Wandering x Lessons: You CAN Travel Solo.

Bonjour. Can’t quite get over my travel hangover so I’m committed to blogging and recapping the adventures to relive it.

If you’re looking to squeeze in one or two more last minute trips during the summer but have no one to go with at the same time, don’t fret. Take the plunge into solo travels – here are some tips to encourage you to consider!

There’s quite a bit of planning involved with solo travels. In case we haven’t covered all the advantages of traveling solo, here goes:

1. Empowerment and Independence (See Post Here).

2. Economical – Purchasing for one has its benefits from train tickets to meals.

3. Freedom of scheduling – No need to wait for anyone, factor someone else’s travel style etc. And, you can travel when your schedule suits YOU.

But there are several other things you have to keep in mind when you are traveling alone. When you travel alone, you have a great sense of responsibility for yourself and you have to plan enough and remain vigilant about your personal safety.

Read on for some tips on how to stay SAFE, how to PACK and other TIPS that I’ve learned along the way as a new entrant into the solo travel world!

SAFETY: Safety is of upmost importance when traveling solo – be aware of all your surroundings, where you are and always have your bearings straight.

1. Lodging – If you’re staying at an AirBnb (which I love) make sure you have your address and access codes to your location written down somewhere with you at all times (less recognizable than saying a large hotel chain name). Take a picture of it in your phone and write it on a piece of paper. Heck, take a picture of where you’re staying.

2. Phones – Get international cell service – you’ll never know when you’ll need it and Wi-Fi in other countries can be spotty. Bring a back up charger – you’ll likely use your phone a lot.

3. Maps on Phone – I like to download maps onto my phone instead of carrying a paper map (but carry a paper map just in case as backup). As a female, I don’t want to give anyone the signal that I am a lost tourist by looking at a giant map in the middle of the street. Maps on a phone is more discreet and usually a GPS dot helps with getting your bearings in a city. For a good map that works OFFLINE on your phone, download Ulmon City Maps 2 Go. You can also mark all the places you want to go with a star to help guide your way in the city (and look less touristy because you won’t be carrying a giant map!)

4. Emergency Contacts – Tell your friends and family back home where you are and check in with them every once in a while so they know where ou are.

5. Make virtual breadcrumbs & Take pictures of your surroundings
– Most phones have location tags with photos now – not only will you remember where you were, but if you get lost, take pictures of the train you took, the subway signs, streets etc to remind you.

6. Night Walking – A lot of what makes travel enjoyable in some cities is seeing it at night. When you’re with a group, you’re probably not thinking about it much. When you are solo as a female, make sure you are walking in light, WALKING WITH CONFIDENCE and walking in very public places. No dark alleys, no deserted parks alone.

7. Drinking
– I do enjoy a cocktail or two when I go out but when I’m traveling by myself, I be sure to watch how much I consume. I don’t want to lower my inhibitions or alertness especially at night. Here’s another good time to text a friend to tell them where you are.

8. If You THINK you’re Being Followed – Go towards a large crowd or a more public place where there are others around. And ask for help from officials (at a train station or in public) if you see them. Hop in a cab as soon as you can so you can get home quickly.

9. Learn the words “Help” in the language of the country you are in
– never know when you’ll need it!

10. Download Google Translate
– again, don’t be stuck without the right words to ask for assistance. Worth the data plan alone. The diction may not always be accurate but you should get what you need from it.

11. ALWAYS keep some cash on hand – Both in large and small coin form. You never know when you’ll need it. I was once in a subway station where my cards didn’t work and I only had large bills and the ticket machine wouldn’t accept them. It was late and luckily a friendly local gave me the 1,80 Euro I needed to buy a ticket when I couldn’t find a place to get change. Lesson learned.

12. Pickpockets – Be aware of your bag and keep it close to your body when in public. All zippers closed, tops concealed and next to your body. In Paris, they likely work in groups spread out and look like separate individuals but they are all scoping tourists. The people who ask you to sign “petitions” in the streets? Be careful when they come close to you!

STAYING OCCUPIED: Hopefully you aren’t bored! There’s so much around to see and this gives you a new chance to meet others. But, in case you need to feel “occupied” when you are not exploring, here are some tips:

1. Download Audio Books – They are fun to listen to while you walk around a city. I like to do cities by foot and this makes for a great time to hear someone “talk” to you. For example, as I walked around Paris, I downloaded a novel about “How to be a Parisian” and found it wildly entertaining to hear about sites as I walked around the city without having to read being tied down to one place.

