I'm into my fourth month traveling and wow, it's been a wild ride. I started my solo trip feeling nervous, anxious, and a bit worried. For a first time solo traveler like myself, taking the step to travel solo was a big one.
I'd lived abroad before but didn't feel that compared to a solo adventure. What traveling solo teaches you is nothing short of incredible. The places you see and the people you meet are what makes a trip remarkable. I've hiked through the Amalfi coast with new friends from Chile and sailed through the islands of Croatia with Aussies. People who travel solo realize they're never really alone.
The nature of hostels around the world enables you to easily meet people. I'm not the most extroverted guy but solo traveling has made me more outgoing. Over breakfast or dinner, I'll be the one asking people what they're up. If it sounds cool, chances are I'll be joining!
This approach has landed me on some out of this world adventures. In Andros, an island in Greece, I ended up on a five hour hike across the island with three French friends I had met that morning. The hike finished in a small town with one of the most serene beaches we had to ourselves. Experiences like that are the ones you can't plan in a travel guide.
Over my past four months of travel, I've garnered a few mottos that I believe most travelers should live by. These mottos have led me on some of the best adventures and enabled me to see some of the coolest places not mention in your guide book. If you're looking to take your travels to the next level, follow these four mottos:
Seriously, if you have been traveling and haven't purposely gotten lost yet, you're missing out. Getting lost has led me to some of the most amazing places. For one day, try not looking at a map or guide book and just go.
In Mykonos, I rented a ATV for the day. The shop owner suggested some sights to see but I tossed the map and just went. The island isn't big and I knew I could get around the whole island in a few hours. After some time exploring, I ended up at a mountain top church. I was the only one there and had a view of the whole island. Who knows why others weren't there-- maybe it was the steep dirt roads that scared people away. All I knew was that the view was out of this world and I didn't know where I was on a map.
This is a key to finding the hidden gems or to traveling on a budget. If you're looking for a cool place the locals hit up, just ask with a smile. Chances are a waiter or shop owner has a spot they're willing to share. If on a budget, ask if you can work to have the experience for free.
One of the coolest activities the island of Naxos offers is sailing. I love sailing, yet didn't have the 200 euros it cost to sail. Instead, I decided to walk around the marina, asking if any of the boats needed a extra hand. The second boat I asked said, “What time can you be here tomorrow morning?”. Though I had to wash the decks after our daily trip, I wouldn't call that work. Captain Fragiskos of Naxos Sailing let me crew for three days, as we took tourists around the islands hitting up caves to dive in and cliffs to jump off of! The funniest part, seeing the reaction of tourists when they learned they had a American co-captain.
To take your travels to the next level, act like you live in the city you're visiting. This will enable you to find the best places to eat and get the right prices. Even if I don't know the local language, I'll often act like I understand and use my fingers to point at what I want. This works especially well at markets where they often charge foreign tourists a few extra bucks.
Acting like a local came in handy during my time in Follonica, a coastal city in Italy. In this city, I visited some incredible fish markets that had fish coming in right off the boat. Though some of these markets were packed with tourists, by simply acting like I knew what I was doing, I received fair prices and some of the best fish I've ever eaten.
This may sound odd at first, but whenever you travel make sure you leave free time to explore what others recommend. During my travels, I plan ahead for a maximum of two weeks. In every city I visit, I try to have at least one day where I have nothing scheduled. This enables me to ask for a local’s recommendation and has led to some of my favorite adventures.
When I was in the Amalfi coast, I knew of some must hike trails, yet didn't know I'd be able to rent my own boat to take to the island of Capri. On one of my days there, friends and I that I met the night before, rented a boat and drove it from Positano to Capri. Driving around Capri, we got to stop wherever we wanted which let us swim in some of the clearest waters I've seen, jump off cliffs that made my heart race, and eat where the locals feast.
As my adventure continues, these mottos keep me on my toes. They make landmarks more remarkable, make cities more exciting, and make traveling more cost effective. When you travel, pictures enable you to recall what you saw while unexpected experiences are what stay in your head. I won't remember the exact time I was at the Pantheon, but I will remember the time I had to cut our boat’s anchor line off to free us from rocks. If you're looking to start your next adventure or currently on one, utilize these mottos to see where the world takes you!