As you may know, I recently went on a solo trip to Europe – it wasn’t my first, as I had completed a semester abroad in the past, but it was definitely the best. I went, on an unplanned, complete whim of a trip to Portugal, Spain and, randomly but beautifully, England!
Now, I’m definitely not the only one who has traveled alone, and there’s a million posts out there giving you tips and trick about traveling. However, as many as there might be, I don’t think there’s any harm adding my ideas to the pile.
Here are my top four tips for solo traveling. 😉
1. Pack as little as humanly necessary. I took two large suitcases, and a backpack. For a 2 week trip. Yes, I completely and totally regretted this as soon as I landed in my first destination. I ended up ditching my large suitcase temporarily in a hostel locker in Faro, Portugal and I learned a big lesson: all I need in a 2-week trip is a BACKPACK, not a suitcase, and enough clothes for ONE week, simple jewellery that goes with everything, 2 good lipsticks, concealer, and mascara. I strongly recommend against a suitcase because many roads/streets are cobblestoned and rough…and you may be far from an airport or train station. It’s just a hassle. Oh, and bring soap and such. That’s about it – the less you carry, the more freedom you have. Less to worry about, easier to get on flights. You can wash things at hostels / laundromats on the way, and trust me, no one is going to care that you’re re-wearing things. Least of all you.
2. Gain a balance between planned and spontaneous. It would be a huge understatement to say I was rather unprepared for my venture. All I did was book flights there and back, and book the first hostel. Other than that, my plan was to get there and *then* decide what to do. This worked in some ways – for example, I was able to have the freedom and flexibility to go to Seville, Spain and London, England – both places that I hadn’t planned to go. However, it also paralyzed me a little: I had to make decisions in the moment and I was afraid to make the wrong ones. I wasted time not knowing where to go and what to do because I hadn’t planned it. I would suggest striking a fine balance: know where you’re going to go, and have a general idea of what to do, but don’t feel the need to plan everything to the T. You want to be able to feel flexible to take a random boat ride, or go to a crazy grungey party everyone seems to know about.
Check out this crazy party I went to in Faro, Portugal 😉
3. Better to enjoy a few things thoroughly rather than experience them ALL. So, when I went to beautiful cities, I felt a lot of pressure to experience EVERYTHING in the city. Whether that be seeing all the museums, going on all the walking tours, and drinking ALL the wine. However, what truly made these moments extremely special to me was enjoying things in the moment. After all, what is the point in being able to say that you saw every museum, but you don’t remember much because it’s a blur? Or you were tired as hell? These places will always be there for you to re-explore in the future. Definitely experience the things you’re dying to see, sure, but enjoy the moments as well.
Sure, some people may view my boat trip in Faro as a waste of time (isn’t there a boat and water in Toronto?) but it was one of my most serene, beautiful moments in the whole trip.
4. Above, all, roll with the punches. Just like life doesn’t always work out at home, it may not work out on your trip abroad. Who cares? If I could tell you how many things went wrong on my trip, you may be shocked that I still say I had a good time. Whether it be rain, someone stealing from me, or a traumatic flying experience, the best thing you can do is embrace it as part of the experience. After all, you’re still living life when you’re there and learning lessons – to expect that life will take into account that this is your ‘vacation time’ and make things easy for you is kind of delusional. 😉 (But don’t worry. I’ve definitely been there.)
For example, it rained heavily and was a lot colder than I expected when I was in Seville, Spain. But I chose to focus on the beauty of the city and enjoy myself regardless. : )
Above all, remember to enjoy the experience. It’s why you took the time off school or work, and paid the big bucks. You’ll be home safe and sound soon, anyway, wishing you’d enjoyed it more!