2. Meet New People in Public Places
– In almost every city you can google and look up free events in the city. For example, in Paris I discovered Paris Plages. TimeOut guides are great for telling you what’s happening that week in the city, especially during the summer. If you’re eating out, sit at the bar. You’ll meet new people and the bartenders are usually good at telling you good places to see and things to do. Whether it’s a movie in the park or a festival, you’ll see the locals and might even meet a local while you’re out. Plus, they can give you the best tips on what to see or do in the city that is authentic. I’ve met quite a few locals while traveling solo and have had great times hanging out with them in the cities I’ve visited and made new friends along the way.

3. Write letters or take notes in your phone
– What did you see? Experience? Feel? It’s fund to read your notes again, if even a day later when you’re traveling.

PACKING: Packing light helps if you’re traveling alone – remember, you’ve got to carry all your own stuff as you go around.

1. Carry On When you Can – I try to do carry on as much as possible. Makes getting on trains, through customs, airports etc. so much easier. And when you’re in countries such as Europe and staying in AirBnb’s, remember that some old buildings won’t havve lifts. I assume that I will re-wear some outfits (you’re doing to so many places no one will see you in the same shorts twice) and will do laundry halfway through the trip. For females, shoes tend to be the dilemma. Pack items into your shoes and always roll clothes! You’ll be able to get more in!

Here’s how I’ve sorted it out for a two week trip:

  • One pair of heels (preferably wedges – easier to walk in and can be dressed up or down easily with jeans or a dress)
  • One pair of flip flops, one pair of flats, one pair of sneakers – Pack your workout gear in your sneakers to save space
  • Two-three dresses – dresses that can be worn with flip flops during the day (if needed) and then transition to night with the heels
  • One stylish jacket – My favorite Banana Republic jacket is my go to – it’s got enough flare and style that it feels feminine enough while sporty enough for daytime travel
  • One pair of jeans & three pairs of shorts – That should be enough to get you through summer travel
  • Five blouses or tops – Remember permutations? That will be helpful here as you combo up your outfits – you can always do laundry on the road!
  • One scarf or pashmina – So helpful on planes, chillier nights or trains
  • Makeup Bag – Necessary
  • Disposable Makeup Wipes – So much easier to use and carry
  • One collapsable/foldable duffel bag – I assume I’ll check luggage on my way home so I need an extra duffel to carry stuff back (Bric’s make a good multi functional one)
  • One cross-over purse (that also doubles as a clutch for evenings out when needed)
  • Lingerie – I don’t skimp here – bring extra unmentionables and keep some with you in your carry on (if you lose your luggage or have delays, you’ll be thankful!)
  • First Aid Needs: Triple Antibiotic ointment, advil, vitamin C, dramamine and bandaids
  • Space Bags – Ziploc makes a travel size version

2. Your “Comforts”: I have a couple of comforts I like to keep with me to make me feel “homely” or comforted when I’m on the road. These are purely personal items but I don’t want to be without them:

  • My jade bracelet – I got this in Taiwan when I visited where I was born. My dad’s cousin’s wife gave it to me while I was there. They say Jade protects you so I like to think I’m comforted with it on.
  • My Virtue Heart – I got this on my travels to Montreal and I found a Cathedral in Old Montreal. The virtue heart was given to Marguerite (who founded the Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal) from sailors who completed the pilgrimage from France to Quebec. The virtue hearts were filled with wishes and notes for prayer for those who needed healing or peace and prayer. I bought a mini heart which I keep on my necklace as a symbol of love, protection and hope as I travel and pray.
  • My music – I’m often with headphones (except at night) when I walk a city. Makes me feel peaceful.
  • My iPad – To blog of course!

Ironically, I get asked a lot if I get “lonely” on travels. To be honest, when you’re out seeing the world, you are with everyone and the opporutnity to meet new friends is everywhere. When I first started solo traveling, I thought I would feel lonely but I’ve thus far enjoyed the ability to manage my own schedule, do what I want, meet who I want to meet and stay connected with family and friends while I am abroad. I’ve actually never felt so connected to others in my life so far.

Okay, hopefully that was helpful in inspiring you to take on solo travel. Anyone else have good solo travel tips? I’d love to hear them!

Excel & Wander.

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