8 Reasons You Should Travel Solo

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Yep. If you travel solo you’ll absolutely meet an Elephant in a Midwestern-looking forest that will grant you three wishes.

I won’t lie to you. The idea of traveling alone is terrifying for folks who have never done it. The fear bubbles up inside you, overtakes you and you push the idea off another few months to the point where you forget about it until an Instagram photo or blog post brings back the desire.

The good news:

Just like any fear, it can be conquered and once you get past it, you’ll end up wiser and happier than before you took the leap.


8 Reasons You Should Travel Solo

It doesn’t matter how you do it or how long. Drive across the U.S. for a week or two, backpack through Europe for a month, or simply venture forth on a quick weekend trip to your favorite city or National Park.

No matter where you go (or the duration), you’re bound to uncover countless mysteries about yourself and the places you explore.

Reason #8: You’ll Meet Interesting People

Think about the last time you went on a trip with another person or a group of people. How often did you talk to strangers? Or even in your daily life, how often do you go beyond exchanging pleasantries with the person you buy your coffee from every single day?

I guess it depends on the type of person you are but I’ve found that when I’m traveling with others, I’m less likely to talk to strangers other than to get directions. In a group, you’re usually on a set schedule and there’s no time for dilly-dallying. When you travel alone however, your time is yours alone and a life-changing conversation can spur from someone noticing your accent isn’t like theirs.

By talking to people during your travels, you get a glimpse into their life; how they live, what they do, where they came from, and who they are. Connecting with people is how we (humans) better understand one another. In doing so, we’re more likely to empathize with our fellow man, which brings us all closer together.

And it’s easy too!

You hardly have to do any work when it comes to chatting with strangers on a solo trip. A person will notice your license plate and start it for you, or they’ll see the backpack on your back and share stories from their younger years, possibly sharing some tips about where you’re headed.

And really, what’s not to love about connecting with others?

Reason #7: You Can Do What you Want, Whenever you Want

This is my favorite part about traveling solo. You can literally do anything at any time AND change those plans at the drop of a hat without having to worry about upsetting anyone.

Have plans to check out a museum but you run into a fellow traveler who’s headed for “the best coffee in the city”? The museum can wait!

You’re driving down I-90 to Mt. Rushmore when you notice (it’s hard not to) a bunch of signs for some mysterious Wall Drug? Screw it, why not see just what in the world this crazy place is?

I can’t tell you how many times I decided to change plans halfway through executing them and ended up neither better or worse than I was before; Just in a different place with new experiences.

 

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Like the time I came across this bell in the middle of nowhere 15 minutes off the highway.

Reason #6: You’re More Likely to Try New Things

As with any trip, you should always be financially prepared for unavoidable mishaps and more importantly (but not really), exciting opportunities!

Imagine this: You’re traveling with a group of scoundrels in Bagan, Mayanmar and you really want to take a hot air balloon ride over the valley of temples but you’re the only one in your group interested in the idea. Maybe next time… When you’re in Mayanmar…

Traveling solo however… Well, you get the gist.

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Balloons over Bagan at sunrise (Mayanmar 2013) – CC Paul Arps

And of course, with all the people you take the time to befriend, and the fact that you can decide to do anything at any time, you’ll be given plenty of opportunities to do something different at every turn.

Reason #5: Anything Bad that Happens isn’t Really all that Bad

A million things can go wrong when you travel solo. A million things can also go wrong when you don’t travel at all.

I’m reminded of a t-shirt I bought in Gatlinburg when I was younger. Pretty much every year during middle school and high school, my Mom and stepdad would take my brother and I to the Smoky Mountains and we’d camp out for a week. We were only allowed one day in the tourist trap of Gatlinburg but I distinctly remember a shirt I bought one of those years that said:

“You can fall off a cliff and die.

You can be attacked by a bear and die.

Or you can stay home, fall of the couch and die.”

Your odds of doing so are 1 in 225,879 by the way.

No matter what happens, as long as you still have your life, it’s really not too terrible. Sure, you may get robbed and end up broke and without a passport in an unfamiliar city but you can at least walk away from it with a cool made-up story about the time you fought off three dudes but were overpowered by the last, big one and barely escaped with your life.

