Letters to my Younger Self with Ingrid Haas (and a special guest) is LIVE tonight at 5:30pm PST/8:30pm EST! Ingrid will be talking and answering your questions based on this week’s column. She traveled around Europe when she was 22 and she is here to share all her traveling knowledge, including the pros and cons of traveling with friends and how you know if you are a person who should take the plunge and travel solo.
Send all your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject: Letters to my Younger Self) and chat with Ingrid LIVE on Ustream!
You just got accepted to teach Drama to young Spanish students over the summer in rural Spain. Amazing! The only thing is… you don’t speak Spanish, you’ve never been to Europe and you’ve never traveled anywhere by yourself. Sounds like you’ve set yourself up for success. How exciting/how scary.
You’ll teach drama for a month (using mainly mime and “movement” techniques learned in theatre school. Anything really that doesn’t involve language). Then, for another month, you’re going to backpack around Europe all by your-solo-self. Oh, la la! Get ready, you’re growing up.
Before moving away from home, try traveling somewhere by yourself. See what you do and don’t like about it. Learn about yourself and have some fun girl, you deserve it.
THE DOS AND DON’TS of TRAVELING SOLO
DO listen to your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
DO pack lightly. I know this contradicts with what I JUST told you. But you will only ever wear two of the fifteen tank tops that you pack. Keep it simple. Leave room for the tank-top-abroad purchase.
Speaking of bags… Backpacks are so very ’93 and those dog days are over. Give your back a break and DO use a wheelie-roller-suitcase. Easy, simple and sometimes stylish.
DO try to stay in hostels. They are much more “solo” traveler friendly and their community vibe will make it much easier to meet people, make plans for day trips or even go out and share a meal.
DO try to speak to locals in their native tongue. If you are traveling through France, learn some basic French… same goes for Spain and Portugal, etc. When people know that you are at least trying to speak their language and not just assuming that they speak yours, they are much nicer to you and much more eager to help you.
DO take down people’s email addresses. One or two of them might become your lifelong pen pal and then you’ll have a free place to crash next time you’re in Australia, Israel, Thailand…or Wisconsin.
DON’T get a room that you share with 6 co-ed strangers. DO NOT. Good idea at the time of check in, what with all the dolladolla bills that you save, but bad idea when it comes to changing clothes or sleeping. And sleep means everything to you and to your travels. I know that you are young and naive and think the best of people, but straight up – boy travelers smell in July. Cough up the extra cash and get a room to yourself or share with another solo (girl) traveler. Slumber partiiiiies!
DO go on the requisite bar crawl around Barcelona. It’s super touristy and even though you promised yourself that you would have a “real Spanish” experience, it’s fun to be able to let lose with a group of people that are kind of in charge of your well being. Traveling around a foreign country by yourself can be dangerous, so take precautions if you want to drink your face off.
DON’T fall asleep on the beach after said bar crawl with a nice New Yorker named Raphi. Someone will come and steal your wallets, purses and belongings…. but they’ll never steal your spirit!
In the case of thievery, people (your family) will really try to get you all paranoid about your passport. Just don’t take it anywhere with you! It’s so easy! Keep it locked up in your hotel/hostel/place of rest and keep it in a safe place when you are traveling through cities.
DON’T write emails to your family while inebriated. They are already worried about you; make it easier on them by writing cohesive and well thought out emails… the next morning when you sober up.
DO send postcards. Everyone loves postcards. It’s so vintage chic. Maybe send yourself one everywhere you go? I know it sounds weird, but here I am writing to myself…wishing I had done it. So do it for me!
DON’T spend money on expensive sunglasses. You’re traveling Europe by yourself; if one stupid thing is bound to happen, you losing your sunglasses in the ocean it will be. Avoid the heartache.
DO go out on a limb and eat food that you’ve never seen before (within reason- don’t kill yourself). Taste what the locals eat. You didn’t buy a plane ticket for a grand to sit in McDonald’s everyday, did you? If you did, no judgement here, but if you didn’t… go enjoy some paella and get into it.
Open your heart and your tastebuds to the world around you. Traveling by yourself can be scary, and know that that’s normal, but at the same time it’s an exhilarating experience. It’s a small world and the more that you travel, the smaller it gets. Be nice to people and yourself.
Your Future Self