They say that traveling changes you. I thought that they were exaggerating. Taking a holiday for the simple purpose of exploring has been one of the greatest, life-changing experiences I’ve ever had. And I’m so excited to share some of that experience with you.
But first, I just want to share the first 5 of the top 10 things I learned while being a solo traveler. Hopefully these will help you as you plan your first or next trip.
1) Don’t Arrive Sleep Deprived
I gotta say, arriving in Amsterdam at 11:00 at night after going 48 hours with little to no sleep was not a moment I cherish. Being in a strange and new city by yourself at night can be scary. Add sleep deprivation to the mix and it’s straight up terrifying and frustrating.
I was exhausted which means I was emotional. I had no clue how to get where I needed to be and was not looking forward to spending a fat amount of money on a taxi, but I knew that was my only option.
A man approached and asked if I needed a taxi to which I said yes. We begin to walk not towards the string of taxis lined up before me, but further down the street and around the corner. I felt my spidey sense kick into high gear, but was so tired I couldn’t think of a solution. Of course, it didn’t help that, in my sleep deprivation state of mind, he happened to look like the guy who shared a cab with the girls in the beginning of Taken. Which brings me to number 2…
2) Fabricate a Backup Story
When the creepy taxi driver asked me “are you traveling alone?” I was glad I had thought up a backup story.
“No, I’m actually meeting a couple friends from college who moved out here a couple years ago.”
If anything it helped calm my nerves. I do believe it’s a good deterrent as well.
3) Four Must Have Apps
There were four apps that saved me. WhatsApp, Wi-Fi Finder, CityMaps2Go, and Paris Metro.
WhatsApp: An excellent way to stay in touch with those make home, as well as those you meet during your travels when you go back home. As long as you’re connect to wifi you can text and make phone calls.
Wi-Fi Finder: The name says it all! If you’re looking to connect to free public wifi, this offline app tells you what wifi hotspots are close by.
CityMaps2Go: An offline gps, this was easily my biggest life saver. It doesn’t give you the step by step directions like “in one hundred feet, turn left” – but it does give your current location. So if you can read a map, or follow a dot, you’ll get to your destination.
Paris Metro: Obviously, this is only useful to you if you’re going to Paris. Metros can be difficult to figure out sometimes, this app makes the Paris metro simple. Plug in your starting location, your end location, and it’ll plan your metro route.
4) Travel With A Flexible Plan
The idea of being a “free spirit” and “figuring it out when you get there” is not a good idea. You’ll end up wasting more time than enjoying your time. Instead plan things out ahead of time, but leave room for flexibility and spontaneity. If you wanna go to Spain, book your hostel or hotel in advance and make a list of things you want to do while your there, take into account hard dates like concerts or shows. Then you can be flexible when you’re there – work from your list and do whatever it is you feel like doing that day.
It’s great to have structure and freedom all in the same trip. It helps you make the most of it.
5) Time Your Travel Days Right
This one boils down to personal preference. Personally, I wish I would have planned my travel days differently. I stayed as late in the day as possible in Amsterdam before catching a train to Belgium. Same plan going from Belgium to Paris. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out so well. See, checkouts of hostels and hotels are typically between 10:00am and 11:00am. While most hostels will let you store your bags after check out, it makes things challenging. You gotta leave enough time to go back to the hostel after a day out and about and travel to the train station/airport – timing everything just right to avoid lugging a 50lb backpack or other luggage.
I wish I would have just scheduled my trains to depart right around 10:00 or 11:00am. Plenty of time to catch some extra sleep and make it to your new destination with enough time left in the day to check into your new hostel or hotel and enjoy a good meal.
I hope these five tips were helpful!