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Getting Comfortable Taking Small Risks Traveling Alone – Clare Marie

Getting Comfortable Taking Small Risks Traveling Alone – Clare Marie

Clare Marie is a storyteller, experience designer, and empathy activist. Her latest project, DateBetter.co, combines many of her passions to help you make more meaningful connections through profile optimization, coaching, and custom date design.

TravSolo aims to inspire through authentic storytelling, by sharing real travel experiences

When you hear traveling + alone what are some things that come to mind?

The first things that come to mind traveling by myself are meeting people, making friends and making connections, which is a lot more spontaneous. I’ve traveled a lot in groups, in pairs and alone in the past but traveling solo is actually my favorite way of traveling. This is because you can really be selfish and spend your time how you want to spend it. Traveling solo also has it’s stressful moments because there is nobody to watch your bag at the airport, there is nobody to say “oh wait, grab that” or “do the double check in the hotel room”. You don’t have a safety net there necessarily, so there is the possibility this type of travel comes with a little bit more risks. I still prefer to travel solo today in lots of ways (laughing), do not tell my fiancé.

I promise I won’t. When was the last you traveled with someone or with a group?

I just went to Portland with my fiancé and also went with my best friend to Ireland, for two and a half weeks, this past summer; those are the last two mini trip or bigger trips that I’ve done recently. I actually kind of avoid traveling anywhere with a ‘group’ group nowadays. Last time I did so was when I was in college probably about seven or eight years ago.

Do you find there is a lot of opinions expressed when traveling with others?

Oh my God, that is the other thing that bothers me! I am a planner and have a lot of friends who aren’t, so I get really frustrated when I end up planning an entire vacation for myself and somebody else and they don’t do any of the work for it. And then they complain about many of the things that I plan, so when I’m traveling by myself, it’s easier to be like “Well, if I don’t like it, I planned it.”

Now at what point did you decide to travel alone? Because it seems to me at one point you decided to venture out by yourself

So the two traveling types actually kind of existed side by side for a long time in my life, because I had the opportunity to travel with groups several times for study abroad opportunities from when I was 16 to when I was in my early twenties. I traveled alone internationally for the first time when I was 17 to Japan and met somebody when I got there, which was really only at the airport and did a couple of travel things by myself. I met up with a friend there who was a local, but it really empowered me to realize I can do this by myself and I can navigate certain things even in a foreign country, which in 2004 and 2005 did not have as much English everywhere and what not — I’m like ‘OK, I can figure this shit out’.

I am also a Type 1 diabetic, so there is a lot of planning that goes into me traveling because I have to have enough insulin, supplies and all of that for the duration of my trip. I have to have something set up with my mom where she will be able to send me a supplemental box at certain points along the trip. So I think I really became addicted to solo traveling when I was 21 and did a spring break by myself in the south of France; I had a really great time and some really crappy times too. Learning how to balance those things but also learning how to be alone has always been a priority for me.

How did you feel coming back from your solo France trip?

It was really empowering to go alone, especially as a woman. I don’t really have one trip that stands out that was like super transformational. I grew up in a really ridiculously isolated place in Montana, my college admission’s essay was called “90 miles for Groceries”. It is this tiny town found in the middle of the main entrance to Yellowstone National Park and the closest city is 30,000 people 90 miles away.

I’m an only child and was an artsy person in not an artsy place, so I have always had this need to escape. I came to NYU when I was 18 and have always been striving and going away and going toward; travel just really fulfills that for me. Getting more comfortable with solo travel really empowered me to not have to wait for opportunities and to make them myself. I realized if something is falling off, or feeling stifled and want to go away I can just hop on a plane to Iceland for a few days or whatever.

What is your fondest solo travel moment abroad? I know that is one of the hardest question to ask a traveler because so much happens along the way.

