Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Travel Tuesday: Solo Travel Tips


Welcome back to Travel Tuesday!  I've been thinking so much lately about booking another solo trip and all of the questions that I received when I went to Ireland.  In no way am I an expert on solo travel, but after heading out to a different country on my own for 10 days I definitely learned some things along the way that I would love to share with all of you.  I even asked two friends who have traveled alone to give me a few of their top tips as well as where they adventured to. I got a bunch of comments on instagram and snapchat [natymichele] about this, so I really do hope this post is helpful to you especially the ones who said they're traveling solo this year! This is a long one, so I hope you've got a full cup of coffee [or two] to make it through. ;)


 Research. 
There is so much to think about before booking any trip and even more when you are doing it by yourself.  I knew 100% that I wanted to go to Ireland because of my father, but that's all I knew at first.  I did book my trip pretty quickly and I guess in many ways on a whim as I was not initially planning to do it last year, so I made the effort to fully research the locations, safety, travel routes, expenses, tipping customs, and everything else that I needed to know. I came across so many great travel blogs, particularly ones that focused on female solo travel.  It was comforting reading other women's experiences.  I reached out to friends and other people who traveled there before me.  I made sure that I got a really good idea of what I could expect. You just want to make sure that you are prepared.



Pack Light
This is coming from the queen of overpacking.  One of the things that I regret is bringing a huge suitcase with me to Ireland.  It was just too much for me to lug around, even with the wheels.  I remember getting off the bus from Shannon into Galway in the pouring rain and there I was with my huge suitcase and carry-on in a completely new world trying to find a cab.  I honestly wore so many of the same things, especially when it came to footwear.  The same thing happened when I went to Stockholm. My dad always told me to pack bare essentials only.  I should have listened. So trust me, do not overpack.  I'm not saying you have to bring only a backpack, as I know this is so hard for many, but don't pack 50lbs either.  You'll thank me later. :) 


Book Tours.
Trust me, do it.  This is the best way to meet people, especially other solo travelers. The Cliffs Of Moher tour changed my life and I don't know if my Ireland experience would have been the same without it. I met a great friend there, Dana, and after all these months we still keep in touch!  We met on the first stop of the tour by the castle and I asked her to take my photo.  The rest is history. haha.  We hung out the whole day and even went out at night to the pubs.  For the tour, I used Viator and highly recommend them.  Each country has a bunch of tours to choose from.  Check out the reviews and prices and see what works best for you, but just make sure to book at least one!  


 Always Be Alert.
The truth is that anything can happen to us anywhere at anytime, but you can't let this stop you from living your life. It's ok to be nervous and even a little scared. It's normal to feel that way when going to unfamiliar territory and doing it alone. But, do your best to not let that fear get in the way.  With that being said though, just always be alert and aware of your surroundings like you would anywhere you go.  Be smart about things and keep your eyes open.  Don't walk alone late at night.  Keep your belongings close to you.  I researched safety in Ireland and read a few things here and there about cell phones being stolen near the hotel where I was staying in Dublin. Apparently guys would ride by on bikes and snatch them out of people's hands.  So of course that made me a little nervous at first, but I knew what to look out for and I was very careful. Whenever I passed by there I kept my phone in my pocket. I have to say though that overall, I felt very safe in both Galway and Dublin. 


Emergency Budget. 
I was really proud of myself for not overspending in Ireland.  I used the ATM once when I landed at Shannon airport and took out 500 Euro which I think came out to about $550 US or something like that.  I only used my debit card twice when purchasing souvenirs and even had some euro left over on the last day.  I treated myself to two expensive meals and the rest of the time I was smart about my money.  I walked A LOT.  This being said though, expenses add up especially when you are alone.  I learned quickly in Stockholm that their cabs were super expensive!  My friends and I could have easily spent all our money on them, so instead we traveled by bus and metro. Museums, morning coffee, bus fare, all of these things add up so make sure to factor in an extra amount into your budget.  Also anything can arise at any time so it's always great to be prepared.  I like to make sure I have a certain amount in cash, in my checking account and on one of my credit cards so I have options in case of an emergency.  Figuring out a budget is not always easy, but really think about this before leaving.


 Step Outside Of Your Comfort Zone.
This is a big one.  If you want to fully experience this solo adventure then you need to really step outside of yourself and get out of your own head.  I've noticed that when I travel, that is actually when I feel the most free and the most alive and it's the only time where I am not overthinking.  Experiencing a new country and a different culture is such an incredible thing.  Be open to opportunities and meeting new people.  I seriously enjoyed going out to dinner by myself and wandering into all of the local pubs to hear the live music. Was I nervous?  A little bit, yes!  It helped me grow so much as a person though and made me more confident within myself.  Some of you messaged me about wanting to take a trip alone but being too shy.  My advice is to do it anyway!  Fight through that and put yourself out there to make new friends.  You will surprise yourself.  And trust me, you will not be the only solo traveler.  Give yourself the chance to see what you are truly capable of.  


