Well after about a full 12 hours of transit, I have successfully made it to the right destination. Quite a stressful trek, I will admit. I am experiencing many “Firsts” on this trip: first time out of the country, first time checking bags, first time exchanging money, first really big trip on my own…it can be slightly overwhelming.
Here are just some immediate things I noticed. Some tips to remember if and when you’re ready to ‘set sail’ on your own expedition.
Traveling Abroad by Yourself: Some Tips
- Ask questions. You’re gonna need to ask questions. Everyone is extremely helpful, and the worst they can do is ignore you…but they won’t.
- Everyone is just as confused as you are. Don’t be afraid to ‘look dumb.’ While I was on the plane heading to Costa Rica, I had to fill out the customs and immigration forms. After a few minutes of head scratching, I turned to the woman sitting next to me and asked what she thought. A complete stranger, she was from France and was heading to Costa Rica to finish off in Nicaragua. Those few minutes asking each other about the forms, resulted in a bond that continued even after we got off the plane. We stuck together, intentionally or not, until we had to go separate ways.
- You will have forgotten to do a least a few things. You will remember that you forgot while you’re already way too far away to turn back. The ones I forgot: to turn my heat down/off to avoid a massive bill to heat an empty apartment and I forgot to take care of my mail. But, they were both easily fixed. Even if I am more than 1,000 miles from home.
- You will experience culture shock. Let’s face it, making sure you remembered to pack and do everything before your trip – even if it’s just a week or so – is stressful. Especially if you’re going somewhere that speaks a language you don’t know, or one you studied for two years in high school.
- Your senses will be on overload. The noise, the traffic, the people, the walking…your eyes and ears will want to look at everything. That will get tiring.
- You’re going to freak out, and it’s ok to freak out. Stay calm; take a nap if you need to. This is only day one.
- You will be sad. At some point, it will hit you. But the good news is: it’s only temporary, and easily fixed.
I think the biggest and most upsetting thing for me that I noticed as soon as I got in was an inability to hear a familiar voice. All I was trying to say was “I love you, I’m here. I miss you already.” And seeing that text repeatedly fail to go through and not being able to just pick up the phone to make a call without getting charged outrageous international fees was a punch in the gut that made me lose my cool.
But, after a quick nap, some good food and a hot shower, I am back to normal and I finally got through to someone. Tomorrow I have some plans to sight see. I booked a really awesome combo tour. This tour is picking me up from the hotel – which many of them do – (so no need to worry about directions or traffic or any of that junk) and then we go on a 2 hour drive through the beautiful mountains. The first stop is to get breakfast (no extra cost, score) at a coffee plantation, then we continue to hike through the rainforest and see a volcano, and we also hike to a waterfall. It’s an 11 hour tour, I can’t wait.
So, after a start I wish could have gone a little smoother, I am ready to set sail, cap’um.
photo by Julia Thorndike