It can be a bit daunting to know where to start, what with 7 continents, 195 countries, infinite beaches and forests and cities and landmarks and cultures to chose from.
Here’s how I ‘plan’ my travels. Why bother? To save costs, to stay safe as a solo female traveller, and to ensure I’m getting the best experience I can.
There’s evidently no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to ‘plan’, and often the best thing is to leave the details out. To draw an outline in pencil, then leave the colouring in for the travelling itself. But here’s a template to help you know where, and how, to start.
Love, Sophia x
PS, Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter where you go, how much money you have or where you’re staying. Yes, you have to be safe. But beyond this, the destination, the journey, is never really a place but rather a new way of looking at things. I couldn’t urge you more to just go. Go now, while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about money, about practicalities. Just make it happen. Experience is more valuable than money will ever be. The older you get, the more responsibilities you gain, and it becomes increasingly difficult to take risks. So travel now, while you have nothing to lose and a whole world to gain.
- Where have you always wanted to go?
- What culture interests you?
- Any landmarks/ famously friendly communities/ events that are specific to a place?
- Where is most beautiful?
- What is most different to where you currently live?
Have a look on Pinterest and Tripadvisor for ideas. Read different blogs to find out travellers’ experiences. Or maybe a book or piece of music might spark your interest in a location.
- When are you planning on going? What will the weather be like then? Is this weather what you want? Think about whether it’s monsoon season, or whether all the roads will be snowed in.
- What kind of vibes do you want? Do you want a ‘holiday’, or a ‘travelling’ experience? Think about whether it’s a touristy destination or not. What time of the year you’re going- will this be high or low season in terms of other travellers?
- Consider cost– some parts of the world are far cheaper than others. If you travel during that area’s low season, you can also save costs.
- Safety also is worth thinking about. For example, in general it is far easier for a solo female traveller to go round west Europe than it is for you to do the Middle East or Central Africa on your own. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, but it’s worth thinking about whether you are looking for a laid-back ‘holiday’ or not.
- Think about transportation. Are flights/ transportation to and from the destination affordable?
- Do you want to visit one area/ country, or keep options to explore an entire region if you wish? If so, don’t buy a return ticket home! Research what it’s like to travel into different regions/ countries from your start point. Is this do-able and safe? Think about additional visa costs to each additional country.
- As I’ve mentioned, some places are cheaper than others, for example, lots of South East Asia and South America.
- Look up whether your nationality means you have to pay for a visa. If you have two passports (wahey!) that often means one of your passports will help you get a free (or cheaper) visa. Also look into how long the process is to get a visa– do you have to go to your embassy, apply for an e-visa online, or do you just buy a visa once you arrive at the destination?
- All other costs are dependant on the destination, but accommodation can get cheaper during low season.
- So, do you want a hotel, to fulfil the generic ‘holiday’ plan? I really wouldn’t recommend one. Not only are they far more expensive than the alternatives, but they are also far more lonely. You don’t really hang out with other people from your hotel like you would in a hostel. Perhaps if it’s a romantic getaway for you and your partner, but even still, hostels often have private rooms for half the price of a hotel.
- Big dorm rooms in hostels are awesome. You meet so many like minded, fun people. Hostels also often provide free breakfast, and a huge array of cheap/ free activities- often yoga/ meditation, and organised dinners. What’s not to love!?
- There are ways to get a place to sleep for even less money. First, Couchsurfing. I’ve never tried it myself, but intend to on my next trip! Second, ask around (friends, family) to see if anyone happens to own a place/ knows someone who does.
- Transport to and from destination
- Check out Skyscanner for cheap flights. Again, if you book during low season, these can sometimes be cheaper. And flights midweek are also usually cheaper.
- As would be expected, the distance away of the destination often correlates with price. As does it’s popularity (the more popular, the cheaper the flights usually). All things to think about.
- Transport within destination
- What’s the public transport like? If it’s irregular/ not recommended, then do you have enough money to hire a car or bike (and would you want to)? Or would you consider hitch-hiking– if so, research the attitudes towards it in that country, the hitch-hiking ‘etiquette’ as such.
- Buying food from street shops and supermarkets, then cooking it yourself, is the cheapest way.
- Look for hostels with free breakfast. That sorts one of your three meals out.
- Streetfood is usually pretty cheap, as are some of the places locals eat. Avoid fancy restaurants.
- It goes without saying, but don’t bother with chains. What’s the point of going abroad if you’re going to be eating at Starbucks? Support the local community, not some tax avoiding corporate business man.
- If someone invites you to their home to eat, take up the offer. (Obviously trust your instincts as to how safe you feel). Not only is it exceptionally kind, but also a free meal!
- Nights out. Think about the booze, the entrance fees, the edible hangover cures…
- Souvenirs. For you, and for all those friends who would pester you if you don’t…
- Make/ save up money. Once you’ve calculated the vague costings, you need to make that money! Obviously, get a job haha. But you can also sell your belongings. Some people collect handbags, others collect cars, but I’d rather collect countries. I’d rather own what I can carry inside me- languages, people, experiences.
- Learn some of the local language(s). It’s arrogant to assume everyone you meet will understand English. Even if you can barely say the social niceties, locals appreciate that you’ve made an effort. If you can learn how to read the alphabet, this can help with reading sign posts and ingredients lists, for example.
- Packing. I’ll be posting a detailed guide as to what/ how to pack, so watch this space!…