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The five most important things to bring with you on a solo journey

by Stephanie Mork
(Three Lakes, Wisconsin)

The five most important things to have as a solo female traveler are good walking shoes, a good book, a positive attitude, an air of confidence, and an open mind.

Good walking shoes are self-explanatory. When you are traveling it is likely that you will walk more miles than you realize and your feet will thank you later. A good book for me is a must. When you are waiting for food at a restaurant, waiting in line, or just feel like getting off the grid for awhile and reading your book in a park its really handy to have. A positive attitude is essential when you are alone, because many times you may be in tough or unexpected circumstances that you did not foresee. The truth is you usually can't do much about the weather, or the service at a restaurant so it does no good to let it ruin your day. Take each moment with a smile and let yourself have a sense of humor when unexpected things happen. You must have an air of confidence even when you are shaking in your boots about navigating the Paris metro alone or walking home in the Italian streets alone in the dark. An open mind for being brave enough to strike up a conversation with a stranger, having new experiences, and in general, accepting the culture that you are immersed in.

Solo traveling can be a daunting task, especially for a female. Many girls shy away from the idea of traveling alone because well, they are female, they might not have traveling experience or they don’t speak any other languages, all of which frankly can be intimidating for a first time solo traveler. These five most important things I have learned through my own solo traveling. I had these same fears and doubts, but after tackling a huge city like Paris by myself I feel like I can do just about anything.

Imagine you have successfully made it to your destination, found your hotel/hostel/airbnb, now what? Unless you have planned every moment of your trip (which I do not suggest), you might find yourself in a brand new place with a new language and nobody to tell you what to do. This is the moment when you can decide to do whatever you want and only focus on doing things that make you happy. For me, this was an incredibly freeing feeling.

To make the most of my solo travels, I made sure to at least look at what I could do before I got there and have an idea of what I might want to see and where I might want to go. This is where walking shoes come in handy. If you are like me, then exploring a city on foot is the best way to go. You are not sure where you are going to go and your impulse decision to walk to the castle on the other side of the city could take you much farther than you think. There were many times when I had no idea how far I had walked only to check my phone and see it had been 12 miles! Buy those sturdy shoes or you will regret it.

The second most important thing to have when you travel alone is a good book. Having a kindle would be even better so you can slip it into your purse for the day. There were a few times when I ended up waiting about 30 minutes for food at a restaurant and I didn’t really want to spend that time looking at my phone, so out comes the book with no shame whatsoever. A few times I looked at my watch with a yawn to find it was only 3 pm. So I proceeded to find a park bench, a grassy area, or a quiet coffee shop where I could sit and read my book for a little break from the excitement of the city.

I traveled in Ireland quite a bit where the rain is frequent and cold. Having a positive attitude on this trip saved me from misery of worrying about the weather. You can’t do a dang thing about the weather so the best thing to do is be prepared with a smile on your face and a thirst for adventure. You may be hiking in a torrential down pour, but hey you will never forget it right? A positive attitude also comes in handy when you miss a train or your plane can’t land because of weather. Travel mistakes/mishaps/changes happen and it does no good to let it dampen your mood or ruin your day. Are you healthy? Have money and a passport? In a super cool foreign country? Yes! Of course not everything will be perfect, but having a good attitude through the difficult times can make or break your trip.

Ok being confident was one of my weak points, until I traveled alone. You must learn to fake it and pretend like you know where you are going even if you haven’t got the slightest idea. I learned that when I tried to match the fashion of the locals and knew some of the language I felt more confident. Find what makes you feel confident when you are surrounded by strangers in a new place. Once you fake being confident enough, it will become easy and you will actually be confident.

Having an open mind was my favorite part of traveling solo. I am typically a shy person but I surprised myself by striking up conversations with complete strangers. I had some of my favorite conversations with strangers and made friends with people around the world by just saying hi. Even if you think you might make a fool of yourself, you will probably never see these people ever again and you can’t travel alone for a few weeks and not talk to anyone.

So, when you are sitting in your hotel room at the beginning of your first solo trip I challenge you to bring these five things with you. Spend those extra ten euros on dessert and wine if it makes you happy, talk to the person next to you watching the sunset over Florence, ask that man to take a picture of you in front of the Eiffel Tower. But first, you need to book that plane ticket.

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Jun 08, 2016

by: Leyla

Some excellent wisdom here for the first-time solo traveler - and I agree with all of it! I can't imagine traveling without an open mind or a positive attitude, but getting that boost in self-confidence is a wonderful by-product of solo travel. At least it was for me!

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