How far have you traveled? How far do you want to travel?
If you are even a little curious to step away from your comfort zone, I hope you find this to be at least a little helpful.
I was twenty-six years old the first time I left the country by myself to travel. That particular life-changing event did not begin as such —it was not originally meant to be a solo adventure. It actually all began as one of those big-dream conversations with my post-college circle of close friends back in Iowa. But as post-college life began to sink in, one or two didn’t think they would get time off work, another couple realized the funds weren’t there to support such a trip, and the grand idea eventually dissolved.
As everyone else was moving on, away from that flicker of a plan to travel together, I was up here in Minnesota learning I would be losing my job. I also learned about the beauty of the severance package. That is when that flicker of a plan to travel grew a little brighter for me, so I began making a travel plan…just for me!
Now then…let’s fast forward 15 years to today. My game plan then versus how I would set out for a solo travel experience now is different on a few counts. It is truly amazing how many more resources there are at our fingers tips that I was unaware of when I first decided that I would still make that trek to Europe so long ago. When it comes to solo traveling in a general, there are a few important things to think about before you buy that round trip ticket.
BEFORE YOU GO!
- You need a passport. Since 9/11, this requirement seems a bit obvious, doesn’t it? Fifteen years ago, I walked into the Department of Motor Vehicles to update my driver’s license and purchase a passport. Here in Minnesota, that is no longer an option, but you can find information at the U.S. State Department – Bureau of Consular Affairs to find locations near you for that passport application.
Consider the cost of a passport, and especially the timeframe required for processing, so you have it in hand before you plan to travel.
- Depending on where in the world you plan to go, a Visa may be required for entry into a county. Conveniently, the U.S. State Department – Bureau of Consular Affairs can also help you with these details.
The cost of a Visa and turn-time for delivery also vary from country to country, if it is a required document. The key is to know that you should look for these details!
- Another location-dependent travel recommendation is to look into vaccination requirements. Being in certain destinations may put you at a higher risk for contracting some diseases that do not exist or are not prevalent in the United States (malaria or yellow fever are a couple of examples). If you are unsure, the CDC has a link on their website for travelers’ health information.
You can also check in with your physician or local clinic.
- Travel warnings may exist for travel to specific countries or regions. Depending on how far off the beaten path you intend to take your traveling adventure, it may be worth your time to review details on the U.S. State Department – Bureau of Consular Affairs. This tip is not meant to be an alarmist-notion. It is, however, good sense to have awareness about where you plan to travel, and whether or not there are any destination-specific warnings, or potential dangers to consider. Self-awareness when you are in a new place (local or abroad) is common sense.
Beyond the important logistics and details mentioned above, then fun part of travel planning is decided what you want to experience in your destination when you arrive: history, culture, music, food …the list goes on.
Transportation – Planes, trains, or automobiles? You can easily research in advance of your trip to see what option will work best for you.
Accommodation – Budget pending, there are numerous unique options for places to stay, from hostels to hotels, to B&Bs or temporary rental of a furnished apartment.
What do I bring – Be practical, when you back, with mix-and-match options. Don’t forget those comfortable shoes!
Destination-appropriate attire – Give care to the customs of your destination.
A couple of my favorite resources for travel information are Lonely Planet and the Thorne Tree Forums. Lonely Planet has a series of travel books you can find online or in any major bookstore. They also have a website full of useful information at http://www.lonelyplanet.com/. Thorne Tree Forums are open discussion forums that provide opportunity for fellow travelers to ask questions and share information with each other. This is also a thread off the Lonely Planet website at https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree.
In the least, I hope you find this information to be a little curious and fun. I do, however, hope this sparks your curiosities enough to take a few steps towards taking an adventure of your own!