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Afraid to Travel Alone? Here’s How to Start Slow

Afraid to Travel Alone? Here’s How to Start Slow

People have one of three reactions when I tell them that I am an avid solo traveler:

“That’s so cool, I wish I was brave enough to do that.”

“You travel alone? Isn’t that dangerous? What if something happens, you’ll have no one to fall back on?”

“I love traveling alone; it’s the best isn’t it?”

First off, anyone can travel alone with proper planning and the proper mindset.

Second, most cities in the U.S are more dangerous than large cities abroad-we’ll get into that in detail later. Third, having people around in a crisis can actually make it more difficult to be decisive and take action quickly.

So now that we’ve debunked those myths, if you are afraid to travel alone, what is holding you back?

Let’s take a deep dive into it and talk about some strategies to overcome these hurtles so you too can be that cool girl that travels abroad.

You Are Afraid of Being Alone

 

 

“But isn’t traveling alone boring without anyone to talk to? Don’t you get lonely?”

Let me ask you this, when was the last time you spent a significant amount of time alone? I cherish the time I spend by myself. It’s a moment to reconnect and meet different versions of yourself, which is crucial in maintaining a balanced life.

Concerns about being bored or lonely often stem from a fear of spending time alone. You’re worried everyone is going to think to themselves “That girl is by herself, what a loser”. Or “What am I going to do with no one to talk to, stay on my phone the whole trip?”

Why not give it a try and see if that’s true.

Start with something small like going to a concert, comedy show, or new restaurant alone to build up confidence. You’ll quickly realize no one actually cares or pays attention that you are by yourself {oftentimes there will be other people riding solo there too}. You may find that a minute to yourself can be a nice change of pace. Once you are more comfortable with your new solo status, take a weekend trip to Boston, Philadelphia or neighboring towns. Considering treating yourself to a staycation and take a local trip to the Bronx, Coney Island or Long Island.

 

“Okay, I’m comfortable doing things alone, but I don’t want an entire week alone. I’m not the kind of person that is outgoing and can make friends easily”.

You definitely can! It just takes some practice and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Try going to a networking event in your niche; it’s a great way to meet new connections and to practice introducing yourself to new people.

Does the idea of attending a networking event make you cringe?

First, try a less intimidating space, like a concert or comedy show and make a goal for yourself to talk to at least five people. Build up to talking to more people and attending a networking event solo. This will give you the confidence to approach people at your hostel or out and about while you are abroad.

“But I’m going to a country where no speaks English, won’t that automatically isolate me?”

Spend some time before your trip learning some basic phrases of the local language. You could even look up a local language meet up where you can practice your conversational skills before you go. Keep in mind that there are other travelers in the same boat as you, so definitely seek out hostels and other places where you can meet more people speaking the same language.

You Won’t Have Anyone to Fall Back On If You Get Into a Sticky Situation

 

This was one of my biggest fears that deterred me from traveling abroad.

Four years ago, I found myself in Beijing with a friend of mine. As my first trip outside of the country I was beyond excited. The first morning I woke up at 6am ready to hit the streets but my friend was less than thrilled. She wanted to spend the day in the hotel room playing video games and grab dinner later on at night {true story}. So I was faced with a dilemma — venture out into this foreign city alone, risking getting lost or maybe being kidnapped or play it safe and stay in the hotel room with my friend.

I chose the former — so I grabbed a business card of the hotel I was staying at and departed for the subway. My phone didn’t work in Beijing {I didn’t know anything about SIM cards at the time} so I wrote down directions/addresses on a piece of paper. And you know what happened? I had a really awesome day.


I ended up exploring an outdoor art gallery, visiting a museum dedicated to the afterlife, and wandering through the night markets. Traveling alone in a foreign country was nothing like I expected it to be. It was liberating to walk the streets of Beijing alone. I felt so connected to the world around me — I vividly remember standing in the middle of a busy shopping district soaking in the energy from the crowds passing by. That trip gave me the confidence to take my first solo trip to Thailand the following year and it was the beginning of my solo traveling lifestyle.

You will may run into situations that feel unsafe, you may lose your passport or your phone but all of these things are manageable with proper planning. The reality is these things can happen even if you are with other people — it’s just overcoming the mindset that you can’t do it. But guess what, you definitely can!

Don’t believe me? Test it out.

Try spending a day in your local city without your phone (or turn it off) to test your ability to think on your feet. You’ll be surprised at how well you cope. Or if you are feeling brave, take an improv class (UCB and Magnet Theater offer free courses) to help you get used to dealing with the unexpected.

