Friday, July 10, 2015

Guidelines for traveling alone, Part 2: "How to make the best of your time"

Following the first part where I covered safety and comfort, today's post is going to be about how to plan your trip in a way that allows you to make the best of your time. This is also applicable for couples or a group of friends ;)

Taken in Budapest - June 2015
  1. Walking tours and pub crawls* are an awesome way to both: do something fun; learn about what's more appealing to you so you can plan rest of your trip, as well as possibly meeting other people with same interest that you might end up hanging out with a couple of times!
  2. Lookup events / concerts and exhibitions on the local Google and Facebook and book things in advance. It gives you a peace of mind knowing you have few things that don't require you being with someone. Moreover it reduces the risk of you ending up lazy on a couch browsing your phone instead of going out and exploring a city. Being on your own, means no one is there to motivate you to go out and you might feel reluctant sometimes and choose to stay in your comfort zone.
  3. Out of city tours: Again, very similar to the two previous points, everything is online these days, you can secure a day out of the city where you need not worry about planning or finding transport. Although I would prefer if you did #5 :) It's the age of the internet baby!
  4. Tinder: yes Tinder (iOS and Android application)! Might be a bit lousy to meet the man or woman of your dreams, but it actually works when it comes to finding nice people who love to show others around their city. Even if you're engaged or married, specify this in your bio and just say you're in this city for few days and looking to discover the city through the eyes of locals. You might be surprised but few people would actually love to show a tourist around.
  5. Technology time: Specially if you're visiting for quite a long period, you should try to lookup prior to your trip by several months the meetup groups on meetup.com for that city, follow them to get a pulse of how trustworthy and fun they are, and just join them! Another awesome amazing service is Blablacar. It's a long distance ridesharing service, connecting drivers with empty seats to people traveling the same way. It's available in several cities so far! You save money, you see new and unique places without the hassle of a strict bus tour, and you meet people with same interest!
  6. Go on Facebook and search for friends who have been to that city, and ask them for recommendations, chances are they know someone there and they will put you in contact with them. People love connecting people together! It happened to me several times.
  7. If you're going to a place like Nepal or Sri Lanka where you require a trustworthy driver to take you to different regions, just post on Facebook (or any well established social network you're on) requesting contacts. A friend of mine did that and it worked brilliantly. Do not underestimate the power of discovery and sharing good contacts.
  8. Invest in a good backpack that doesn't cause back or shoulder pain, as well as a hard to open bag in case it goes on your back and you can't see what's happening behind you while you're in a crowded place like a metro. Some DSLR (camera) bags cannot open from the outside, they have a belt around the waist so you can turn the bag to the front and take your things. Men tend to not want to carry bags, I recommend you do instead of putting things in your pockets, easy to pick-pocket and you will never feel it. A cross purse helps, and i usually wear it to the inside so no one can open it.
Pain Perdu à Paris
*The toughest part (for me at least) of being alone is going in a pub. I don't mind dining alone, I always find it easy to locate a nice restaurant that is not too crowded and eat. But having a drink in a crowded bar is still a tough one. So I hope you are better at that territory! If not, pub crawls might be the answer. You're just following a crowd and most people are at there for mostly the same reasons as you.
Traveling alone is challenging, but if you have few things set in place, you will end up covering a lot of territory and exploring a lot! An example of that was my time in Budapest, being on my own helped me do a lot and in only 3 days. Since you have to rely on the few connections you have, you might actually end up helping a good friendship flourish. Happened to me several times so far, and I'm truly grateful that.

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