#When I first started travelling solo, the whole idea of navigating a city with only my backpack and brains scared me senseless. But as soon as my feet landed in vibrant Naples, my fears slowly began to disappear. Before I knew it, I had explored 13 different cities over the course of three summer and winter breaks. Along the journey, my list of international contacts and sense of toughness grew. So, if you’re wondering how a woman in her early twenties gained the courage and budgeting skills to make her travel dreams come true, read on for some tips:
# 1 Be money savvy! As soon as you get itchy feet, hop on over to Skyscanner, momondo, or another travel site using Incognito Mode to get cheaper deals. Try to pick destinations that are generally cheaper like South America or Southeast Asia. Also, use Hostelworld or Booking.com for social hostels that are usually cheaper than typical hotels. When you arrive, casually flex your student ID card at places like museum ticket booths for small discounts that add up. You can also grab snacks or ingredients from a local supermarket to create a masterpiece in the hostel kitchen. This way, you can save money that would have been spent on restaurant meals.
# 2 Stay safe by walking like a chic New Yorker who has a business meeting in 10 minutes. In other words, look like you know every tucked-away corner of the city you’re visiting in order to avoid giving off clueless tourist vibes, which might make you seem like perfect prey for sketchy people. To seal the safety deal, avoid wrapping your camera around your neck and/or flashing your jewellery. Instead, keep most valuables in your day bag or locked up in hostel lockers. Or, better yet, leave your golden chains at home!
# 3 Meet people by hanging around hostel lobbies and joining events like free walking tours or wild pub crawls. Generally, try to have positive body language with good posture, eyes that casually scan the room for cool people, and open arms that are not cocooning you like a blanket. If you’re a bit introverted, try to take 20 seconds of insane courage to spark conversations, as seen in the movie We Bought a Zoo and suggested by Doug and Leslie Gustafson on huffpost.com. The idea is simple; start by spotting a cutie with a British accent, or someone who looks like serious travel-buddy material in your surroundings. Then, take 20 seconds to assess their social situation and smoothly introduce yourself when the time is up. Even if the person rejects you and things get awkward, you can walk away knowing that you took a chance by choosing courage over fear.
# 4 Be prepared for things to go wrong by leaving behind expectations of a glamorous experience without complications. Since we generally tend to idealize vacations, we might forget that things don’t always go according to plan. You might get lost in the middle of the night or feel a bit lonely, but it’s important to stay optimistic. Instead of wallowing, you need to think on your feet and come up with a creative solution. For example, I once got stuck in Seattle for Christmas because of a cancelled flight yet ended up having a grand time and making cool friends, instead of worrying about the lack of alternative flights.
# 5 Be flexible. It’s important to arrive at your destination with a general itinerary and knowledge of the local culture, sightseeing tips, cheap methods of transportation, and a list of restaurants/cafés to hit up. Keep in mind that planning every second of your itinerary and trying to hit every landmark can be stressful. Besides, if you have every tour and table reservation booked, you are left with less chances to move your plans. So if you happen to meet a trustworthy group of Aussies who invite you to a yacht party, you might not be able to go because of an expensive tour you previously booked. Thus, try to allow wiggle room in your plans, just in case an opportunity for spontaneous (yet safe) adventures pop up.
No matter how overwhelming and challenging solo travel might seem, it’s a valuable resource for building self-reliance and becoming more fearless. So I encourage you to book a ticket and soak in every (mis)adventure for a truly unforgettable experience.
Photography by Adelya Nugmanova.