Finally, you gathered all your guts to do this. What now?!
I wouldn't call myself an "expert" by any means-- on solo traveling. But since some friends have been asking me questions on how and where to jump-start with their own girly travel adventure, I thought I'd share what I learned through the years of my own personal solo wandering trips.
Here's a good go-signal to help with your planning. And I hope that this will somehow convince you a little, or maybe ease your feelings on having cold feet to book yourself a flight to some place majestic, serene, and marvelous.
Trust me, you deserve to see more of our amazing and wonderful world! No buts. No excuses.
Where to start and how to plan your lifetime dream of traveling?
You need to avoid these things:
1. Avoid planning too much and not planning too well.
Once you've picked a place to visit, do your research accordingly. Always write down the names of places, the addresses, and how to get there either by bus, train, or boat-- and how much would it cost. Those are the IMPORTANT information you need to remember once you've reached your destination.
Write down the things you really wanted to see and what you really wanted to do, but always leave a room for spontaneity. You don't want to end up wasting your travel time figuring out the things you want to do or what landmarks you need to see.
I have a friend who traveled to Rio de Janeiro that only ended up seeing one landmark and getting lost for the most part, because they failed to plan their trip properly. You don't want your FIRST SOLO travel to be frustrating, stressful, and an epic-failure!
Read ahead on how to avoid these... 😉
2. Avoid over packing and not bringing the essentials.
I have to admit that this part was really hard for me to master. Especially being so conscious of what I want to wear and how I would look like in the pictures. Haha. But don't we all? #Instagramcontent, biatches!😉
I'm happy to report that I have gradually learned and have made great improvements in this department! The key to avoid over packing is the fact that you need to carry ALL your stuff on YOUR BACK. So you're not torturing anyone but yourself! Ask yourself this question, how many kilos can you carry on your back?! 5 kilos, 10 kilos, or 20 kilos?! If you wanted to carry a luggage, do remember that you're only allowed to bring 7-10 kilos (depending on the airline) as a hand-carry. Do you like to pay a ridiculous amount for over luggage?! If you got the answers to these questions, then start packing away!
First and foremost, you need to invest on a very good quality of backpack or luggage. I got my backpack from Decathlon and it's been with me for over five years now-- without fail! For my hand-carry luggage, I've chosen a 4-wheeler that goes to the direction I lead. Again, if you're planning to do a lot of traveling in the future-- invest on good bags and luggages.
The most essentials that you need to pack:
- Pants (denim or light) that will go with every shirt or blouse that you have. Do limit it to three.
- Sweater and long shirts because sometimes the weather can be unpredictable. There will be cold days, for sure. Shorts, shirts, & blouses-- only good enough on the number of days of your trip. (But do your research ahead with the kind of weather on the place you'll go).
- Little black dress and ballet flats because there can be a special night that you need to be very lady-like.
- Swimsuits because sometimes a spontaneous trip to a beach is the ultimate place to be.
- Comfy sneakers and flip flops.
- Underwear of course! 10 pairs (bras & panties) is a bit too much actually.
- Toiletries and make up kit. Do not bring ALL that you have. Limit them to the MOST IMPORTANT.
- Your gadgets and chargers for sure. If you're bringing your laptop, make sure that you got a good storage for it.
- Bring a USB disk. Or do save them on a Google drive or any back up files. If you're documenting your travels with your camera, always save them before you to sleep at night-- you don't want to make a mistake of not having the pictures saved.
- Never underestimate the use of a notepad and a pen. I love writing and taking down notes about my trip-- especially keeping track with my expenses, so this is really one of the most essentials for me.
3. Avoid not having a budget.
Okay, so here's the money part. Let's be realistic, you can't go on a trip if you don't have the budget.
If you're asking me on how I was able to afford my travels, it all comes down to my discipline and practice of saving up. I have honestly been very, very frugal on the things that only falls into the category of "wants and desires".
If you value experience over material things, you will certainly be able to save up for your trips. I believe, regardless of how much you earn every month and put aside a ten percent budget on your travels-- you will certainly be able to do so.