I was in Dublin almost three summers ago from now and was dating somebody back home. I had finished my MFA and bought a one-way ticket to Europe before I fell in love with this person. I still decided to go on this indefinite trip to Dublin, which is one of my favorite cities to see “Once” the Musical — which takes place in Dublin — written by Glen Hansard . The show is so beautiful and it is about love, obstacles and all these things, which made me just glow. I saw Glen Hansard when he came out and the audience sang with him, making my evening a magical one. Coming out of the show I got a text from my boyfriend that he had met somebody else.

I felt I was just on top of the world and then it all crashed! I called my friends while crying, walking along the River Liffey and went back to my hostel. I didn’t sleep at all that night and had to get on a plane to Portugal the next morning. Then I spent three days in Lisbon, Portugal at ‘We love fucking tourists hostel’ — I am not making the name of that hostel up (laughing). I think they mean we fucking love tourists, but it is called the love fucking tourists. I had this really healing delightful-like party while there.

I always recommend to anybody if somebody breaks your heart to get on a plane to Portugal because everybody’s going to tell you how beautiful you are. All these Portuguese men are just wooing me, so I just let myself completely go and experience those three days. I really experienced heartbreak and got drunk with these new people in the hostel to really feel things. It was amazing how everything just felt right because I was by myself in a country that was not my own, within a few hours. I had these highs and these lows alone with myself and had to kind of finally just let myself feel that.

“I think for me it is not the greatest risk, it is getting comfortable with small risks so that you build up a tolerance to it.”

So let us talk about the opposite now. What is the scariest moment you have had traveling alone?

I have had sciatica for awhile and I woke up one morning in London, collapsing on the floor and could not walk. I was in all this pain and I didn’t know why until I realized I slipping a disc in my back. I was subletting my friend’s apartment, so I didn’t have anybody in London to offer me immediate assistance and ended up at the emergency room. Over the course of a couple of weeks I visited three different hospitals and had to go under anesthesia, having to get a steroid injection into my spine. I was completely alone and could have called my parents, whom would have helped me out a little bit financially. When I saw the hospital bills, it turns out even private health care in the UK is pretty affordable. I was in the worst pain in my life, alone in a foreign country which was really hard.

Being by yourself, you are not like “Well, maybe someone can help me”. What was your process getting through all that you went through?

I’m really self-reliant, so it is nice that I have my parents whom are incredibly supportive. Neither of them were about to jump on a plane and come help me, because they knew I didn’t need them to. If I had really needed them to, they probably would have — I was like “Well I can call a cab or hobble my way to the trains”. If all else fails, I’m in one of the politest cities in the world and could just really ask a stranger on the street for help. Weirdly enough, some of the people that I reached out to were guys that I had been talking to through online dating. They offered to step up and help me, people I had connected on the Internet who I’d never met before, who sensibly were just looking to get laid (laughing)- they were like “Oh wait, like you actually need some help. Can I help you with something?”.

The majority of the people in the world want to help people and generally want to help each other. It is similar on the subway, as I have felt more alienated alone and endangered on the subway in New York that I ever had traveling internationally in my entire life. It is just a matter of context and how you are looking at the world. I am not saying “Oh I can just walk through whatever country in the world I want as a woman and be fine” — that is not the reality. Being socially aware is important, but also realizing the people who are around you are people, they have friends and families that they care about.

This might be the hardest question to answer. What is your favorite destination?

Can I have two favorite places in the world?

Sure!

My favorite place in the world is London. I really like the speed of the city, all the green space and find it to be very welcoming. It is also really diverse, has really great food, great arts — making it my favorite urban environment.

My favorite rural environment is Donegal, Ireland. Most people when they travel in Ireland go to the south of Ireland, Donegal is at the North of Ireland, it is not northern Ireland, but it’s the northern most part of the Republic of Ireland and not as many tourists go there. You kind of need to rent a car to really get off the beaten path there. In Donegal & Sligo I’ve met some of the most amazing people and it is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The people are absolutely incredible and feels more authentic in a way. I ended up singing in a pub with people, just ended up falling into a session and it was the kind of moment you kind of try to manufacturer when you travel a little bit. This is the place where I feel those magical moments happened for me when I’m traveling there.

Do you have a next destination in mind?

