I get asked a lot about solo travel. Especially doing it as a woman.
Do I feel safe?
I should be careful?
Don’t you get bored?
How do you organize it?
Ect. Ect. Ect.
I wanted to give my experience on solo traveling and how it has basically rocked my world. In the most eye opening, growing and FUN way!
- Solo Travel honestly isn’t for everyone. Do I think everyone should do it at some point in their lives, YES. But I don’t think it really is for everyone. When you travel alone you have a lot of time in your own head. It is completely up to you to have ANY connections with other humans. You are your own lifeline and have to be a quick thinker. You get to know yourself on a raw level really fast and though the good and the bad, you have to be able to trust yourself.
- Planning airfare. Watch multiple websites!!! My favorite app is called sky scanner. It has rocking deals sometimes and I am legit on it most weeks just searching for good deals. I have found plane tickets to Europe for less that what it would cost me to fly back home to Idaho … and that is roundtrip and non stop! However … sometimes the best deals are NOT non-stop. And one of the joys of traveling solo is that you can do whatever flight YOU want and not have to worry about someone else griping about a long layover. When I went to Bali, I had an overnight layover in Doha, Qatar. As soon as I landed I left the airport and went exploring. I stayed the night at a hotel and woke up to a sunrise over the Persian Sea on the first day of Ramadan. I spent the evening before learning about Ramadan and the Muslim religion from a few wonderful people in a restaurant. It was one of the most enriching experiences of my life and all because of an extra long layover. Be flexible with your plane tickets and you will find you can travel most places in the world for cheaper than signing up for an Ironman race!!
- Housing! I ALWAYS use Air BnB. I LOVE it! You can find some AMAZING deals and fantastic places to stay. It takes some research and my biggest tip is to READ THE REVIEWS! As a single woman traveling, I always look for comments that they felt safe and the area was safe first and how assessable the host is second. I have never had a bad experience when I do my research. I actually went out my first night in Rome with my hosts and they invited me to a New Years Eve Party! I am still friends with every host I have stayed at. I always opt for my OWN space and a private apartment. I like to have a home away from home. You can even find deals that include a meal. In Bali, I ate such a massive breakfast that was included, that I didn’t need to have a big lunch so that cut my meal costs significantly! Having a home to stash snacks and food also cuts costs. Just look around. Research. Air BnB is significantly cheaper than hotels (most of the time) and much more of an “experience”. You usually stay in a neighborhood or somewhere surrounded by locals and get a good feel for how people live day to day life. I don’t mind a resort or hotel, but when I travel, I like to immerse myself and I feel like Air BnB has been the best way for me to learn the culture, meet new friends and “live like a local”.
- Packing. PACK LIGHT! I never, ever check bags when I travel and especially on international flights. That way, if there is a long layover, I can just head out! I am a minimalist usually anyways so this comes easy for me. I don’t even pack a brush as I just wash my hair and let it go wild when I travel OR I just braid it. Cutting down on hair maintenance will free up TONS of space. Pack your favorite minimal makeup (I grab my favorite mascara, blush and a few lip colors/my fav chapstick) and call it a day. I like to run when I travel so I wear my running shoes to travel in and pack maybe a pair of Toms or flip flops. You don’t need a lot of shoes and if you can get over wearing your running shoes for all the walking you will be doing around a city, it lightens the load. I lay out an outfit for each day and that is it. I usually cut it in half too. You can wear stuff twice! Black leggings are good for a few days and guys can wear jeans a few times. One big hoodie/jacket that I wear on the plane too. Backpacking it is honestly the only way to go! Plus it saves time at the destination airport! Don’t buy shit you are just going to toss away into a corner anyways. Save your money and space!