Even a flat tire on the side of the road can bring a stranger to your aid that gives you a little more faith in humanity.

So I promise, as long as you’re still breathing, everything will be fine.

Reason #4: You’ll Discover Who You Are

Solo traveling is a lonesome endeavor. You sometimes spend hours without talking to another human and extended periods can feel taxing on your sanity.

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Things pop into your mind and it’s hard to discern their true meaning.

This is actually a blessing in disguise!

When the podcasts you downloaded are listened to and your playlist is getting repetitive, you’re the only line of defense between boredom and a good time.

So sing at the top of your lungs in the car, or plop yourself on a bench and watch people go about their daily business and make up stories about how their marriages are failing or they just had a baby with three arms instead of the normal amount. (Or make up happy stories. Whatever works.)

You’ll think of ways to entertain yourself and find that those methods are what make you unique and the awesome bag of fun that, deep down, you know you are.

And during the times of adversity and strife, that’s when you find out what you’re truly made of.

Without anyone to lean on when things get tough, you’ll want to give up and go home. But you won’t. Why would you when you’re experiencing everything the world has to offer?

Reason #3: Free Drinks at the Bar!

Bar-goers love an interesting conversation and are more than happy to buy you a drink when they find out your not a local. Be prepared to share personal anecdotes, thoughts on Donald Trump (topical!), and the history and culture of your hometown.

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Cheers, baby!

PSA: Always remember when traveling and drinking to keep an eye on your drinks, and control how much of it you consume. While there are some fantastic people out there, there are also some terrible ones who are only looking to take advantage of you.

Reason #2: Bye Bye Comfort Zone

One of the biggest benefits to traveling solo is how confident it will make you.

It puts you in the mindset of not worrying about what other people think of you because you’ll never see them again. So asking for directions becomes easier. Striking up conversations is a breeze. Taking control of the dancefloor in a French Disco doesn’t require a second thought.

You realize that life is for living and on a solo trip, you’re the only one who can make that happen.

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“Laissez-nous danser, étranger complet.” (Translation not confirmed to be accurate)

And the best part? When you return home from your journey, all those experiences stick with you and transfer that newfound confidence into your daily life.

Reason #1: It will Be one of the Best Experiences of your Life

Quite the declaration, eh? It’s true.

With the people you’ll meet, the unique experiences you’ll take part in, the lifelong friends you’ll make, and the history and culture you’ll absorb, it will be impossible to say you had a bad time.

You’ll appreciate the little things more, like when the sun sets at just the right angle for the perfect shot.

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You’ll become wiser after listening to a stranger tell you the story of when she was a young army brat and now runs a food truck with her husband.

You’ll have stories to tell your friends and family about the time you kayaked around a lake and just took it all in.

You’ll look back fondly on the time you drove aimlessly down backroads for hours searching for the perfect spot to wait for the moon to pass in front of the sun.

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And most importantly: You’ll want to do it again.

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I Lost My Passport. Now What?

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The red button won’t solve your problems

You’re in another country, enjoying the sights, the people, and everything new and exciting you’ve been dying to try for years.

Then you realize your passport is missing. Or worse, you get robbed and have your money, identification (including your passport), and personal belongings stolen.

And you don’t have any photocopies…


This is a part of my How To Travel series of blog posts. As time goes on, I’ll have more posts in the series and different series’ to help organize my blog and make it easier for visitors to navigate.


What do you do?

If you’ve been robbed, the most important thing to do is run, don’t walk to your nearest police station and file a police report.

By having a police report, you can file a claim with your insurance company and – if you can pay for it – get a limited-validity emergency passport.

Without any identifying information, a police report is one of your only options to hopefully track your stuff down. Relay every bit of information you can remember about the thief, your location, and potential witnesses. Maybe they’ll catch him, maybe they wont. Right now, that’s the least of your worries.

Your main priority is to recover and protect your identity. Here are the next steps:

1. Contact Your Bank

If you’ve lost your credit and debit cards, you need to put a freeze on them (if you think you’ll get them back), or completely cancel them. You can also replace your cards. Don’t add being broke to your list of things to worry about.

