As the opportunity to get vaccinated for COVID-19 increases, and countries across the globe begin to let more visitors in, I have to say: vacay is on my mind!
You see, there’s so many ways to explore our multidimensional identities (aka: who we BE!), and traveling is one of my most favorite methods.
Traveling solo can be intimidating though!
Which is why, today, we’re equipping ourselves with the tactics to take our power back – because traveling solo is something I believe we not only CAN do – but will greatly benefit from when we do..do. 🙂
And as someone who’s lived abroad twice in my life, (one of which was smack in the center of the high crime city of Quito!), let me just say – I gotchu.
But if you’re still slightly uneasy – does sharing that I was one of the 3 people (out of 24 total!) in my WorldTeach cohort that didn’t get robbed *successfully* while living in a foreign country make you feel a little more comfortable?
Rad- then let’s roll! 😉
(The story behind why I starred *successfully* is for another time- but to share a small bite, know that I had my backpack slashed with a pocketknife, but was aware enough to remove myself from the situation before anything could get stolen.)
Okay now we can roll for REAL with travel tip numero uno:
#1. BE AWARE & ADOPT AN EXPLORER’S ATTITUDE
Speaking of being aware, when it comes to optimizing your trip for safety and spicy fun it’s important to have an idea of what you’re getting into before you get there.
Which means researching and reading up on your destination before you get connected on the plane’s wifi. 😉
“Researching” when it comes to travel is like the candy-filled games in Kindergarten – you fall in love and feel filled with the joyous jitters while you learn!
Plus, it’s incredibly useful in creating a common understanding of the cultural changes you will want to make yourself aware of before you end up smack dab in the center of the streets of Pamplona, mid-summer, surrounded by wild bulls blocking the breakfast shop you were heading to for a peaceful afternoon. (Whoops!)
Because, the reality (and, for many of us, the reason for travel) is:
You’re going to experience things that make you feel uncomfortable – especially if you’re a woman.
But when you do your research, you realize the uncomfortability is something you signed up for, which can ease the irritation caused within the friction of the way you feel it should be, and the way it is in reality.
Because the reality is, in many places around the world, women aren’t treated as equals to their male counterparts.
Signing-up to spending a year volunteering in a machismo country like Ecuador, I knew this would be a struggle for me (to say the least!), as I’m certainly someone who has a passion for advocating for women’s rights.
Want to know what helped?
Reminding myself that I came there to appreciate a different way of living.
As well as realizing that, when I stopped enabling my mind to run wild identifying issues I wished I could fix, my eyes were opened to observing how much more there was to adore, admire and explore.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t still want to give the finger (and at times- the fist) to the obnoxious cat callers, or those that would try and kiss my face as I stepped past them on the sidewalk. It just means that I didn’t act on those impulses or allow external actions I didn’t approve of to serve as my main point of focus.
Think about if someone welcomed you into their home, would you complain about their provided type of hand soap?
Would you (*in this first ever moment of breaking bread together*) tell them their beliefs or religion was wrong?
I definitely don’t think you would!
It’s the same idea when you adopt, what I like to call, an explorer’s attitude.
Adopting an explorer’s attitude allows you the opportunity to take into account that YOU are the intruder, and therefore don’t really have a right to judge from such a disattached distance..
You may also realize that judging just clouds your own experience anyways!
And so, instead, you look for the things you can and DO appreciate, and remember one of many reasons you made the decision to go there in the first place:
To explore and experience something different.
Don’t worry! This doesn’t mean you’re accepting the things you disapprove of, it just means that you’re respecting your boundaries as an outsider looking in!
After taking the time to educate yourself before traveling, it’s important to maintain everything you learned in mind while you’re in-country as well.
Provided below is a list of a few precautions I would take when traveling solo through a foreign country:
- Conceal any cash you’re carrying.
- The truth is, most of the crime in developing countries doesn’t come from wanting to cause you harm, but needing to find a means to feed a hungry family. Which means that in most cases, if you don’t flash your cash, and walk with your bright and shiny iPhone in front of your face, you should be perfectly safe!
