Top 10 Tips for Planning Your Solo Adventure
By Jonathan Burnham
Traveling solo is an amazing opportunity to see the world. It gives you the freedom to do what you want, when you want. Although I enjoy traveling with friends and family, some of my best memories were from trips where I traveled by myself. Traveling with friends and family can keep you from branching out and meeting new people. Traveling solo pushes you to try new things and meet new people, something that I think is a necessity when traveling. Trust me, I know the thought of getting on a plane and going to another country by yourself, where they don’t speak your native language and you don’t know anyone; can be a little overwhelming. That is why I came up with my top 10 tips for planning your solo adventure.
1. Be prepared – Have a detailed list of all your flights, trains/buses and hotels. As basic as that sounds, it is good to cover all the bases when traveling solo. I know I have found myself caught up into the moment and rushed the basics and forgotten important details. I find creating a packing list is very helpful and then checking that list the night before you leave. It helps you sleep a little better the night before a big trip when you feel comfortable that you have everything. Making a contact list is another good idea and print everything out. Also be mentally prepared, prepare for the time differences, prepare for some culture shock and prepare to be in some sticky situations. Freaking out when you are by yourself is the worse, so just be prepared to roll with the punches.
2. Have a back up plan – Make a copy of your passport that you take with you, I always carry a photo copy of my passport in my wallet and leave my passport in the safe box at the hotel. Although it is highly recommend to have your passport on you at all times when traveling abroad, I find a copy will work in most situations. Have a back up bank card and cash, please DON’T EVER carry all of your money and credit cards in the same place. I always have a back up bank card or travelers card and some cash in another bag, just in case something happens to my wallet.
3. Keep an open mind – You’re traveling to another country, a lot of things will be different! Food, culture, traditions and personalities aren’t the same every where you go, so don’t judge. Be open to new foods, join in a local tradition, make an effort to meet some locals, try something new! A good phrase to remember is “you only live once”, so step outside of your bubble and take advantage of being somewhere new.
4. Be social – You never know who you’ll meet and people are a lot friendlier than you think. I can’t even count how many times that just taking that first step to introduce myself to someone led me onto a new adventure or made a lifelong friend. Here are some good icebreakers: ask for directions and then ask a question like, where is a good place to eat or where do all the locals hangout. Make the effort to make the first contact, I have asked someone for directions and then ended up hanging out with them and their friends at the coolest local spots. I have even had people walk me to the destination I was looking for, people are just generally nice if you give them the chance.
5. Know some basic phrases – This ties into #4, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a great reaction by trying to speak the language vs blurting out what I needed in English. No one cares if you “slaughter” their language and no one expects you to be fluent, but knowing the basics can go along way. Here are a few basic ones to know: Hello, please, thank you, how much?, I am looking for, I’m lost, can you help me? and do you speak English?. Just knowing a few phrases will go a long way, you can use them as an icebreaker to meet some locals as well. I usually pick up a phrase book before I go and study the basics. It’s always handy to keep it on you, just incase you need it. Here is some basic language tips for 5 common languages that are a great read before your trip.
6. Don’t have set plans – Roll with it, sometimes plans change for the better! Obviously you want to have a full schedule in order to make the most of your time, but be sure to have some wiggle room in case you find something better to do. Sometimes I’ll be set on seeing something and then meet someone who tells me it is a waste of time and suggest something much better to see. Just keep in mind that plans don’t have to be set in stone.
7. Take photos – You don’t have to be a professional photographer or have a fancy $13,000 camera to capture great moments or beautiful photos. Having a small digital camera that you can keep in your pocket or purse is priceless when those special moments arise. Also take a ton of photos and bring an extra memory card, you never know when that perfect photo will happen. If nothing else, it is a great way to relive the moment when you get home.
8. Keep a journal – Keeping a journal is also a good way to kill downtime and gives you the opportunity to recap your travels when you get home. Just because your friends couldn’t make it doesn’t mean you can’t share your travels with them when you get back! Time and time again I’ll go back and read my writings from my travels and be so excited to be reminded of a great time that I forgot about.
9. Be yourself – A lot of times people find themselves playing a roll and think traveling gives them the chance to be whoever they want to be. Just be you! Here is a quote from a friend that is priceless in this situation. “If you’re just being yourself, then know your bringing something that nobody else is brining- because nobody’s you. And that’s the beauty about being here on this earth, is that you’re you. So be it.” – Lonnie Kauk
10. Be confident – Yes, being alone in a new place can cause some anxiety. But it doesn’t mean that you have to let it get the best of you, whenever you feel overwhelmed take a step back and remember you are there to have fun. Confidence is a huge part of that, whether it is trying something new, venturing out with strangers or just introducing yourself; be confident! Sometimes having confidence when you’re alone and in a new place can be difficult, but trying is better than not trying. Don’t succumb to your fears and make the most of every situation.
your friendly solo traveler,