One reason I wanted to blog about my travels was to inspire others — particularly women — to pursue their own adventures, big or small. When a former colleague, and long-time friend, recently decided to take her first solo trip, I was so happy for her. She emailed me in advance, asking for advice. This is what I wrote back:
I have a system that’s worked well. I travel very light so I’m not weighed down by luggage. I never arrive in a city without knowing how the public transport works and what methods I’ll probably use and how/where to buy a ticket. I always know how I’ll get from the airport/train station to my hotel (because I’ll be tired and possibly a bit disoriented from jet lag). I always research the local taxis in advance to get the vibe on which companies are trustworthy. I always try to have some foreign currency on hand for walkin’ around money in case of emergency. Not everyone does this, but I use a money belt (make sure you let your bank know that you’re traveling) and carry a Pacsafe cross-body purse. I don’t poo-poo my instincts. If something feels weird, I honor the feeling whether it’s “logical”or not.
The other thing I’m nutty about: my phone. It’s kind of like my lifeline, so I keep it very close. I don’t use it casually in public without having a good grip on it. Maybe that’s a bit paranoid, but it’s not like I’m going to be flying back home in a week or two where I can replace it. I rely on it for my planning and correspondence!
All that said … here’s my most important piece of advice: Don’t be attached to the outcome. Solo travel is wonderful and fun, and this adventure is deeply meaningful to me and the best thing I’ve ever done. There are also times when I get lost and want to cry. I can feel awkward in new situations. I’m also clumsy! I still experience anxiety when I do something that feels like a stretch. But it’s also FANTASTIC to feel like I’m exploring life, the world, myself, and other people and doing it vs. sitting around and thinking about it. Some days are pure magic, and even the “getting lost” days have their own charm. I’ve also seen again and again that people are kind. If I’m really lost, I’ll ask for help. Nobody’s ever turned me down when I’ve needed assistance.
Had she asked, I would’ve been happy to offer specific advice on where to go and what to do, but only if she’d asked. Solo travel is a very personal thing, and figuring things out for yourself is incredibly satisfying and empowering. Learning what you enjoy (or don’t!) is part of the challenge, as well as the reward.
My friend ended up having a great, and empowering, time — no surprise there! In fact, I think she officially caught the solo travel bug. No surprise there either.
Her first trip wasn’t perfect — just like my adventure isn’t perfect — but any challenges she faced were far outweighed by the joy she felt from seeing the world, learning about herself and others, and stepping outside of her comfort zone to try something new.
And now she’s inspiring her friends and family to do the same. That’s the best part of all.