So in response to all the folks that have asked me “how I do it”, here are a few of my tips:
Get comfortable being by yourself.
- Go to a restaurant (don’t order take out!). Take something to read or use your Smartphone to keep your mind distracted from being by yourself
- Catch a flick! Sunday morning matinees are my movie time. If you’re a single person who wants to be in a relationship, I’d recommend staying away from Friday/Saturday date nights. You’re likely to feel unhappy and ruin your own date.
Be Dora the Explorer! Have a sense of adventure.
- Take left turns and don’t be afraid to get lost. One day I just decided to take all left turns to get home. I wanted to explore my neighborhood and see what else was out there. I also started taking different routes to work to see what else I could discover.
- Have a staycation and act like a tourist in your own city. Then, move on to exploring other parts of your state for a long weekend and branch out to explore your geographic region. It’s great to travel internationally, but the United States is vast and there are plenty of things you can see and do on our own soil. You can hit beautiful beaches on any coast, go the mountains, a forest or stick to the big cities or country towns. I’ve been to 37 states and counting!
o Build your trip around an event or an interest. Festivals are your friends! There are hot air balloon festivals in New Mexico and Arizona, the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C., the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, jazz festivals in RI and Virginia, weeklong writing workshops in Iowa, art classes in Vermont to name a few.
- Take a road trip. I love to take long drives (eight hours or more). This started as necessity back in the day when I couldn’t afford a plane ticket and gas was $0.75 a gallon. But I continued driving, because it provides a good opportunity for me to think. Make sure your car gets a tune up before you leave, download the latest music (John Mayer and Don Henley is my best road music) or audiobooks on your iPod (thrillers keep me focused) and put the pedal to the metal! I’ve recently invested in satellite radio subscription plan to have a variety of listening options. Then, map out your route and remember to check in with friends/family along the way.
· Make a list of the places you want to travel to.
· Start a savings account reserved for travel (your vacation should not put you in debt!)
· Invest in a good camera, luggage and a journal (or scrapbook) to document memories.
· Make sure your passport is up-to-date.
· Keep an eye on travel deals from Travelocity or other travel sites. Read the Travel section of the newspaper for suggestions.
o I will spend more for a direct flight to avoid the potential drama with connections.
o I usually try to get the first a.m. flight out, the airport/security lines will be a little less crowded and for some reason, the flights seem to be more on schedule.
o Spend the time to think about what you’re packing and be concise, so that you can fit it on a carry-on. That alone can save you up to 45 minutes by not waiting in Baggage Claim.
o If you have to check luggage, try to pack at least two days change of clothes/undergarments in your carry-on if your checked luggage gets lost/misplaced.
· Research, research, research! Learn about the country you’re going to. (I only travel solo to countries whose views of women, minorities and laws are more closely aligned to the United States.) Pay attention to international news and check the U.S. State Department website for travel advisories. I always make a note to learn the location of the U.S. Embassy in the countries I travel to.
o Learning key phrases in the foreign language of the country you travel to is helpful, but smiling and well-executed charades moves can also get you a long way. Depending on how immersed you want to become, the Rosetta Stone language software is also helpful.
· Connect with a reputable travel agent to plan all or part of your trip. Even if you decide to do it yourself, they can be helpful in arranging various tours.
Keep in mind, that while traveling alone can be fun, it’s not always easy. You will likely have more pictures of places without you in them, unless you feel comfortable approaching kind strangers to take a picture of you. Also, there might be moments when you do get lonely (it passes!). I had a wistful moment seeing several couples holding hands strolling down the des Champs-Elysées on a lovely spring day, but quickly recovered once I happened across the Louis Vuitton store.
Above all else, be safe! Independent women can travel alone, but always be conscious of your environment. Leave your itinerary with someone back home and check in at least once a day. Have fun!