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I Used xoNecole Articles To Plan My First Solo Trip & Here’s What I Learned

Life & Travel

TRIP CONFIRMED.

Once more, I stared at the flight confirmation window on my laptop, confirming that I did indeed just book a flight to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic — all by myself. Ay dios míoooo.


Related: I Did Everything You're NOT Supposed To Do On My First Solo Trip

Trying to salvage the situation and quell the waves of anxiety that kept overcoming me, I repeatedly reassured myself that I could always ask a friend to buy a ticket and join me. But, I wanted to do this. I have been traveling a lot lately, especially taking short international weekend trips, and solo travel had been on my bucket list for several months now. After reading, "Why Every Woman Should Travel Alone At Least Once In Her Life", I decided that this was my chance.

The question was: where would I begin?

Just like our readers, I also turn to xoNecole for life, career, and travel advice and decided to do a little digging. Luckily enough, I found a few dope articles about solo travel that I used to plan every stage of my first solo trip.

Article: 5 Ways To Travel Solo Like A Boss

Lydia Lee (@hello_lydia)

Like Zaniah suggests in this article, research and schedule drafting were extremely important to me in the beginning stages of my trip planning. So much seems out of your control while solo traveling like making new friends, finding your way around, and ensuring your safety.

Proactive planning is your greatest chance at regaining some of this control. The week before my trip, I sat down for over an hour and drafted an in-depth schedule detailing every single day of my trip and what I intended to do. Friday: pool and spa day, Saturday: walking tour, Sunday: beach trip, etc. Although my planned schedule would ultimately do a complete 180° upon arrival, I felt 100% more comfortable with my plans and was able to begin budgeting and booking tours in advance.

Pro Tip: Safety > Penny Pinching

When it came to booking a place to stay, upon reading this article, I also decided to prioritize staying in a reputable hotel with a concierge and security team. I'm usually the first person to book a cheap Airbnb to save money, but since I was traveling alone, I did not want to leave anything to chance. I even prescheduled taxi service to pick me up from the airport since my flight arrived while it was still dark outside.

No precaution is too great – it's better to over-prepare and tone it down rather than feel like you did not do enough and be left in compromised situations.

Article: Budget Airlines Vs. Major Airlines: Which Is The Better Option?

Although I did not end up booking my trip to any locations on Jovania's compilation of bucket list destinations, I started my search with the 10 cities and countries she recommended. Should I visit Barcelona, Milan, or Montreal? Where could I take a quick trip and get the most bang for my buck?

After reading 10 Places You Can Travel To & Get Warm This Winter, I knew that I definitely wanted to go somewhere tropical. I spent about a week researching San Nicolas, Aruba and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, as both are known to be international locations that are relatively female solo traveler friendly.

Upon doing some research, I decided that I wanted to be in the Caribbean so I could take a direct flight from New York. I also knew that I wanted to visit a Spanish-speaking country, so Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic quickly jumped to the top of my list. After a ridiculously cheap direct flight to Santo Domingo, DR popped up on my Skyscanner app ($240!), I knew that my fate was sealed.

Article: Why Every Woman Should Travel Alone At Least Once In Her Life

Char's article was where my solo travel fantasies all began. At the beginning of her article, she touches on the freedom of solo traveling, and she couldn't have been more accurate.

Solo traveling feels a little rebellious and selfish in the best way. You have complete say over where you do and don't go, when and who you interact with, how much of the bed you take up and when to leave it… You can take the time to self-reflect or completely immerse yourself in new projects. The choice is yours.

I spent so much energy worrying about what could go wrong as I was originally planning out my trip, but all of my fears were silenced as soon as I had the chance to stop, reflect, and fully embrace the experience – the independence was almost intoxicating. I don't think I have ever felt more free.

Article: I Took An 'Eat Pray Love'-Style Vacation Around The World & Here's What I Learned

Lydia Lee (@hello_lydia)

Everyone jokes about the almost satirical self-reflective component of solo traveling, but my personal rendition of the #eatpraylove experience totally caught me off-guard. I went out of my way to make time every day to spend uninterrupted time by myself either by the pool, or during breakfast in the hotel sky lounge to simply reflect. No work, no companions, just me.

On my first day of self-reflection, I found myself reflecting on my goals, progress, and challenges over the past few months in the most kind, self-forgiving manner that I could ever remember. I'm incredibly hard on myself, and for the first time, I felt that I could truly "see" all of the progress I was making. I felt comfortable with the steps I was taking to achieve them. I felt genuinely proud of myself for some of my recent achievements. And, especially proud that I felt brave enough to take this solo trip.

After my second day of self-reflection, I found myself going much deeper. Almost three years after my grandfather's death, I finally grieved. I let thoughts of him fill my mind and allowed myself to feel the pain. This emotional vulnerability then let me feel the pain of past heartbreak and other disappointments that I told myself didn't matter. This emotional detox was way overdue, but much needed.

Featured image by Getty Images.

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5 Easy Ways To Make Money While You Travel The World - Read More

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

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