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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 September 18, 2020

                      7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

                      7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

                      Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

                      Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

                      1. Exercise Daily

                      It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

                      If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

                      Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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                      If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

                      2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

                      Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

                      One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

                      This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

                      3. Acknowledge Your Limits

                      Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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                      Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

                      Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

                      4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

                      Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

                      The basic nutritional advice includes:

                      • Eat unprocessed foods
                      • Eat more veggies
                      • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
                      • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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                      Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

                        5. Watch Out for Travel

                        Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

                        This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

                        If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

                        6. Start Slow

                        Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

                        If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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                        7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

                        Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

                        My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

                        If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

                        I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

                        Final Thoughts

                        Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

                        Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

                        More Tips on Getting in Shape

                        Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

                        Reference

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