THE HARDEST PART ABOUT TRAVELING BY YOURSELF IS BOOKING THE TICKET
I took my first solo trip a week after graduating high school. I was 18 years old and had never been to Europe. I spent 5 weeks living from a backpack in a land I had only dreamed of before. Since then, I have enjoyed so many trips by myself. If you want to travel the world but don’t have anyone with the same crazy mind as you, don’t be scared! Be ready to learn about yourself, feel empowered, grow as a human, and elevate to your best version. Traveling solo has opened my mind and eyes and taught me so much about the world around me.
RESEARCH AND BOOK IN ADVANCE
Research before you go. Make sure to check the weather, local customs, dress codes, proper etiquette, a couple of words from the local language, etc. Make sure you know the basics of what you are getting yourself into before stepping off the plane.
The most important thing to pack is common sense. Stay safe and be prepared the same way you would if you were back home. Always book the first night accommodation so you can have a home base to catch your bearings. I don’t like booking more than 2 nights upon arriving just because I may not like the place once I’m actually there. You’ll find that “cozy” and “close to city center” actually mean loud, small, and not always the cleanest. I made the mistake in Paris when I was “close to the Eiffel Tower” and actually had to catch a 20 minute train ride to the city. Or when I was “in the heart of beautiful Roman architecture” which was a tiny, (we’re talking single person hallway) with a bunk bed and a dirty window. The furniture included a plastic chair and table. Most places do however look exactly like the picture.
For accommodation I use AirBnB or Hostel World. Bookings.com is also a good site if you prefer to stay in a hotel. AirBnB has super cool houses, rooms, or apartments to rent. You can even check out some local tourist experiences and book everything in one spot. Once you know the general lay out of where you want to explore you can use AirBnB’s map view to see where each rental is located to make sure you are located in a good and safe location.
Write down your hotel address in the notes section on your phone.
Before you go anywhere you will need to book some flights. My favorite website for this is Skyscanner. Skyscanner has the best prices and gives you multiple search options for one way, multi-stops or roundtrip. You can check the cheapest dates for each month and even see which countries are on sale for the city you are departing from. The app makes it super easy to find and book from your phone.
I don’t know how many trips I have been on where I think the dress I haven’t worn in 2 years is suddenly going to make its appearance at the beach. If you haven’t worn it in the last 6 months, don’t bring it. I promise you the lighter the load the better the experience is on travel days. You don’t want to be lugging around 100 lbs when all you need is 50.
Make a checklist. Check the weather beforehand and be prepared.
Pack mix and match clothing items that all go together. Use neutral colors that you can wear with multiple outfits.
Bring only two to three pairs of shoes. I typically stick with flip flops, workout shoes, and day shoes either tennis shoes or boots depending on the weather.
PICK THE RIGHT DESTINATIONS
Listen to your heart. If you feel like going to Japan even though everyone and their mother is going to Bali then go explore Japan! Follow that voice inside just make sure it’s safe and you know what to expect. Also, make to know yourself and what you can and can’t handle. In Italy I received a lot of “Ciao Bella” from random men on the streets. In London, everyone kept to themselves. Make sure to do some research on “safe” cities for female travelers. Some of the safest destinations I’ve read about are Iceland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Amsterdam.
If you can’t stand the cold don’t plan a trip to Iceland in the winter. If you don’t like the heat, surfing, the ocean, or being in water then maybe a tropical destination is not your paradise. Do some research and find your place.
STAYING HEALTHY & FIT WHILE TRAVELING
Traveling can put a little pause on your normal gym routine and home cooked meals but it doesn’t mean that you are going to gain a bunch of weight and lose all those muscles you built over the previous months. You will walk a lot! I usually average 15-20 miles a day when I backpack Europe.
One of my favorite things to do when experiencing a new city is to wake up early and go for a run before the streets are crowded. It’s a great way to see things you may have normally passed and see how the locals rise and get on with their day. One of my favorite memories from Gamla Stan, Stockholm was smelling all the bakeries prepare delicious treats for “Fika” while I ran the cobblestone streets and watched the sunrise. it gives you a deeper connection and helps you feel grounded in a new environment.
I also like to stick to plant over processed even when traveling. However if I’m in Italy and I see some vegan pizza and pasta then you can bet that’s what I’m eating. Not for every meal, but it’s part of the experience! Food is one of the cultural experiences you don’t want to miss out on when traveling. Don’t hold back but also don’t go overboard just to stick to your calories. Being vegan or plant based is no exception. I found vegan croissants and paella in Spain, vegan fish and chips in London, baguettes in Paris, and vegan cinnamon rolls for Fika in Sweden. Mexico, Italy, and just about every country I’ve visited has plant based options.
Do body weight circuits and high intensity intervals. When I’m running I love to sprint up stairs for a couple reps, find hills, or do a quick interval to get my heart rate up. You can download an app, make your own plan, or look on Instagram for some circuits by trainers.
SOME OTHER HELPFUL TIPS
Do your research. Know the currency of the country you are going to, best transportation to and from the airports and during your time in the country, safe places to stay in and where to avoid, any tourist traps (don’t play the street games in Paris or you just might lose $100 and end up eating hostel pasta for dinner :(, and check the weather before packing.
Make sure to call your credit and debit card companies ahead of time to put in a travel notice. If you don’t, they will freeze your cards and you will be a little stuck without any cash. That being said always have cash on you. DOn’t solely rely on cards to get you by. Cash is usually best and easy to exchange but make sure to check rates so you aren’t paying more than you should. Know where and how to exchange money. Usually when you land the airports will have currency exchange windows. Make sure to get enough for the trip because who knows where the next window will be.
Book some group excursions. Meet new people and have fun on group tours. I don’t love this, I much prefer to have the freedom to explore on my own time but sometimes it is nice to have a tour guide tell you what’s up with all the history and culture that surrounds you without needing to look everything up on your phone. This can be good too if you’re feeling lonely. Hostels are a great way to meet like-minded individuals that are on a similar journey as you are. I met friends at every hostel I stayed in and ended up spending days exploring the new cities with them.
Buy a SIM card from the country you are in or use what’s app! My first trip I came home to a $600 phone bill- no bueno. Lesson learned. And there are tons of new technology and apps that allow you stay connected with loved ones over seas without raking up the phone bill.
Make a list of sights you want to see and things you want to do so you aren’t trying to plan or figure things out when you’re there. I’m not saying have everything set in stone, I’m definitely more of a spontaneous, whatever I am feeling type of person, so just have a basic general idea and see what you want to do each day.