdrop to a Vogue editorial. Small and easy to navigate, it is a dream to explore. Immaculately clean, aesthetically beautiful with an air of sophistication, the home of opera, Sigmund Freud and impressive Baroque architecture.

Visiting the birthplace of psychoanalysis was top of my list of things to do in Vienna. But the choice and quality of the many cafes, boasting extensive wine menus and alternatives for every modern dietary complaint, make even your interludes between sights an experience.

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'I’m not saying organisation isn’t important, it’s paramount. But I like to leave room for real life' —Daniella watches fishing boats come in on the island of Hvar in Croatia

'I’m not saying organisation isn’t important, it’s paramount. But I like to leave room for real life' —Daniella watches fishing boats come in on the island of Hvar in Croatia

'I’m not saying organisation isn’t important, it’s paramount. But I like to leave room for real life' —Daniella watches fishing boats come in on the island of Hvar in Croatia


Next was a stop at the famous Hundertwasserhaus, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, one of Austria's best known contemporary artists and architectural designers. He was one of the most wonderful minds to ever live. His work is magical and childlike. I find him truly inspirational, and seeing his work up close was really exciting.

I wrapped up day one with a ride on the enormous wood-cabin Ferris wheel and the 117-metre high Prater Tower at the Prater Amusement Park just a few minutes from the city centre. The soundtrack to my walk home was Mozart's Requiem, from a church concert playing in the distance.

The following morning, I packed up to head for my next stop - Bratislava, Slovakia - but not before I got one more taste (literally) of what Austria had to offer. The Wachau Valley wine tour - or, to be more accurate, pretending to be a sommelier while trying to cycle in a straight line through vineyards and villages in the Austrian countryside - was a day I'll never forget. Three stops, three glasses of wine per stop, no spit bucket.

The scenery was spectacular, the wine even better and the company one-upped that again. There just so happened to be four other girls travelling alone on this tour and for those few hours we were the best friends in the whole world, swimming in the Danube and climbing to the top of the Durstein castle ruins where Richard the Lionheart was kept under house arrest.

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Daniella poses for a selfie in the Vintgar Gorge, just outside the little town of Bled, Slovenia

Daniella poses for a selfie in the Vintgar Gorge, just outside the little town of Bled, Slovenia

Daniella poses for a selfie in the Vintgar Gorge, just outside the little town of Bled, Slovenia


Three Americans, one Australian and me, thick as thieves, but as soon as the day is over we'll probably never see each other again. Brief encounters stored as a great memory or photo, and then on you go. Later that night I arrived into Bratislava, got ripped off by a taxi driver, and then fell into bed exhausted from my day of wobbly cycling.

Most people my age will associate Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, with the horror movie Hostel, or they might think they are in the capital of Slovenia, which is an entirely different country. It's a stop that is often overlooked by travellers and holidaymakers alike because of its bigger, better known neighbours such as Vienna or Budapest. But Bratislava is an insanely affordable, medieval time warp with communist-era touches and an impressive sense of humour that's most definitely worth the stop.

I took a free walking tour. These types of tours are available in almost every European city and they're the best sources of local, historical and cultural information. At the end you simply pay what you feel the tour was worth. I learnt a lot - such as that recently the entire country had a vote on what to name a newly built bridge connecting Slovakia and Austria. They decided on The Chuck Norris Bridge, for no other reason than they thought it was funny.

Also, their Easter tradition is interesting. It is Slovakian custom for a man to pour a bucket of cold water over a girl - they were doing this long before the ice bucket challenge - and then to follow that with a spanking or whipping with a willow rod called a korbac. Legend says this will keep the lucky lady beautiful and healthy for the year to come. In return the woman will give a chocolate egg to the man as a thank you!

Bratislava is small, and two days is enough to see the entire city, so after discovering Darsana, an Indian ayurvedic massage place that gave me the best rub down I've had to date, I decided to get a boat down the Danube to Budapest.

