Dos and Don’ts of Solo Travel While Studying Abroad

May 25, 2017

If you asked me when I was six if I could see myself going abroad, the answer would’ve been no. Actually, I wouldn’t have answered at all, I would’ve run away. Ask anyone who knows me and they will say that I used to be the shyest person ever. Fast forward to age 20 and here I am, on my spring break traveling solo to four cities in four different countries. I can’t tell you that I wasn’t scared, but I can tell you that this has been one of the best decisions of my life.

All of my previous trips have been with friends. I was excited to do my own thing and have my own schedule. Solo travel is a lot more than doing your own thing though, It allows you to step out of your comfort zone. I’ve made some mistakes (and learned from them), I’ve smiled more, I’ve been more social, I’ve made friends from many other countries, and I’ve felt happier. Here’s my list of Dos and Don’ts to help you with solo travel.

DO make sure to check what currency a country uses and the language they speak. Showing up somewhere they only take cash, with the wrong currency isn’t ideal.The Google Translate app is a great thing to have. You can pre-download languages so you can translate even when you don’t have wifi or data.

DON’T rely on Wi-Fi to always work. It won’t, even if the website says it will be available. This is true of some of my buses and hostels. Although, in the hostels sometimes it was just EXTREMELY slow to the point where it might as well have not been working. Don’t make the mistake I did of not having the directions written out to your hostel. You’ll end up standing in a bus station in the middle of a city with absolutely no idea where to go.

DO make a list of everything you want to see and where they are all located. You might think you can keep all you want to see in your head, but writing it out is so much easier. I brought a little notebook with me and checked things off as I did them.

DON’T be afraid to walk into a restaurant all by yourself. You will get stared at, you’ll probably feel uncomfortable, but in the end, you’re eating pretty great food.

DO try the local food. There are so many tourist restaurants and places to find pizza in every city, sometimes even Starbucks and McDonalds. You never know when you’re going to get back to any country, so don’t miss out on opportunities. You may not know what some things are, you may think some sound uninteresting, but try it. It may become your new favorite dish.

DON’T be afraid to people watch, talk to locals, or make friends. Go sit at a cafe and watch how the locals interact with each other and live on a daily basis. Strike up conversation with some old guy smoking a cigarette reading the paper. Talk to people on tours or in museums. I’ve met a lot of interesting people this way.

DO free walking tours. Yes, I just said FREE. They have them in every major city. It’s a great way to orient yourself in a new city, see some sites, and again, meet people. I’ve made a lot of friends this way and ended up getting dinner with them and explored the city with them as well.

Overall, my solo travel trip has been the most eye-opening, jaw dropping experience of my life. It’s okay to be nervous about going off on your own, but don’t let nerves stop you. Sure, it’s fun to travel with friends and you might feel a little lonely at times, but you’ll learn more about yourself and as cliche as this might sound, you’ll find yourself.

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