My mindset now is more of, if I save up my money on the things I don't need, I will certainly have something for a trip. I have learned a great lesson: that I've made a lot of expensive mistakes through moving houses and moving countries for the past ten years. I realized that I have only accumulated junk and excessive things that I neither use or need. From then on, I was very mindful with my shopping sprees.
With that in mind, save! Regardless of how much you earn, the practice of saving can really make your travel dreams come true.
So avoid not having a budget. But how to save while you're traveling?!
- Take public transports! Take for example, I have saved up A LOT on using Uber from an airport because I was able to find the airport shuttle bus that goes to the center of the city. Airport rides are usually the most expensive, so make sure that before you land, you know that the airport has a shuttle bus service.
- Pre-booked cheap hotels or hostels or stay with friends. This will help you save time and bringing cash for hotel payments. I especially loved using booking. I have never tried AirBnB yet. I have only stayed on a hostel, twice. And I did couchsurfing, once. I am sometimes being hosted by friends and families-- so that's already a great saving!
- Find a local supermarket. Why? Because they usually have prepared meals, or they have food counters, and a bottle of water (or soda) is twice cheaper than anywhere. You can find bread and fruits from here, so that will count as a budget meal already.
- Don't do your shopping while traveling. Keep in mind that you're there to see and experience the place. You're there because you want to be there. Unless you have a budget for shopping, then who am I to stop you?! 😉
4. Avoid not knowing the transport system of the place you're visiting.
Most big cities have a pretty organized transport system. Don't panic when you don't know how to navigate your way at first. Find a Tourist Information Center-- they usually give out free maps and can advice you with the public transport system. Or before your trip, print out the subway maps or the bus lines of the city.
Also ask about their transport cards for tourists. For example, in New York-- you can avail a one week tourist metro & bus card pass that is unlimited ride for a cheaper price. In Paris, you can also buy a similar card from the airport line that is cheaper for tourists. In Rio de Janeiro, you can buy a card, that can be used in all their transport lines (subway, bus, tram, and boat). In Beijing, it is better to buy a subway card with pre-paid load so that you can avoid the queue on rush hours.
I use Uber sometimes-- especially in Brazilian cities because it's convenient and safer for me, especially at night. But I take subways and buses on broad daylight. New York subway is pretty safe at night. Paris metro is the most confusing to navigate and Beijing subways are the most crowded, just so you know.
Familiarize the area where you want to go and Google it before you leave your hotel/hostel. And write all the details, so that you don't need to use your phone in public. When in doubt, never be afraid to ask for directions among the locals. They're usually very helpful and friendly.
5. Avoid not immersing yourself with the history, culture, and the locals.
It is capital sin to be arrogant in your travels and trips. Stay curious. Have an open mind. Ask your questions. Always remind yourself that you need to learn something new. And the only way to do this is when you immerse yourself with the locals, the culture, and their history.
How?! Begin with a smile on your face. I usually would go where the locals would go. Like a public market or mercado, a public library (they're mostly free), and a small, non-touristy-- local restaurant (because the owners would usually be the first to know that you're a tourist and they're immediately friendly to you), or a side walk vendor of a food or craft.
Then you can start a conversation like, " Hi, I'm new here. What would you recommend for me? "What else do I need to try (to see or do)?" "What is your favorite place here?"
More often than not, you'll get good replies and will even be fascinated with their answers. Always listen genuinely. We, humans tend to share when we know that the other person we are talking with is listening and shows a great interest on what we're talking about.
I would often find myself having a conversation with the hotel staff, my fellow traveler, guide, or a local host. I love asking questions of how they ended up in the place because for the most parts, they also came from somewhere else. And through these people, I'd end up a more unique experience with my trip.
Again, don't be an arrogant fool! Stay curious and ask your questions.
6. Avoid not trying any FREE tours and eating a local dish.
Free tours are usually offered in big cities. This is a fun way to meet fellow travelers and learn new things at the same time. This is also a great opportunity to freshen up some of your history lessons but also to ask your curious questions. I love free tours because they are interactive and fun. They're mostly walking tours, so you get to really see nice details of the place.
Then at the end of the tour, ask your guide to recommend a local dish you need to try and where's the best place to eat them.