2. Go to Your Embassy or Consulate

If you have no money, you can’t afford a limited-validity emergency passport…

…But the nice folks at the embassy can pull up your information and confirm you’re who you say you are, giving you a stamped photocopy of your passport. It’s possible to get through customs with this, but don’t count on it. Your safest option is to buy a limited-validity emergency passport. For Americans, it costs the same as a normal passport.

Any documentation you get from here can also be used when you make an insurance claim.

3. Get Some Money

With the stamped photocopy of your passport, you can now breathe a little easier. You have proof of identification, which will help you get money from a bank or Western Union.

Head to an internet café or some place with free internet and find a way to contact home or friends (the police will let you use their phone if you’ve lost your laptop or cell.) You owe it to your mother to let her know what happened. Plus, she might send you money because she loves you.

If however, your parents are struggling financially or you still have money in the bank, head to a bank! There you can grab money from your accounts and get closer to sense of normalcy.

4. Back EVERYTHING Up

You should have done this before you left but you made a mistake. It happens, and now you have to face the consequences. Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone screws up from time to time.

After you’ve given yourself a pep talk, get online and find all necessary documents and information you had before it was lost. Put it in your cloud storage (Google and Microsoft give you a small amount of free storage when you open an account), send copies to someone you trust, carry a copy with you, and put copies in each of your bags.

This step will ensure you’re covered (for the most part) if you get struck by lightning twice in one trip.

In Conclusion

You can breathe easy again. Relax, have a beer, travel smart, and enjoy the rest of your trip!

How to Apply for a Passport

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So you’re ready to see what’s out there…

You’ve thought about it for years, telling your friends, “Italy seems nice” or “I’ve always wanted to visit Australia.” and now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and see the world.

The first thing you’ll need to do: Get a passport.


This is a part of my How To Travel Solo series of blog posts. As time goes on, I’ll have more posts in the series and different series’ to help organize my blog and make it easier for visitors to navigate.

Because I’m American, I’m going to summarize the American Passport System and the process for legal U.S. citizens. If you’re renewing your passport, you can do so here


What is a Passport?

Simply put, a passport is a government issued document that lets you travel to other countries. As long as you’re older than 16 when you apply, it’s valid for 10 years.

A passport usually has the following identifying information in it:

  • Your name
  • Your nationality
  • Your picture
  • Your date of birth
  • Your signature

The moment you reach a new country you are required to present your passport to Customs and Border Officials. In most cases, No passport = no entry.

It’s one of the only ways to prove you’re who you say you are. So if you lose your passport while you’re in another country, you’re in a heap of trouble. This is why it’s important to have multiple photocopies of your passport.

There is a process (which takes time) and a fee to obtain a passport, which is all described below.


How to Apply for a Passport

Applying for a passport can seem daunting at first. You might have all these ideas in your head of how it’s a process and it’s going to be so much work. You may also be thinking about this huge decision you’ve decided to make.

I mean, you’re about to set off and see the world. Who wouldn’t be at least a little nervous to take such a monstrous leap?

Good news! It’s easier than you think.

Your first step is to find some documents. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Proof of Citizenship – Your birth certificate is your best bet. You’ll also need a photocopy if this.
  2. Identification – Have a driver’s license or other State-issued ID? Bring that along with a photocopy of it.
  3. Proof of Relationship – Only required for children under 16.
  • Also, you should know your Social Security number

Next, you’ll need to take your passport photo. You can:

  1. Take it yourselfSee here for requirements
  2. Pay for it – Corner pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid have passport photo services for a small fee. They’ll get it right the first time.

Now that you have the proper materials, you can apply for your passport!

To do so, you will need to fill out a Form DS-11 with one caveat: You have to apply in person.

You are however, able to:

Finally, you have to find a Passport Acceptance Facility near you. Your results will be mostly U.S. Post Offices and Clerk of Courts offices.

By doing all of these steps before you visit the office, you’ll  save yourself a ton of time and a headache or two.

In Conclusion

This blog post was a way for me to better understand the passport process before I apply for a passport myself while simultaneously building the website one post at a time. Some of the information may be inaccurate so please use the official Department of State website to avoid any problems you may face while applying for your passport. It’s where I found most of the information posted here.