I realized that one of my bucket list goals was to travel solo and that I have managed to strike that off my list. I have never actually written about what it is like to travel solo though. The concept is not original by any stretch of the imagination. Simply google Travel Solo and you will find 1000s and 1000s articles written by people who have mastered the art of solo travel.
Now that I have traveled solo a few times I can’t really say I am a master but I do have insight into solo travel and what to expect. I will say that the more I travel solo the braver I get which was something that wasn’t quite expected. Pretty sure 17 year old Jen would be shocked but 80 year old Jen is proud as hell.
The first time I traveled solo it was in January of 2014 to Guatemala. I remembered the day before I left I was 100% positive I was going to get murdered the moment I stepped off the plane. I was going to get raped probably shortly after I got murdered too. In other words? I was paranoid.
Don’t get me wrong Guatemala has a ton of violent crime, but as you can tell I was not a victim of any of the violent crime. Guatemala is my favorite country still to this day and I think a large part of it is because of the huge self discovery I made on the trip. That is a whole post on it’s own, but simply put when one goes on a trip to a foreign country where they do not speak the language and have to rely 100% on themselves…. you learn a lot about yourself. You get me?
For starters, when I got off on the wrong bus stop… I had to figure it out, because no one and I do mean NO ONE in rural Guatemala speaks English… and I spoke like 10 words of Spanish at the time. You have to learn to not panic and rely on your intuition. In fact, I would go as far as saying that when you are out of your comfort zone with no phone to rely on your senses are sharpened. It really is good for you. I found my way to my destination and have lived to tell the tale.
I am often asked why did I go by myself. The answer is simple, I got sick of waiting for people to go with me. I have made countless trip plans with people, who would often back out the last minute. I could rarely get anyone to commit to a lunch date let alone a trip abroad. Everyone has their own lives and their own lives are very important to them, which I respect, but it was absolutely time for me to stop waiting around for someone to go with me. So I went and you know what. I do not regret it. At all.
Anyway I feel I can share some insights into planning your own solo trip, there are 1000s of tips out there but I feel these are the ones that have been most useful to me.
If you are someone that is planning on traveling solo I would highly recommend you learn as much of the local language as you can, even if it is the basic… hello, goodbye, thank you, and you are welcome. Any words you can learn in the local language will go a long way, believe me. You will never regret learning the local language.
Take chances with people that YOU DO meet. I don’t think I can stress this enough, just because you are traveling alone does NOT mean you will be ALONE. I have met some seriously fascinating people when I travel. I have met people from all walks of life who I become connected with through my love of travel. I have been asked to go on many side adventures and I have not regretted taking any of them. I went ziplining through the Guatemalan jungle because I took a chance and I still think it might have been one of my favorite experiences. All I can say is make sure you do it, I promise you will not regret it if you over hear about a group taking a local bus to a nearby town… and they ask you to go… GO. I can assure you that not only will you meet amazing people you will come home talking about one amazing adventure.
Google safety and scams… but don’t go thinking you will be a victim the moment you step off the plane. When I was getting ready to leave and go to Guatemala I googled safety and scams in Guatemala… Yeah. That did not go well. See here is the thing, Guatemala has a lot of crime but that does not mean you will be a victim of crime. I think it is absolutely necessary to google safety and scams in the city you are visiting but more so you are aware and educated and DO NOT become a victim. I never once felt unsafe but I also didn’t go out and party and walk down dark alleys alone. I know it sounds silly… but this happens all the time and sadly those are often the stories you hear about.
Get an idea of local customs and dress. I have mostly traveled alone in Latin America so I know that typically the people in Latin America are likely going to be conservative and therefore I need to try and dress conservatively. It does help with the experience if you do not stick out and getting cat called every five minutes. When I travel I do try to blend end as much as possible so I can explore without feeling harassed. So far, following this rule has worked.
Smile and be friendly, most people you meet are not out to get you. If I had a nickle for every time someone told me that “They do not like American’s there” I could book a plane ticket anywhere. I am not even kidding. So far I have been to 11 countries in my lifetime and NOT once have I felt like the people I meet HATE Americans… like not even in France. Everyone has been 100% friendly and helpful. I have never once felt like someone was being a certain way towards me because I was American in fact it is often the exact opposite most people want to talk to you about America. They want to know what it is like to grow up in America… Texas… and whether I voted for Trump or not. People are curious about you, just as curious you are about their country. As long as you are friendly I am willing to bet all those nickles they will be friendly to you.
Try traveling solo… at least once. I actually really love solo travel. You only have to make decisions for you and that is quite pleasant. I am getting to the point of my life that I am to share memories with someone and it would have been nice to be able and share my crazy bus rides in Guatemala with someone… but at the same time those are memories that no one can take from me and I feel like I earned a pretty awesome travel badge by going to a foreign country alone. I met some amazing people and have met amazing people on my solo trips since. I really think everyone should try a solo trip at least once. I am not saying you have to go to a foreign country even, I had a friend that went on a solo trip to Disney world and loved it. I am just saying it is good for the soul to only have yourself to depend on and spend a little time making decisions just for you.
So that is the best advice I can give you. Just go. Stop fretting. 1000s of people leave every single day on solo vacations and journeys and just about all of them come back home… I am not going to lie and say it will be easy every single moment of every single day, but I can tell you that I am willing to be you will not regret it.
Seriously, look at my face (or at least try) I am smiling. I was by myself but I was loving it. If I can do something like this so can you. I promise you will not regret making the decision. Stop waiting for “someone to go with you” if you were like me and NO one would ever go with you… just go. Stop waiting. Tomorrow is not guaranteed… but today is the present, so treat it like the gift it is… and just go.