As the holiday break approaches, I am encouraging everyone to scratch off a goal on their bucket list.
My last column poked fun at the term we all remember as middle schoolers: Y.O.L.O.
This time, I am telling you to pick a number out of a hat and go do it.
For me, it was traveling over the big blue for the first time… and doing it alone.
This is something I was not originally excited for, as I have always preferred being with larger crowds and friend groups.
But I stand by this: everyone should travel alone at least once.
Here are some tips for those solo-travelers, in bullet-list form.
Research the area you’ll be traveling to. While I was familiar with the idea of Thailand, my friend encouraged me to watch documentaries, travel vlogs and Instagram stories of people who have traveled to the area.
This is how I found the cities I wanted to visit and the things I wanted to try.
This is also important to learn about customs, traditions and basic transportation, leading to my next point…
Download a traveling app for your phone.
If your destination is in the U.S. then Uber or Lyft would work fine. In Thailand, they use Grab.
While I loved the idea of TukTuk traveling, I could get a GrabBike for 28 Baht, as opposed to the TukTuk’s 100 baht… and more traffic! No thank you.
Learn basic language phrases. Duolingo is your new friend here.
Learning accurate and polite ways to say some important phrases— hello, thank you, yes please, no, stop, can I have [insert item/ or point], how much, do you speak English, can you bring me to the restroom—is essential.
Outside of English, most other languages change words or endings depending on who is saying them or who they are directed towards.
While I learned this when I first began learning French, Thai is different.
Thai changes the ending of “hello” from female to male. So as I learned “Sawadee-KAH,” all men said “Sawadee-KRAP.” Sometimes, people wouldn’t even say “Sawadee,” they would only say the endings (Kah and Krap).
If I hadn’t done basic research, and downloaded a Thai language app for my phone, I would have missed very important interactions when people said basic greetings to me.
Ditch the expensive hotels. Hostels and Airbnb’s can be cheaper and are not horrible all of the time.
I only stayed in hostels and spent very little money on my stay in all three cities.
Hostels are also known to be for travelers and adventure seekers.
You may make new friends for the trip or meet people for future travels! Not sure about wanting to go to a hostel alone your first time?
Work for one! There are many different work and volunteer options for international hostels, and they seek English speakers!
You’re always going to overpack your first time. How are you traveling? Are you backpacking from place to place, like I did, or are you staying in one city, room or resort?
If you are doing the latter, feel free to overpack because you know you’ll just be in one place. If you’re following a road similar to mine, leave the giant suitcase at home. Pack—and then take out half of what’s inside.
When I was traveling, many were amazed at the largeness of my suitcase. To me, it was a normal suitcase. I had only ever used carry-ons, but I have seen hundreds of people using these when traveling for a week… and I was gone over a month! I learned my lesson.
A backpack and a small suitcase is all you need. If you forget something, buy it there.
Walk the walk. By the end of my trip, I had a total of five people (locals and foreigners) who thought I had traveled before or had been in Thailand long-term. How did I give off this impression? I learned small cultural cues in body language, I walked with my head high and shoulders back and did not look at my phone for directions. Something I learned within the first few days in Bangkok was that if you look like a foreigner, you get treated as a foreigner.
If you can make people think you’ve been traveling for a while then no one will bother you with scams or rouses.
One way I did this was by plugging in my desired location at my hostel and using my earbuds to guide me.
If Siri told me she was rerouting, I turned around and went the other way.
Be friendly. You are traveling to learn about another country and culture.
Don’t forget to socialize with locals because, as I said in my last column, people are more uncomfortable being the outsider than the locals who are around them.
Most of the time, people were afraid to speak to me because I intimidated them by just being an English speaker.
Once I broke that barrier, people were excited that I wanted to know about their home.
Lastly, something for the lovely women of Keene State College: do not forget the safety rules we were taught since kindergarten.
At night, avoid alleyways. I loved talking to many people, but there were also creepy men and rude women who saw my skin and youth and believed they could say things and even convince me to share information with them, which I refused to do.
There were some very kind men who grew a protective shield around me during my stay, and a very kind woman who owned a hostel I stayed at (she gave me the single room for my privacy), but not everyone is your friend.
The rules don’t change just because you’re in a new country, state or city.
I’ve also heard that wearing an engagement ring can help in certain foreign countries (nothing too fancy, though, as you don’t want to look too wealthy and have people know you’re alone).
There are so many more things I could advise or encourage you all to do but those are the most important things I want you all to think about for this December.
A final thanks to any loyal readers who have followed my column this semester; I can’t wait to see the things you all do! Happy finals!
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