Browsing Tag

solo travel


The Year of Traveling Fearlessly: Eating Alone

March 25, 2016

Eating AloneEating alone is probably the second biggest excuse I hear from people as to why they do not like to travel alone. It is the one thing that most countries have in common; most humans are brought up eating with family and friends and eating alone is foreign. There are benefits to eating with others, but there are benefits to eating alone as well. In some ways, it is like traveling alone. You can eat where you want and what you want when you want. Some studies state that eating alone is healthier because you won’t be pressured into eating things you don’t want, like dessert. It gives you time to savor the food, and that is especially important when trying to understand a culture. But eating alone can be daunting for some people and may keep someone from traveling solo or going out to eat while traveling solo. Some of the fears that were mentioned to me when I asked about eating alone included boredom, being ignored by staff, upsetting staff, being targeted by thieves, unwanted attention or visitors and being pitied. If this describes you or just want to enjoy eating alone more, here are some things to help you confront your fear and maybe become some who loves eating alone, like me!

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1. Overcoming Boredom – You know that you will be eating alone on a solo trip, so come prepared. Bringing a book to read is one of my favorite things to do while eating alone. I get to catch up on the reading I have been putting off for so long. If you bring your guidebook, you can plan your next day of sightseeing. People watching is another one of my favorite activities while eating alone, especially in a big tourist city! I love hearing all the languages and watching their interactions with their traveling companions. Sitting at the bar is another way I like to help stop boredom. This is especially helpful if you prefer to speak to someone during your meal. Usually, the bartender will chat with you while you are eating. Chat to your neighbors if you are brave enough. I do this occasionally, especially if the restaurant isn’t crowded. Sometimes people talk and sometimes they don’t, but it is worth a try.

2. Being ignored – I have been ignored while eating alone but also ignored when with people, so I am not sure if this is just because you are alone. In some countries, waitstaff are paid well and don’t rely on tips, and they may not be as attentive as you are used to. This is especially true for Americans as we are used to waitstaff being attentive for tips. The waitstaff in foreign countries aren’t being rude; they just aren’t rushing you out. However, being ignored does happen. Be friendly with the waitstaff. Being on your feet is tiring, and not everyone is nice to them. Say please and thank you in the local language. Hopefully, this will entice them to return to your table.  Order an adult beverage, if you drink. Alcohol is a restaurants biggest profit driver, and they are more likely to return to your table if they want to sell you another drink. You don’t have to drink more than one, but they will keep checking. Don’t let them sit you in a corner. A few times, I have been placed in a corner while dining alone. I think they thought they were doing me a favor, but in reality, the waiter forgets about you and you can’t people watch.

3. Staying safe – Several people mentioned they felt like they were being targeted while eating solo and while I haven’t, it is definitely something to be aware of.  Keep valuables in sight. Don’t place your handbag on the back of the chair and men should place their wallets in their front pockets. If you place your jacket on your chair, remove cell phones and wallets. Read up on local scamsRecently, I was doing this, and it is common in this country for people to come to your table with a sign or paper and ask you for money. The sign or paper gets placed over your cell phone, and while you are talking to them, they steal your phone! Get the staff involved if needed. If someone is bothering you, tell the staff so they can help, especially if don’t speak the local language. In my experience, the annoying person is known to them, and the staff will get them to leave. Don’t leave your belongings to go to the restroom. I have been guilty of this because I didn’t want the waiter to think I had run off without paying. Just tell them where you are going. If you are choking, know how to do the Heimlich maneuver on yourself and try to get assistance by making a scene.

4. Enjoying the experience – One person said they were worried about what to order, so I suggest asking the waiter. They will recommend what they like and usually try to make sure it is something you would like. Trust me; they want you to enjoy your experience so you will spread the word.  Bring a phrasebook; the phrasebook does two things for you. First, you can communicate better with the waiter and second; you can look up menu items. When I was in Italy the first time alone, I went to several restaurants that were not in tourist areas, and the menus were not in English. I had a phrasebook that had food translations in the back. I was able to order without any help and was confident I would enjoy what I had ordered. Take your time when eating alone. Don’t eat fast and get out. Food should be savored, and that cannot be done in a hurry. Practice eating solo in your hometown. Eating by yourself in your hometown allows you to practice without the fear of the language barrier or wondering what to order. You will feel better about doing it again after you do it in a comfortable setting.

