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Tips for traveling alone

Posted by on May 1, 2017

Traveling alone is likely one of the most daunting experiences you will face if you go abroad for an extended period. It is especially challenging if you don’t speak the language of the country you’re visiting. However, traveling alone can also be a very rewarding and confidence-building experience. Some people may actually prefer going places by themselves because it gives you more freedom to do what you want at your own pace. When I spent a semester in Morocco, most of my weekend travel adventures were with other students from my program, but there were a few times I found myself exploring alone. Even though it was intimidating, traveling by myself taught me a lot about myself and my abilities. Here are a few lessons I learned from my experiences traveling alone.

  • Plan in advance. This is not always possible, but you will feel much more comfortable going places if you already have your transportation and lodging figured out ahead of time. During my spring break abroad, I had the opportunity to go to Europe for the week. I went on a trip to Spain with my program for the first three days, but after that I ventured off on my own. I had to book all my own travel, which included flights and bus rides. I also decided to go to Florence, Italy to visit a friend. For that, I booked an Airbnb. The nice thing about traveling in Europe (and elsewhere) is that they have budget airlines—I flew from Madrid to Pisa for only about $30. Airbnb is also a much cheaper (and sometimes nicer) alternative to hotels and hostels. I had a very positive experience with Airbnb throughout my travels, so I definitely recommend it when you are looking for cheap lodging (check the reviews before you book though!)
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In my experience, the scary part of traveling alone is not actually exploring the city or town you visit, but trying to get from place to place. After a week of relatively smooth sailing on my spring break, I had a very challenging experience trying to get from Venice, Italy back to Rabat (where I was studying). All in all, I had to take two boats, a plane, a taxi, a train, and finally walk several miles to get from point A to point B. It was exhausting, and I would have ended up in who-knows-where if it weren’t for a few strangers who helped answer my questions and translate for me along the way.
  • Be mindful of safety. This probably will not come as a surprise, but tourists are often targeted for pick-pocketing or worse in foreign countries. As a single female traveler, I felt that I had to be

    Michelangelo’s “David” in the Accademia Gallery in Florence

    especially cautious when out at night, walking in big crowds, etc. Luckily, I never experienced anything in my travels that made me feel unsafe. My advice is to keep an eye on your belongings, stay aware of your surroundings, and don’t put yourself dangerous situations.

  • Enjoy it! The great thing about traveling alone is that you have total freedom in what you do. You can pick and choose the sites you want to see, eat whatever you want, and rest whenever you want. I actually really enjoyed my time exploring Florence on my own, even though it was only for a few hours a day. I walked around the city and went to a museum by myself, and I enjoyed being able to go at my own pace. Traveling alone also gave me a lot of confidence in myself. Whenever I feel nervous about something now, I think about my adventures traveling alone: if I can do that, I can do anything!

 

Lydia Grossman 3 Lydia Grossman
lgrossma@umw.edu
International Affairs Major
Environmental Sustainability Minor
IES Rabat, Morocco

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