Traveling Solo: Top Tips!

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My first experience traveling alone, I was 25 and in Thailand. I spent the first part of my travels in South East Asia with my boyfriend at the time. He had to go back to his job after four weeks, but I, being conveniently unemployed at the time, decided that I wanted to stay an additional three weeks.

We had travelled through the South of Thailand, Bangkok and Siem Reap in Cambodia together, so I decided to head up north to Chiang Mai for my first week on my own. I was terrified when I boarded the overnight train which would take me from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Luckily, this fear only lasted a few minutes. As soon as I sat in my seat, I met a middle-aged couple from Canada. They calmed my nerves and since they had already visited Chiang Mai on a previous trip, gave me some advice on what to see and do while I was there.

A few years later, I took a week long holiday on my own in Morocco, where I explored Marrakech and Fes. Both trips were life changing and amazing. I learned a lot about myself and traveling alone along the way, so I thought I’d share some of this “wisdom” with you.

1.  Know thyself.

Monkeymates Traveling alone is not for everyone. I do believe that most people are able to do it, but I strongly believe that it is suited to specific personalities. Before you decide to travel on your own, you need to ask yourself some very important questions:

Am I comfortable eating in a restaurant by myself?

Do I enjoy being in my own company for hours at a time?

Do I like being challenged daily?

Do I have good instincts regarding strangers and directions?

Can I be sober for an entire holiday?

Am I comfortable meeting new people?

Am I able to easily adapt to new situations?

If you answered any of these questions with a resounding “no”, I think you need consider if traveling solo is right for you. However, if you answered “yes” to enjoying being challenged daily as well, then this might just be the ultimate challenge for you.

2. Do your research.

FesPrior to traveling it’s always important to do a little research on the country that you will be visiting.

It’s useful to know local customs such as appropriate dress (this is particularly important for solo female travellers), useful phrases in the local language, do’s and don’ts and places and sites to see (and areas to avoid).

If you’re a woman, do some research on the safety of solo female travellers in the country that you will be traveling through. Often times you will find lots of tips on how to stay safe and avoid awkward or potentially dangerous situations.


3. Make a realistic budget.

NoodlesoupTraveling solo is more expensive than if you were to travel with a companion. When I travelled solo through Thailand, I ended up having to pay the cost for two people in many of the hostels and bungalows that I booked. This definitely ate into my holiday funds.

One of the ways that I offset this extra expense was to buy most of my meals from street vendors. Street food does get a bad rap, but from my experience it is delicious, extremely affordable, authentic and also less awkward than eating in a restaurant on your own.


4. Give your itinerary to a family member or trusted friend and check in with them as often as you can.

cookingschoolI believe this tip is self explanatory.

There was a moment when I was in Thailand when I had the frightening realisation that no one who loved or cared about me knew where I was. I had been on the road for a full day getting from Chiang Mai back down south to Ao Nang (this involved a night train, a plane ride, a bus ride and finally a taxi). It was just me and the male taxi driver (the last leg of my 15 hour journey). The road was so dark and I was exhausted. I spent the 20 minute taxi ride planning what I would do if something went “wrong”. Luckily, it was fine.

My point is let someone know where you’ll be and when. If only for their peace of mind (I’m referring to my mom here).


5. Trust your instincts.

TrainmatesWhen you’re traveling alone, the only person there who cares about you and your well-being is you. You’re it baby! Make sure to trust that little voice in your head that is there to guide you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t trust anyone. The great thing about traveling alone is that you meet lots of new and interesting people. For the most part, all the people I met along the way were great and lots of fun. I tend to make friends with other female travellers, couples, or mixed groups.

 

6. Don’t get drunk.

I’m serious.

Like I said in tip #5, you are the only person there who cares about you and your well-being. Most of the horror stories I’ve heard about traveling abroad have involved alcohol or drugs. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t drink at all, but you should do so responsibly. On both my solo trips, I generally avoided alcohol entirely (I think I had a couple beers in Thailand and a glass of wine in Fes).

