Transitions are not fun.
They can be exciting. In life and in travel. But transitions, times of significant change, are challenging.
Transitions are times when there are new things to learn – whether it’s a new language or a subway system – patterns are broken and a new social dynamic is at play.
Transitions are inevitably times of stress.
As a solo traveler, you may experience the stress of transitions more than the average traveler. Being totally responsible for yourself, you are alone in navigating the change. But there are things you can do to mitigate the stress. I give you…
10 tips for stress-free solo travel – especially for transitions
- Do some advance planning. I’m not a big planner but I do make sure I know the basics. Before you leave, be sure to understand the visa requirements and spend a few moments to understand the currency exchange. Make sure your passport doesn’t expire for at least three months as some countries have such a minimum for visitors.
- Book your first night’s accommodation in advance. Arriving in a new city, not knowing how it works and still having to find a place to stay can be stressful. Plus, you can end up spending more than your budget because you just have to get a place. Book your first night’s stay before taking off so that you have a safe place to land when you arrive.
- Study a map. I love maps. They provide a bird’s eye view of a new destination. They give you a sense of distance between places and, therefore, what’s possible to do in a day. You’ll also get a sense of where the areas are that you don’t want to go for safety reasons. All of this can reduce stress.
- Arrive at the airport, train or bus station early. Whether it’s traffic congestion or a massive line-up at the airport, many things can slow you down when trying to catch a flight. Who needs the extra stress of possibly not making it. Take something to entertain yourself and arrive early.
- Arrive well before dusk. Arriving in the dark can make it difficult to find your lodging. In daylight everything is easier and looks better. Plus, if you don’t like the accommodations you’ve booked, you have time to change them.
- Think about how you’ll get around. Use public transit to save money and get closer to the real people but budget for taxis on occasion. They may be your best bet to get from the trains station or airport to your first night’s accommodation and certainly the safest way to get back to your hotel after dark.
- Don’t plan much for your first day. Take the time to settle in and get to know the city and how it works. Do people line up for the bus? What’s the street food like and where are the busiest stands? What’s within walking distance of your lodging?
- Ask questions. As you’re navigating a new city, ask questions of taxi drivers, store clerks and bar tenders – anyone who could be of assistance.
- Add important numbers to your phone. Research useful apps for your phone and download them with free WiFi. Get the front-desk person to help you add important local numbers to your phone such as the one for your hotel. And, though you may not want to stay connected with home, have these numbers in your phone as well.
- Stay calm. You think better when you’re calm. If you find yourself getting stressed, find a seat, sit down and think the situation through. The answer is likely right before you or the person to ask is nearby.
BTW, stress can be a good thing.
In this delightful TED Talk about stress we learn that new studies suggest that it is not stress that is bad for our health as such but rather the belief that our stress is harmful. Carrying around the notion that stress is bad for you is itself dangerous. In fact, the data shows that if it were considered in the ranking of diseases that kill us, the belief that stress is harmful would be number 15, more harmful than skin cancer and HIV Aids. This video is quite fun and informative.