- Keep your eyes open.
- If your intuition is telling you someone’s up to no good, look them in the eye to let them know – Hey – I see you bro! & normally that’s enough to cause them to scamper off.
- Walk with one headphone in only – especially when walking alone.
- This one’s harder for us musically motivated folk to do – but your Mama will thank you!
- Don’t leave a drink unattended, and if you do – order a new one!
#2. BRIDGE COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
When it comes to empowering your solo-traveling for historic heights and deeper insights, my #1 suggestion (stated as #2 on today’s list 😉 would without a doubt be:
Get to know the people within the local community!
Not only will this help you stay safe (with new access to insider’s advice!), it will also help you have an informed and authentic experience, as well as (if you’re lucky!) leave you with a few new folk to call real familia, pamilya, ohana. <3
From the host of your Airbnb to the owner of the shop you stop to get coffee, there are an expansive amount of opportunities to create new relationships when traveling.
And if you’re incredibly introverted (as I can be at times too!), I have a community-connecting idea I think you’ll love:
You knew that was coming somewhere, didn’t you? 😉
Although I won’t go too deep into my passion for volunteering, what I will say is it’s one of the most special ways to connect with a new community, while also getting the opportunity to feel like you’re truly contributing!
And if you feel uncomfortable about some of the actions and ideals within the country you’re visiting (as we mentioned earlier), volunteering is your opportunity to create real impact, while remaining respectful of those who call your vacation spot their home.
Because, as anthropological studies show, the most effective approach to motivating lasting change in any given place is empowering the efforts that the locals living within that location see best fit. (Instead of imposing our own, external – and often ethnocentric – ideals upon the community we’re visiting!)
And finally – we get to the fun part – FASHUN!
#3. BE MULTIDIMENSIONAL, YET MINIMAL
Remember how I said you won’t want to reveal what kind of cash you’re carrying when attempting to avoid crime?
If you want to travel with extra precaution and protection like I do, you’ll want to take into account the money flashing on your body too.
Which means we want to be minimal, multidimensional mamas – even if it’s incognito. 😉
Here are a few of my favorite must-haves for any destination:
- Sling bags simply save lives.
- Hands down the most helpful purchase I made before moving to Ecuador!
- Easy to slap over your shoulder, sling bags allow you to keep your essentials safe, secure and accessible AF.
- A weather-proof backpack.
- Wet socks (and broken electronics) are something NO one deserves! Plus, the location of the zipper on this specific backpack can help save you from getting stuff stolen. 🙂
- BUG SPRAY.
- Something you may not know about me is I get eaten alive by all types of pesky mosquito guys, and the most effective advice I could give you to avoid this is: the higher the DEET the better!
A NEW YOU
The truth about solo-traveling is it will undoubtedly change your outlook on life, and (if you lean into the lessons above!), I believe it will also be an abundantly empowering experience.
You will likely attract a stronger, smarter, free-er version of yourself you never even knew existed – but now can’t imagine living without.
You will understand the importance of appreciating what you have, as well as a humbled hunger for seeing and experiencing everything you’ve yet to explore.
But more than what you have, or where you’ve come from, traveling allows you the opportunity to uncover a new set of beliefs surrounding who you’re meant to be, and what your purpose is within this expansive, and yet incredibly intimate, limitless planet.
Because you’ll most often find that you were never really just exploring a new place.
You were exploring a new or undiscovered dimension of Y-O-U.
And as you experience an unfamiliar culture and community, so do you uncover aspects of your identity you will never, ever want to let go of.
You might even miss living on the edge, outside of your comfort zone, in an endless state of exploration – I know I do with all my heart. <3
Who else can’t wait to travel again? Drop the names of your dream destinos in the comments below!
P.S. Want to take another (*virtual*) trip right now? Take a quick, 6 minute trip to the North Coast of Spain with me, right here!