Dr. Seuss is a genius author. He wrote easy-to-understand stories to develop literacy in young children, but his stories also shared life advice useful for any age. But how does Dr. Seuss relate to travel?
“Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for the wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jack or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance. Everyone is just waiting.” ~ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Everyone is just waiting to travel. They are waiting for more money or more time or less stress or more energy or less crime. Everyone is just waiting.
I, too, waited
Immediately after high school graduation, I had my sights set on Ecuador. The beautiful trails, adrenaline sports, and colorful markets called my name. But I never went. Ecuador’s call did not die out; instead, I let myself be beat. Excuses silenced my intense curiosity for this foreign country. Excuses turned into fear.
Fast forward to my first semester of college, the planning stages to study abroad already began. In my mind, studying abroad was my only chance of traveling to Russia. Looking back, though, I cannot understand this fear. Where did it stem from? No matter what originated my fear of losing out, this very fear forced me to act. No excuse would stop me from experiencing Russia. Where there is a visa, there is determination.
Sad circumstances and lots of tears about two months before my semester abroad encouraged me to getaway for a while. I needed a break from life’s daily grind. My semester abroad could not come soon enough, literally.
While wasting time online one day, as I seem to do so well, I discovered a one-way flight to London for $241. Ten minutes and one phone call with my parents later, I booked the flight. I would leave in three weeks, spend three weeks in London, and then fly to St. Petersburg to begin my semester abroad.
One 19-year old female. Alone. In London. For three weeks.
Given, this was not my first time traveling ever. I learned a lot in my previous travels with groups. Also, my obsession with travel blogs taught me a thing or two about life on the road.
Nonetheless, fear set in
When I landed in London, confidence overwhelmed me for all of three minutes. The rest of the time I looked like a scared kitten or appeared like I would attack the next person to approach me, like how my cat Henrietta occasionally looks.
I was scared of messing up, but I was already in London so everything would just have to work. And it did. Whenever something went wrong, like when I got terrible food poisoning, things always worked out.
When I booked my second solo trip to Volgograd and Kazan over spring break, I thought my time there would be a breeze. I have done the first-time solo travel thing so I’ve got it down, right? Wrong.
I was scared…again. So scared, in fact, I considered canceling the trip.
Russia is just different, I thought. The excuses flooded in.
I had encouraged one of my study abroad friends to travel alone over spring break; yet here I was, scared to the bones to travel solo.
Knowing things will always work themselves out keeps me going. A fiery passion for travel keeps me driven.
I am going to Volgograd and Kazan. I will enjoy my time there. And if things go wrong, I will figure it out.
Solo Travel is Amazing
The jury is in — solo travel can be difficult.
Suffering from food poisoning alone was scary. Losing my Oyster card was frustrating. Making decisions alone was nerve-wracking. Experiencing the world alone was at times, well, lonely. Having zero decent photos of me while in England is disappointing.
Sometimes you will be in a very social mood, and no one will respond. Other times you won’t be in a social mood, but still want a friend by your side. You might feel homesick at some point.
Solo travel is difficult, sometimes. The other 22 hours in the day are empowering.
Solo travel is freeing. You can spend each and every day exactly how you want. There are no voices chiming in their opinions and wants. How often do you do whatever you want?
Meeting new people is a lot easier because we don’t have the security net of familiar faces. Whether you meet another solo traveler (surprise — we are not a rare breed!) and share a pizza together or meet a local who lends a helping hand, traveling alone opens a lot more opportunities for interaction.
Your confidence will most likely skyrocket while traveling alone. Everything is organized and managed by you. Your determination, willpower, and intelligence allowed you to experience all these amazing adventures. And when things go wrong? Your resourcefulness saved the day. You have every right to feel empowered when traveling solo.
The best part? The only thing you need to wait on with solo travel is you.
How to Solo Travel
I am currently preparing for my second solo travel trip, therefore I am in no way an expert on solo travel. However, from one (sort-of) first-time solo traveler to another, here is what I plan on doing on my upcoming solo journey and recommend you do on your solo travels.
- Share your travel plans. It can be as explicit or vague as you want, but share with at least one person where your whereabouts will be. Not only will sharing help calm your loved ones’ fears for your safety, but sharing will also help you in case of a sticky situation. Consider including dates, cities, accommodation name and contact information, ways to contact you, and how often you plan to stay in touch.
- Trust your instincts. That gut-wrenching feeling is usually a good indicator of what to do and not to do. Those basic lessons you learned as a little kid hold true as an adult too.
- Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, stay active, get plenty of sleep, and take your vitamins. Don’t be afraid of spending a day to rest and refocus; rest days are in no way a waste of time!
- Go with the flow. One of my favorite parts of travel are the happy accidents. You know, running into a new travel buddy or stumbling into the best bakery ever. Planning too much leaves no room for happy accidents.
- Talk to locals. I’ll be honest, I struggled to do this in London. And I really missed out. It’ll take a lot of courage for me to break out of my shell, but I’ll do it. Honestly, why is saying “hello” so difficult?
- Travel slower. Even if you’re spending only a few days in each city, as I will in my upcoming travels, it’s important to travel slow. Take at least a couple hours each day to sit, drink tea, and catch your breath. Put away the phone and the camera and simply enjoy your surroundings.
- Pack less. Do you know how awful it is to drag a bunch of heavy luggage through airport terminals, on cobblestone streets, and on public transportation? It’s awful…really awful. I thought I packed the minimum amount, but two months in and I’m questioning why I thought it was a good idea to pack four extra phone chargers. Pack the least amount you think you need, and then even less.
- Ask for contact information. Social media makes it easy to keep in touch. I did not take advantage of this in London; I left with only one person’s contact information. What a shame.
- Don’t do everything. You will only burn yourself out. If you really enjoy a location, you can visit again. Pace yourself and be sure to enjoy the moment.
- Challenge yourself. Break outside your comfort zone. Try new things. Eat that weird food you can’t pronounce or visit that random museum. You might mess up, but life isn’t meant to be perfect.
You Can Travel Solo
Yes, really. I know you are capable. You are resourceful, smart, and savvy.
You can do it.
Pinterest, my go-to travel planning search engine, shares lots of advice for solo female travel.
Blend in. Be touristy. Accept imminent homesickness. Display confidence. Trust, but not too much. Assure your loved ones. Face your fears. Try new things. Stay away from x, y, and z. Go here. Do this.
The list goes on.
Above all, realize this: mistakes will be made, and they will be solved. There will be challenges, and you will overcome them. You may be traveling alone, but you will never actually be alone. Don’t forget — these are chartered territories; you are walking on a well-treaded path.
At the end of they day, the key to traveling solo is to just do it.
Eventually you will question why you ever feared solo travel.
What do you fear about solo travel?
Do you have any tips from solo travel experiences?