“But isn’t it dangerous to travel alone as a woman?”

Safety is relative. Detroit has a higher crime and murder rate than any city in Colombia. If you always listen to your gut reaction, you will more times than not steer yourself out of dangerous situations. That being said, you still need to take some precautions, especially as a woman traveling alone such as not going out at night alone. Make sure to research online other solo travelers that have gone to your destination to see what their experiences were. Also look into safety, crime rates, and travel adversaries on the Bureau of Consular Affairs before you choose a destination.

You’ve Never Planned a Trip Before and You’re Worried About the Logistics of Traveling Abroad

 

One easy way to combat this is to keep things simple and do as much planning in advance as possible. Stick to visiting one city and book one hostel in advance as a home base, which will keep the logistics simple. Research things you want to do (Nomadness Travel Tribe, Nomadic Matt and The Blonde Abroad are great travel blogs for solo female travelers) and create a loose itinerary. That way when you get there, you don’t get as overwhelmed. As you get more solo trips under your belt, you can start adding on multiple cities /countries to your trip and plan less of the trip in advance. Especially as you start meeting people traveling, you are going to want to keep your plans loose to switch gears based on other traveler’s recommendations and travel plans.

A lot of the nitty gritty logistics pieces you can easily knock out in advance. Make sure to renew your passport (or get one) well in advance, even if you do not have a trip in mind yet. It takes about 30 days for this process and there are some countries that won’t accept a passport that expires within 30 days of entry.


Start to think about how you want to use your phone abroad. You can either get SIM cards (for unlocked phones) for each of the countries you are traveling to, you can rent a mobile WiFI device, or you can purely rely on local Wifi. Think about how much you are willing to spend on having access to a phone and research how reliable the Wifi connection is in the country you are traveling to. For example, most public places in Thailand have Wifi so you can easily get by. Conversely in Iceland, not only is there no Wifi on the Ring Road, it is a necessity for emergencies to have a working cellphone.

You may want to invest in a new backpack or set of luggage for your solo adventures. This should be done to gradually put your mindset in a closer position to travel alone. Consider what you’ll need to bring with you. I would also highly recommend getting quick-drying towels and clothing so can you wash them while you are on your trip to avoid over packing.

In life you may not have everything figured out, but as long as you are taking the steps needed to prepare and visualize yourself traveling alone, you will eventually go.


You Don’t Know Where You Want To Go Or Where To Go As a Solo Female Traveler



First, brainstorm any countries or regions of the world that you want to visit. If you don’t have a specific country or region in mind, start with thinking about what kind of trip you want. Do you want to be in a city, in a rural area, or a balance of both? Do you want a trip that’s active, adventurous, relaxing, or something in between?

Once you figure out what you want out of your solo adventure, research the best cities to visit as a solo female traveler.

One major thing to consider while doing this is your budget. Traveling to South America or Asia is going to be cheaper than going to Europe. But Europe is easier to navigate as more people speak English. You’ll also want to consider the season you are traveling in — you’ll want to avoid visiting parts of Asia during monsoon season or during the summer so make sure to look into the best travel times for your destination.

One you have a location picked, now is the fun part! Start to visualize what it is going to be like traveling alone to your destination. Better yet create a Pinterest board of all the places and things you want to do to get yourself pumped up for your trip.

Your Friends/Family Think It’s a Bad Idea

When I decided to take a last minute trip to Colombia, almost everyone I know thought I was crazy. “Isn’t it really dangerous?” “Isn’t there a massive drug problem and lots of kidnappings?”

While your friends and family have your best interests at heart, these concerns are really projections of their own fears with traveling alone. Many people also make assumptions about a location based on movies, tv shows, outdated or biased information so make sure to seek out people –whether virtually or that you may know, that have been to your destination as a solo traveler.

Share what you find with your friends/family along with your itinerary to make them more comfortable with your plans. Without meaning to, people around you can often hold you back from venturing out of your own comfort zone. You have to trust and take a chance on yourself. You never know where it may lead you.

Thanks for reading!

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By Cait Sarazin & Chizoba Anyaoha


Have any tips for first time solo travelers we didn’t cover? Tag us on IG @travsolo on your solo adventure and hare in the comments below.

How to Plan Your Perfect Solo Adventure Based on Your Travel Style

You finally found the courage to plan a solo trip, but then you realize you have no idea what you’re doing (we’ve all been there on our first solo trip). You realize that without having to negotiate with other people for what to do, you have no idea what you want out of trip. What do I even want to do with my time? What would be my ideal trip?