Budapest is a buzzing city, full of energy and young tourists. It feels more otherworldly than my previous stops, probably because it's my first currency change and the Hungarian language is notoriously difficult to grasp. There's also the Turkish influence left over from the Ottoman Empire, seen everywhere from the city's famous thermal baths and middle-eastern style architecture to the impressive coffee.

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Daniella in Split, Croatia, photographed by her boyfriend Dara, who joined her two weeks into the trip

Daniella in Split, Croatia, photographed by her boyfriend Dara, who joined her two weeks into the trip

Daniella in Split, Croatia, photographed by her boyfriend Dara, who joined her two weeks into the trip


I climb to the top of Gellert Hill as soon as I arrive because I've read it offers some of the best views of the city (especially at sunset) and it allows me to get a feel for this new place from a height. Budapest is divided into districts; the ones that surround the Danube River are mainly tourist hubs with overpriced amenities so I grab a chimney cake - the local sweet treat of spiralled pastry covered in cinnamon and sugar - and take a brisk stroll to just outside District V. Here is where you'll find the locals and get a real feel for what Budapest has to offer. After sundown the Jewish Quarter comes to life; it's most popular offering is its ruin bars. What used to be a disregarded and dangerous neighbourhood has been transformed into an art and culture melting pot and the ruin bars are its hidden gem. Built within the disused, crumbling rubble of derelict urban space, they offer great food, drink and music all day and late into the night. A must visit.

The following morning I pop into Budapest's Central Market Hall to pick up some breakfast. A 10,000sq ft indoor market, boasting three floors of fruit and vegetables stalls, barrels of nuts and seeds and ropes of garlic hanging from every available ledge. It's an impressive sight, but with the sound of bartering at an almost deafening level I make a quick dash through and head for the more tranquil atmosphere of Andrassy Avenue, often described as "the Paris of the East".

This is a beautiful, long, tree-lined street that leads all the way to the City Park where you can rent a wooden swan boat and float beneath willows and the towers of Turkish-style castles. I stop at the Book Cafe, one of many cafes that spill out on to Andrassy Avenue. It catches my eye because of its decor - grand and decadent, high ornate ceilings, enormous chandeliers - and the waft of rich coffee and carrot cake. It's a doorway to fantasy.

That evening was spent soaking in the thermal waters of the impressive Art Nouveau Gellert Baths, an effervescent mineral hot spring at an inviting 37 degrees, revered for its magical healing properties. The next morning I was heading to Ljubljana, Slovenia, but before I left Hungary I'd been told I had to try a pottyos, a dark chocolate bar with a cottage cheese filling. It was delicious. Addictive even. I ate two and hit the hay ready for an early start.

Ljubljana is difficult to get to. There are no direct flights from Ireland and even the modest distance from Budapest ended up taking nine hours and three trains. I'm not sure why this is the case but as a result I had written off the entire place before I even arrived. Surely nothing worth seeing could be this hard to get to? Turns out I was dead wrong. Ljubljana is charm brought to life. A quaint, pastel, fairytale city sliced by a bright blue canal, its brick and stonework decorated with ivy and pink roses. It's a sleepy place, relaxed and harmonious. I wander through the city craft market to Tivoli Park and find an outdoor library by a lake, heaven on earth in the warm evening sun. I order home-made lemonade from a small nearby stand, find a shady patch of grass near the water and watch baby ducks run on lily pods for the evening.

That night there's an open-air cinema called Beneath the Stars showing Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel on the top of Ljubljana Castle. It's a steep climb but worth it for the views alone, I try to drink it all in because tomorrow I leave for a little town called Bled and I don't know when I'll be back to this lovely place.

