In the last year I have traveled four times and as I enter the beginning of 2017 I have to say I feel more confident because of the solo adventures I have made. This isn’t to say that having a travel companion isn’t great but something has to be said for making a journey on one’s own.
One thing that I have noticed is that when I travel I feel confident in talking to strangers. Granted I have an outgoing personality but when I was traveling I was also trying to talk to people in Spanish whenever I could. If I was with another person I doubt that I would have tried so hard to speak in Spanish. This goes for traveling state-side as well. On a recent trip to San Diego my friend had to work and I decided to explore a part of the city I hadn’t been to before. I strolled the farmers market and had a great time! I sat and ate my lunch on the steps of a house right off the street and was joined by a few people. I struck up a conversation with them and had a great time talking about the city and got some pointers on where to go for a drink and dinner later that night. Being able to adapt to one’s environment makes for a better time and also for a better experience.
Navigation was another thing that I conquered when traveling solo. Being able to navigate a busy city is key when traveling. It is easy when you have Uber and Lift at your finger tips but in another country finding a taxi or cab that will take you somewhere is a little more difficult. Horror stories of people being robbed were in some of the blogs I read and some while there were suggestions about taking chicken buses (the colorful buses in Central America) sometimes getting a shuttle that takes you over the borders were more helpful. So I say research the trip and destinations. If I stay at a hotel then I ask the front desk if they have a shuttle service that for a small fee and tip can take you anywhere in the city. Next is to map it out. Take the time to get a map of the city and walk around with as little with you as possible and keep your belongings locked at the hostel or hotel. You will get used to a foreign city by just getting situated with landmarks. In Antigua Guatemala I got lost three times trying to find my hostel but I just walked around like I knew where I was going until I could ask someone to help me get my bearings. In bigger cities in the states, I say visit the tourist center to get ideas of what to do and get brochures. Plot your course before you leave by making a bucket list of things that you have googled and want to do. I already have Nashville bucket-list on the way and public transportation info written down.
The art to solo travel (not that I am an expert) is to go with the flow. Seriously, sometimes you have to drop your preconceived notions of what you thought was going to happen and embrace the moment. Sticking to an itinerary and having strict timelines will kill the pleasure of enjoying the city and possibly meeting people who know a killer secret spot. So if you can let go of the idea that the trip needs to go a certain way and just be free for living in the moment, you’ll enjoy it so much more. Confidence was not something I have always had. I was the geeky, shy, chubby girl that didn’t know how to go about navigating public buses. It is some work to travel solo and when you conquer the metro or city buses, you will appreciate the destination and the journey so much more. So go out there and travel safely, be smart and live in the moment.
Sunset in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua after a motorcycle ride with a stranger.