Cover all your bases!
Every millennial loves to travel, and really, why not? There are a multitude of cities waiting to be explored, local food to be sampled and cultures to be experienced. Most of us have journeyed overseas with family, friends or an S.O., but have you ever considered taking a trip by yourself? Travelling alone isn’t unheard of; many do it for both business and pleasure, but it can be scary and daunting because you are companionless. And this begets the question, “Am I really going to have as much fun as I would if I travelled with another person?” The answer is a resounding YES.
Solo travel can be a definitive form of self-indulgence. You can do things at your own pace, stop when you’re tired (without worrying about how your travel companion feels) or go on a sightseeing rampage, if that’s your mood. You can learn from any blunders and celebrate victories, because they’re your own. You’ll emerge more independent and self-confident, and undoubtedly apply all you’ve learned during the course of your travels to everyday life.
Travelling on your own can be tremendously rewarding, empowering and enjoyable, especially when you stay smart, confident and informed, like using your street sense and keeping your valuables hidden. Here are more tips:
Research And Book Early
To start off, figure out when and for how long you’ll be gone. Since this is your first solo trip, keep your excursion at a week, tops. Now get Googling and delve into the nitty-gritties of where you’re going and what you’ll do, and be sure to set a budget so you don’t get carried away.
Reserve ahead so you get the best deals on airfare and accommodation. Keep a running spreadsheet to slot in things-to-do, dates and times. Make sure you research dress codes, local customs and the weather. With this knowledge in hand, you’re sure to make better choices when you step off the plane.
Assure Your Loved Ones
Being a 20-something-year-old female living in Sri Lanka can make attempting solo travel rather difficult, but not impossible. “Why in the world do you want to go by yourself?!” your mom might ask incredulously. So have an answer prepared, ranging from how you want to explore diverse cultures and visit wonderful sights, to how it can expand your career or education.
Although it might be a difficult task to reassure your parents or partner, make an attempt to give them as many details on your trip as possible. Show them your itinerary and images of the places you’re visiting to help them visualise.
Reassure them that you will stay in touch, every day. Explain how you plan to do so, whether it’s keeping your present phone number on roaming, purchasing a SIM card at your destination or making use of free Wi-Fi at airports, cafés and lodgings to call them on WhatsApp or Skype.
Ensuring that you’ll be safe as you set off is vital. Without a companion to watch your back, you’re automatically more vulnerable to scam artists and criminals. Having said that, a solo traveller can blend in easily (rather than in the case of a group!) and avoid unnecessary attention as a tourist.
As part of your pre-planning, figure out the ride duration from the airport to your hotel, and how much it’ll cost. This will prevent you from being taken for a ride by cabbies. Most countries have Uber or the local equivalent, so download the app beforehand to give you enough time to familiarize yourself and set up any necessary payment details.
Always listen to your gut; if something doesn’t feel right, avoid it at all costs. Be sure to carry copies of your identification in more than one location (i.e. purse/backpack, suitcase, hotel room), keep any valuable items out of sight, and try to store cash and credit cards in separate locations. Stick to open, public spaces, and never let on that you’re alone if you stop to ask for directions.
Many of us would rather opt out of eating alone at a restaurant, feeling slightly awkward. But dining by yourself isn’t that bad. To avoid feeling self-conscious, chat with the wait staff—since they’re likely to be local, you’re bound to learn interesting tit-bits.
Reading a book or magazine at a nearby café isn’t unusual for a traveller. Pick a seat at a bar or at a booth when you need more privacy. If, by the end of your trip, you can’t possibly endure yet another public meal on your own, order room service or take-out from a nearby bistro. But who knows, by the time you get back to Sri Lanka, you just might enjoy your own company!
Know When To Take A Step Back
Travelling can easily wear you down. So if you’re starting to feel burned out, slow your pace or take some time to recuperate. Sure, you want to see and do everything, but you also need to listen to your mind and body, and rest if you feel the need. What you just might require is hanging out at a local bar and sharing a beer with expats or other travellers. Alternatively, a hot shower and a night in, curled up with a book or in front of the TV might be just what the doctor ordered. You’ll be up and well-rested, and eager to take on the day, the following morning.
Riding solo can be the most fun gift you ever give yourself. Once you’ve done your prep work, laid the foundations for a safe visit and put down the deposits, the only thing left to do is take-off!
This article was originally published as ‘Embarking On Your First Solo Trip’ in the March 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more life advice and tips, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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