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Daniella with her new, temporary best friends during the wine tour

Daniella with her new, temporary best friends during the wine tour

Daniella with her new, temporary best friends during the wine tour


The bus to Bled runs regularly and takes just over thirty minutes to transport you deep into the Alps. This Slovenian jewel has been on my bucket list a very long time, so the minute I step off the bus I already feel elated. I already know exactly where my first stop is - Lake Bled! I walk the entire perimeter of the lake trying to take it in from every angle before jumping in and ticking that dream off my list once and for all. It's breathtakingly beautiful, everything I expected and more. Bled is the home of adventure sports so I book in for an evening of paragliding only for it to get cancelled just before departure due to high winds cutting across the clear blue skies.

Instead I decide to hike to the nearby Vintgar Gorge. En route to the base of the climb, I pass wheat and sunflowers fields taller than me and pumpkin patches as far as the eye can see, all with grazing goats and mountains that reach into the clouds as a backdrop. To get to the Vintgar Gorge you need a good pair of shoes, a decent knowledge of orienteering and no fear of heights or rapids. The climb takes just over an hour and then you creep along narrow, wooden planks suspended from the side of a cliff face to explore the gorge. Exhausted after the hike, I inhaled a fresh fish dinner before bed with the promise of my rescheduled paragliding all set for the morning.

Waking to the sound of the wind battering on my window I knew the news wasn't good. The paragliding was cancelled for the second day running and I was raging. I took one final hike to View Point, not expecting much, only to be greeted with the best view of my life, the kind of view that can rearrange years of jumbled thoughts into perspective in a nanosecond. There was no topping that.

Pleased I'd crammed in as much of beautiful Bled as possible I caught a train to Zagreb, Croatia, but not before seriously considering a detour to Venice, Italy. Only simple logistics stopped me from heading that direction - I didn't fancy a 10-hour overnight boat or another full day of train changing. That was what I faced with in order to indulge my romantic ideas of gondolas and gelato. I decided to save that trip for a Valentine's Day in the future and headed onwards to Zagreb to begin my Croatian exploration.

On my first morning in Croatia I noticed I'd misplaced my Visa card. Travellers' worst nightmare. But people I'd just met and some whose name I didn't even know got on their hands and knees to help me search every corner of the building. Less than half an hour later we'd found it, in the bin . . . don't ask!

Over the next few days I stopped at the Plitvice Lakes, Skradin, Krka National Park and Sibenik, all of which were end-it-now-I've-seen-it-all beautiful. Untouched, truly stunning displays of nature, the bluest blues, the greenest greens and every day another waterfall. However, in high season, be prepared for throngs of tourists. Hundreds of thousands of people descend on this incredible country so queues are long and, despite the surroundings, tranquillity is rare. Still, the sights are far too spectacular for this small inconvenience to really dull the experience.

Heading further south, I arrived into Split like a kid on Christmas morning. After two weeks travelling alone, my boyfriend Dara was coming to meet me for a few days that just so happened to coincide with my birthday. I was excited for company and to share these amazing experiences with someone other than my Instagram followers.

We spent our first afternoon exploring inside the Diocletian Palace walls and the little Old Town of Split. It's all white stone and miniature winding streets and lanterns. For the first time in ages I didn't have to bring a book to dinner to avoid looking like a stood-up date or an awkward lone diner.

I knew Dara had something planned to celebrate my 26th birthday, but I could never have anticipated exactly how unforgettable the coming days would be. The next morning we took a boat to Hvar, another bucket-list location just an hour south west of Split, where Dara had booked an apartment with views that made my eyes well up.

Every morning was a delight. The sun beamed, a busy fruit market hummed just across the street, and the tiny town of Hvar glinted in the window at us. Mostly we relaxed, drank wine by the harbour, swam in the sea and ate too much. Until my birthday rolled around and Dara thought it would be a lovely idea to give me the gift of near death! There really is nothing quite like it to kick start a brand new year.