Never leave a place without being experimental with your pallet. As much as possible don't look for a McDonalds or a fast food chain. You're missing the fun on the gastronomic experience of your life!
I love food and trying out the local dishes and delicacies. It has been my favorite part of every trip I had. I would search for good, local places ahead of time and make sure I can at least go to one of them.
But if do you have allergies or you're a picky eater, then you can skip this part. 😊
7. Avoid buying too many souvenirs.
I understand that you want to keep a souvenir to remind you about your trip. But I advice you to not overdo do it! I understand that going on your first solo trip can be a bit overwhelming, so be easy on yourself-- especially with the shopping and buying stuffs.
When it comes to souvenir, think of something very meaningful. As much as possible pick something small and light on your bag and pocket. Trinkets as they call it. Key chains, shirts, and magnets seemed to be a popular choice, but if you can find something more connected to your adventures from that place-- that's even more unique and awesome!
I, on the other hand, love collecting postcards (and maps) for my journal. Some girls would send it to their selves on their home addresses, and I think it's really cool and wonderful. Plus, you get to say something for yourself to remember forever!
8. Avoid not having fun and doing what you love to try.
Again, your first solo adventure can be a bit overwhelming-- stressful, scary, and frightening. But you have to let down your hair and put aside all these feelings at one point. Because otherwise, you will never see the beauty and the true meaning of your life at that moment!
Always, always, remind yourself that you deserve to have fun and really be happy. Find one activity during your trip that you would really like to try.
I did a lot of awesome things on my solo travel: scuba diving, paragliding, hang gliding-- to name a few. I also love joining a cooking class or just hang out in a bookstore all day. I didn't conform on the practice of really going with the touristy activities.
You don't have to go where every tourists go. You can always customize your trip according to your wants and happy place. If you love visiting museums, then go visit a museum. If you love to go on a hike, then go on a hike. If you want to just drink coffee and people watch, then go ahead and do that.
9. Avoid not being safe and being mindful of your surroundings.
This is of course, very important. You can't be too complacent especially you're alone, on a place too foreign to you. Make sure that you're doing a lot of safety precautions throughout your trip.
First, make sure that your important documents such as passports and valuable IDs are being keep safe whether on a vault box in your hotel room or safely locked in your bag.
Have a money belt bag-- where you can keep your cards and money bills, and an extra wallet-- like a coin purse to put your small bills and coins, just in case, God forbid, you get mugged-- you can give that extra wallet instead of all your money and card.
Don't act that your lost or wandering because you'll easily attract "opportunists". Don't look so naive. Don't attract danger, so to speak.
Walk in confidence but also being mindful & cautious. Walk in bright and well-lighted streets & alleyways with the crowd. When you don't see any person walking on a street or alleyways, don't go there!
Always, always, always listen to that tiny voice in your head, called gut! Because 99% of the time, it would tell you if you're in danger or not.
Lastly, keep a contact number of your emergency contacts, embassy or a police department. Write them in several pieces of paper and keep one on your money belt, on your wallet, or on your backpack-- just in case, you lost your phone. It's really important you have these numbers.
10. Avoid not leaving any of your travel information to your families or friends.
Traveling alone as a female is mostly safe, if you keep yourself safe. You will meet a lot of interesting, wonderful, and weird people along your journey. But do keep in mind that they are still strangers, no matter what. You can trust them, but not as much as you can trust your life with them. 😊
With that being said, you will sometimes find yourself in the company of these people on a spontaneous trip and adventure. Although being spontaneous is part of the recipe on your solo adventure, don't forget that SHIT happens or more like an accident or trouble sometimes. So my final advice for you is...
Write down ALL your travel itineraries on a piece of paper and give it to your parents or a closest friend. Or leave a copy as well, inside your bedroom. In this way, they know the time period of your trip. Keep a constant communication with someone from home.
Whenever you leave your house/ home/ hostel/ and hotel-- leave all your travel information with someone or on your social media page. Let your parents/ friends/ colleagues/ front desk manager know that you're going to a certain place, what time you will go back, and what they most likely needed to know.
Also include a phone number of the hotels/hostels you're staying in. Or when you get a number abroad, let them know right away.
It's better to be safe than sorry. 😉 Always stay safe and happy travels!