If you are about/want to embark on your first solo international trip you’re probably feeling uneasy, nervous, unsure and you probably have emotions or doubt running through you. Let me just say, this is OK! Everyone experiences these uncomfortable emotions the first time they go out of their own country by themselves or even with a group. It will most likely be one of the scariest things you will ever do in life, but it also tends to be the most rewarding. Plus, you won’t be the same person when you come back. You will be stronger, more independent, more confident, and overall smarter.
When you are in your packing stages, the first big mistake people make is over-packing. The eager new adventurers think they need everything so they are prepared for everything. WRONG! You can be prepared while taking a small pack and this is what you want. You want to enjoy your trip and not be bombarded with taking a huge pack. If it’s heavy and uncomfortable, you are not going to want to travel as much and most likely you will be bound to one place. When you have a smaller pack you are more confident when wearing it, you don’t stick out as much, you’re are overall happier, and you don’t feel like such a tourist but rather a traveler.
Everyone travels differently so it all depends on your “itinerary.” If you are bouncing around, moving through different cities, living out of hostels or airbnb’s, then you really want to strive for the smaller pack. If you are just traveling to one spot, staying a week and then leaving, then it’s not as big of a deal.
What to pack
It’s better to have 2 smaller packs, one in the front of you and one in the back of you. The pack in front as a day pack; small and light. The one on your back being slightly bigger but still a carry on size. Preferably around 30 liters. When you limit yourself to less space, then you have to make it work. You have no choice but to take less things and then you are more apt to take what you need rather than what you want. You need to make sacrifices here and at first you may feel defeated and not think this is enough room. You need to let go of your uneasy feelings and trust that you can do this.
A recommendation for a daypack (the front of you.)
A recommendation for a backpack (the back of you.)
What you will put in your day pack are the most important items you can think of. But, on this note, it is also important to spread things out. Don’t place all of your money in one place. Practical items for your day pack should be; credit cards, passport, licence, camera, laptop, etc. The most valuable things stay with you in the front.
Your backpack will carry the things that you need. What are you doing on your trip? Can you get these things while you are there? Your backpack will have your clothes, shoes (bring comfortable shoes). If you need one pair of dressy shoes then only bring one pair of dressy shoes, one pair of comfortable shoes and flip flops if needed. Is it cold weather where you are going? Bring a hat, gloves, jacket, etc. The next to pack is your hygiene. Make-up bag, face-wash, 1 toothbrush, 1 small tube of toothpaste, 1 roll of floss, a small bottle of mouthwash, small bottle of shampoo, small hair brush and whatever else you need for hygiene.
Other than your clothes, hygiene and what’s most important in your day pack, you shouldn’t need much more. Whatever else you are thinking to pack, can you get it over there? Will these things be provided in the places you are staying? If you are staying out of hostels you already have mostly everything you need. You don’t need a sleeping bag, 99% of the time there are blankets, airbnb’s and hostels have all the cookware you will need. If you happen to need anything, you can most likely pick it up wherever you are flying into. Every persons situation is different so I can’t tell you exactly what you will need and what you don’t need. Just think of every item you are placing in your pack and just think, do I need this, and can I get this while I am over there? Does it serve more than one purpose, and can I go with out it?
I am going to be lonely
Nope! Many people travel. So plentiful that some tourist destinations are now restricting the amount of people that can visit at a time because of how overwhelmed places are becoming. This goes for wilderness areas such as Yosemite National Park and actual cities such as Santorini, Greece and Barcelona, Spain. Solo travel is strikingly popular and you will be surprised in how many other solo travelers you can meet. If you are alone and want to meet people, couchsurfing and hostels are the best way to do so. That and just being open to meeting other travelers. If you are closed off, then you may not leave with a friend. Keep an open mind and strike up a conversation.
One of the biggest reasons people tend to not travel is because of fear. They fear for their safety, which is understandable. But, what people sometimes forget is there is danger everywhere. Danger is behind the wheel of a car driving to work. Danger exists is in your home country and all other countries. Chances are you are not planning on traveling to the most dangerous place in the world. If you take safety precautions and be smart about your actions, you minimize the risk and most of these risks can be ceased just by listening to your gut and having a good head on your shoulders. Here are some basic tips:
- Before you travel somewhere, look up the destination and see if there are any common scams.
- Create a fake wallet. Make it look like a real wallet and keep that accessible in high risk areas.
- Disperse your money in the chance you do get robbed.
- Take a few credit cards with you. Do not have all your money in one spot or on one card. Disperse your revenue.
- Have copies of your passport, social security, and birth certificate in case someone steals your belongings. Keep this saved somewhere such as your e-mail.
- Don’t walk alone at night and if you do, make sure it is safe.
- While exploring areas, try to not look like a tourist. You want to blend in as much as possible.
- Research where you are staying. Read the reviews.
- When at a bar, buy bottled drinks if drinking beer and if getting a mixed drink, watch the bartender making your drink at all times. Also never leave your drink unattended. Don’t even leave it with a friend. Even this, people can slip pills in your drink.
- Go to valuable ATM’s. Not ones on the street where it is easy to break into and gather your credit card information.
- Never hand over your passport. Even to a “police.” Even police can be corrupt and some of them may not even be police. Keep your passport in your hand and show it to them. Before that, even ask the police to see their badge.
- Never tell a stranger where you are staying.
These tips are not rocket science. As long as you use your intuition and be careful. You should be fine. You also want to keep at least one person updated on where you are. You don’t have to give them an hourly update but even a daily update of where you are should be your goal and check in as much as possible. That way, if something does happen, at least someone will know where you are.
If you are going to another country that speaks a different language, my advice is to brush up on the most important words. You can also download “Google Translator.” This allows you to take a picture of world; menu, street sign, whatever and it translates it for you. It’s not always 100% accurate but it will help. Locals can also speak into it and it will come out in English.
When you are dealing with different exchange rates, I always go on-line and look it up to see what I am looking at. You never want to get ripped off because you didn’t take the 30 seconds to look at the exchange rate. I always then bust out my calculator so I know exactly what I am paying. You can also download the app XE Currency.
Always carry small bills. That way you can give the exact change or close to it so locals don’t rip you off. Many locals see a tourist, assume you’re rich, and then rip them off.
When you are traveling for a while and have to take money out of the ATM, there are always outrageous ATM fees. If you get a credit card from Charles Schwab, at first you will pay for the ATM fees, but then the bank reimburses them. Pretty cool!
Research the country
The more you know about the country you are traveling to, the better off and more prepared you will be. Is this a third world country? Hows the economy? You need to know how much money you need to bring. If you are traveling to Norway for two weeks compared to Honduras, the amount of money you need is completely different. I went to Honduras for a bit of time and you can probably survive in Honduras with going on activities, getting a hostel every night, eating three times a day and taking transportation to travel with approximately 300 dollars for two weeks and that’s being generous. If you went to Norway with $300, this wouldn’t last you three days if you did everything I just mentioned for Honduras. And if you were to last three days, you must have done your research and went into a lot of planning to get it this cheap.
One other thing to think of, the media spreads news when something goes wrong. But, you don’t hear of the thousands of people traveling right now that are having no trouble at all. I don’t know the statistics but lets say 10,000 people go to France and 1 person gets killed. You are going to hear about that one person. Not the 9,999 other people that traveled there, had a great time, and came home with a big smile upon their face. That’s our society. Take this into consideration as well.
I hope this helps and calms your nerves to travel. Travel, travel, travel! When you do, there is no greater reward. You grow so much as a person and then you come back as a greater you. Feel free to write your comments below and thanks for reading! Stay safe and happy trails!