Note: The following post contains reflections, a collection of personal advice, anecdotes and a little insight into my experience traveling alone.
Being ‘glocal’ often means having ninja abilities to survive in any geographical location— from visas, registrations, plane tickets, sending luggage, looking for a place to live, languages, academic enrollment, banking, and even medical issues! And yet, aside from the everyday to-do list in the glocal lifestyle, there is something that only a unique program like this one can get you to do: to try new things.
A year ago, when I knew that I would be able to live in Europe for two years, many things came to mind: where to live? with whom? the weather, the lack of sun (true) and other issues. But if there is something that was always stuck in my head it was traveling. And..where? mmm… ANYWHERE!! Come on! Everything was going to be new.
Travel with who? that was the real question. The answer? well although I did travel before, but it was not enough for my wanderlust to discover the world. So after much thought, and with summer around the corner, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and travel alone. Making the decision to do so turned out to be the hardest part. Once you say YES! Everything just flows.
The following will summarize what to take into account while you’re planning, traveling, and the aftermath. Today, 2 months and 12 countries later, I could say that this decision was worth every minute and every coin spent. So, here you could find my Petit Solo Travel Guide for non-solo travelers.
The 5 Questions
Ok! So before checking anything (Skyscanner, Flixbus, trains, Airbnb, hostels’, etc.) there are some 5 basic questions you should ask yourself:
- Time: For how long will I travel?
- Budget: How much will I spend? Per day? week? In transportation? And what’s my limit in terms of lodging?
- Location: Which are my must-to-see places? The Top 3/Top 5? Where I would like to start?
- Limits: This might sound weird, but beyond trying new things you should also bare in mind your point of no return. It could be budget, places, internet (am I gonna pay for data/a sim card?), etc.
- Luggage: Carry on? Backpack?
P.S. Do your research: It is good to discover, but it doesn’t take much to read about the place/places you are visiting. Not only to acquire general knowledge, but also to use said knowledge as an ice-breaker.
Planning can help you to prepare for the long road ahead, but not planning is also fun. A lack of structure creates a space to be spontaneous and let yourself fall in love with the places you visit. In my case, I like to plan the first phase of my trip and let the rest simply evolve; mostly by checking which train/bus/plane was cheapest to my list of possible destinations. Besides the logistics and the money, packing can also make or break your solo travel experience.
FACT: If you’re doing it in summer bring essentials, for you, but also take into a count the weather. ALWAYS bring an umbrella and/or a rainproof jacket (just in case) to avoid getting drenched and becoming deathly ill as a result. #TrueStory
Fígueres , Spain
Bye Bye Bye to your comfort zone
Here is the real deal, mostly one of the biggest fears regarding traveling alone comes from the fact of being alone. The truth is you’re not. There are plenty of people doing the same, and possibly in your same position. It only takes a smile or a “hey!” to figure it out. And this could happen anywhere! Yes, sometimes it is easier in a hostel, but if your thing is Airbnb then try hang-outs on Couchsurfing, a walking tour, or just a smile to start a conversation; and let the rest flow. Because the most important thing during this whole process is that you prepare to listen to yourself and others, this is how you get out of your comfort zone.
Yes, people here comes the food! Honestly, regarding this, I could only say: try it! Unless you have allergies… Food is a good way to get to know the place, the local cuisine usually reflects the culture and society from which it comes. You might identify histories linked to why most of the recipes have potatoes. Or how immigrants influenced the local gastronomy. Anyway, it is not about the number of calories, it’s about the whole experience. Yes, it’s easy to fall into Kebab/McDonalds/KFC or any of the well-known franchise, but sometimes local food could be cheaper.
Put yourself out there
Walking tours, events, hiking, renting a bike, swimming, tanning all of them enrich the experience! Of course, visiting the “emblematic places” or doing the so-called “touristic activities” is something you should consider, but the real adventure starts when you create your own path and get immersed into the city. Chatting and meeting locals is the most helpful thing, and the language is not a barrier! You could easily have a conversation using Google Translate. #TrueStory
From left to right: Zürich, Switzerland – Sofia, Bulgaria
Enjoy the solitude
We tend to listen to music while we are walking/riding/cycling. Please try to avoid this as much as you can while you are traveling alone. It is worth it to listen to the sounds of the city/town/countryside. Treat yourself to something special once in a while: a walk? A good dinner? Buy something? Or just enjoy this experience in your own way. The most common New Years resolution for many people around the world is to travel, and now you’re doing it! Feel blessed and grateful for it! And enjoy! Even a stressful situation can turn out to be a really funny anecdote.
…Of course, there are so many things anyone could say about traveling alone. Here I just summarise the things that turned out to be important to me. For 2 months, I traveled to 12 countries across Europe. Now from my new home for the next year, I’m telling you – whoever is reading this- that this experience has been one of the best!!! I would not change anything about it because, at the end, the purpose of doing this is only due to one thing: yourself. So pack your stuff and explore!
“Sólo a solas me sentí libre”
“Just by myself, I felt free”
(Unknown graffiti artist in Barcelona, 2018)
Some apps/gadgets that could really save your life
- Maps Me provides offline maps using OpenStreetMap, whenever you have wifi download the map and then you’re ready to go. The app can show you from ATM to restaurants, places to see, cafe, bar, etc.
- Rayka app Yes, this is also a little of free advertisement for one of our Glocals. This app was created by one of us, and it’s not just about family feelings here but honestly, it’s a cool app! If you ask me it’s a TripAdvisor for students made by students, so it’s pretty useful if you wanna keep a student budget!
- Atlas Obscura more like a gadget, if you want to find hidden/weird places while you’re walking this is your tool. Is not an app so you have to access from the browser, but it shows you the secrets that surrounded you.
- Play and Tour if you plan to skip the walking tour, this is your buddy! So basically you download either in English or Spanish autoguide of the city that you’re visiting. Please beware that they don’t have ALL the cities, so check first! Once you have it just put your headphones and listen to the story. FACT: At the end of each chapter, the app even recommends you places to eat.
- Couchsurfing I strongly recommend the hangouts sessions in this app. here you can put whatever you fill into and meet people to hang out haha
- Triposo is a smart travel guide. This non-wifi app helps you to find things to do from food to places, anything.
Written by Laura Murcia