 Go At Your Own Pace. 
The beauty of solo travel is that this trip is all about you.  This is where you get to be a little selfish.  It's on your time.  You have the luxury of waking up at 8 am to get the day started or sleeping in late till 10.  It actually took me a few days to get used to this as I initially felt like I needed to consult with someone else about the schedule. It felt good to stay out the entire day exploring and doing whatever I wanted whether that included sightseeing, people watching in the coffee shops or drinking Guinness at the pubs. Do as much as you can and want without feeling like you have to do it all and don't forget that some down time is ok too!  You're alone in a new country, so soak it all in, unplug and ENJOY. 


Take Yourself Out To Dinner.
Don't spend every night bringing food back to your hostel or ordering in at the hotel.  Make sure that you actually take yourself out to dinner and don't worry about eating alone.  I seriously enjoyed my solo dinners so much and instantly made friends with the servers everywhere I went.  They meet people traveling alone all of the time and love to hear your story, so strike up a conversation!  I also learned that if the restaurant had a bar it was best to order and eat there as this is also an easy way to make friends with other people and the bartenders will keep their eyes on you too.  


 Keep A Travel Journal.
This is obviously not necessary, but it's something that I wish I did on my trip.  Photos are a great way to hold on to memories, of course, but so is writing about your adventures.  It's such a nice way to keep track of all the things you did each day, where you went, who you met, what you ate, etc.  It's something that you could do at night before going to bed when it's all fresh in your mind.  I also found that I learned a little something from everyone I met along the way whether it was a server, a taxi driver, someone on my tour, or a local at one of the pubs.  Listen to their stories and write them down so that you can always remember them.


Vanessa: Traveled solo to Victoria Falls Zimbabwe & Cape Town.


Vanessa is one of my best friends since high school. Her solo trip is what really pushed me to take mine to Ireland in November.  We chatted almost every day of her adventure via Whats App and I think I asked her a million questions!  She experienced this trip to the fullest by bunjee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge, walking with lions, shark diving, and even spending time at the Zara Center for children in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.  Now if that doesn't inspire you to get out of your comfort zone then I don't know what will!

Her Tips:

- I would do a quick google search on the "state of affairs" of where you are going.  You want to make sure that you are aware of what's going on and bring with you a level of sensitivity.  i.e. Zimbabwe is an authoritarian ruled government so I had to make sure that if this topic came up while I was there, I would listen more than opine. 

- Bring your sense of adventure.  Remember, it's possible you will only go to this place once in your lifetime, so be ready to explore and do new things. 

- Go to local places where you can really get to interact with people that live in the city or place you are visiting.  One of my favorite questions to ask is "What do you think of Americans?"  The answers you get will really surprise you.  Some good and some bad. 

Follow her for more @vanessa_lily



Dana: Traveled solo to Ireland.


Dana is the beautiful soul that I met during my Cliffs Of Moher tour.  Ireland was her first ever solo trip and she journeyed through Belfast, Cork, Dublin and Galway.  We ended up meeting a few days before the end of her entire trip and I am so happy that we did!  She is the one who gave me more insight to the hostels and even more inspiration to take another trip by myself. Now I wish I visited more places in Ireland!


Her Tips: 

- Don't get in your head about being alone.  If you think about the fact that you are alone, it's easy to get freaked out.  Just allow yourself to let go and enjoy the peacefulness of doing what it is you want. 

- Be open to all new friendships.  If you don't allow yourself to get out of your comfort zones, you won't be able to experience the country and the people to their fullest extent.  No one knows you, no one will judge you.  Go make friends. 

- This one's a safety tip.  Always make sure to make yourself memorable to your hostel, hotel, hosts, etc.  Let them know where you are going and what your plans are.  Make sure they know you so that they can keep an eye on your schedule and recognize if you don't come back in time or something is wrong.  They become your new family/support system when you are alone. 

Follow her for more @daynadubya


I know this was a lot of information, but hopefully it gives you a bit more insight and inspiration to venture out on your own one day in the near future.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.  Let me know what topic you would like me to cover in the next Travel Tuesday post. Have a great day loves! <3

2 comments:

  1. I think it's awesome to travel solo, never did it but I would love to because I love travelling and sometimes been away on your own is just what you need! Loved this post!!

    Muny B.| STYLE Blog

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should definitely do it if you ever get the opportunity. It will change your life. <3

      Delete