Traveling solo is exciting and lots of fun! You get to make all of the decisions yourself. You get to do and see what you like.  It does have some additional challenges, but it’s a great way to experience a new culture, meet new people and learn a lot about yourself along the way.

Happy and safe travels!

xx BHF

Fit Friday: Update (week 3)

FitUgh.

You guys, I’m going to be totally real with you here and tell you that this whole fitness/healthy eating thing is not going particularly well. It’s not going horribly, but I was hoping to report more changes this week. I have maintained the minuscule changes from two weeks ago, though. I know that I should be happy with this. I was on holiday for 10 days and ate out for many of my meals. I’ve had gelato, and beer, and a big curry dinner this week, so it’s not like I’ve been working particularly hard at this.

I’ve been resisting making any drastic changes as I don’t believe they are sustainable (like the time when I did the Dukan Diet). It is tempting, as I generally see good results. Fast results! But just as fast as the weight melts off, it’s back on again. I love carbs. Not eating them for a couple months turned me into a crazy, mean bitch. For the sake of my marriage and sanity, I have vowed to never follow Dukan again.

I have been watching Freelee the Banana Girl’s videos on YouTube and even though I don’t agree with all of her messages (some of them I strongly disagree with), I do find her lifestyle intriguing.  She’s vegan and eats a high carb diet (mainly from fresh, organic fruit). As much as I would love to have her toned, little body, I don’t think this diet would work long term for me. And Martin would never give up his meat. He complains if I cook one veggie dinner a week!

Yesterday I was all ready to go in my running gear, my iPod shuffle was charged, I had my new baseball hat on, but I just couldn’t force myself out the front door. I didn’t feel comfortable and felt awkward in my tight Lululemon pants. The longer I faffed around the apartment, the harder it was to step out the front door. In the end, I didn’t go for the run, but I did force myself to do an hour long YouTube yoga session (in the privacy and comfort of my apartment). So it wasn’t a complete fitness fail.

So, what do I do now?

I think the biggest thing I need to do is manage my expectations and celebrate the small changes that I’m seeing. I also need to increase my daily fitness and try to make healthier choices during the day (like choosing yummy fruit instead of my two scoops of gelato that I had this week).

I have considered ending this series, but it is a good motivator knowing that I have to reveal my weight and measurements each week. Hopefully, if I remain consistent, I will eventually see more results.

{updates on my stats after the jump}

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A day in Switzerland: Fribourg/Freiburg

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I’m baaaaaaack! Technically, I arrived back on Monday evening, but I spent all of Tuesday and some of yesterday cleaning, unpacking and doing laundry. Some women would arrive home to a fresh bouquet of flowers after being away from their husbands for a week…I arrived home to a vase of dead roses, which had been there since before we left for London (10 days earlier). My husband wasn’t aware that he was meant to throw them away. He’s lucky I missed him.

It was a nice holiday away from my usual holiday. I did lots of shopping (on my last try, I got my PIN right! Heck yes! ), met up with my old workmates, and spent lots of quality time with my sister, Alayne, and my adorable, and so very TWO now, niece. She’s so clever and strong willed. It’s amazing to see how much she’s changed, even in a couple months. I posted a few photos on Instagram, while I was there. I lived in London for almost five years, so didn’t really feel the same touristy need to take photos of everything.

Yesterday I was feeling a little stir crazy after spending all of Tuesday in the apartment, so I decided to go to Fribourg (or Freiburg) for the afternoon. It’s only 20 minutes away from Bern via train and is a lovely old city. It is located on the language border between French and German, but the majority of the population speaks French as their first language. Even though it’s only a short distance from Bern, it feels like you’re in an entirely different country. It’s a charming city, with lots of old architecture and culture. I definitely recommend stopping for a quick stay on your way through to Lausanne or Geneva.

xx BHF

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Flashback: “The First Step” – April 2013

