The Independent Traveler

Photo courtesy of Kelly Purkey

Photo courtesy of Kelly Purkey

I flew for the first time a little over 10 years ago. It as spring break, my senior year of undergrad, and going home wasn’t an option. I had an aunt in California that I’d never visited. When I called to ask to visit she was beyond thrilled to have me and one of my great gal pals Patty, for the week. Not only was my trip amazing, I’ve gone back every year since and some years three to four times. I’ve only gone one other time to San Francisco with someone else. I love to travel…and…I don’t mind going alone. #IndieSpirit It’s not that I don’t like going with others but more times than not others have a list of excuses as to why they can’t go. So I go solo. In my single stints in a host of places where there weren’t familiar faces I’ve learned a few things that have made for safe, life giving, memorable rips that I thought I’d share. You know, just in case you want to head to Milan, Rome, Barcelona, Paris, New Orleans, New York, Atlanta, or Boston. Oh, or San Francisco -which is where I am sending this post from. Until Monday! xxoo

1. Research

Let’s just start with planning to go on your me myself and I adventure. I cannot stress enough the importance of researching your destination, especially if it is out of your country of residence, employment, or where you used to call home. Use reputable websites, travel agencies, and don’t be afraid to chat up colleagues, family members, and friends who have visited where you intend to go. Pay attention to world news and see what is going on where you intend to go, whether it’s fashion week, a national holiday or festival, flooding, or increasing civil unrest. Research your country’s embassy and presence within the country should something happen. Make sure you do all you need to do regarding currency exchanges and you are aware of what products (like medications or vitamins) may be restricted.

If you are staying stated side here in the US, it’s still important to do your research. If you plan on using a city’s public transit system start to familiarize yourself with the public transit website and google maps. Use the trip planner tool to estimate trips from where you will stay to points of interest.

Know before you go.

2. Pay that pretty penny 

While you don’t need to pay $545.00 a night at a hotel, I wouldn’t recommend paying $29.00 a night at one either. I’m biased towards hostels for solo travel and have no problem advising against it. If you are not staying with friends or family during your travel I’d recommend a reasonable priced hotel. Cheaptickets.com is my favorite for low price flights and hotels but they are a myriad of search engines out there with a plethora of places to stay. Pay attention to ratings and reviews. Look up the parts of town the venue is located in before booking, as well as its distance to places you hope to visit. No one wants that $134.00 a night hotel by the airport in a place where the only way to museums, shop, and eateries is a cab, or the car you didn’t rent.

3. Less is more (just not for overnight accommodations)

When traveling solo it is so to your benefit to pack less. Less, books, shoes, swimsuits, and even….panties (learn the art of hand washing and line drying, besides who wants to bring home a bunch of funky clothes). Pick a color scheme where you can use accessories to add hints of color and showcase your style. Pack things to layer. Pick a pair of flats, walking shoes, and one pair of night on the town shoes.  It’s easier to put on or take off than to have a bunch of items you just don’t need.

Photo courtesy of Flip and Style.com

Photo courtesy of Flip and Style.com

4. Play it cool

Don’t bring every gadget you’ve got. You don’t need your iphone,ipad, ipod, mac airbook, fitbit, etc.etc. One, if the trip is for vacation, learn to unplug. Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pic Stitch, and Snap Chat will be okay without you for a few days. Two, there is no need to bring all of those items to keep up with or worry about safely storing. Choose well and wisely.

Also, do your best not to stick out as someone clearly not from the place you are visiting. Granted, depending where you’re going you might not be able to control that. However, you can control no throwing on the t-shirt, lanyard, and hat that says I heart _____ in those cheesy pastel colors. And don’t feel the need to take a picture of everything or constantly ask people to snap pics of you. Nothing says tourist like snap happy camera phone people.

5. Watch out 

This is two tip is two fold. For one, wear a watch. We often use out phones to tell time yet we rarely just look at t time. We notice the notification of the text message, new blog post by our favorite writer, instagram pic, tweets, etc. and we’re lost in cyber space instead of paying attention to the space we are currently in. It’s how you miss your stop on the train nor bus, or become the target of a person intending to harm you and or steal your stuff. Also, be mindful of traveling alone at night. Unless it’s heaven (and I don’t know if there is a night time there), wherever you are be mindful of where you are when it gets dark out. Pay attention to your surroundings.

6. Leave a little something behind 

When I travel I make it a habit to share my itinerary with at least one person. Typically it’s my parents, but not always. I simply always make sure that should anything happen there is at least one person who knows what was supposed to happen, where I was supposed to be, and can contact people on my behalf should that be needed. I also print a hard copy of my itinerary should there be any technological difficulties or items that I would use to retrieve an electronic version are unavailable.

Photo courtesy of Who What Wear.com

Photo courtesy of Who What Wear.com

7. Change it up

Be sure to carry some cash with you and when you do, store it in more than one place- on your person and in your bag. If you can, bring a separate credit or debit card just for traveling. I use Capitalone360. Again, should It be lost or stolen, it was only connected to funds you used for traveling, not your checking and savings account.

8. Learn and use the language 

Whether abroad or state side put some effort in learning the language of the culture you will be a part of. And by language I don’t just mean verbal, but nonverbal as well. Be mindful of and respectful of the traditions and norms of the culture you will be a part of. Shaking hands is not the universal greeting for hello (sometimes it’s a kiss), and I’m from Philly and call it soda but in Spokane they call it pop. What you wear is also apart of learning and using the language. Just be mindful, especially if you identify as a woman, that some places are offended by seeing too much skin. Translation- leave the crop top home, one piece swimsuits are in, a beautiful maxi may be a stylish and appropriate stand in for the LBD.

9. Choose wisely

I heart adventure, but I always want to be able to tell my adventures. It’s important that as you plan and travel that you stay mindful of the areas you travel to. If you are staying in a resort area it may behoove you to stay and explore the resort before leaving the resort to explore alone. Depending on where you are visiting certain neighborhoods, eateries, museums, and markets may have optimal days and hours to visit.

10. LIVE

Be sure to LIVE while you are away. Go to as many museums as will make your heart content. Order the wine, appetizer, entrée, dessert, and go back to your hotel and get yourself a night cap. Buy the dress, scarf, or earrings from the boutique. Eat the croissant, doughnut, and tart all in the same day. Go to the mid afternoon matinee, or splurge or the Broadway play. Dance with the guy with the shy smile who took 25 minutes to meander over to you and ask you to dance. Create memories, just be mindful so you can come back and tell folks about them.

Photo courtesy of Her Campus.com

Photo courtesy of Her Campus.com

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