Tips For Traveling Solo

Sometimes the best travel companion is your inner monologue. 

I just checked a major goal off of my bucket list and you can too. As I type this, I've just returned to my London Flat (I love saying that- PS I'm in London Study Abroad, you should apply) after coming home safely from my first trip done completely solo. That's right. I fulfilled my mother's worst nightmare and travelled part of this big scary world all by myself. And it was awesome. And now that I'm home safe in my loft, I thought I'd share some of the wisdom I've gained now that I'm basically Julia Roberts in "Eat, Pray, Love".

1. Start your solo travel close to home

I'm living in London, so I chose Scotland as my first solo destination. Ediburgh is a 4 hour train ride from London. Far enough away that it felt like a vacation and close enough that if disaster strikes, getting home won't cost me a bundle. Although I've travelled by myself in the US, Europe is a whole new world. I picked a place where I knew the language & had plenty of ways to call my Daddy if the struggle got too real. 

2. Pack light. Pack smart. 

Versatile pieces in neutral colors. My go-to is black on black with a colored layering piece, like a sweater or coat depending on the weather, athletic shoes and another pair of comfortable, neutral shoes. My small bag helped me blend in with locals and meant I didn't have to check a bag at travel or leave my things unattened. Plus, every ounce matters when lugging your stuff around for hours. 

The contents of my bag (minus my chargers, travel docs/cards, and water bottle)

3. Figure out your money 

I'm not really much of a planner. I bought my train ticket to Scotland on Thursday and left Friday... But it's important to figure out a money strategy before you get going. Split your money. Carry small sums, but to also keep a back-up available. I went to Scotland with £30 and my debit card with the lowest balance on it (I brought two to London). There was enough in my account to get me out of a jam but not enough that, if something were to happen, I'd be screwed. That's really the goal here: minimize your chance of getting screwed.

Tip: Call your bank and find out if they have partner banks in the country you're traveling to. Foreign ATM fees are the woooooorst.

4. Be on time. 

Especially when traveling by train. The time listed on your ticket is the time your train is LEAVING. Make sure to give yourself plenty of cushion time to figure out where you're leaving from, your seating situation, etc. Again, the goal is to not screw yourself over.  

5. Talk to strangers

This does not mean you pull a move like the girl from taken and let yourself get kidnapped. This means: seek out common spaces in your travel accomodations; talk to your seatmate on the train; ask the girl at the coffee cart where to buy an iphone charger. You'll find that you end up with a lot of great stories to tell and maybe even a new friend.

Example: I met a Swedish ex-armyman named Thor on my train (yes, seriously. Thor.). He showed me a picture of a Pink Porsche he and other army contractors hot wired at an abandoned palace in Iraq. You cannot make these things up. 

The hike was amazing, I just look miserable because I'm in hilariously bad shape. Shoutout to Ingrid from Sweden who demanded I go anyway. 

6. Don't over plan

I planned absolutely none of my walk through Edinburgh. I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go but mostly I just wandered through old town. It was great. I stumbled into the Scottish National Museum, the National Gallery, Edinburgh Castle, and even over to Arthur's seat (a really big hill/mountain with an epic view of Edinburgh)... all in a single day. 

'Cause you might make a couple turns and see this

7. Trust Your Instincts

Even though Trip Advisor said Edinburgh was safe and my Hostel's website told me they were "just around the corner" from the local train station, I still hopped in a cab when I got into the city at 11:20pm. Just because you're being independent doesn't mean you have to be wreckless. If it feels wrong, trust yourself. I'm glad I did. Edinburgh's all hills. "Just around the corner" meant 'up a massive flight of stairs through a dark alley or up a steep, dimly lit hill and around a darker corner'... It was worth the 3 quid to get dropped at the door. 

8. Your documents are your children

Keep important documents on you at all times. Some people use passport holders on lanyards others a document pack that slips under your shirt. Me? I kept it classy and used my bra. If you have a sports bra with a zipper compartment or removable cups, both are great for holding on to documents and cash. Removable cups? You may ask. It's not the cups that are great for storage but the pocket for the cups. Slide your valuables on in, wear a flowy shirt, and you're set.  Weird? Maybe. Easier on your nerves? Definitely. 

Tip: Some hostels will ask for your passport as collatoral in exchange for a key to your room or locker. If possible, use another option like cash or a driver's license. 

9. Just. Do. It. 

This trip was a long time coming and I put it off because I was worried about...getting murdered tbh. But I booked a hostel to force myself to buy the train tickets and make it happen. And I'm so glad I did. Now GO!

 

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Images provided by author