First Time Solo Travel: Tips for Newbies

via Solo Traveler

walking-tour solo traveler

Here’s an excerpt:

First Time Solo Travel Suggestions

  • Carry a game with you, like a backgammon set, chess, a pack of cards. People all over the world can become friends over a simple game!
  • Leave the third pair of socks at home . . . the fourth t-shirt . . . pack more smiles than you think you’ll need, more patience . . . Take all the expectations out of your pack . . . leave ‘em at home.
  • Go to the market while you are traveling. The experience will shed light on cultural, culinary, agricultural, linguistic, and family composition differences. Not to mention that people are always willing to teach you something new and befriend a stranger with a wealth of information. My first experience of this was in Aruba. I saw very little at the market that I was familiar with. But I came out with knowledge and friends.
  • Join free walking tours whenever you can! It’s great for getting to know the city, learning its history and meeting other backpackers.
  • Spend Day One at your new destination getting oriented: stop at the local chamber of commerce for a free map and suggestions for must-see points of interest; if you ride, rent a bicycle, you’ll cover a lot more ground and still be able to see things up close and personal; chat with storekeepers, cabdrivers, servers, and ask them their thoughts about their mayor, favorite place to eat and drink, changes they’ve seen in the area over the years…and where they would take out-of-town visitors.  Spend the rest of your time following up on their suggestions, and return to let them know how you fared.
  • Give yourself the gift of strangers: ask questions, share impressions, get directions. Use Facebook/Twitter to friend/follow for ongoing exchange and learning.
  • Make sure (wherever possible) that you arrive at your next destination during daylight hours. When you have to find your way from the airport or bus/train station to your accommodation it is much less nerve-racking to do this during the day when you can see where you are going and there are lots of people around/shops open to ask for directions. Once you get to your accommodation you then still have some time up your sleeve to get your bearings, have a look around and plan where you will start exploring the next day. Plus, if you are staying at a hostel it is good to arrive before people are making dinner or having afternoon drinks as this is one of the best times to get a feel for the place and meet new people.
  • Take the time to observe how people interact, and how things work. While sitting at a sidewalk cafe, on a park bench, or just killing time standing in a lineup, I love to watch locals going about their day. If you pay attention to the little things, you can learn a lot: how to use public transit (and how to conduct yourself on it), whether to pay your bill at your table or at the counter, whether people are expected to line up in an orderly fashion or just jump in where you can, how to tip or how to hail a cab. I find this particularly useful in a place where I don’t speak the language.

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