Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Tuesday Tipday: How To Travel Alone

While I can admit that I don't exactly live for adventure, I have done some things in my day. Something I still count as a major accomplishment are the times, in 2005, that I braved my nerves, boarded airplanes and traveled to places I'd never before been...totally alone.

I didn't backpack through India, or do anything quite that impressive, but when it comes to doing new things we all have to start somewhere. Really, if someone as cynical, quiet and fear-filled as me can travel solo, so can you. If you've wanted to make a lone travel trek, but haven't been able to get up the nerve, here's what you need to know.

How To Travel Alone

1) Focus is helpful. My family took occasional vacations when I was a kid, but by the time I was 31, I still had a LONG list of places I wanted to see. When the whole world is an option (Or, really, the whole country. Traveling abroad cost more than I was willing to put on credit!), how do you narrow the possibilities down? I say, follow your hobbies. Something I'd always wanted to do was go to the Sundance Film Festival. So, my first solo trip was to Park City, Utah during the final weekend of the festival. Roger Ebert passed me on the street! I went to a party with Jennifer Jason Leigh!

If you enjoy yoga, find a retreat in a city you'd like to visit. Maybe you're a writer, if so, get thee to a conference. The best part about this method is that not only do you get to see new places, but you automatically surround yourself with people who share interests with you. And this makes some of the strangers in your midst EASIER TO TALK TO. Score!

2) Make yourself talk to strangers. I managed to socialize a bit at Sundance and during my trip to SXSW a couple of months later. But, mostly, I spent time exploring on my own because I'm good at being alone. I wanted to broaden my horizons, though. So, what did I do? I went to Las Vegas...and volunteered at the CineVegas Film Festival.

If there's a better way to connect with people who'll share your interests and force yourself to converse with them, I don't know what it is. During my seven-day-stay I got rides to and from my hotel from a former showgirl who'd become a real estate agent, went to a burlesque show with a director, his actor friend and another festival volunteer, and party hopped with yet another volunteer who hooked up with a now famous actor. I had an adventure! I'm sure it's possible to do that without hanging out with others, but it's probably not as much fun.

3) Be safe, not scared. I never would have had as much fun as I did had I not taken some chances. The key is simply to keep your wits about you, asses all situations/new people and don't be afraid to hurt someone's feelings if you believe you need to bail out. Some additional things to think about:

a) Keep your cell phone charged and handy. Maybe even put 911 on speed dial.
b) Ladies, if you need to carry a purse, make it one that closes fully and either fits snugly under your arm or allows you to carry it crossbody in front of you, so you always have an eye on it.
c) Consider a money belt. Withdraw the cash you'll need for the day and store it in a front pocket to eliminate the need to root around in your bag. Put your debit/credit card and a photocopy of your id in the money belt, and wear it under your clothes while you're out. This might be TMI, but I always put mine inside my pants and panties, that way if it comes unbuckled (never happened, by the way) it will stay snugly against my body and not fall out a pant leg.
d) Use common sense and trust your gut. No drinking more booze than you can handle or taking drinks from strangers who are not tending bar. Try not to walk around alone, at night in unpopulated areas. If you simple have to? Carry your keys/mace in your hand, ready to be used as a weapon if needed; walk speedily with your head up and with purpose. Folks will be less likely to mess with you if you look like you know where you're going and will take NO SHIT from random people.
e) Keep your car doors locked and don't roll non-driver windows down so much that someone could reach in and open a door on you.
f) Secure your hotel door. I braced mine with a chair, but that was before this or this.

That's it! Follow your passion to someplace cool, stay safe and have fun!

How have you traveled safely while alone?


Anonymous said...

I have always been able to move faster when I am traveling alone. Maybe I was a bit crazy when I was younger but I spent quite a bit of time on my bike when I was in the Marines, traveling up and down PCH in Cali. I was alone most of the time.

Susan Cooper said...

I am not a big fan of traveling alone. That said, I have done allot of it in my past business life. I agree with you about talking to the people around you. You can meet some amazing people by doing that. :-)

Citygirl said...

Jon: It's so true that you can roam around a lot faster on your own when traveling. And, the freedom to do whatever you want is especially nice.

Susan: It can definitely be more fun to travel with people most of the time, but I think going solo can be a great experience too. I think you end up learning more about yourself that way.


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