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10 Tips To Get The Most Out of Your First Solo Travel Experience

10 Tips To Get The Most Out of Your First Solo Travel Experience

So you have your shiny new backpack, itinerary planned, flights booked and with stars in your eyes, you’re ready to go on your first solo trip abroad. The one that’s supposed to change your perception of life and make you fall in love with the world like never before. Wait a minute, all of that actually depends on how proactive you’re going to be about solo travel. Here are ten tips to make the most out of your first solo backpacking trip.

1. Plan Your Arrival 

On your first solo trip go easy on yourself and book your accommodation and transport in advance if you’re arriving late into the night. Try to get your accommodation to pick you up. I promise you that you’ll love yourself for it when you’re hazy from the long flight and cannot be bothered to queue up in line, take a rickety bus ride or look for a hostel.

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    2. Explore As Much As You Can

    Don’t stay cooped up in your hostel, hotel or guest house. Don’t waste too much time on the Internet or on Skype. You’re travelling solo for the first time in your life and the world is your oyster. So go on, get a map and explore the place; walk, hike, wander, take buses and trains, get a little lost but breathe it all in and get the most out of your journey.

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      3. Say Yes To (Almost) Everything

      Try to say “Yes”, to everything that is legal and seems reasonable, even if it’s new, scary or something you can’t imagine yourself doing, whether it’s an invitation to join someone for lunch, attend a local wedding, go to a party with people you don’t know very well, face your fear of heights, try strange looking local food (deep fried crickets, anyone?!) or paddle out to a river on a raft with someone you just met at your hostel. Saying “Yes” instead of “I’m not sure” or “Maybe another time”, can make a huge difference to how fruitful and life changing your first solo trip is going to be.

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         4. Smile More Often Than You Usually Do

        You may think this one’s going to make you look crazy but stop being so self-conscious already. The cliché that a smile speaks all languages is absolutely true. It’s a great ice breaker and helps you relax, open up, meet new people and talk to locals. It’s also a sign of confidence and a warm personality. Smile at your hosts, fellow travelers in common areas, hostel staff, waiters, bartenders, store keepers and the friendly villagers you meet on your journey. The opportunities for unique experiences that these smiles can bring are endless.

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          Photo by Rory MacLeod

          5. Be Thankful For The Kindness of Strangers

          At some point in your travels you’re probably going to experience kindness, warmth and friendliness from strangers or new friends, often when you don’t expect it. Your hostel owner may offer to pick you up at the airport for free or take you on a walking tour of the city on your first morning, or a friendly local family may invite you home for lunch one day.  Recognize when this happens, be grateful and don’t be lazy about expressing your gratitude. In our daily lives, we end up taking the niceness of people for granted. When this happens in a foreign country, where you’re travelling solo and may not even speak the local language, you should consider yourself fortunate and really let the other person know how thankful you are. Do something good for them in return; get a small gift or thank you note or teach them a useful skill such as English. This not only makes people happy but also reflects positively on your own culture.

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            6. Look Around Minus The Camera

            When I say look, I mean really look at new things; landscapes, buildings, pictures, markets, sculptures, gardens, waterfalls, mountains, temples, people, sunsets and food. Notice the details, designs, art, craftsmanship and colors with your eyes and not just through the lens of your camera. There will always be priceless moments that cannot be captured in your photos but if you only put the camera away for a little while, you’ll realize that it’s very enjoyable to experience new sights without constantly trying to get the ‘perfect’ shot. On my travels, I see way too many tourists obsessed with taking pictures, so much that it’s almost like an impulse to point the camera at every little thing. They have no idea what they’re actually missing and when they’re being ridiculously inappropriate.

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              Photo by Ben Kucinski 

               7. Keep Important Documents Handy

              You should always have a copy of your passport and visa for the country with you when you’re sightseeing or exploring a place, regardless of which part of the world you’re in. You might be asked by officials to show these documents and these are your identification papers in case of accidents or any other unfortunate events.

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                Photo by media.digest

                8. Don’t Fall Into The Souvenir Trap

                You’ll be tempted to buy many ‘exotic’ souvenirs, one for each family member, friend or relative. A lot of travelers buy way too many souvenirs than they actually need (do we ever need them?) Very often these are highly priced, low quality, mass produced items that are being marketed as one of a kind or handmade. Buy things that are truly unique at a fair price and contribute to sustaining local crafts and communities. You won’t find these products at every souvenir store in the tourist ghettos. Remember, it’s wiser to use your money to accumulate experiences rather than things.

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                  9. Don’t Be Afraid to Break The Stereotype

                  If you’re craving a burger from McDonald’s or a good old Chocolate Cake, get one by all means. Ignore the countless blogs or travelers on the road who tell you that not having ‘authentic’ or ‘local’ food for every meal makes you less of a traveler. The holier-than-thou attitude of many seasoned travelers and longtime backpackers can make you falsely believe that doing as they do is what makes you a ‘real traveler’. This is not true, travel is what you make of it and that is totally up to you. It’s okay to want familiar comforts from time to time and however often you need. This obviously is different for different people depending on where they’re from, what their lifestyle is like at home and how long they’ve been on the road.  If you’re not the beer guzzling type, then you don’t need to fit yourself into the drunk-backpackers-partying-all-night box.

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                    Photo by Eric Molina

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                     10. Be Yourself

                    An important part of travelling solo is to learn to be comfortable in your own company, to like yourself and accept who you are. It’s surprising to see how many people struggle with this in their lives, trying too hard to fit into labels like ‘employee’, ‘father’, ‘wife’, ‘engineer’, ‘religious’ or ‘geek’, each with their own set of rules to behave, dress and live in and gradually losing sense of who they are as a person. Solo travel empowers you to understand and accept who you really are.  Give others a chance to get to know and like you as this person. Often you’ll feel that people you meet on the road are more accommodating and open minded, making it easier for you to be yourself.

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                      Photo by Blanca

                      Featured photo credit: Blanca via flickr.com

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                      Last Updated on August 12, 2019

                      12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

                      12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

                      Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

                      But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

                      I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

                      Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

                      1. Nuts

                      The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

                      Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

                      Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

                      Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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                      2. Blueberries

                      Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

                      When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

                      3. Tomatoes

                      Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

                      4. Broccoli

                      While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

                      Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

                      Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

                      5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

                      Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

                      The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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                      Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

                      6. Soy

                      Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

                      Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

                      Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

                      7. Dark Chocolate

                      When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

                      Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

                      8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

                      Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

                      B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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                      Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

                      Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

                      To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

                      9. Foods Rich in Zinc

                      Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

                      Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

                      Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

                      10. Gingko Biloba

                      This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

                      It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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                      However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

                      11. Green and Black Tea

                      Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

                      Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

                      Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

                      12. Sage and Rosemary

                      Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

                      Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

                      When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

                      More About Boosting Brain Power

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                      Reference

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