What tips do you have for eating alone while traveling solo? Share with us in the comments!


The Year of Traveling Fearlessly: Planning Your First Solo Trip

January 29, 2016

Traveling Fearlessly, Solo TravelThis year I want to encourage everyone to travel solo, and this is why I am introducing a new monthly series on traveling fearlessly! The main focus will be on solo travel, but may also include general travel tips. I have lots of ideas for posts lined up, but I want to hear what you guys want me to write about. What questions, concerns, fears, etc. do you have about solo travel?  Leave me a comment or email me! I will be going in-depth on what my tips are for successful solo travel and tell you some of the mistakes I have made while traveling solo. So let’s get right into it with the first post!

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Planning Your First Solo Trip

You have finally decided to go on your first solo trip! You may be excited, but also nervous. By doing some planning, you will erase some of those fears and enjoy the trip even more. Here are the steps to planning your first solo trip.

1. Decide on how far you are comfortable going. Not every trip needs to be an international trip or even a trip that involves plane travel. The first trip should be about making yourself comfortable with the idea of solo travel, not an epic adventure. Are you willing to go 50 miles, 100 miles or even further? I would suggest this trip be at least an overnight trip, though. This way, if you are nervous about staying alone, you only have to worry about one night. This will be great practice!

2. Pick a destination.  Once you have decided how far you want to go, look to see what destinations are within that area. Maybe there is an interesting historical site or a museum there you want to visit. Pick something in a place that you really want to see. This will help motivate you to go there.

3. Decide on a budget and length of the trip.  Now that you have picked a destination, you should decide how much you want or can afford to spend. This will help you decide on accommodation, meals and activities. If you have decided to stay more than one night, then you can decide on a length of the trip based on your budget. You should consider the cost of transportation, fuel, meals and activity costs.

4. Make an itinerary. Plan each day of the trip, including travel days. For the travel days, plan where you might stop to eat or get fuel, if you are driving. If you are flying, decide how you will get to your hotel from the airport. Then plan what you want to do on what days. While some people, like me, are not big planners, I think for first-time solo travelers, having a plan calms the nerves. Don’t plan every minute of the day, but have a general idea of what you want to see and how long it will take. Plan where you want to eat for your meals. This will lessen the anxiety of eating alone as you can walk confidently into a restaurant and ask for a table. If you vary from the plan, great and if you aren’t comfortable, you can always go back to the plan!

5. Make a plan for emergencies. The chances of something happening to you on a trip is rare. I haven’t had a true emergency on any of my travels. But it is good to decide in advance of what you will do if something does happen. This way you won’t worry about it and in the unlikely event something does happen, you will be calm because you are prepared. Tell family or friends where you are going, where you are staying with contact details and how long you will be gone. Find out where the local pharmacy and hospital is in case you need them. Make note of your hotel address if you are out and need to get back in a taxi. If you have been brave and gone to a foreign country, have the hotel write down the address in the local language. Have a backup credit card and leave some cash locked in the safe in your room in case you lose either one. (This has happened to me. Lost one of my credit cards on my first day in Rome, but had another one, so no big deal!)


These are the basics. I will go more in-depth about several of these topics over the year. If this has inspired you to go on your first solo trip, please let me know! I would love to hear about it. If I get some great stories, I can share them here on the blog (with your permission, of course.)

Friday Favorites will return next Friday. The next post in the Traveling Fearlessly series will be posted on the last Friday of each month. Again, if you have questions you want me to answer regarding solo travel, drop me a note or leave a comment!

Europe, Italy, Travel

Venice as a Solo Traveler

August 24, 2015

Venice as a Solo Traveler, Piazza San MarcoAh Venice, the city of romantic gondola rides and Casanova! Most people think of Venice as being a city for couples and not for the single traveler. But I am here to tell you that Venice IS for the single traveler. Not once while I was there did I ever regret going alone. Here are my seven reasons for loving Venice as a solo traveler.

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1. The narrow streets – I loved all the narrow streets, but being with someone else would have meant someone being the leader or the follower. How romantic is it to follow someone around the whole trip and not being able to have a conversation?

2. Getting lost – I enjoyed getting lost on those narrow streets, and I am not sure if a companion would have been so patient with me. I have a good sense of direction, so sometimes I just started walking in the general direction of the place I was going!

