Traveling by yourself is something everyone needs to experience. Whether it’s driving to another city or taking a plane ride to a new state or country – The act itself is one of curiosity. Some may ask, why would you do it? Aren't you afraid if something happens to you? Don't you get lonely? Sure, those thoughts have run through my head but not to the point where I made them stop me from accomplishing what I wanted, which was to be in a new place where I knew no one. I proudly state that I am an advocate of solo travel.
While working retail part-time in college, I had no financial responsibility, so I decided to travel to a new city. I started to think about what I wanted from the city I chose to go to. I needed art museums, coffee, sites to see, easily accessible public transportation, and lots of food. It was a no-brainer for me that the place that checked off everything on my list was New York City.
The Big Apple is a beast and I'm sure many can agree. There’s so much to do within a certain amount of time. I had to keep sane by doing my research before the trip, which consisted of utilizing Pinterest, watching YouTube videos, and Googling ‘Things to do in NYC.’ I kept a ‘Notes’ page and physically wrote down where I wanted to go along with directions on how to get from point A to point B.
For lodging, I chose to use Airbnb for the first time. I wanted to find the cheapest option possible because I wanted most of my money to be spent on food and experiences. I found a shared room, which was a living room, where I slept on a couch. Despite there being me plus two extra long-term tenants, the host had kindly served us breakfast in the morning. The first impression I had was of gratitude. The Airbnb listing was spot-on: I knew what I was getting myself into and I was at ease because of getting just that.
One out of the two long-term (and by long-term, I mean more than a three-week stay) tenants was from Canada and on the hunt for their apartment in NYC. They asked if I wanted to be shown around and grab food in the Chinatown area, and I couldn’t turn down such an offer. We rode the train from Astoria to lower Manhattan and got to chat about life. It was a new experience and I enjoyed the time we had walking around exploring.
The second time I traveled solo was yet again to NYC, but I had an agenda this time. I had to go in order to get my Hungarian visa processed due to studying abroad in less than six months. I stayed at an Airbnb close to Williamsburg and was stoked because it was a loft. The host was from Germany and although we didn’t interact much, we had a lovely exchange of teas – I bought some at a store during my exploring and thought it’d be a nice gesture. This was mostly a Brooklyn-based trip, so I fueled up on LOTS of coffee, went to plenty of both thrift and vintage stores, and went to a good amount of vegan food spots. Like the first time I visited NYC, I made lists on my phone, wrote down places, and used Yelp frequently for finding cafes and restaurants. Yelp has been a lifesaver during my travels to this day.
Here's a short video I got of the loft Airbnb.
Random tidbit, but almost every time I’ve gone to NYC, I gotten shin splints. The reason being is that I try to keep up with the pace that New Yorkers walk which sheds light on my natural walking pace, which is too lax but I've accepted it. Does this happen to anyone else?
Traveling on my own has made me more confident in my decision-making. I know I won’t be able to go to every place on my list, but it helps to be flexible and go with the flow. I’ve learned that I’m more of a street-smart individual. That plays a big part, especially in taking queues and directions. Being organized and prepared before the trip helps save time on the actual trip. I’ve learned throughout the years that even though doing research beforehand can be a lot of work, it’s worth it. Once I’m physically in a city I’m visiting, I don’t want to waste time finding what to do while I’m there – that’s precious time. Creating lists and even a mood board (thank you, Pinterest) helps!
I also do my hardest to keep an open mind. The mindset I have when traveling is that if I want to learn about other people, then I too have to be vulnerable, to some regard. We have so much to learn from one another; we all don’t walk the same path in life. There’s strength in diversifying our circles, so it helps to be open. You never know who you’ll meet on your travels and what’s even better are the experiences you get to have.
This’ll be easier said than done, but spending money on experiences vs. tangible items is the way to go when it comes to traveling, in my opinion. Spending money on food, museums, concerts, or excursions goes a long way instead of frivolously shopping in a city but no shame to those that go on shopping sprees! If you enjoy that, keep doing your thing! Nevertheless, I tell myself before my trip that money will always come back and it usually does.
I’m still on my journey getting more and more comfortable with traveling solo. So far, I’ve been to London, Philadelphia, Portland, and Seattle all by my (not so) lonesome. I think going to NYC alone multiple times was a good way to test myself when it comes to traveling solo. Navigating public transportation, being decisive on where I’d go when I’m out exploring, and keeping an open mind have given me more confidence. If you’ve never thought of traveling solo before or have thought about it but haven’t taken action, I’d say go for it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of.
Edited by: Ariana Jenkins