So I’ve kind of had a big shift as I just got engaged. I just propose to my fiancé.

Wait, you proposed to your fiancé??

YES!

Congrats!

Thank you! He is jazzed that I proposed, which is awesome too. I decided to flip the script on that one a little bit as I didn’t really ever think I wanted to get married (laughing). I started thinking about me proposing and that I had met a man who was cool with that and was jazzed about that. So now I think solo traveling is going to be a little bit on the back burner for a while because he and I have only ever traveled in the U.S. together.

So now I think my next travel adventures will be learning how to factor in a partner while retaining the feeling that I have about traveling by myself and the spontaneity of it. He knows I’m going to need to travel again by myself at some point in our relationship (laughing).

It is part of the marriage requirements.

Yeah (laughing), I love doing this! It is one of the ways I connect with myself and he is totally cool with that. Now I’m going to learn how to travel with a partner, which is always good for budgeting. It is really great because you can split up the bill and you can graduate from staying at hostels to hotels pretty easily when you’re splitting a room.

What is the greatest risk that you’ve ever taken?

I feel I’m pretty comfortable with risk, so nothing jumps out to me entirely. I think for me it is not the greatest risk, it is getting comfortable with small risks so that you build up a tolerance to it, like saying “yes” to the opportunity to go to Japan when I was 17 by myself to meet up with my friend, taking the job that I have now, embracing study abroad opportunities, moving back to New York on a whim and doing grad school abroad that were exciting but a little bit uncomfortable. I was in the arts for a long time and I got offered this job in financial technology; it was way outside my comfort zone but decided to try it.

When I used to teach theater classes, the motto of the class was ‘Yay for failing’. I think that people are so afraid to fail big, that they suddenly became afraid to fail small. I have missed a train and a flight, those things seem catastrophic in the moment but you get used to those things, getting used to failure is a really good thing. Missing your train in the morning when you are commuting, getting used to it and not freaking out over every little frustration. Failure allows you to do things like pick up and move across the world. and If you don’t fail small then you don’t give yourself the opportunity to win big.

What actually inspires you to travel more?

Meeting people and, most of all, meeting myself, because I have met different versions of myself, especially in different countries, cultures and situations. Also the friends that I’ve made traveling, the friendships I’ve deepened traveling with people, and the people I’ve met in hostels. My through line of life is connectivity — how am I connecting with the world, with people, and with myself.

Travel gives you the best of the best and the worst of the worst, it heightens those sorts of things in your life. I’m actually trying to learn how to recreate that feeling in my normal life because it is expensive to live in New York. So I can’t afford to travel as much, but I’ve never been to the Bronx, that is a travel opportunity! I realized that we have, especially in some place like New York, opportunities to travel here and there without ever having to take anything other than the Subway.

Have you ever inspired someone else to maybe travel more?

It is really easy to directly inspire people being a teacher, especially my students. I also have a lot of friends who are seven to 10 years younger than me and I’m always encouraging them to travel. I encouraged my friend to move back to Japan recently to live with her dad a couple years ago. A lot of people were telling her “No, don’t do that” and I was like “No, go do that!” (laughing).

I think not pushing yourself too far out of your comfort zone too fast is important. When I was 20, I had the opportunity to go to Martinique on a study abroad trip and there was something that just told me I was not ready for that yet. There were a lot of different reasons I made the decisions like having an eating disorder at the time and being a diabetic.

In terms of finding travel opportunities, you don’t have to go backpacking through South America as your first solo traveling experiences. You could go to New York, London or Seattle, honestly it doesn’t even have to be international. Traveling has different forms, such as taking a weekend by yourself in a new city or going to a nice town pretty similar to where you live now is a good way to get your feet wet. Just because there are people like me who are outliers who are like “Yeah, I’ll go jump on a train to Bristol, to meet some guy I’ve never met” does not mean everyone should do the same. I could do those things because I did a lot of other things and I laid the ground work first.

