Travel is a wonderful thing, filled with excitement, surprises, and adventure. It gives you the opportunity to seek out new experiences, try activities or foods you normally wouldn’t have access to, and extend the boundaries of your comfort zone. Every trip, no matter how big or small, always begins with that first step.
Decision making – the ever daunting task in a society where there are so many options. How to you decide what trip is good for you? What if you’re outside your element? Should you travel with a friend or go solo? The truth is there will never be one solid answer. However, there are ways to prepare ahead of time, and iron out what would be the best trip for you.
First things first – start with you. You’re the one that wants to travel, so what interests you? Is the the beautiful sunshine and beaches in Spain? What about the history and culture of Germany? Or are you looking for something more off the beaten path like Slovenia or Bosnia? Target the activities you want to complete, and what you want to get out of the trip.
Next, decide if you want a partner in crime or if lone wolf is the way to go. Having trouble deciding? Honestly, follow your heart. Try to imagine yourself in your target destination, and whether or not you’d like some company. If this is your first big trip, then I’d honestly suggest taking a travel buddy. Going to a new place solo can be extremely overwhelming, especially if there isn’t an abundance of English. Having two heads is often better than one if something goes haywire, but if this isn’t your first rodeo then you’re probably good to go solo. If you’re still unsure, talk about your plans! Everyone loves hearing about escaping to exotic places, and you just might find someone who’s of the same mindset as you – making your decision for you!
Ladies – this paragraph is solely for you. One thing to think about is the dangers women face with solo travel. Not to say that trouble is going to find you, but do be aware of yourself and your surroundings. Unfortunately not everyone in this wonderful world of ours is a good person, and we can often be the target of unwanted attention and violence. Don’t let this stop you, as I fully believe that women should go wherever they want, when they want, but be careful. Yes I sound like a mother hen, but being careful and taking precautions has definitely helped me out of a jam or two. Make sure others know about your plans, and don’t draw unneeded attention to yourself. Taking the time to register your travel plans and emergency contacts on websites such as Canada’s Abroad Traveller’s Site can be a key player in ensuring your safety. Before you leave for a trip abroad, take the time to think ahead and plan a little – it could be the difference between a stellar trip or one never to speak of again.
Now, for those of you thinking about taking a big trip with your significant other, be aware that travel can be quite stressful. Not to say that you shouldn’t jump in with both feet, but know that travel can make or break a relationship (this goes for friendships too!). The best way to avoid a significant amount of stress is to plan ahead – look into activities with your partner in crime (romantic or otherwise) and find out where your interests lie. If you’re not seeing a lot of overlap, then talk and figure out where the comfort zone is for both of you – do you split up for a day or two and get the best out of your trip? Or do you go with each other and enjoy each other’s passions? The key word here is compromise, so don’t be afraid to speak your mind.
Lastly, if you’ve decided to go the solo route – hats off to you! The best way to increase your comfort zone is overcoming new challenges unassisted. You feel so accomplished, and the pride you feel in your actions is wonderful. My only advice – don’t go sprinting outside your comfort zone. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re going to be stressing most hours of the day, otherwise you’ll be exhausted, anxious, and the trip will be a bust. I personally think it’s better to start off small – go solo shopping in the city, then go on a walking tour on your own, then try a hostel where the only familiar thing is your gear. Don’t overwhelm yourself as nothing good will come of it, and you may never want to travel again! GASP! We definitely can’t have that!
Sometimes things you can’t avoid occur (like your travel buddy may have a family emergency), so you’re forced into a situation where you have no choice but to do your own thing. Don’t panic! See this as an opportunity, not a curse! Don’t hide in your hostel room, and go do something exciting. Whether you treat yourself to a nice lunch at that awesome cafe you spotted earlier in the week, a bike tour of the city, or cliff diving off the coast – do YOU! The more you push your comfort zone, the more comfortable you’ll become, and the more awesome things you’ll do.
If you’re reading this right now, internally debating whether or not to take the leap of faith – want to know my answer? Take the plunge! You never hear about people regretting the trip, only that they stayed and missed out on a marvellous opportunity.