Today’s blog post comes to us from Drake University student & #APIabroad blogger Maddie Topliff! She’s studying abroad with us in Seville, Spain. If you want to join us in beautiful Sevilla, we do have some upcoming application deadlines! Be sure to visit our websiteor give us a call at 800-844-4124 if you need help finishing up that application.
I just returned from a solo trip to Barcelona a couple of days ago, and boy do I have a recommendation for you! During your study abroad experience, travel alone at least once. Why? Read on!
1. Because it’s your money
Want to splurge on your hostel? Want to tighten your belt when it comes to meals? You can! Because your dollar bills (pardon me, your euros) are the only ones in the conversation. No one else’s! It was up to me to decide how, when and where I wanted to spend my money.
2. Because schedules don’t always mesh
All your friends busy for the weekend when you’re free? Don’t feel obligated to stay behind. You can do this by yourself! We’re at the age where schedule conflicts start to become the norm. You just have to decide whether they’re gonna hold you back or not. Take advantage, and go where you want to go.
3. Because it’s your decision
In the same vein, it may be that all of the friends that you make abroad don’t want to travel to the same places. That’s okay. You don’t need to abandon your pre-determined travel dreams! My roommate booked a trip to Morocco for the same weekend!
4. Because you know yourself best
This past weekend in Barcelona, I really wanted to liven up one of my evenings with some sort of special event. I settled on seeing Rent the musical in Spanish. It was AMAZING. But not all of my friends are huge theatre nerds. But since I was alone, La Vie Bohème! I knew what I would enjoy most, so I went out and did it on my own time.
5. Because you’re surrounded by people all the time
And for my fellow introverts out there, talking to people all day can be exhausting, right? Sometimes the most relaxing weekend is when you take time to decompress alone. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay put. Even taking a small day trip to walk along the nearest beach or through some charming streets can be enough to clear your head and reset.
6. And finally, because you’re still growing up
What better way to learn more about yourself and what you like/need than to force yourself outside of your comfort zone? It also teaches you responsibility and accountability. You’re planning everything for yourself, so when something goes slightly awry, you will be challenged to problem-solve on your own, which becomes increasingly important as we near real adulting years. The good news is that you’re super capable!
So now you’re convinced and have decided to plan a solo trip. What’s next? Here are my top do’s & don’ts!
1. Do make a budget
Yes, it’s your money, but when you’re traveling alone, there are less people around to convince you to NOT impulse buy. Deciding what you’re going to spend your money on beforehand will give you an idea of what to look forward to when the time finally comes. And being responsible and aware of what you’re spending will relieve stress.
2. Do book a hostel if you want to meet people
Most hostels are great about offering a plentitude of activities for their guests, from walking tours to group dinners. If you’re looking to make new friends, these activities are a must! I met a handful of people on my Barcelona trip, and it made the experience that much more enjoyable.
3. Do your best to arrive to your destination during daylight hours
It won’t help your rookie traveler nerves to amble around alone after sunset in an unfamiliar city. Booking flights/trains/buses that have you arriving before 6pm or even 7pm will give you plenty of time to sort out getting to your hostel/AirBnb while the sun is still up. Trust me; you’ll feel more comfortable on your first day, and that comfort will spill over into the rest of your trip.
4. Don’t broadcast that you’re traveling alone to the whole world… until maybe after the fact
I get it; you’re proud of yourself! I was too. However, safety should still be a top priority. Only tell people you trust about the specifics of your travels. That means maybe leaving the specifics of your itinerary off of the web. But if you want to brag on social media after you get back about how you managed to navigate a city all by yourself, go for it! No harm in that.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask strangers to take pictures of you
You can totally settle for selfies; I bet you’re a pro! But don’t be afraid to ask for help (after assessing the situation). Yes, it may be a bummer that your trusty photo-taking friend is not with you, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones that know how to take a photo. These are your memories; don’t feel embarrassed! I like to zero in on moms or other teenage girls. They understand.
6. Don’t forget to get out of your head
It’s gonna be fine! And I am so excited for you! Go get ’em.
Palabra del día (Word of the Day)
Did you know the word ticket exists in Spanish, too? However, it’s not a catch-all word like it is in English. In Spanish, it pertains to the English equivalent of a receipt that you’d receive after buying something in a store. For travel, you say billete, for tickets to a game or concert, you say entrada, and when you get pulled over for speeding, the police would give you a multa, which means a fine. Got it?