Don’t worry, we got you.

We break down how to plan and get the most out of your solo trip based on your solo travel style

The Spontaneous Traveler

Do you shy away from committing to plans?

Do you like to the fly by the seat of your pants and see where the day takes you?

Do your friends know you as the person that would jump on the train to Philly to see a concert?

Do you love to wander into small shops and local restaurants without checking them out on Yelp first?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you are a spontaneous traveler.

 

Here’s how to plan your ideal trip:

Go to Cities

Especially major cities in Asia and Europe, you can get away with planning less because there are so many options at your disposal. You’ll have countless restaurants, nightlife, museums, and art galleries that you can bop in and out of at your leisure. You can also spend your days wandering the streets and seeing what you run into — Tokyo is one of the best cities for this.

Take Advantage of Last Minute Deals

Travel Zoo and Travel Pirates, two companies specializing in flash sales {think a getaway to Punta Cana for $168}, are a gold mine for spontaneous travelers. Also keep an eye out for JetBlue flight flash sales that often feature one-way domestic flights for under $100.

Another great tool if you’re looking to explore all your flight options is Skyscanner. You can search for the cheapest flights for an entire month or for the entire year. You can also enter a specific location or search the entire world for the cheapest flights for the time period of your choosing. For the spontaneous traveler, this may be your new travel addiction.

Invest in Renting a WIFI Hotspot or SIM Cards





Although I always recommend not relying on WIFI when traveling abroad, if you intend to do little planning for a trip it is crucial to have access to the internet both for looking up things to do as well as keeping yourself safe. While traveling to a new country without a plan can be exciting, without as much research, you aren’t as informed about the safety and culture so it’s crucial to have a working phone in case you get into a dangerous situation.

Stay in Hostels

Even if you can afford to stay in nicer accommodations, I would recommend staying in a hostel to meet other travelers. Find a hostel that has a large communal area to hang out in or that serves food onsite so you can easily make new friends. Other travelers are great resources for ideas for things to do that you may not have thought of or places to avoid. You may end up meeting people to travel with on your journey and without set plans, you are free to pivot and join them.

The Travel Planner


Do you make detailed itineraries for trips {maybe down to the hour}?

Do you research everything you want to see and do in advance?

Do you book everything possible before you land and leave nothing up to chance?

Do you watch an extensive amount of videos and look up images of everything you want to see and do?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you are a travel planner.


Here’s How To Make the Most of Your Trip:

Figure Out What Style of Trip You Want Before You Start Researching

Do you want a relaxing vacation laying on the beach or do you want to be trekking through the rainforest? Do you want to be in the heart of a bustling city or relaxing in a hammock enjoying the view on top of a mountain?

Figuring out the style of the trip you want before you start planning allows you to narrow your focus to find activities that will create that style of trip. If you start randomly researching whatever you find interesting, you may end up creating a trip where you are running around a city site-seeing when you really wanted to also spend time in nature.

Make Your Own Pre-Vetted Yelp With Google Maps


Google Maps has the fun feature called MyMaps, where you can create specific points of interest on a map and add in descriptions, color-coded icons for different categories, and even add multiple layers (just in case you want to make a Plan B itinerary). It’s a great way to have all the possible things you want to do that you’ve pre-researched at your fingertips. That way if you get to a location and are hungry, you can pull out your pre-created map and see if any of the places you researched are nearby.

Start with Booking Hotels/Flights First

I always feel committed to a trip and less stressed once I book my flights and hotels. These are the two major anchors of any trip and once you have them secured, you can breathe easy that the hardest part is over. As the trip gets closer, then you can start planning out specific things you want to do and tours/activities that you want to book.

Research People That Took a Similar Solo Trip

Hearing first hand-accounts from people that have already taken the trip that you are planning will give you more insight into what you are getting yourself into. It will help flesh out a mental picture of what your trip will be like. Oftentimes these travelers will have ideas about what not to miss, what to avoid, and any other relevant information that will help you get the most of out of your experience.

The Experimental Traveler


Do you love trying new things?

Do you crave experiences within a new surrounding?

Do you have no preference on what you do, you just want do it all?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you are an experimental traveler.

Here’s How To Make the Most of Your Trip:

Seek Out Major Cities

Major cities have a constant stream of fun and interesting things to do to satisfy the dynamic city dwellers. Whether you want to go to a museum, see an improv show, go to an art gallery, or go bar hopping, you can find it all in a city. Not only will you find more new and unique experiences in a city, you’ll also find there is a never-ending supply of new things to do.

