I love traveling. It doesn’t matter where, when or how. Say the word and I will be the first with my suitcase and books in hand. I grew up traveling. My parents would take our little family of five (!) to the beach or even the closest small town there was. It was always fun to explore somewhere else.
And soon I was bitten by the traveling bug.
By thirteen I was traveling to another country by myself, Argentina, neighbour to my state Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. One country became two, three, four… and all while traveling mostly alone.
Before I even had my college degree I was in Guatemala, Central America. By myself, during the summer, working on a real internship, with a budget. And ladies, I learned so much.
Guatemala was no easy experience, but it certainly has its place in my memory and heart. I am grateful for everything it taught me and every trick and tip that I can now gladly share.
So whether you are going to Guatemala, traveling across the globe or to the next small town here is a little bit of what I learned. Hope it can inspire you.
In order to enjoy your experience, you have to be open. To new things, new people, to opportunities, food, and languages. There is this beautiful thing about traveling that for some reason, of all the cities or countries in the world, you happened to choose that one. So make it count. Women often learn to be extra careful when traveling,but there is a difference to being careful and closing ourselves off from new experiences. Both are really different. Don’t let fear get in the way of learning and growing. You got this.
Keep a copy of every single document.
Both physical and on the cloud. It also helps if someone that you know who is not traveling with you has a copy. Here is a little story from my teenage years: Jade lost her wallet in a coffee place in another country and everyone around her freaked out. Normally Jade, driven by anxiety would be terrified, but she took a deep breath and remembered that everything would be okay because she had photocopies. Her real passport was locked in her suitcase.
But really, have a copy of your passport, credit cards, debit card, travel tickets, booking, hotel reservations and even an ID if possible. Also, it depends on the country, but in some places you can walk around with a certified copy of your passport as an ID, which is really useful for those who are naturally forgetful or are afraid of losing it (me).
Ask the locals for tips in exploring their city (or country).
Everyone loves to talk about the pretty and nice places in their hometowns. So don’t be afraid to ask around and talk to people. “But to who?”, you may ask Well, everyone, the girl working at the supermarket, the people at the hostel, the salesperson at the store. And even on online forums. Every single person has a story to tell and a place to recommend. Listening to them will open your horizons and allow you to see places that most tourists don’t go to.
Good food is key.
It happens to a lot of us. Sometimes you get to your destination and feel sick, or as some call it: traveler’s tummy. It just happens. So try to fuel yourself with good food before you get on the plane and when you arrive at your destination. And by good I mean healthy and balanced. Stock up on greens, bottled water, protein and keep coffee far away. The same goes for milk (from some countries), raw foods, ice cubes from restaurants and tap water. Stay away from the tap water, I beg.
Try to learn the language.
Please try. Not everyone will understand you, or even has the obligation to, but at the end of the day it is nice to be able to explore without having to depend on anyone or an app. It is not always possible, but try to learn some simple expressions. There are a bunch of apps that can help you with that, such as Duolingo. Simple things like know how to say “thank you”, ask for directions and understand the food are really helpful.
Be mindful and respectful of the culture.
You are not in your country, therefore the rules are different. Please be respectful of the culture, as well as doing the right thing, which is also the safest and nicest thing. When you are abroad you are susceptible to that country’s laws and respectively punishment. A simple online search can really go a long way as well as help you understand that culture’s behaviors.
Nowadays we might have the impulse to micro share a lot of the things we are doing, as they happen, without letting those experiences sink in. As an introvert I might not always share on social media, but my group of friends and family always know how or what I am doing. And my biggest learning experience is this: Enjoy.
It makes a whole difference to just appreciate the experience, understand it and then share it. Especially if you are traveling alone. Learn to reach out and make new friends wherever you are, how to get to places, but also take a moment to see and understand it all, with truthful eyes. See the bad, the good, the messy, the plain, but also the mesmerizing. The breathtaking. Seek and enjoy new experiences that can forever be engraved on your mind. You just have to let them happen.
In the end, traveling alone doesn’t have to be scary. Obviously try to be safe and careful. But please don’t ever let your fears, or even someone else’s, prevent you from learning and growing. There is a lot of world to see and a whole lot of experiences to live.
The world is ours, it always has been.
– Photo credit: Daniel H. Tong