The past decade of my life has been spent traveling primarily alone, but I've also traveled with friends, a boyfriend at one time, and still, nothing beats the experience and euphoria of traveling alone into unchartered territory. As I get older, I realize that sure, it would be fun to have a close pal or family member with me to share the moments, but even still, I find an immense amount of value and knowledge in being free to spark conversation with a stranger or travel wherever and wherever I please. The world is kinder than we think, if we only give it a chance.
- Embrace the unknown and solitude. It's a mindset, I find, to truly dive into an experience alone and fully immerse yourself in it. To let go of all of the fears and embrace the solace of your own company. To trust in yourself and rely on your knowledge and intuition. It can be easy to shy away and remain within your comfort level even when traveling solo, but I assure you that digging deep to find your inner peace enough to enjoy and embrace different situations and create your own memories, will be truly valuable, and something that no one will ever be able to take away from you.
- Be aware and educated. This goes without saying; especially when traveling alone, always be extra aware of your surroundings and what sort of situations you get yourself into. I personally choose not to go out to bars or parties when I travel alone. First, it's not really of interest to me anyways. Secondly, it just impairs my judgement, something I don't need when I need to be vigilant of my surroundings. Secondly, make sure to educate yourself on the culture you're about to get yourself into. Do you need to cover up more or less? Are there certain places you should/shouldn't go? Having a basic understanding of the ultimate no-no's about a culture is important. If something happens to you, you really have no one to blame but yourself for not watching your own back and teaching yourself about the negative things that could potentially happen.
- Stay connected. Whether it's for safety or comfort, staying connected with friends/family is important. You might be on a voyage to "find yourself" or your career for that matter, but don't forget that your friends and family are likely worried about you and want to know if you're safe. As equally as important, is being able to connect with those around you. Like I've said before, believe it or not, many countries use WhatsApp to communicate. Embrace this new era of social connection via technology and connect with people wherever and whenever possible. It's great to meet friends abroad, and thanks to things like WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, to name a few, we're able to do so and keep in touch for our whole lives. You never know if at some point you'll have kids and want to introduce them to Betty and John from Rome later down the line.
- Learn to cook and enjoy the perks. When traveling alone in my early twenties, I'd Couchsurf my way around the world, staying in strangers houses for free from Peru to America to Egypt. Food brings people together, and if you can go to the grocery store and pick up a few things to then show them your gratefulness through whipping up a local dish from your country, it'll go a long way. Even staying in Airbnb's, I find that if I'm sharing a house with people, I could certainly keep to myself, but why do so when traveling? If they're open to it, connect with them and cook them up a dish from your country! Secondly, "enjoying the perks"... what do I mean by this? As a solo traveler there are many perks; getting that last seat that's available for a tour, paying less when it comes to hotel stays, getting free stuff. I can't tell you the amount of perks I've had traveling alone; one person is so much easier to accommodate than 2, and people are willing to take the time to provide you the best experience because it's cheaper for them. Take advantage of solo travel!
- Be the change and inspiration to others. It's okay to have a bad experience in a country, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to share that bad experience with others. The more negativity we spread, the less likely people will be open to travel and acceptance of different cultures. If you've noticed in all of the media articles that have been written about me and appearances on news stations, you'll note that I would always shy away from answering my "least favorite country" or "the bad experiences I've had". I don't care if I had the worst experience of my life in country "X", I'm not going to share that with others. Why? It doesn't matter! It would only do more harm than good. I've had friends tell me that they hated Columbia because they had "X" experience, or Eritrea was the worst place they'd ever visited. This made me feel weary about going to these places, but when I went (choosing to leave all preconceptions at the door), I realized the exact opposite and actually had wonderful experiences in these places! We each have our own experiences and our own ways of travel, don't damper the experience another person might have by only sharing the negative about a place you might have visited. Be the change, share the good things, there's always one good thing that can come from an experience, so share that. Be the example for future travelers. Be the positive change you wish to see in this world.