Research Travel Guides Made by Locals

To get the most out of your trip and have the most new experiences, look into guides made my locals. They will have an insider perspective on what things are worth going to and what are worth skipping so you can make the most out of your limited time.

Blend Elements of Planning and Spontaneity

With your goal of getting the most new experiences, there needs to be elements of planning and elements of seeing where the wind takes you.

Book your flight in advance and the first hotel you plan to stay at, but leave the rest of the lodging until you get to your destination. This will allow you to get a feel for your first destination and adjust accordingly if you find another location where there is more to do. You can easily get last minute lodging at hostelworld or booking.com.

Research what things you absolutely must do and book them in advance. Also have a list of things that you may want to do depending on time but that you don’t book in advance. This allows you to prioritize the experiences that are most important to you while also giving you the ability to be flexible with your future plans.

Thanks for reading!

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By Cait Saizan Chizoba Anyaoha


What travel type are you? Tag us on IG @travsolo on your solo adventure.

9 Reasons Why You Should Never Travel Alone

Solo traveling is something everyone needs to experience in their lifetime. Once you travel alone for the first time you are likely going to want to do it again. But just like skydiving or eating vegemite it is not for everyone.

Here are some reasons why you should not travel alone.


You have a have a hard time being selfish

Traveling alone is going to be all about YOU – your interests, wants, needs, how long you want to stay up, how early you want to wake up & owning your traveling style. You get to do you 24/7.

You have a very hard time eating alone

Eating alone can be a tough pill to swallow, especially when you are surrounded by people sharing meals, laughs and creating memories together. Good chance you will eat most of your meals alone.

You avoid meeting new people

Maybe you are fine with the friends you already have back home. Traveling alone will force your hand to socialize with strangers from across the world from different cultures.

You are comfortable being completely comfortable

Traveling alone will force you to face some adversity you may not be used to experiencing, like having to deal with times of loneliness in foreign land. You may even end up talking to people with very different personalities you are not used to, trying new things for the first or eating foods you are unfamiliar with.

You shy away from making decisions on your own

There is no one else to help you plan where to eat, drink, sleep & go while you take a step back. Everything you do or don’t do is entirely up to you.

You are responsible for ALL Expenses

Thinking of splitting the hotel, cab or food bill? Guess again! Every cent will come out of your wallet for sure. If you are looking to save you will have to do a better job budgeting for your trip.

No one to take Instagram-ready photographs

We all have friends who become our “professional-but-not-professional” photographer, taking our pictures with every type of lighting and angles they can find to get the best Instagram-ready photo to post. Selfies are easy to get but it would not be your ideal photo for those looking to impress. It is harder to set up a tripod around tourist attractions. You would be lucky to find strangers who can take a decent picture for you.

You worry too much about your safety

Traveling alone usually does not have any safety nets, especially without having family or friends looking after you. You are responsible for being aware of where you go,  your surroundings, taking safety measures & watching your back during the night.

You have a hard time saying goodbye

You have met some of the most amazing people on your solo adventure, created long-lasting memories and shared personal stories with each other, connecting on a really genuine level. Strangers who you have become friends and now it is time to say goodbye? Traveling alone can be like that.

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By Chizoba Anyaoha


What travel type are you? Tag us on IG @travsolo on your solo adventure.

Sola Travelers: A Friend in Every City

The woman who warned me that “las mujeres nunca están seguras,” when I inquired about how safe it is for me to walk around at night in San Jose is not just the owner of an introspective quote for a blog post. Yogurt isle lady from the Automercado is part of a tribe of women who understand what it is like to walk around in our bodies. How we rarely feel safe in streets, no matter if the sun shines. Despite what Vice-President Mike Pence believes, women play a greater role in the workforce than temptress, so we often travel for business. Other times, we travel for pleasure — to discover what else that is out there. When we want to explore; go out at night, lay out on the beach, read a book in a sunny park, dance to music from a new culture, or perhaps shop, get our nails done, find a sexy dress, we do not always feel safe doing it alone in a foreign country although as long as we are women our native communities also do not offer complete safety.

That sad reality is why Founder of Sola Travelers Valeska Toro started her company Sola Travelers a few months ago; to give women a friend in every city in case they want the safety of companionship.

“During one of my travels last year, a stranger at a bar harassed me. I didn’t think that it would affect me that much, but the next day, I was still pretty upset about it. That day, I met a woman over lunch and told her about the incident. I had never met her before, but she understood exactly where I was coming from. It was in that moment that I realized that women around the world share a common understanding and connection. It made me think about a world where women could support each other and help each other travel.”

