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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 December 9, 2019

                      5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

                      5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

                      Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

                      Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

                      Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

                      1. Get Rationally Optimistic

                      Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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                      This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

                      In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

                      The result: no more mental stress.

                      2. Unplug

                      Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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                      How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

                      It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

                      Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

                      3. Easy on the Caffeine

                      Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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                      Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

                      4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

                      That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

                      How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

                      • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
                      • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
                      • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

                      While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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                      5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

                      This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

                      The result: mental stress will be gone!

                      So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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                      Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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