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Accidentally Taking My First Solo Trip in College

Accidentally Taking My First Solo Trip in College

Growing up in Ohio, I fell in love with travel before I ever took a vacation.  Travel allows me step out of my life and view point to experience something else entirely.  In solo travel, I can take full ownership of that freedom from my every day routine.  I’m beholden to no one on when I get up, on how many sites I see, on what kind of food I eat, and on how many or how few pictures I take.  As I write this I realize I love solo travel for the same reason I love Turkish meze. There are so many great options that I can put on my plate; all of them are delicious.

My first solo trip was an accident. In college, I had planned to spend 5 days in Rome because I knew a friend there. I still didn’t have much experience traveling in general so I liked to go to places where I knew people.  The day I arrived my friend had an emergency and was suddenly unavailable.  I spent the next four days wandering around the eternal city by myself. In addition to hitting up all my art history sites spanning from the Roman Empire to the Baroque.  I asked people that I started talking to for restaurant and night life recommendations. None of the recommendations disappointed. When I was invited to spend the day at a farmhouse outside of Modena, I accepted and extended my trip.

 

Hilary Brown Solo Traveling in Morroco

The second solo trip solidified my preference for travel solo above all else. I was staying with a friend in Morocco, and I had wanted to visit the famed Chefchaouen. None of my friends could come with me so I left on a bus and went by myself. The trip didn’t start out to well, I sat next to a woman who had intense motion sickness, I missed my bus stop and had to double back.  Once I arrived I was taken by the villages laid back vibe. I ate with a group of French girls whose trip was ending. At that dinner, I met the restaurant owner, and then met one of his friends. The friend invited me on a family hike; we spent the rest of the day eating olives in the family vineyard followed by a traditional meal.  My best meals in Morocco were, by far, when I was invited to people’s homes.  I would kill to find handmade couscous somewhere in the United States, where I currently live.

After over a decade of solo trips it’s hard to pick one experience that tops everything.  If I had to choose my favorites there are a couple that stick out in my mind.  In Dakar, I paid a kid that followed me asking for money to give me a tour of the city. He took me to the roof top of the central market for views of the city, a great food stall for a delicious lunch, and to caves buit into cliffs at the edge of the city. At the end of my unofficial tour he told me which beaches I could explore outside of the city, even showing me where to catch the corresponding boat.  In Cuba, I wanted to buy cigars directly from a farmer instead of a government owned store.  I approached what looked like Cuba’s version of a cowboy and told him my predicament.  He helped me on the back of his horse and off we rode.  I spent the afternoon in a drying hut, smoking honey dipped cigars and drinking rum before buying a tobacco leaf wrapped package of cigars for my dad.

In Istanbul, one night at dinner, I started a conversation with the table next to me. We closed the place down drinking reki. The night ended with a quick tour of the city to have a photo shoot in front of the Bosphorus bridge lit up against the dark sky.  I love all these experiences, however they didn’t come without their own risks. As a white woman with naturally blonde hair and blue eyes, I am incredibly privileged. Most people I encounter assume that I am safe to talk to.  I can walk past security points for buildings and even some borders easily not speaking the local language or even knowing if I can be there or enter. While visiting a border between Haiti and Dominican Republic for work, I walked easily between the two countries marked by four heavily armed border guards, not once was I asked for my passport.

Some friends and family will say I am a target; people in other countries won’t be able to stop themselves from robbing me, harassing me, or insert your own nightmare. My vision of the world just isn’t as paranoid as theirs. I have been harassed, robbed, and over charged both abroad and in the U.S. The worst instances happened exactly in place where I felt the safest, on my home turf. I can’t say I am the best judge of others, however I have traveled enough that I feel comfortable taking calculated risks.

To the hesitant solo traveler, I would recommend start slow and safe. Opt for a country where you speak the language and has a low crime rate. Read other travelers’ reviews before you go.  Always trust your gut. If you feel uncomfortable, get out of the situation immediately without worrying how you appear to others.  The more you build your trust with the world the more you will see what the world truly offers.  You will eventually see that we all have the same humanity, it might be expressed differently in ways that you don’t understand at first, but it’s there.  It can be scary to step into the unknown; the unknown never disappoints.

 

Thanks for reading!

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By Chizoba Anyaoha


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Clarisse Viduya – Trusting Yourself

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

Tell me a little bit about yourself: What do you do for a living?

For someone whose mission in life is to travel the world solo full-time, I want to quickly introduce you to the girl writing behind the computer.

I’m Clarisse and I have been obsessed with freedom and solo travel since I had a taste of it back in 2018. This was the year that my life changed.

What inspired you to take your first solo trip?

A solo travel adventure in Australia during a gap year allowed me to be independent and reinvent myself in a way I didn’t think possible.

Australia was an incredible leap for me.

When people would ask what I would do there, or if I had a job lined up, I would tell them that I had no plans. I am simply packing up my entire belongings in one suitcase, selling almost everything I owned, and heading there on a plane on April 17th. That was the extent of it.

They then asked, are you on your own, aren’t you scared? I would then tell them that I am going solo and that something inside me felt that it was the right thing to do that even though I was scared, I needed to get past it because I wanted to grow as a person.

We all know that it’s very hard to grow in a comfort zone if it’s at all possible.

It was crazy to think that it was almost 3 years ago that I left home.

But to be honest, life in a cubicle and the everyday monotony was the reason I took the leap. I couldn’t imagine the same life every day for the next 40 years.

I have experienced many wonderful things since, including eating the best pasta, pizza, and ice cream you can find in Italy. I honestly ate as much as I could when I was in Europe as the food there is nothing short of amazing.