- Find people who live where you are going! I always have a contact before I go somewhere. Ask people who have travelled to the place before you if they know anyone you can be in touch or meet up with! I honestly searched Instagram hashtags before I went to Rome and stumbled across an Ex-Pat living there. I simply reached out and we ended up spending a good amount of time together and even spent New Years Eve celebrating. We are still good friends to this day. In Amsterdam, a runner from Instagram reached out to me and we ended up spending the day before the marathon together and then started and ended race day together. We already are making plans to see each other again. This all leads me to my next point…
- TRUST PEOPLE. Yes, I know there is a lot of “bad” in the world but people are inherently GOOD people. And you have to trust that. I’ve been lost in the dark and went to a liquor store because it was the only place open, only to have a man walk me to my apartment because I was completely lost. Now many of you probably think that was the stupidest thing I could have ever done BUT that is point two in this TRUST YOUR GUT. If you get a bad vibe at ALL, go the other way. I trust my gut implicitly. Most all people are not out to hurt you. They genuinely care if you need help. Ask for help. Sometimes you will get turned away. I have been yelled at to get out of a restaurant because I was American. It is the way the cookie crumbles. Suck it up and move on. I have had people stop and let me use their phones on the street when I needed help. When you travel solo, you must learn to trust humanity. Do NOT be naive. Trust your instincts. But remember most humans are actually good people.
- Phone. Most cafe’s and restaurants have wifi anywhere in the world so I never bother getting a SIM card for my phone. That is a great option if you want more communication BUT I kinda like unplugging and not having the option for texting or looking at social media when I travel. I can still snapchat and then post them when I get to wifi and I take loads of pictures but I am disconnected and I love that! Google Maps App will tell you right where you are at all times, even in airplane mode. You can’t do directions but if you study the map before you leave or even take a few screenshots you can have a good idea of where you are while wandering the streets. I turn off my cellular data immediately when I land so I don’t ever have crazy charges. I made the mistake of turning it on in Kenya once and had a nice $250 bill to come home to. Yikes! I also have THIS amazing phone case! It stores 2-3 of my cards so I don’t have to carry around a big wallet. Throw your Credit Card, Drivers License and Debit Card in and call it a day! And on a side note … I don’t know how ANY mom lives without that case! Say goodbye to worrying about where your important things are and losing your cards! Maybe it is just the minimalist in me that loves this so much! Haha!
- Embrace YOU. Yes, you will have a lot of time alone. But you can make friends with locals. Talk to people. Interact at the grocery store. Find a local running club or group of people with similar interests. You have to put yourself out there! I met a girl on the beach in Bali and two days later we were climbing a volcano in the middle of the night together! Talk Talk Talk! If that scares the shit out of you, GOOD! You will grow! Find other solo travelers. Look on websites for ex-pats in the area you travel. strike up conversations anywhere you can and you will be amazed at the people that will cross your path and the friendships you will make. Embrace spending time alone and having your own schedule. Do whatever you want, whenever you want! Eat whatever you want! It is FUN! Bring a good book with you and find someone really quaint to read for a bit each day. Journal. Find yoga studios to practice at. Yoga is universal! Just put yourself out there and see what the Universe sends back to you. It is quite a beautiful and humbling experience.
- Be Smart. The practical part. Have US embassy phone numbers. Have copies of your passport on your phone and in paper. Send a copy to your mom via email. I use my running flip belt a TON when I travel to carry all my important shit around. Don’t flash your money around. You wouldn’t do that in Manhattan so don’t do that in Berlin! I don’t go to clubs or out drinking when I travel solo. Keep your brain keen and enjoy a glass of wine but don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation. Use common sense. I was born and raised Mormon and I respect the religion very much. I no longer practice but when I travel alone, I always look to see where their nearest church building is because I know if something happens I have somewhere to reach out to. May sound silly, but one thing I respect about the LDS church is their emergency preparedness plans (I used to work with them on this) and in the RARE case there is a natural disaster or something horrible while traveling, I know they could be a lifeline and safe haven. These are all little things to just be prepared. Things CAN go wrong. Threats are very REAL. Have a plan of action and let your contacts at home know it. You have to trust people. You have to trust yourself. But being prepared and SMART will keep you in a good peace of mind and your experience much more enjoyable.
Those are some of my tips for traveling solo. There are more so maybe I will do another post soon. Let me know what you think! Or add some more thoughts below in the comments!
Adventure is out there! So go explore!