I wrote this entry for Parva Pirum on the 24th April 2013. Since I don’t have a job, and therefore my own income,  my shopping addiction has for the most part been quashed.  It does rear it’s ugly head every once in a while though…

xx BHF

***

The First Step

Like the old saying goes, “the first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting that you have a problem”. So here it goes, my name is Bryanna and I’m a shopaholic. It’s been 2 days since my last transgression. In fact, I’m wearing one of the 2 items I purchased from Zara right now (a lovely light blue striped shirt from their classic collection). I also bought a black and white horizontal, wide striped skirt…which I wore yesterday. But I digress…

I’ve not always had this “problem”. In fact, when I first arrived in London almost 4 years ago, I came with only £2,000 to my name. £2,000 which needed to see me through 2 years of my working holiday visa. Luckily, I was able to get temporary work, but it didn’t afford me enough money left over to splurge on unnecessary clothing items. I was staying in a tiny, closet bedroom in Shepherd’s Bush, which cost me upwards of £600 a month for the privilege of the few square feet I could call my own.  In fact, for the first 2 months after I arrived in London, the only item of clothing I purchased was a cheap, grey skirt suit from H&M for £65. It saw me through many temping positions and was the item of clothing I wore when I first met my husband. I no longer wear it, but it is one of a few sentimental items that would pain me to get rid of.

 After months of temping, working long hours and getting paid less than a living wage, I finally got my break. Over two years ago I began my current role, one that provides me with a considerable disposable income. This, combined with the fact that my office is located near Oxford Street; just seconds from Selfridges and all the high street shops (including the largest Zara in all of Europe!), means that I have quickly developed a shopping habit. Here’s the issue, I like to take my lunch break outside of the office. Unfortunately there are only a handful of weeks in the year that London experiences weather that would allow me to spend my lunch hour sitting in the park (Grosvenor Square to be precise). That leaves me with two options: 1. Suffer through the weather 2. Find shelter. So an innocent pop out to get lunch, can quickly become a £150 shopping adventure. It’s become so bad that some weeks, I hide my purchases from my workmates because I am that ashamed.

 I went on a shopping diet over January, and I fear I need to go on one again for May. I’m an all or nothing kind of gal. So…as soon as I receive my online order of fashion tights and summer stockings, it’s on!

 I’m hoping that by writing here, the urge to spend will decrease. And we are transitioning from colder weather to sping-like weather here, so that means wardrobe rotation!

 Fingers crossed…

Flashback: “Twenty Minutes” – April 2011

I wrote this entry on the 27th April 2011. It was a stressful time knowing that my visa was going to expire soon. Martin and I had discussed marriage, which explains the last sentence. But he hadn’t put a ring on it yet.

xx BHF

***

Twenty Minutes

I moved my things over to Martin’s house a little at a time. First, a box of books and some family photos. Then, some of my shoes (my summer flip-flops, wellies, strappy heels, all the ones I don’t regularly wear). A few weeks later, my thick winter coats made the move from West London to the South East. The final move was all of my clothes. One large suitcase and one massive canvas bag, both stuffed full.

The gradual move was nice, both mentally for me and in practical terms as well. I had become so fiercely independent in the past couple of years; living in my own bachelor apartment for a year in Vancouver and then living in a very non-social share house for over a year and a half. I liked my space and wasn’t sure how I’d feel when it was gone.

It’s been almost two months of cohabitation and I think Martin and I both agree that it’s been going very well. Better, in fact, than I ever imagined. Along with a hot cup of coffee, Martin makes me laugh and smile every morning. This, in itself, is amazing; I’m not, shall we say, usually a ‘morning person’. We watch the news together for about twenty minutes before I have to run off to catch the 7:34 train to London Bridge. This is my favourite time. Before I join the manic buzz of commuters, before my day is filled with teas and coffees and stationery and business cards and couriers and dealing with meetings that have not been booked. I snuggle against him. Sipping my coffee. The coffee he made for me. Those twenty minutes of calm, shared space, I wouldn’t give up for anything. It’s during those twenty minutes that I know we’ve made the right decision.

Officially, I have 47 days left before my visa expires. It cannot be extended. I cannot transfer it. I must legally leave the country by June 13th. I plan on taking advantage of every moment.

 But… I will be coming back. I think I would miss those twenty minutes far too much