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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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