After my first post (Overcoming the fear of flying) where I approached how I overcame my phobia of flying, I got nice reactions from some followers telling me I helped them by giving them tips. I love writing, and I love helping people and seeing that my posts are welcome make a difference.
So today, I am going to write a bit about more about what some strategies to start your solo journey and overcome your insecurities.
Start by traveling in your own country (or surrounding countries you are familiar with)
Starting your solo journey in your own country can have several advantages:
- You can easily communicate as you speak the language,
- As you are a national/resident you are well aware of the cultural habits, sensitivities, and peculiarities,
- You can quickly get back home if getting ill,
- You know where to go, where it is safe to go
- You can reach out to family and friends and get help if in need
- It may be cheaper
I first traveled to other provinces outside Maputo where I live (luckily my job as environmental consultant also helps with that), and then I traveled to neighboring countries such as Swaziland and South Africa, easily reached by car and only a few hours driving from where I live. It helps that I love to drive and could easily drive thousands of kms by myself (it kind of makes me feel safe in my own small and confined space). This way I got used to be in my own company, and to identify my mistakes and correct them.
I started enjoying being with myself a lot more, and feeling at ease eating out alone, going to a movie, driving somewhere to see the surroundings. It gave me such a sense of freedom and confidence in myself, and it was the perfect practice for my intercontinental solo traveling.
As I live far from my homeland Portugal, when I go on holidays there, I made a point of always traveling to a new place each trip, instead of staying in the comfort of my home town. I started getting better and better at planning and it was the foundation to my next step: traveling solo to a foreign country, and that takes me to my next tip
Travel to a country that speaks your language
The advantages are quite intuitive right? So much easier to move around, to communicate, to interact, to plan, to ask for directions, and even to cry for help when in need. My preferred choice was always Brazil. For more than one reason:
- I was there for the first time in 2004, with two friends and my son, and fell in love with it
- Brazil is part of my imaginary world, as I grew up watching Brazilian soaps and hearing Brazilian music
- Brazil is a very welcoming country
- Brazil has a huge diversity of landscapes, climates, environments
- Hey, did I already say I fell in love with it?
- It is rather cheap
- It has amazing food
And many more
I go to Brazil often, from 2006 to 2016 almost every year. I always land in São Paulo and establish my base in Rio de Janeiro? Why? Well, just because Rio, is Rio. Its the Marvellous City, its a perfect combination between beach and mountain. Its a fantastic gastronomic hub. For more reasons, check this previous post Why Rio de Janeiro?
I love Rio so much that I (one day will share this story) even lived there for 9 months. I did write several posts about Rio de Janeiro such as Where to go in Rio – Arpoador, Where to stay in Rio and How to get to Rio and when
After I was used to Rio I started adding a new place each time I traveled there and each time I felt more and more confident and at ease with traveling solo.
Now you may say, wow, if you enjoy traveling solo so much, why you only traveled to a few countries?
Because I am creature of habits. That is something I am fighting hard. When I feel at home in one place, I tend to go there over and over again. But as I said, I am fighting it hard, and although it takes time, I am getting there. Last year, I went to Italy (I have a series of posts about my travel to Italy, check it), and this year I had planned a trip to France and Spain that I had to cancel, but in September will again go to Italy (this time partially solo and partially with friends, for 18 days) and Spain. So, let’s go to the next step
Finally, travel solo confidently in a country strange to you and your language/culture
After getting used to travel alone in your country/countries you feel at ease, here comes the next big step. Traveling everywhere you want to. But this entails some steps, for a good, safe, enjoyable trip.
Decide on the Destination
I mean, the world is huge, full of so many amazing places to go. Selecting one country might be quite a difficult task, so what an you do to make it easier?
- Ask yourself what is the purpose of your visit (beach, mountain, culture, art, history, wildlife, urban, etc)
- Make a list of the destinations that fit into your objectives
- Narrow down the list to destinations you will feel more at ease (e.g. instead of a distant Island that can be far away from your country or in which communications are erratic, choose a country with a good coastline and beaches, where you will feel more confident)
- Chose the destination(s)
Read all you can
- I mean READ A LOT about the destination you intend to travel to. Search the internet, check travelling sites, read blogs that have related content, look on pinterest, check official websites, buy a guide, talk to others that have been there. Go to trip advisor and read about other’s experiences.
