First-time travel is daunting – especially if you’re considering the prospect of solo travel. I vividly remember how I felt when I shifted my mindset to embark on my first solo trip.
So let me guess… you spend more time than you’d like to admit scrolling your social media feeds, secretly hating all your friends who are living it up at beautiful destinations while you toil away at work day in and day out.
You click on every Conde Naste and Travel + Leisure post, and as you look at those amazing far away places, you can’t help but become wistful about never seeing these uniquely beautiful travel destinations anywhere outside of your phone screen.
I wish I could go to [insert amazing travel destination here].
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that phrase, I would either be petting a camel in Morocco or scuba diving the Coral Reef right now!
What if I said you (probably) can go to amazing places?
You’re right, I don’t know your circumstances. What I do know is that intentionality can make a big difference in what you do and don’t do in your life, whether it be travel-related or not. With respect to traveling, to include solo travel, I know it to be true because I experienced it.
As it turns out, I was the only one holding me back.
Here are some tips to help you avoid the same misfortune:
Evaluate Your Priorities
Do you want to travel? Or do you really want to travel?
Traveling is a privilege. While not one everyone has the opportunity to experience it, many times people don’t even try because in the grand scheme of their lives, it’s simply not a priority. Maybe they’re “too busy”, or perhaps they want to put 100% into moving up the company ladder. Perhaps they’re waiting around on a travel buddy, or they don’t want to work extra to build up a travel fund. Any excuse will successfully keep you at home.
I equate the desire to travel with the desire to lose weight. The only time people are successful with fat loss is when they put in the hard work to accomplish it. They eat healthy, they exercise and they are steadfast in their goals. (Or they take enhancements – but that’s somebody else’s blog)!
My point is, anything worth having doesn’t come easy. The same is true with travel. It may not be easy to make it a priority, but if you really want it, you can make it happen.
Identify Your Barrier(s)
I recently conducted a small research study through my Facebook page to determine the primary barriers to travel for women. In order of popularity, they were: money, PTO/Vacation time, kids, pets and tied at fifth, work schedule and fear of solo travel. Let’s look at each of these individually.
Money is Tight
First of all, I know not everyone has been blessed with expendable cash for travel. Hopefully, if these tips can’t be used now, they can be tucked away for when financial circumstances improve.
I’m all about traveling on a budget. If you’re low on money, but travel is a priority for you, then you need to be ok with not staying at a 5-star hotel; you need to be ok giving up some luxury… and you’ll find that the rest of the real world isn’t living on luxury either. Again, what are you willing to sacrifice for your priority?
Ultimately, if you set a budget and stick to it, you might be really surprised what you can save up. Researching extensively to find bargains is also super helpful.
Maybe Europe isn’t realistic, but our own back yard has diverse and beautiful places that are easier, and sometimes cheaper to get to and enjoy!
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same is true for your travel fund. Be patient.
PTO and Vacation Time Woes
Save it up, my dear. Take fewer mental health days. (I promise your mental health will be in tip-top shape when you’re sunning on a white sand beach with a cocktail in your hand). Don’t take the whole day off when you only have a one hour doctor’s appointment. Plan ahead for a trip that is still months away.
According to a marketwatch.com article, nearly half of working Americans don’t take their paid vacation time because they’re afraid of work loads increasing in their absence, and don’t feel confident to leave the work in a peer’s hands. If I gave you a choice of going on vacation or paying your boss $200 a day for a week, which would you choose? QUIT PAYING YOUR BOSS AND TAKE THE DARN VACATION TIME!
Kids (and Pets)
These ranked at #3 and #4 respectively, but I think they can be combined for our purposes here. While I would love to be blessed with children, I have to selfishly admit this isn’t currently a concern for me when I travel. Therefore, I may not give the best advice, but willing to hear from anyone in the comments below who has it figured out!
Can you pay for your kids to go with you? (Maybe some don’t want them tagging along)! My sister and her husband bought a camper and are able to take great family vacations with little expense for accommodation. I also have a friend who hires a dependable friend as a nanny for the trip. Again, there’s an added expense, but something to think about if money isn’t an object.
Are they old enough for a babysitter? Can you trade favors with another mama friend? Can you take advantage of the time your kiddos spend at a summer camp? Just a few thoughts that may not apply at all, but maybe they will get you to start thinking outside the box!
While I don’t have kiddos, I do have a fur baby. I learned a long time ago that it was easier and cheaper to pay a college student to housesit/dogsit for me. The cost is less than if I paid for boarding, and the pupster gets to stay in his familiar environment, which has eliminated separation anxiety and the physical ailments that accompany it. Meanwhile, the student enjoys a place instead of her parents’ house, and is making extra money at the same time! It’s win win for everyone!
As with PTO/Vacation issues, you have to plan ahead. If your schedule doesn’t allow for consecutive days off, try planning around a holiday weekend and be intentional about using your PTO.
My cousin works a typical M-F job and is used to taking off a day here and there. She recently went on a trip and realized how much she loves it. She is now choosing to be more conservative with her PTO use so she can take off as many days as possible for her next travel opportunity!
Solo Travel Fears
This one is near and dear to my heart! I grew up in a town of around 2000 people. I was surrounded by farmland and a big lake used primarily for fishing and producing electricity. There were 106 people in my graduating class (including foreign exchange students). Up until recently, my hometown had one stoplight. One! If you’d told me I would be galavanting Italy by myself years later, I’d have never ever believed you. Never ever. If I can do it, you can do it.
Don’t let opportunities to travel pass you by when you can JUST GO and start having beautiful experiences. I forever want to be the woman who takes chances to live and grow, rather than the girl who stays stagnant in my comfort zone.
You totally have the courage. You just have to unearth it! Do your research, and I promise this is easier than it seems.
Pick A Spot
Ok, so you’ve evaluated your priorities and you know you really want to start chipping away at your Travel Bucket List. You’ve looked at your barriers to travel, and have figured out ways to work through them. Now you have to pick a spot to go experience!
Most people have their top spots picked out from all those years of dreaming, but if you can’t decide, Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards and Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards are great places to start!
For what it’s worth, mine was Santorini. It exceeded every expectation.
Do Your Research
It’s no surprise that the more you know about something, the easier it is to understand. The same is true with traveling.
Of course you want to research the culture, safety, best areas to visit, etc. You’ll want to look at transportation options, accommodations, flight routes, top things to do… all the things! But as you start pulling apart all the layers, you’ll see it’s not that different than what you’ve probably experienced somewhere before. As you increase your knowledge about your chosen destination, it becomes less daunting and the excitement that started as a little seed of hope deep inside of you begins to grow exponentially! Fear quickly turns into an unbridled anticipation of what will be an amazing adventure!
Make your budget. Request your vacation time. Start saving. Continue researching your destination. Join online travel groups to bounce ideas off like travelers.
Put your plan in motion, because you’re only one step away from…
Biting the Travel Bullet
Buy the flight.
For me, this is the action I take that seals the deal.
It’s like the labor and delivery of a newborn baby. You can’t turn back. You just have to go through with it and you’ll figure the rest out later. (Mom’s around the world are cussing me for comparing purchasing a flight to birthing a child)! But amirite or amirite?
Hopefully you’ve picked up a few tips and gained some inspiration and courage to take your bottled up wanderlust to the next level. Big trips and traveling for the first time seem overwhelming at the surface, and solo travel can be especially terrifying. Focusing on taking one step at a time will make the process much easier and get you to your top travel destination sooner!
So, are you ready?!