The man who assaulted Valeska is not unique; he is also part of a band, this one is made up of sick men who believe a woman’s body is made to please them. These men have hands that know no limits, dirty lips that cat-call, and eyes that search for vulnerabilities. This gang is one many women fear.

So what’s the solution?

Women, like myself, enjoy travel and there are times when we prefer to or have to do it alone. There are countless articles out there about how to stay safe in a foreign country — I read quite a few on BuzzFeed, TripAdvisory, Travel Noire, Independent Traveler, etc… before booking my trip to Costa Rica, my first solo viaje. If you plan to travel alone, I suggest you do some research as well.

There’s also Valeska’s budding company, Sola Travelers. It is now based in four locations: New York City; Orlando, Florida; Washington D.C.; and Costa Rica (San Jose and Playa Hermosa).

“It’s interesting. During one of the women’s marches, we found a picture of a woman holding up a sign that read ‘I don’t want to be afraid to travel alone’ and when you think about it, it doesn’t have to be this way. We, as women, have the power to change this. With Sola, we want to give women a platform to become an Insider and help other women travel to their city while at the same time earning extra income on their terms. Alternatively, we want to give women around the world the ability to travel freely and have piece of mind knowing that they have a network of amazing women to support them.”

Given Valeska’s vision and the tribe of intelligent women she has on her team, I’m sure Sola Travelers will find a way to keep you safe, empowered, and exploring wherever you are as the company continues to grow.

My experience with Sola Travelers

Sola Travelers has recently expanded to Costa Rica (San Jose and Playa Hermosa), and I was their first trip. What are traditionally tour guides, Valeska has deemed Sola Insiders, women who consult, create an itinerary for you, and/or take you out. My Sola Insider is Andrea Pacheco.

The beauty of Sola Travelers is that it matches you with a friend in every city. It truly feels like I have company in Andrea. Before taking me out on Saturday, she and I Facebook messaged and spoke on the phone. From our conversations, she determined my interests and sent me three options for our field trip. This social media and phone personalized process was unique to me. Normally, travelers will go to Sola Travelers’ website, find what they want to do, and book it there. The Sola Insider then reaches out to the Sola and they plan from there.

After Andrea and I hung out on Saturday, we stayed in touch. I’m the kind of person who likes to go with the flow in my personal life so I don’t have a solid itinerary. When I see something interesting, I forward it to Andrea. Typically, she’ll tell me whether that area is on the safer side, how accessible it is by taxi or Uber, and whether she knows a friend nearby. If you prefer consulting before you arrive to your respective city, that can also be arranged through your Sola Insider. How cool is all this, right!

Andrea and I at Irazú



That’s great, but how much does all this cost

According to Valeska, Sola Insiders have control over what they charge and it varies by city.

“Our experiences currently range from $50–300depending on what city you’re in and what you’d like to do.”

No matter what experience a Sola chooses, she will receive real-time support from a Sola Insider during her stay.

My afternoon with Andrea

Andrea picked me up from the Feria Verde Organic Market where I spent my morning eating, strolling, speaking Español, and writing.

I selected option 3: a trip to Irazú Volcano in Cartago and a late lunch. The drive up to Irazú was about 40 minutes. On the way up, Andrea and I spoke about our experiences traveling, work, culture, family, and Costa Rica. One of the benefits of going on a trip with a Sola Insider is that you get a one-on-one course on the city you’re exploring.














When we arrived at Irazú, I actually had no idea I was inside of the volcano; Andrea made that known. She showed me where the craters are, told me about the Coati, a small animal that lives in the area, took photos of me, and when I wanted room to roam alone and write, she gave me my freedom.



On our way back down to San Jose, we stopped at Linda Vista, a local town restaurant best known for its delicious food and walls covered in business cards. At Andrea’s recommendation, I had a sweet cup of warm agua dolce and we shared a plátano maduro con queso. I topped that off with a lomito encebollado.















Andrea had also planned a nighttime outing for us, but I decided to skip out given I have been fighting a cold all trip. What’s important is she was prepared to continue our day as planned.

As Andrea drove me around, she answered difficult questions with facts and passion; I got the feeling she truly believes in Pura Vida.

“I really like my city and my country, and by showing it to others I think it makes me be grateful. Its a reminder to not take things for granted.”



Want more of Sola Travelers?!

https://www.solatravelers.com

Thanks for reading!

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By Flose Boursiquot


What travel type are you? Tag us on IG @travsolo on your solo adventure.