When I set out on this trip, my head was full of the advice and anecdotes from other travelers. I had read so many blogs and spoken with everyone I could to gather up little bits of advice. I have just over two weeks left, and I realized that I have compiled my own assortment of advice, suggestions, and so many stories!
1. Don’t be afraid to be lost. The first time I found myself completely and utterly lost on this trip was in Dublin, Ireland. I had followed a parade route to see the unveiling of a refurbished monument. It was further than I realized, and my phone died, so I was without GPS. My initial reaction was panic. It was cold, I was tired, and I was completely alone and lost in a foreign place. This is when I started using the wonderful phrase that has nearly become a mantra. “I’ll figure it out.” And I did, with the help of some kind strangers. Since then, I have gotten completely lost several times but haven’t felt panicked. Being lost just means you get to see an area of the city you may otherwise overlook. So don’t be fearful. Instead, think of it as taking the long way around.
2. Don’t feel guilty for being tired. Especially on an extended trip like this. There will be days when you ache, when your head hurts, when you just don’t have energy to socialize or explore. At first, I felt like I was wasting the time I had in a place, if I slept in or didn’t go exploring every day. But you are only human and we all need a few hours to relax sometimes. If you’re like me and still want to feel productive, writing in a travel journal or blog helps. And days like this are a great time to catch up on any novels you’ve been meaning to read. My kindle has been invaluable for that. Taking care of your body and your mind will keep you healthy and able to enjoy the trip a lot more.
3. Drink more water than you think you need. When at home, I always remind my clients to stay hydrated and I never leave the house without a water bottle. When traveling, it is even more important. You may be moving (and sweating) more than usual, plus the sun beating down, coupled with delicious wines or beers, leads to a very easy and fast state of dehydration. Almost every traveler and travel blog will say this, and I guarantee at some point you will still end up feeling the effects of dehydration. Don’t ignore your body’s messages.
4. Talk to everyone. We are used to the notion that strangers are dangerous, but this advice is so narrow minded. Use your judgement and your intuition. But talk to people on the train,on the plane, the bus. Ask questions about their life, and travel experiences. If they are local, ask where the best coffee is, or the hidden gems of the city. These quick acquaintances make all the difference in the world, especially for a solo traveler.
5. Try new food whenever you can. This trip, I have tried haggis, duck, Indian food (I’d never had it), fasenja (a lovely Iranian dish), and pork filet mignon, to name a few. I tried countless beers and wines, and even a Serbian drink called rakkia. I feel that tasting these has enriched my travels. I now have a sincere appreciation for dark German beers! Opening your palette to these new and potentially delicious treats is one of the true joys of travel, and can let you experience a country or city in a much more intimate way. While you’re in the Cinque Terre, it is an absolute crime to not try the pesto that the region is famous for. And there are no words to explain just how good gelato really is until you try some. My favorite combination was fragola e limone, which is strawberry and lemon, and perfect on those scorching hot days.
6. Take selfies. This advice came to me from a New Zealand girl. For most of my trip, I have been behind my camera. She pointed out that most places, a professional has probably already taken an amazing shot. But a selfie is a personal way for you to look back at the experience exactly as you were. Messy hair, weird sunburn lines, and squinting in the bright sun. It seems silly, but in 5-10 years, I bet you will look at those pictures of yourself fondly. Keep taking shots of everything around you, of course. But take a few selfies too.
Above all, the best advice I can ever give is to just go. Travel is the best possible addiction in the world and even though it is certainly not always easy, it is always worth it.
Now, I’m off to find a good spot to watch the sunset here in Riomaggiore. Ciao!