Traveling is one of my passions in life that keeps me motivated throughout all the tough times and long nights. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert by any means, but I’ve definitely made an effort to incorporate as much long and short haul travel into my life - and I’ve learned a few tips along the way.
1. Bring a portable battery charger
This is a lifesaver! Since we live in the 21st Century and basically can’t live without our phones, having a portable charger was a game changer for me. When I went to Europe on a solo backpacking trip and just having the backup of extra energy gave me peace of mind. I ended up using my Google Maps quite often (it still knows where you are as long as you map out your destination on WiFi) to get around. Being on my own, I felt that I had to be careful that I didn’t end up in some shady alleyway by myself.
2. Also bring hand sanitizer
This one I’m sure most people think of, but I cannot stress enough how important this is to me. While traveling, we come across a ton of germs, and not all of them are native to where we come from. We’re constantly touching things that literally tens of thousands of people have touched in a day, and who knows where their hands have been!? A lot of times (especially in South East Asia) the bathrooms are not sanitary (or are non existent) and when you’re finished doing your business, you wanna make sure that your hands a free of germs. I’m by no means a germophobe, but when it comes to traveling, I’m constantly hand sanitizing because I find that it also helps prevent getting sick while away from home which is the last thing I’d want.
This was something new I learned on my last trip to Spain. It is an app similar to Google Maps, but you can use it offline. How it works is when you’re on WiFi, you download the city/region you will be visiting. Once this is downloaded to your phone, you’ll be able to use it like a live map when you’re out roaming the streets. The pros to this are that I know it will always work if I’m in a pinch and there’s no WiFi to get Google Maps. It’s also great because I find that the interface is much easier to navigate than Google Maps is. This app will give you the location of all the train station, places of interest, food nearby, and even the names of hotels in the area.
Some cons of the app are that you need to download it prior to exploring. If you’re going on a spontaneous trip and leave WiFi without first downloading the area, you won’t be able to use the app. Another thing that I found with the app is just that the navigational arrow is just a little bit less synched than Google Maps’ so visually can be a bit hard to use. Other than that, it’s an awesome app, and I’d highly recommend it even if you’re going to be wandering around your own city!
4. Always bring a pen
A pen may not seem that important, but it’s always always a good thing to have on you. Even if you don’t plan on documenting your travels, you never know when you’ll need to write something down. From writing down directions, to filling out forms, to even simply jotting down a quick inspirational thought. A pen is a mighty sword.
5. Pick your hostels wisely
I learned this the hard way, but hostels can really make or break a trip. Honestly. Although it is often seen as just a place to sleep, being a solo traveler can get really lonely. So if you’re like me and you need a little push to meet people, staying in a hostel that provides the right atmosphere for this is key. The first hostel I stayed at had absolutely no social scene whatsoever. There really was nothing wrong with the hostel itself, it was clean, in an ideal location, and had free breakfast. The issue I had was that there was no common area or activities where the guests could get together and mingle. This left me with no socialization the entire time I was there and definitely had a negative impact in my experience of the city.
On the flip side, I have also stayed at some great hostels that had a common area to meet people, and daily activities within and outside the hostel. My experiences in these cities were much more joyous, left me with fonder memories, and have me longing to go back. Even to cities that I didn’t necessarily find that interesting, being in an environment that provides people to explore with and be social with made all the difference in my trip. Everyone is a different traveler with different travel styles, but just make sure to thoroughly do your research to make sure that the vibe of your hostel suits what you’re looking for.
6. Go on a group tour
Before my last trip to Europe, I was 100% against group tours. I thought that they were just for lazy people who wanted to get a ride on a double decker bus and take touristy photos saying they’d checked another place of their bucket list. Boy was I wrong. What I found was that going on a tour was a great way to: a) get familiarized with the city and your whereabouts, and b) gives meaning to all the incredible sights and monuments around you. I actually really wish I had started going on tours much earlier into my travels because they were really eye opening. The tour guides are filled with knowledge of the city that even locals don’t know or think about. So even if you’re not a history buff, it’s really awesome to learn about the story behind the sculpture, brick road, alley way, etc, and bring the city to life.
7. Find a free group tour
To build off of my last point, a lot of hostels do offer free group tours, or know of companies that offer them. Of course there are the paid tours or specialized tours you can go on, but free is always good, right? In Europe, I found that if you wander into the city square, you’ll be bound to find a tour company that’s offering a free group tour. These tours usually give you the basics of the city and help you figure out the lay of the land, but they’re a great resource to talk to if you’re looking to learn about something specific, and are also a great starting point for meeting fellow travelers.
8. Bring a pair of flip flops
Even if you’re traveling in the winter, it’s always a good idea to bring flip flops with you to use in the shower in hostels. Even if they do clean the bathrooms daily, there are still several other people walking through the bathroom and ain’t no one got time to contract a foot fungus while on vacay.
9. Pack light, and roll roll roll
Pretty common knowledge, but always important to remember. Rolling up clothes takes up less space than folding them which makes packing oh so much easier. But since you’ll be able to pack more things, make sure that you’re not over packing. Always keep in mind that when traveling, most people tend to wear the same outfit over and over again. This doesn’t mean that we’re all just lazy, but traveling is tiring and we want to be comfy (but cute for pictures) so once you’ve found that ideal outfit combo of a few clothes, it usually sticks and everything else that was packed doesn’t really get worn. In the worst case scenario, you’ll usually be able to buy something simple if a piece of clothing gets ruined, lost, or stolen.
10. Get Lost!
Although I had previously talked about relying on my maps religiously, it’s still important to put the phone away and get lost. Now I don’t mean wander down a dark sketchy street lost, but lost enough that you find a hole in the wall restaurant to try, or a secret park outside of the bustling tourist centers. It is one of the most serene moments and my favourite part of traveling. Being able to immerse myself in the city, take it all in, and disconnect from my phone, social media, and life at home are the precious fleeting moments that I live for.
Jessika Noda is the VP of Programs at YWiB. Jessika is the Founder of Jiyu: A boutique business management agency that was crafted with the intention of creating freedom for entrepreneurs and small start ups.
Jessika has a love for technology and innovation, as well as the travel bug and passion for anything food!