Way back when I was ~studying abroad,~ my friends and I tried to organize a trip to Amsterdam. Spoiler: it didn’t go well and none of us talk to each other anymore. It felt like that Girls episode when they all visited North Fork to “heal” and Marnie went completely psycho—except in my case, we were all Marnie. Fun! Tbh, I would blame the worst four days of my life on me and my friends all being too poor to do anything aside from smoke weed and feel depressed in the Anne Frank House, but I think the real reason is that traveling in groups, no matter how much money you have, sucks. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the cyberwar that broke out in your group chat over where to get dinner this weekend. Like, try doing that, but for four days in a different country. So, after the Amsterdam Incident, I’ve officially decided that every trip I take from now on will be either by myself or with my boyfriend, and since he is suffering from a brutal case of nonexistence, it looks like I’ll be traveling alone. And I am totally okay with that.
I know what you’re thinking, “wow, that’s so depressing!” and to you, I ask, is it? In my experience, when other people get involved in my plans, everything gets messed up and I become irrationally resentful. In other news, I will likely be dying alone. So if you want to protect your friendships from your own rage without sacrificing the ability to travel, maybe you, too, should consider traveling alone. Here are a few things to think about before you do, though.
Get Over Being By Yourself
If you’ve ever met me, you’re probably rolling your eyes right about now because you know that I don’t like to do literally anything alone. Like, if I’m eating by myself, it’s behind my closed bedroom door where no one can see me deep-throating a burrito. I have no idea why, but I always feel like when I do things alone in public, everyone is staring at me thinking, “That poor, pathetic girl.” In reality, since no one knows who I am and because I’m not doing anything worth staring at, exactly zero people are looking my way or thinking anything about me except for maybe “please get out of the way.” If you’re thinking of traveling alone, I’d start getting used to going to restaurants in a party of one, seeing movies, and shopping by yourself, just so you get used to the feeling of being out in public without anyone else with you. Being by yourself is nothing to be embarrassed about—and you’re really going to have to get over that before traveling alone.
I hate that safety is a concern for women traveling alone, but if you’ve ever seen Taken, you know that the world is a different place for women than it is for
Liam Neeson men. Of course, being on your own isn’t a reason to not do things like travel, eat, or party; it’s just a reason to be extra vigilant. Obv, Taken is the most ridiculous movie ever made and Kim probably could have avoided the whole being kidnapped thing by just, like, not getting in a car with a French stranger and driving straight to her living quarters, but I don’t want to victim-blame. Seriously, though, if all the true crime I watch has taught me anything, it’s that there are a lot of crazy people out there, so when it comes to staying safe, take precautions! Basic safety tips include not trusting strangers (see, I knew my trust issues would come in handy one day), choosing a good purse with a secure closure (so you don’t get pickpocketed), and keeping your passport and other important documents locked up (pickpockets again).
Another big safety tip is to do your research beforehand and don’t just roll up to a foreign city totally unprepared. Make sure you are familiar with the vibes of each neighborhood, how to get around, stuff like that. And make sure you have the emergency numbers (like, the 911 equivalent) of wherever you’re visiting on hand. That may seem massively unnecessary, because what could possibly happen? But as someone who has broken a rib from simply falling down, let me just say, things could definitely happen. According to Bustle, “Some countries have separate numbers for crimes and medical emergencies,” so it’s a good idea to write all the important numbers down beforehand (yes, like on paper) in case your phone dies, you have no service, or anything else goes wrong with your phone. Bottom line is, you don’t want to have to look that stuff up in an actual emergency.
Accept That Not Everything Will Go According To Plan
Like I warned my sister-in-law on her wedding day, every detail in the itinerary will not play out perfectly. Don’t react like she did; just be cool and accept it. Look, you can’t control the weather or whether or not there will be a huge national strike because the president of France wanted to increase the retirement age and now all the monuments are closed, so you can’t let mishaps ruin your whole trip. The best way to avoid having your itinerary getting f*cked up by things outside of your control is to not plan out every second of every day. Rather, choose an area you want to see and have a general idea sketched out of what you want to do there, rather than a minute-by-minute timeline that leaves no room for exploring or detours. I recommend picking one or two specific things you’d want to do in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Being on an aggressively strict schedule on vacation is low-key stressful, and part of the fun of taking a solo trip is being able to wander and explore without your annoying friends reminding you that you were supposed to be on your way to the Prado three and a half minutes ago.
Don’t Go Off The Grid
My crazy mother has convinced herself that if I walk back to my Midtown East apartment by myself, I will get murdered, so I can’t imagine how much that woman will worry when I go to Madrid, which may as well be North Korea to her, by myself. She’s very dramatic, but your friends and family will worry about you, so literally going off the grid isn’t a good idea—especially if you’re going somewhere unfamiliar alone. Whether you want to post every step you take to your Instagram story or just send a simple “I’m alive” text to a few people every night is up to you, but don’t be an asshole and just, like, turn your phone off.
Choose Your Accommodations Wisely
So, obviously you should do a ton of research into where you’re going to be staying and read enough reviews that you can feel confident and safe with your choice (but not so many reviews that you go down a rabbit hole and just throw your whole trip in the trash… speaking from experience). But, with so many options (hotel vs. hostel vs. Airbnb), your first bet is to zero in on which type of accommodation is right for you. One thing to consider is the balance of comfort vs. isolation. While it’s definitely nice to relax at the end of a tiring day in a non-bunk bed in a private room at a hotel or Airbnb, speaking from experience, staying in one of those can make it more difficult to meet people, which can make you feel even more isolated. So you’ll really want to be honest with yourself. Assess how easily you can talk to strangers, and whether you feel energized by being around people. If you like being around people but are not good at starting conversations, you might want to find a more social place to stay. If you literally hate people and/or could chat up a wall, you’d probably be fine staying in a place where you will never so much as bump into another person.
Prepare For FOMO
I once skipped a distant friend’s birthday dinner at a restaurant I hate because I had a cold, but then I saw everyone’s Instagram stories, and you better believe my FOMO was through the damn roof. So much so that I ripped off my floor-length bathrobe, threw on an outfit, and got my sick ass to Brooklyn because missing out is too much for me to handle. Even if you’re having the time of your life, you will probably still experience FOMO traveling alone. If you’re traveling alone, you are going to have to be okay with the fact that your friends won’t pause their own lives while you’re living your best one in a different city/state/country. Remember, you are the prize and you took this trip for
the Instagrams yourself! Let this trip teach you a lesson about having fun by yourself and being happy for the people having fun without you.
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t actually recommend traveling alone every single time you go on vacation (at the very least, so you can save money by splitting costs), but taking a few days to explore the world on your own is a really good way to grow and, considering how much I hate eating alone at a restaurant, I am definitely in need of a little growth.
Images: Giphy (6); Unsplash