Getting comfortable with the biggest first step is most important. Most of my female friends will not even go out to dinner by themselves. I recommend taking yourself out to dinner with a book as your companion and not with your phone. Try going out to dinner by yourself, wherever you live, get comfortable with your own company because you won’t be able to travel by yourself and actually have a positive experience unless you can take yourself out to dinner (laughing).

Say 20 years from now you decided to write about your travel story, what are three words you would use as your title? Similar to ‘Eat. Pray. Love’

I already have a title for my travel blog, but it’s not three words — so I’ll give you that and then I’ll give you my three words. My current book that I’m working on very slowly is “Crossing the Dateline: Swiping Right for Adventure” which is about online dating and traveling. My three words would be: Listen. Dance. Connect. ‘Eat’ is implied so I’m not going to steal her ‘Eat’, but eat everything everywhere!

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Showing Your Unique Light Traveling Alone – Qiana Martin

TravSolo aims to inspire through authentic storytelling, by sharing real travel experiences

What are your thoughts of traveling solo?

It forces me to immerse myself in the local culture. It also opens me up to the possibilities of meeting people and doing all sorts of things. Sometimes if you’re in a group or if you’re with your bestie or your boyfriend then it is like you’re so focused on making sure they have a good time and that you can stay in your comfort zone.

What goes through your mind when you travel by yourself with so much stuff, whether you are on the plane or heading towards your accommodation?

I find that I literally turn off my sensitivity radar for so many things because I’m a person of color, American and a female. So there is a lot of things you need to be cognizant of when you’re traveling outside the United States: the perceptions of you as an American, being able to blend in, and being a woman of color. So I always have a heightened sense of awareness. I like to do a lot of prep work in advance to make sure that I understand the neighborhood, understand the places that I’m going to be staying even if I’m winging it. Once I get there I kind of know the lay of the land, kind of know what some people’s perceptions are, of the place that I’m going to my destination and that I have safeguards in place, be it that I’m leaving certain information with people back here in the United States or that we have certain check processes and protocols. I do this so people know that if they haven’t heard from me within a certain period of time to kind of alert somebody else in the chain. Another thing I do is also register with the embassy website to make sure that if there are any notifications that I need to receive, while I am abroad in that particular location, that I could receive those in the event that something happens in my foreign destination.

When & where did you take your first trip alone?

First one huh? Let me think. I’ve been traveling on my own for a while. I would say, internationally, the first place that I went to was the Bahamas a few years back. I did a training down there and I’ve been there once before with a friend. This time around I was going there to train and everything was squared with my hotel but I accidentally left my credit card in the United States and even though the hotel room was paid for they would not let me check in. Fortunately, I actually knew someone there locally and they were able to upfront me the cash until I was able to get the cash back to them. On that particular island the mail wasn’t going to come until Monday, while I had to check in to my room Friday. Business was already done for the day so that was a pretty wild situation because I didn’t have copies of my documents in place where somebody could just fax over a copy of the front and back of my card. That really would have helped the situation and just allowed me to have a seamless process where I would not have need to get anyone else involved.

It does work out and you just have to really take three deep breaths so you can get enough oxygen to your brain, so that you could think clearly before you panic. Then from there you start to figure out ‘OK, what is my next best step?’

“One thing I could tell women about travel is that we’re all ambassadors in some form or fashion. As more people get to meet us more people get to see the unique light that is you”

What was the most let down travel experience you have had thus far?