What is the most memorable moment you had with a traveler or local?

The most memorable time of my life came when I met locals that would invite me for a home-cooked meal. We bonded over stories and I learned so much about their culture and history at that moment that it further opened my eyes to the beauty and vastness of the world.

“But to be honest, life in a cubicle and the everyday monotony was the reason I took the leap. I couldn’t imagine the same life every day for the next 40 years.

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

Let me tell you this, the biggest risk that any traveler can take is to book a one-way ticket halfway across the world, with all of your belongings in one suitcase and absolutely no plan, except to have trust in yourself. The trust that you made the correct choice and that you will be alright on your own. Remember, you will only have yourself to rely on, but this is not a bad thing.

What inspires you to travel more alone?

Traveling solo teaches you so much about independence, decision-making, and courage. The freedom and experiences that I felt during my solo travels have allowed me to learn so much not only about the world but also about myself.

That is one of the main reasons why I will keep traveling for as long as I can into the foreseeable future.

There are the thrills that come along with solo travel, as well as the travel bug that really guides you to keep going.

Seeing the world, through your eyes, with only you in the driver’s seat, allows you to view everything from your own perspective.

What advice might you give people afraid of being on their own or thinking of taking their first solo trip?

So for those of you thinking about solo travel, I say take the leap! Don’t let your fear hold you back from exploring the world. It really isn’t all that scary and I’ve always felt safe when I’m out on my own.

The world is at your fingertips and traveling solo is one of the best things you can do for yourself in this lifetime.

Live by this awesome mantra (could also be a cool book title):

Solo Mission: Travel

Make it your mission in life to travel the world on your own at least once. I promise you it will all be worth it!

 

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By Chizoba Anyaoha


Got a story or amazing travel content to share? Tag us on IG @travsolo.

Psychological Benefits of Solo Traveling

No one foresaw that the COVID pandemic would pave the road for another, more persistent plague: mental health. A year of quarantine has taken its toll on students, employees, and parents who have felt isolated, underworked, and severely lacking a support structure as the world turned upside down. Now that vaccines are out and global cases are trending downwards, we should be seeing a return to pre-pandemic times… right?

The gradual return to normalcy has been anything but smooth. The mental health struggles that people faced during isolation are not going away on their own as many students are saying goodbye to their college years on a Zoom webcam, employees are quitting for remote work opportunities, and personal relationships affected. The universal question on everyone’s minds for 2021 is: What now?

What we all need is a jumpstart—like rebooting a computer after a virus. We need to close our laptops, get out of our houses, and find ways to adapt to move forward. With travel restrictions easing up in most places, solo traveling is the perfect opportunity to put a physical distance between us and personal issues. Here are five ways that solo travel helps your healing.

 

Managing your stress

Working from home is convenient in some ways—like being able to walk to the fridge for a snack in the middle of a meeting—but oftentimes it can be a source of even more stress than in-person work. Many employees are overworking themselves to the point of exhaustion thanks to nonexistent lunch breaks, sitting at their desks for hours at a time, and taking on larger workloads than ever. Whether you will continue to work remotely or decided to return to the office, one thing is definitely needed – time to de-stress. A solo travel vacation is the perfect way to enjoy your favorite scenery without dealing with the hassle of travel companions. Traveling solo is a failsafe way to ensure that your vacation is all about you and getting your cortisol levels down.

Finding yourself post-isolation

Depersonalization during a pandemic is more common than you think. Feeling like you’re unsure of who you are after the events of the past year is the brain’s normal response to a long period – doing nothing but laptop work, house chores, and binge-watching Netflix. Traveling, specifically by solo traveling, is the best way to remember who you were before COVID turned you into a Zoom-bie, but also to recreate yourself after a year of isolation. Exploring a new destination on your own will force you to prioritize yourself and your needs again. Are you a spontaneous traveler or someone who likes to plan things out? Would you rather spend a night under the stars or under city lights? If you take the time to be alone in a totally new setting, you’ll find out more about yourself than you ever thought was possible.

Getting physical activity

Even if you’re not going on a hiking trip, solo traveling offers much more physical activity than sitting at home. Brain fog, caused by lack of exercise, was a commonly reported symptom of working from home during the pandemic. Getting off your couch, getting to the airport, catching trains and buses, and walking around a new place are all excellent ways of waking your body back up this year. The best part is that you won’t even notice you’re getting exercise because there will be so much sightseeing to keep your brain occupied.

Get inspired

You’ve probably seen people online starting Etsy shops, YouTube channels, or blogs during the pandemic when there was nothing else to do. And it probably made you feel like you were not doing enough with your quarantine time. The truth is, there was no rules or expectations to come up with a great business idea or piece of artwork. Isolation can be draining on anyone’s creativity. If you’re ready to finally start creating and dreaming again, then pick out a place you’ve never been to and turn it into a trip of inspiration. You’ll never know what you’ll find there that will spark your curiosity and fuel your next big idea.

Treating yourself to something nice

The pandemic was hard on everyone, with some level of anxiety, depression and already existing mental issues. You may feel like you don’t deserve a vacation right now with everything that has happened. Let me be the first or final voice to let you know that you have certainly been through enough to deserve a trip. Nearly everyone has been negatively impacted by the pandemic, some still trying to unpack their traumas. So, if you feel like you’ve done nothing remarkable to deserve those cheap plane tickets that you’ve been eyeing for weeks, think again. Surviving through a global pandemic is more than enough reason to book a solo trip and mentally recharge.

 

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By Sarah John & Chizoba Anyaoha


Any additional mental benefits solo traveling as give you? Share it with us @travsolo or submit your story today!