Tips to prepare your first trip as independent traveller0
I still have fantastic memories of my first trip alone outside of Europe.
When I say “first trip alone“, I mean first trip that I funded with my own money and organize everything from A to Z. I was 23 y/o.
Country visited was: Japan.
It was my first asian country and it was on my wish list since a very long time. I don’t know why, but I always considered that Japan was a mysterious and spiritual place to visit governed by an enigmatic Emperor, I was also interested to visit temples, pavilion, and see the massive flow of people at peak time in Shinju-ku and finally I wanted to experience the japanese gastronomy (yum yum…). At that period, I was not really a hectic traveller as I’m today but I had the virus already for travelling but not the money (it’s always like that when you are young, you have a lot of time but no money, and when you get old you have money but don’t get free time …well this is what “they” say..).
I spent around 20 days there, and it was a very rich experience, I didn’t have a single regret about it ! That trip was for me a good opportunity to go outside of my comfort zone and being on my own ! But also a journey to understand who I was and what i wanted to do in the future with my life.
My adventure in the Empire of the Rising Sun start immediately after I left Narita Airport, I was on a train commuting between the airport and the city of Tokyo, several pairs of eyes in front of me were looking at me like if I was an alien from planet Mars…..just try to visualize, all people boarding inside the train was sitting in front of me, and nobody dared to seat beside me and believe me I didn’t look like a punk or dangerous animal . So my tactic after a while was to look at the people in front of me also, and I noticed they immediately looked down.
In parallel, my first series of thoughts when I was in the train, after the excitement of leaving the old Europe and go to Asia, was : What the hell am I doing here …..what am i going to do …..I don’t speak any word of japanese, I can’t read anything, how am I going to find my hotel (because of course instead of taking a taxi which should be the wisest option, I chose the cheapest way of transport but also perhaps the most complex …) ….
After a couple of minutes of being stressed and see the negative aspect of that trip, that little voice inside me simply told me: Look, don’t panic, see the positive side: you are in a country you wanted to visit for a very long time,this is a big opportunity ! So stop being silly !
Well somehow, it helps ! I believe I started gaining more confidence specially when I found my hotel very easily ..(not even without compass heheheh )
As soon I reached the hotel and established my HQ there, I started organizing my trip properly (I often used the map of the city to prepare the list of sightseeing I wanted to see according the area I will be visiting that day ….).
There is a couple of key points to take into account when you are planning a trip by your own:
- Traveling is connected to a state of mind: your mind is used to habits (see the same thing, same environments …), if you are traveling to new places, your mind need time to adjust and accept the new scenario or new configuration.
- Accept the fact you can lose your way anytime, take advantage of it ! Well today, you can use your mobile who has a GPS ….but called me old fashion, I still like to use old paper map
- Prepare your trip in advance (list the places you want to see, where are they located, can’t you cumulate few places in a same neighborhood to avoid losing time ? how distant are those places from your hotel and how to reach them…).
- Learn how to use public transport (by doing so, you can have a better understanding of the city): this is often the best way to travel within a city at a cheaper price than a taxi, but also it’s an opportunity to experiment. If you don’t know how to buy a ticket or have problem to find destination, ask, ask ask …
- Take time and have regular break, enjoy a coffee somewhere at a terrace, it’ s often the best place to check about your next destination, but also it’s also the best place to ask advice (waiter/waitress, consumer ….) if you need information about a place you are trying to reach ….
- Have a good pairs of shoes
- Have a small backpack with you where you can store a bottle of water, some snacks, your camera, your map and other utilities
- Each evening, once you are back at the hotel, spend some time on preparing your schedule for the next day so by that way you can optimize your time (don’t forget you are there for a temporary period and you probably saved lot of money and made a lot of efforts to travel that far.
- About money: always carry some cash with you and the rest can be ATM card ….I used to carry with me around 100 euro changed in the local money, so it allows me to use that money when I want to grab a coffee or get a lunch somewhere in a fast food or local resto…(keep in mind that depending the place you are going, not all those places are equipped with atm device ….)
- Trust and listen yourself, it happened to me a couple of times where you enter in one area of the city where things are just not rights, I got that little red alert inside telling me to go away ( I experience this in a couple of countries..) ….in other words, if you don’t feel safe then you should move to another place (it will be good if you ask in advance to a local person what are the area with danger and indicate them on your map).
Tips 1: if the next day you need to travel to another city and you need to take train or long distance bus for instance, try to book your ticket a day in advance (so you don’t need to wake up earlier and queue to get a ticket) but also try to recognize what is the easiest way for you to reach the train station or terminal bus station the day before ……
Tips 2: if you are on budget, and you want to visit lot of places in the country, I would suggest you travel with night trains or night busses (but it might be less comfortable than a night train ..), so you save a night at the hotel.
Tips 3: if you want cheap food (but also tasty), you can easily grab food on a market for instance but also try the street food (You should trust your level of confidence hehehe).
I do hope this post will help you to have great trips where ever you plan to go, in the meantime I wish you all a Merry Christmas