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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 20, 2018

                      How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

                      How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

                      Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

                      If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

                      1. Breathe

                      The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

                      • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
                      • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
                      • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

                      Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

                      2. Loosen up

                      After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

                      Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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                      3. Chew slowly

                      Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

                      Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

                      Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

                      4. Let go

                      Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

                      The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

                      It’s not. Promise.

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                      Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

                      Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

                      21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

                      5. Enjoy the journey

                      Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

                      Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

                      6. Look at the big picture

                      The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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                      Will this matter to me…

                      • Next week?
                      • Next month?
                      • Next year?
                      • In 10 years?

                      Hint: No, it won’t.

                      I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

                      Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

                      7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

                      You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

                      Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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                      8. Practice patience every day

                      Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

                      • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
                      • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
                      • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

                      Final thoughts

                      Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

                      Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

                      Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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