It’s the next installment of my summer Experts Series featuring cooler, more interesting people than me.
This week, I’m excited for you to meet Alex. Alex and I are pretty close. You’d be pretty good friends with her too because she’s just that great. Among Alex’s many talents is her persistence in keeping in touch with me. Sometimes I fall into a cave of solitude and she comes and finds me and reminds me to interact with the rest of the world. In the rare moments I call her and don’t get a response for days, I inevitably hear these words when we do finally talk, “Sorry. I was out of the country.” To which I always reply, “Of course you were.”
Alex is a fearless world traveler with more stamps in her passport than most will get in a lifetime. All the pictures below are Alex’s. She loves to travel and is savvy about the whole operation, particularly about going at it alone.
I hope you enjoy Alex’s tips on how to travel, even if you’re a girl.
Ask people the one thing they really want to do, and most would agree it’s to travel. There’s something about getting outside your everyday and exploring God’s amazing creation. I love my life, but I live for the next adventure.
This isn’t easy when you are a girl and don’t always have someone to join in your grand adventures. Over the years and after many trips and even a four month internship in Spain, I’ve learned that if you want to travel, you can’t always wait for the right timing or even the right partner in crime.
In my travels, I’ve been to: New Zealand, Austria, Virgin Islands, Switzerland, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Belize, Guatemala, St. Lucia, Germany, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, England, Canada, Kenya and a few others. This includes going to Chile, Portugal, Wales, and Spain all alone.
I can’t say it’s ideal to travel alone as a girl, but that should never stop anyone from living a dream or making a few memories. All it takes to get started is picking a place and making a plan. It’s never going to be perfect or easy, but that’s what traveling is about…expecting the unexpected!
As a girl who loves to travel, I want to share just a few of the tips that have helped me the most, especially when having to do it alone.
Decide where to go
Is it national or international? Don’t let the thought of having to get a passport or maybe even a visa stop you from crossing the border. Maybe you worry about getting lost, not knowing the culture or more importantly not being able to communicate. None of these things should ever stop you because no matter where you go, you are always going to encounter the unfamiliar. You have to put yourself in the mindset that you are there to experience a country and not be an outside observer. As long as you are prepared to engage and come with a plan, you will be fine. It’s all about the attitude.
Always be prepared
As a girl traveling alone, you can never be too prepared. Do your research, ask questions, make a plan. One of my favorite resources is TripAdvisor.com because you get some great reviews from actual travelers and don’t have to rely on other sites that just want to sell you something.
Some other things to consider when traveling alone and to get together before you take off are:
- What do you want to see?
- Do you want adventure or relaxation?
- Transportation Plan/Backup Plan
- Get a guide book or get familiar with the safe areas of the place you are going
- Leave your agenda with someone at home…let them know your schedule along the way.
- Always carry some cash…not every place has an ATM. Most of the time you should be able to pull out cash or use your credit card but they will probably have a fee.
- Be aware that you may not have a ton of access to internet, but know that most foreign countries have great internet cafes…perfect to connect or even get some local recommendations.
- Make a copy of all your documents front and back and email them to yourself and family member…passport, credit cards, driver’s license, debit card.
- Don’t wear fancy jewelry…or anything that will draw extra attention to you.
One thing that I would definitely say has been a highlight of my solo trips has been joining up with some kind of tour group. Even if you don’t like travel groups, most countries have free walking tours to join for a few hours to explore the city and get you familiar. Plus, they are usually pretty inexpensive because they are supported by tips and not a set price. Look up the tour before you go and reserve a spot. I have joined several and have been impressed every time by the guides and also the fun people that you can meet.
You are never alone
One of the most daunting things about traveling alone are the times where you don’t have anyone to talk to, to laugh with or maybe even freak out with. I know the thought of exploring alone sounds scary, but it can actually be a bit of a blessing sometimes. Not only do you get to do what you want to do, but it opens you up to meeting new people. You’d be surprised how open people are to you when they see you traveling alone. Take advantage of the opportunity to start a few conversations and maybe even make a new friend.
As I mentioned before, you can definitely expect the unexpected. It’s not always a bad thing, and truth be told, you are likely to get a pretty good laugh when looking back.
Again, when you are alone do your best to blend in. Stick around the areas with a lot of people, don’t wear anything flashy and be ready to be approached. You would never imagine, but people are more likely to come up and talk to you while traveling. I look back and think about the time in Greece where someone asked me to marry him in the middle of the metro station, the time in Spain where I was approached for the time and ended up in a conversation about the history of America, and even when I made a friend from Australia who I stayed in touch with for over a year.
It’s a mixed bag of experiences…but don’t freak out…just take it all in.
I sure hope that someone reads this and sees what kind of possibilities are out there and maybe takes the next step in planning a fun get away…whether it be half way across the world or even just a short drive away. Once you get started…you will never want to stop. Next stop for me is Brazil and Argentina!
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget, if you work up the courage to go on a trip based on reading this article, and everything in the world goes wrong and you think you might be part of a Chevy Chase vacation movie, it’s not my fault. That stuff just happens sometimes. Be prepared, use common sense and listen to your intuition.