3. People watching – Not that you can’t do this with a partner, but I sat for several hours in Piazza San Marco watching people. I enjoyed the silence and my thoughts. (And an Aperol Spritz!)

4. Finding food – Being alone allowed me to dictate when I ate and where I ate. Usually, this meant wandering around for an hour or so before I decided. And since I was by myself, no one asked if I had a reservation!

5. Going to back to my room early – Yes, I sound old, but I had bought two bottles of wine at the winery and I couldn’t take them to Qatar. I went back to my room after dinner and rested my tired feet, drank wine and read.

6. The walkability – Because I was alone I walked almost everywhere instead of taking the airless Vaporetto. I was in Venice during the heat wave and the Vaporetto was sweltering and had no air flow. By walking, I could escape into shops and the shape. With two people, the Vaporetto might have been faster, but I found some cool things by walking.

7. Taking rests – I took plenty of rests on this trip because of the heat. Since I was alone, I decided when and where those rests would be. And to be honest, some of those rests, were a nap back at the hotel in the air conditioning and one was with an Aperol Spritz!

Of course, you can enjoy Venice with your partner or a group of people! But I am so glad I went and didn’t wait for someone else to go with me. Have you been somewhere that is traditionally only for couples, but enjoyed it as a solo traveler?

Driving, Museums, United States

My First Solo Trip Experience

March 10, 2015

The Breakers Mansion in Newport, RI – Photo courtesy of Wally Gobetz, Flickr

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I was telling a story to a friend the other day about my trip to Rhode Island and I realized half way through the telling, that this was my first entirely solo trip. Of course, I had been on planes by myself and done road trips home from college, but this trip I had planned entirely by myself.

In the Fall of 1999, I moved to New York City to do an internship at Saks Fifth Avenue. Much of my free time was spent exploring New York City, but for my birthday, I wanted to do something different. I looked at weekend trips from the city and discovered Newport, Rhode Island and the “summer homes” of New York’s rich. Of course, I am talking old rich. These are the homes of the Astor’s, the Vanderbilt’s and the like. Unfortunately, my fellow fashion friends didn’t want to go or could get time off work. I decided I wasn’t going to let that stop me and I went by myself. Not only did I go on my first solo trip, I also spent my birthday alone for the first time.

I rented a car. This was an entirely new process to me as well.  I had the internet, so I was able to book it online. I had decided that renting a hybrid was most cost efficient as it cost more up front, but fuel would be less. The only thing was I had never been in a hybrid at this point. When I picked up the Toyota Prius, I had no idea how to start it! It was one of the first push button cars. I had to get the rental company to show me how!

The drive up to Rhode Island was great! It was late October and the leaves had changed. I also love to take long drives. I did this frequently in Texas as college was 6 hours away from my parents house.  I also hadn’t driven since I moved to New York City in September and was glad to be in a car.

When I was planning the trip, I knew I wanted to stay in a bed and breakfast not a hotel. My Mom has instilled a love of bed and breakfasts in me from a young age. Thanks Mom! I chose a historic home on the outskirts of Newport. It had lovely views of the water and I had a beautiful room with an attached bath.  To be honest, I don’t remember if the food was good, it was too long ago. However, I do remember the owners being there and telling great stories about the house and rooms.

I love historic homes and going to see massive historic homes was right up my alley.  The mansions were stunning. Looking back, I they remind me of the house in Downton Abbey although more gilded. I saw as many as I could in the two days I was there. I had lovely weather and you could walk from mansion to mansion.

Since it was my birthday, I wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner.  This was my rookie mistake, although I still tend to make this mistake. I didn’t have a reservation anywhere and when I did get one it was for 9pm! I never eat this late, but this time I didn’t care. The waiter was surprised I was by myself and even more surprised when I told him it was my birthday. I had ordered dessert and knowing that I wouldn’t want the whole restaurant to know it was my birthday and I was alone, they didn’t come out and sing but wrote Happy Birthday in chocolate on the plate!

While I didn’t give it much thought at the time, I did pretty good for my first solo trip. Not only did I pick a great place to visit and got there and back with no issues, I also learned I liked traveling by myself and that I could do it and that was probably the most important thing!

 Link to original photo – I usually like to use my own photos in posts, but all these photos are in print format back in Texas!