Embracing The Wanderlust  - Top 10 Tips for Solo Travel

Embracing The Wanderlust - Top 10 Tips for Solo Travel

I am a very cautious person – something my friends often tease me about - but I do not fear the idea of being afraid. Whenever I put my mind to something, I do it! And, sometimes, if it feels right, I can be very impulsive.

I travelled halfway across the planet – solo. I swam in the open ocean - with sharks! I moved to a new country, by myself, and then to a new island. I went to college on a wing and a prayer. I went from having a very real fear of flying, to being up in the air more than I can count. I quit a good job – that I hated – for uncertainty.

I like adventure…..within reason, of course.

This sense of adventure is what led me to make that firs trip halfway around the planet. Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to visit Japan. There was just something about the country that seemed so alluring to me. Their food was different, and exciting. They had mountains, and beaches, and history, and a rich culture. I dreamt about climbing mount Fuji and eating sushi made by a master chef.

And, I continued dreaming for years. At first, I was too young and too broke to go. Then, I was too broke and too busy. And, then, when I was finally able to save enough pennies for a ticket, I was either too busy or my friends weren’t able to go anymore. Life, as it does, got in the way of a lot of my plans, and I put my Japan trip on hold, again. It wasn’t until last year, when I finally had enough pennies and vacation time, that I decided it was time to realize my dream.

I spent two agonizing weeks contemplating making the purchase, and when I did, I got a greeted by a barrage of questions and some criticism from friends, family, and near strangers, alike. I did my research, and Japan, Tokyo specifically, was one of the safest cities in the entire world. They had excellent public transportation, and I had read online that many other English-speaking travellers had little problems getting around. I was admittedly terrified, but the chorus of voices wasn’t that much concerned about my safety. Many were simply baffled as to why I would every take a solo trip.

This is how the questions went…..

What will you do?

Why would you do that?

Who will you eat with?

But you won’t have anyone to experience it with?

So you will just take a bunch of selfies?

Who will you talk to?

What good is a trip if you don’t have anyone to share it with?.....

After awhile, they all just sounded like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

I ended up taking my Tokyo trip, and it was just as wonderful as I imagined it. Each day, I went sightseeing. I met lots of people. I had conversations with tourists, and kind interactions with many Japanese people who were warm and welcoming despite the language barrier. I tried new foods, and new experiences. And, I made lots of unforgettable memories.

When I came back, the questions and womp, womp chatter continued, but it didn’t negate the amazing experience that I will forever cherish.

There is something very freeing about doing what you want to do, when you want t do it. When travelling with friends and family, you often make plans based on the preferences and opinions of others, many times going along with whatever makes the rest of the group happy and content. When you travel on your own, you can do whatever you want!

I explored new and old Tokyo, historical sites and the quirky world of anime and manga fans. I tried a final fantasy café, and the best sashimi bowl (I only later found out it was called Chirashi) that I have ever had, in an old, and sketchy looking restaurant.

I very much enjoyed my first long distance solo trip, so much so that I am planning another one this year. If you are looking to take your first solo trip, check out some of my tips for easing your fears and making sure you have a safe and enjoyable journey.

1. Try a short distance solo trip, first. I have travelled a lot for business, throughout the Bahamas and the US, many times by myself. Shorter trips can give you an idea if solo travel is your cup of tea, while allowing you to stay in your comfort zone.

2. Research. Learn as much about your chosen city as possible, and find out about the experience of other solo travellers. If you are travelling to a location far out of your comfort zone, search Youtube for experience and advice videos. I found this very helpful.

3. Ask friends if they know anyone in the city that you are visiting. It is always great to have an inside link, and you just might make a new friend.

4. Pack light. I’m a girl. I know that we all want to pack clothing for every possible scenario. We all know that we won’t be going to anything remotely formal, but still want to pack that dress and heels, just in case. But, for solo travel, I suggest keeping it light. If you possible can, limit it to the carry-on.

5. Pack a change of clothes and necessities in your carry-on in case of delays of lost luggage. You never want to get stranded far away from home without your clothing or comforts.

6. Airport exchange rates are not the best, but consider exchanging some money prior to heading to a far off location. Many times credit cards and ATM machines work abroad, but it is good to have some cash on hand in case of emergencies.

7. Learn some keys words and download a translation app. This is probably a given, but it is always wise to at least try to speak the language where you are visiting. But, don't worry about being perfect. Many people appreciate you trying.

8. Don’t drink in excess. When I travel alone, I actually do not drink at all. If you want to unwind with a cocktail, think about doing it in the comfort of your hotel’s bar.

9. Be a free roamer, but be aware of areas not to venture to. This is very important. No matter how safe a country or city is, there are places where travelers shouldn’t venture.

10. Consider hostels and staying with a host family, but understand that not all hostels and host families are created equal. If you go this route, you can save a great deal of money, but be sure to do a great deal of research to find the right fit for you.

Have you taken a solo trip? I would love to hear about your experiences.

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