- Look for the region/country website and read about it, weather, local customs and culture, dress codes, how to be safe, etc. .
Plan, Plan and Plan
After having a clear idea on what you want to do at your destination, start planning.
- If you do not feel you can do it or feel insecure on how to, contact a good travel agent of traveling planner (like me ahah), and design your plan. Make sure you and the travel planner work together to refine the plan and fine tune it to your needs. Don’t rush it, make sure it is complete.
- If doing it by yourself, make a checklist (I will be giving mine as a freebie soon, stay tuned and make sure you subscribe to get all my updates), that includes everything (accommodation, guides, flights, places to go, where to eat, etc).
- Always try to arrive at your destinations during the day (morning preferably to enjoy a full day), avoid landing at night in a strange place
- Book accommodationt at least for the first night (I plan it all in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises)
- Investigate local public transport. If not reliable, choose accommodation close to the main attractions you will visit
- Check visa requirements (as an Europen citizen with free access within the european union I sometimes tend to forget the visas till the last minute. In some countries the visa process can be quite time consuming so, take care of it as soon as you can
- Check vaccine requirements (e.g. in Brazil you need the yellow fever vaccine) and get the vaccines needed in advance (to avoid reactions and staying in a hotel bed sick instead of enjoying your vacation)
- Take copies of all your documents and authenticate them. Unless you are going to a place that demans official documents, keep them in the hotel safe and carry the copy with you
- Make sure you know the location and telephone contact of your country’s embassy/consulate
Consider a group tour
- If during your planning you still feel insecure about traveling alone, why not hiring a group tour? It’s safe, fun, and you get to meet all sorts of different people, or, if you are not feeling social, no need to engage with others, keep it cool and just follow the guidelines of the guide/touring company. Book it in advance and make sure it is a reliable company. I did that recently in Italy, hired a 1 day tour to Siena, San Gimignano and Chianti, and enjoyed it a lot. I would not be able to see those 3 places in one day if it wasn’t for the tour, and I was not feeling confident enough to drive by myself, or to take the public transport (as it needed more than one commute)
Hire travel insurance
- I mean, YES, EVERYTIME. Never travel without travel insurance
Share your plans with family and a couple of friends
- Make sure you always have family and friends that know where you are going to, when, where you are staying, and that they have all contacts of the accommodation you will be staying in, so they can quickly contact/help you if needed.
Learn the language
- You cannot imagine how attitudes change, how people get more friendly and welcome you better if you learn the language. Basic terms go a long way.
- One common mistake we make, is to assume everyone speaks English. Wherever we go (yes me included, in spite of being Portuguese, I did that for a while). Guess what? No, and it’s not a requirement (unless in hotels, turisty restaurants and places, travel agents, etc etc). Common people, are not obliged to speak English. Often they try, they try hard, as happens in my homeland Portugal, but mainly in cities, if you travel to small towns and villages, then it is different.
- So, am I saying that we should not try to communicate in English? Hell no! BUT what we should do, is at least try to learn a few basic words in the language of the country we are going to. Guess what? People’s mood towards you instantly change if you at least greet them in their language. It shows interest, it shows you are just not another tourist that is there to enjoy their land and do not give a damn about them. And 99% of people will reply in a friendly and welcoming way.
- And how can you learn? There are awesome videos online, youtube, sites, free resources, for almost every language. I recently started to learn Italian, not only because I plan to travel there again, but also because I strongly believe that it keeps my brain sharp and active, and it is a very nice way of doing that. I am good with languages, but even if I wasn’t I would still try to at least learn something.
And now, TRAVEL, FLY, GO, BE HAPPY
Next post of this series is about most common mistakes, and safety tips, STAY TUNED!! And now I leave you with more beautiful picures of my travelling