Three easy solutions to save you a world of frustration
The first time I boarded a plane by myself was one of the most terrifying AND exhilarating experiences of my life. I wanted to go home as much as I wanted the plane to take off right away. That first trip, long before there was an Internet to use for research or social media friends to offer advice, I relied on advice from my mom and girlfriends.
Some of their advice I listened to. Some of it, I ignored. Considering my shocking lack of street smarts, I'm amazed I got home safely. My travel mistakes have ranged from budget-busting to stupid safety choices that (thankfully) ended with a good story to tell when I got home.
Feel free to learn from my solo travel mistakes so you don't have to make them for yourself.
Plan arrival and departure times during the day
A ridiculously cheap red eye can be hard to turn down -- but do you really want to arrive at a strange destination after dark? Last year, I arrived in North Carolina at 10 p.m. After picking up my rental car and saying no thank you to the GPS, I began a two-hour drive, which turned into three hours because I kept getting lost. Note to self, the iPhone is useless as a navigation tool when you're driving on a highway at 100 miles an hour in the dark, trying to avoid hitting other cars and an extraordinary amount of road kill.
Needless to say, I began my trip tired and frazzled.
Deb from Twitter had interesting map experience as well. "I showed up at a B&B, ate cheese, crackers, drank glass of tea. Then found out when complimenting on the B&B, I was at the wrong place. I very kindly thanked them for their hospitality."
Flamboyant might be a way of life at home, but research your destination before packing your bags. Standing out in a crowd because you're a shock to the locals shows lack of respect and might put you in danger. Know what the locals wear and what they absolutely don't allow before leaving home.
In San Juan, I learned the hard way that my spaghetti strap dress was not permitted inside the most beautiful cathedral I've ever seen. While the idea of bare shoulders not being allowed in a church might feel antiquated to me, it's not my place to disrupt local customs.
Use common sense
On GoGirlfriend we've shared boatloads of advice from travel safety experts but the best advice I ever received was to balance those smart travel tips with some old fashioned common sense. Spending an evening enjoying a local celebration is a great way to dive deep into the culture. But being stranded at a Pueblo at midnight in a dessert with hitchhiking or walking the only way home equals stupid. We'll leave that story there.
My friend Carrie on Twitter learned the hard way that not all public transportation is safe. "Being a single blonde on a train in S. Italy at 10 p.m. with packs of young men roaming the cars. I found four nuns to sit with and I speak Italian quite well -- the nuns were gracious to the crazy Canadian! But I was scared...serious stuff! In all seriousness, when traveling alone, good to hook up with other travelers as needed: couples, families, nuns!"
Traveling solo takes courage and I'm always amazed when I meet women who would never consider it. Fear is their GPS and they can't imagine just traveling for the sake of travel. I've had more than my share of botched travel days, most of them due to my own carelessness. But I've also had travel days that I make all those botched ones minor annoyances in comparison.
Got any travel mistakes -- and the lessons you learned from -- to help other travellers? We'd love to hear them.
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