Recently I embarked on a two-day journey back and forth from Chicago by myself and survived. For those of you who are nervous about traveling alone, you should be. It was indeed nerve wracking imagining being abducted or getting lost, scheduling car transportation, sitting next to strangers on the plane, starting small talk and desperately trying to end it, attempting to find good food at unfamiliar places while trying not to look like a loser.
Believe it or not, I actually had a great time traveling alone. So, as a survivor of traveling alone, I would like to share some advice for those brave souls who want to try it themselves. Afterall, I’m no Odysseus; if I could do it, you can too… maybe.
- Don’t panic. Before you start your journey, stop thinking about all the “what ifs” and those terrifying stranger-danger stories. Just breathe. Tell yourself you will be fine and quickly go through all the inspirational chapel speeches given by Mr. Fortunato in your head: you are amazing, you can do this, you stand for independence and great leadership.
- Make a specific itinerary, and keep it in a convenient place. It should include the exact address of all the places you will visit and the time you are expected to arrive. This will help you to organize your trip and manage your time.
- Schedule your transportation in advance. Plane tickets and other transportation tickets can get ridiculously expensive the closer you get to your departure date. If the airline has online check-in, do that. It can save a lot of time. Also, plan out your ground transportation in advance, especially when you have late night flights. It can be an annoying to wait in a long line for taxi when all you want to do is go back to your hotel and sleep.
- Contact your hotel beforehand. Even though many hotels allow those who are under 21 to book rooms, some may require a adult to be present during check-in. Be sure to call the property in advance to confirm that you can check-in by yourself.
When en Route:
- Keep an open mind. We all know stranger danger. But don’t make assumptions and miss out on the great opportunities to make new friends. You will be surprised how friendly and welcoming people are even outside of the Blair Bubble. Uber drivers are usually a great start. The Uber driver I met in Chicago talked to me about the Kardashian’s family history for my whole ride to the airport.
- Yelp is your friend. Finding a good place to eat can be frustrating when traveling alone. But this is the perfect time to try something new! Forget about Mickey D’s, Starbucks, Chipotle and other boring usuals. You can trouble your advisor for those mundane options when you are back in Blairstown. Go on Yelp.
Emergency Safety Tips:
- Keep your friends and family updated. Share your itinerary with your emergency contacts so in case of an emergency they know where you are.
- Be Safe! Download apps such as Safetrek which allows you to contact the police and has a tracking system with your location.
- Meh. In case of life-threatening embarrassment like farting in front of strangers, sneezing and having snot come out of your nose, or rambling random words out of nervousness, just roll along. Whatever. Who cares. YOLO. They are strangers who you will probably never see again in your entire life.
(Copyright 2017 Chriss Liu)