Traveling is a great way to stretch your comfort zone and make incredible memories, but it can also be nerve-racking if you’re traveling solo, traveling internationally, or traveling at all for the first time. Here are 10 tips to help you put your mind at ease and make you a confident traveler.
1. Do Your Homework
Before you go, do a little bit of research. Make sure you know what currency the country uses, what language they speak, and what to expect in general as a visitor. Learn a few polite and necessary words and phrases like “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” and oh yeah, “do you speak English?”
2. Stay One Step Ahead
Even if you’re not traveling with a hard-set itinerary, you’ll like to stay a step or two ahead. Download offline maps of your city from Google Maps and keep a portable charger on you at all times, so even when the Wi-Fi is spotty or your battery gets low, you know how to get from point A to point B.
Not long after the photo below was taken, I found myself sitting on a curb in the middle of Rome, with a dead phone, no charger, no plans, no idea what time it was, and little idea of how to get back to the train station. Don’t be like me in Rome.
3. Ask Questions
Lost? Confused? Short on time? Ask someone for help. Sometimes as a solo (and female) traveler I have been reluctant to do this, because I don’t want to appear vulnerable. But then I figured out that walking directly up to someone and asking them a question actually looks a lot more confident than pacing back and forth with a dead phone and no sense of direction…
4. Look Up
Speaking of faces glued to phones…look up! Memorize the next step or two of your Google Maps directions, then put your phone down. Walk with a confident posture and take in your surroundings. When you’re eating alone, trade in mindless scrolling for people watching, or sit at the bar to chat with the barista or bartender. You’ll probably enjoy yourself and your food a whole lot more.
5. Make Conversation
This is the number one thing that has grown my confidence as a traveler. It may feel a little awkward at first, but you never know what could come from striking up a conversation with a local or a fellow traveler. You might come away with a new travel partner or at the least a nice, short exchange.
One of my favorite travel memories came from a random conversation that was started by the other girls in our shared hostel room. We were all from different places, so for 2 full days we communicated in a hilarious blend of English, Spanish, and Italian, while exploring German-speaking Vienna together. They are some of the dearest friends I’ve ever met abroad–like I said, you never know what can happen!
6. Try Public Transportation
I’m convinced that when you master public transportation of a new city, you can master all other things. So try it. Even if it scares you, try it. Research the system online, and ask people at the bus stop or metro if you’re confused.
7. Dress the Part
I’m serious, this can be a confidence booster! What you wear affects how you feel. Assess what you’re going to feel the most comfortable in, taking into account physical comfort for what you’re doing, as well as the local style. Don’t believe me? Well, imagine walking around Milan, the fashion capital of the world, in baggy travel pants and a t-shirt. Doesn’t exactly make you want to strut your stuff.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Take Pictures
I’m here to tell all of you but especially solo travelers, that it’s okay to take selfies, it’s okay to use a self timer, and it’s even okay to ask strangers to take your picture. You might feel a little silly at times, but it will be worth it to have all of those memories. An easy way to have a stranger take your picture is just to offer to take theirs first. They’ll probably return the favor before you even have to ask.
9. Stay Safe and in Communication
Even though you’re off having this wonderful adventure, feeling fearless and invincible, always keep safety top of mind. Make sure your phone is always charged, and that you’re communicating with someone (preferably in the same time zone) updates on your whereabouts.
10. Keep Going
The best way to build confidence in anything is to keep doing it. The more that you eat at restaurants by yourself without the crutch of a phone screen, the more natural it will become. The more you try public transportation, the easier it will become. And the more you travel, the more confident you will become.
Now you’re ready to go, and go confidently! Nothing can hold you back from your adventure (including money).
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