I don't know if you've ever been in a speedboat when the sea is extremely choppy, but I would recommend it to all adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers. Dotted all around Hvar there are other islands with stunning natural formations. It was Dara's plan to spend a day exploring these. However, our skipper Tony quickly realised the winds, and in turn the waves, were too insane to go to any of those stops but we'd also come too far to turn back and hit the onslaught head on.

After a long, scary 40 minutes of white knuckles and rigid muscles, we found a sheltered cove where we could snorkel and eat some lunch, not that either of us were hungry. We waited for the winds to calm slightly for our return journey. Tony was well used to these conditions so he powered forward, while Dara and I braced ourselves for every bone-shattering bump and tried to forget our headaches, holding on for dear life in the back.

Dara had to leave the next morning, and I travelled onwards to Dubrovnik for my final few days of adventure. I stayed in Lapad, a region in the high grounds overlooking the Old Town and Dubrovnik harbour. I could see the full span of the city walls and all the tiny terracotta roofs within them. I did a lot of walking up and down steps to see as much as possible before calling it a night, or so I thought.

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Three stops, three glasses of wine per stop, no spit bucket — Daniella on the Wachau Valley Wine Tour

Three stops, three glasses of wine per stop, no spit bucket — Daniella on the Wachau Valley Wine Tour

Three stops, three glasses of wine per stop, no spit bucket — Daniella on the Wachau Valley Wine Tour


Not even thirty minutes after dozing off, I woke to the sound of an almighty clatter and instinctively went to turn on the lights; but there was no power. Then there it was again, clatter number two, followed by an unmerciful rumble. I have never witnessed a thunder and lightning display like the one Croatia put on for us that night, at once spectacular and frightening. I couldn't sleep until it had passed, for fear my building would go on fire or something equally unlikely. I watched this powerful phenomenon unfold over us through the balcony double doors, wrapped in a duvet in complete awe.

My last full day of the trip had arrived, and with all that had happened, I assumed it would be uneventful in comparison, but in true wanderlust style, I had to fit in one more country before I could head home satisfied.

A day excursion to Montenegro was the last-minute plan. Our tour visited Kotor Bay, ranked one of the top 20 bays in the world. It boasts a man-made island created by sinking 100 ships, fortifying them, and building the island on top. We also visited Kotor village and Budva, a coastal town nestled between the Balkan Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. I always made sure to be back at the bus five minutes before our allotted time, in case they forgot the only lone traveller.

At the end of a really lovely day we were informed that we'd have to take a detour back to Croatia via Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the queue for the other border was just too long. Because of this slightly longer route, our bus made an unscheduled bathroom stop 15 minutes before proceeding through the Croatian border. I made a dash for the bathroom, washed my hands, fixed my hair and couldn't have been more than five minutes; but when I walked out of the small roadside bar, my bus had gone.

The waiter informed me, in broken English, that he had told our guide he couldn't accommodate a whole bus of people, so they had boarded again and carried on. There I was, alone on the side of the road in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with nothing but mountains for miles. I had no phone or information, because my bag was on the bus. The cafe had no Wifi, speaking English was a huge hindrance, and three elderly men kept pestering me to join them for a drink, while simultaneously appearing to find the whole ordeal of my living nightmare hilarious.

Small side note: I also had a flight to catch to Dublin first thing the following morning. Finally, after almost an hour of panic and clueless option-exhausting, my bus returned. Somebody on board figured it might be a good idea to point out my empty seat when our guide was passing through to collect the passports for border control.

If you are considering travelling alone only to be held back by fear or finances, I can assure you it is one of the most fulfilling, enlightening experiences you'll ever have. But bear in mind things will go wrong, lots of things.

However, whatever challenges I faced, in whatever country, speaking whatever language, there was always someone willing to help me. I couldn't count on all my fingers and toes the people from all over the world who stopped to give me their time, whether it was to carry my bags or keep me company on long journeys, give me directions or root in a bin for my Visa card. People are nice. Most people are really, really nice, and that's a wonderful thing to learn first hand.


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