I’ll say that sometimes you can forget that in the midst of being in such a beautiful place, be it Rio or Colombia, where I did some training there, that you are somehow immune from the realities of what is going on in that culture. So for instance I know I travel by myself so I like to hire a chaperone or hang with other players if I need to go somewhere. We went to a birthday party for our trainer at night and it was in the same neighborhood where we train; I was kind of debating about going just because I really didn’t feel up to it. But I gave them my word and I was like ‘it is his birthday I will go’, so they put me in the cab with my friend I train with who is on the Men’s National Soccer Team. We went about two corners and then the police pulled us over. As an American, as a woman, as a woman of color, you’re in a neighborhood that you don’t know although you’re with someone you do know when you encounter police and do not know what is going to happen next. You do not know whether it is going to be upstanding member of law enforcement or something else is going to happen. They asked me a lot of questions: “Why are you here? You’re American in Colombia? They looked at my passport which is why it is always important to carry a copy sometimes. So they looked through my stamps and saw that I have been in other places but the cab driver had something going on that we didn’t know about. I think he had drugs in his car and they looked under the hood of the car. They asked us “Do you guys have drugs?”, I was told them I literally have no drugs, then they took the car and the driver while we were left to walk to the next corner to try and find another cab. My first instinct was to get out of here and you have to make sure you’re calm enough that you don’t do anything that makes you look questionable — so that was a pretty scary moment.

So you have to be mindful, especially if you are going out at night. I usually take care of a lot of my business in the daytime because there’s a lot to see and do in these places, especially if the current landscape might be a little treacherous in certain areas.

Visualizing everything working out in my favor works for me because it is in this situation that you have to really rally yourself and not feel you have no control in this situation but what you can control is how you feel in this moment.

Do you have any fond moment meeting a traveler or local?

I have a lot of people that I’ve met along the way. One of the people that stands out quite a bit and every now and then I would send out a care package to this young lady. I cannot remember her name but she lives in Glasgow, Scotland, which was my first stop during the time that I was there during the 2012 Olympics and after. She helped me to understand how to book train tickets to be able to go out throughout the country. They do not have access to a lot of peanut butter, so she said she absolutely loves Peanut Butter Reese’s, Peanut butter Snickers which she did not know at the time because she didn’t have access to it (laughing). So every now and then I’ll send her a chocolate care package that includes treats with peanut butter in it.

Plan to travel solo again soon?

I love South America, so I’m going to keep working my way around the continent.

What is the biggest risk you have ever taken on a trip?

Living my dream. I think a lot of people underestimate what it takes to live your dream whatever it is and it can be something as small as singing for people in Times Square, because you’re afraid of the perception of others or going someplace that maybe someone in your family or in your country has never been. Oftentimes, we’re beholden to what other people think of us. Women are very communal and we care about what others think and so I think the greatest risk you can take is pursuing your dream to travel somewhere by yourself or travel for a period of time. The reward is so life-giving and beneficial for you to take that chance on yourself to live. You don’t have to do it overnight abd everything happened in baby steps. Find a place you want to go and don’t think about the price. Just find a place you want to go & construct a plan to go.

What advice might you give women:

Thinking of taking their first solo trip ?

You have the opportunity to learn so much about yourself. You just don’t know what that choice to take your flight to Mexico City or Barcelona in that you end up sitting beside someone who needs to meet you because you’re going to share something with them, that they could not have received from anyone else. One thing I could tell women about travel is that we’re all ambassadors in some form or fashion. As more people get to meet us more people get to see the unique light that is you — so it is a win-win for everyone. Oftentimes, people have met me and said “You know I have a certain perception about you Americans” and I always believe You are like me, we’re both humans. Yes we identify and grew up in different countries but we both have dreams and goals. Sometimes we’re both misunderstood but if we have a common bond, for me it is soccer, you can learn that we’ve had some familiar situations or we’ve had some similar obstacles and this is how I have overcome them. Then, you can learn from me and I can learn from you.

What about those afraid of being on their own?

I think you have to find little things that you can step out on every day. I’ll share this with you — I still have the fear sometimes of stepping outside to go and get something to eat. I am afraid that if I say something incorrectly, because I’m nervous, they’re going to actually know ‘Oh my goodness! She’s a strange arrow’ as they say in Brazil, meaning she is a foreigner, she’s an American or whatever else they’ve got to perceive about me. So for me necessity has forced me to move past my fears. You are in the middle of a country and you need to eat, you need to check in somewhere. You just have to try little things every day to get you out of your comfort zone.

If you were writing a book about personal travel story, what three words would you use for the title? Similar to Eat. Pray. Love.

For my personal story I would say. Manifesting. Soccer. Dreams

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