If you have the opportunity to travel, but have to do it alone, you might wonder if a solo adventure will have to be a lonely one. You might even be wondering if it’s worth it at all. Rest assured that traveling solo can be at least as rewarding as sharing the trip with loved ones or friends if you know a few simple tips for making friends along the way.
Make friends on the way
Since traveling involves, well, traveling, spend some of that transit time getting to know fellow travelers. Way more often than not, you’ll find others headed to your destination. While you won’t always want (or be invited) to officially become part of their group, there’s a good chance that the spirit of adventure that brought you together in the first place will provide a great opportunity for at least some mutual exploration of your destination. If you’re lucky, these travelers might even have made this trip before and will have great insight into some of the best places to visit.
Take advantage of hostels
Hostels have a long history of being fantastic places for travelers from around the world to meet. This is especially true if you stay in a hostel dorm as opposed to a private room. Hostels are kept alive by the same spirit of adventure that’s driving you. Hostel bars are also a great place to socialize. Most guidebooks and various grapevines can let you know which hostel bars are best for a real night on the town versus a more laid back evening.
Couchsurfing can be a great way to meet new people. Couchsurfing involves hooking up with a network of homeowners willing to offer travelers a free place to sleep for one or more nights. Typically, you can choose a host based on published profiles, which makes it easier for you to connect with people whose interests are similar to yours. In addition to being a very budget-friendly way to travel, couchsurfing gives you the ultimate insider’s look at your host city. Who better to show you around personally or give you pointers on the best places to go than someone who lives there full time?
Participate in some organized activities
Most travel destinations offer lots of activities for tourists. Taking advantage of such attractions is a great way to meet other travelers. If you’re in an area that sees many organized tour groups, it might be possible for you to tag along with such a group. Again, most travelers are adventurers and are happy to share the experience with others.
Find kindred spirits
In this day and age, social media can be a great way to find other solo travelers in your area or local groups that share your interests, hobbies, or profession. You might also look for expat hangouts or neighborhoods in your destination city. Finding fellow countrymen in your host country can be a terrific way to get the lay of the land.
In the end, traveling solo can be anything but lonely if you’re willing to reach out and leave shyness at home. In fact, it can be an even greater opportunity to make new friends from around the world than you’d find traveling with friends and staying inside your comfort zone.
If your next great adventure involves learning to scuba dive, making sure you have the right gear is important. Diving can certainly be great fun, but not having the proper equipment can certainly make things less enjoyable, even downright dangerous. What follows is a list of what to look for when you’re looking for scuba gear.
Your first piece of equipment will be your mask. A diving mask keeps your eyes and nose in a dry pocket of air. Keeping your eyes dry allows them to remain focused underwater, and a little breathing room for your nose allows for pressure equalization as you dive deeper. Your mask should offer a completely watertight and airtight fit, but still be comfortable. Try placing a prospective new mask on your face while looking up. Even without the strap around your head, a good mask will rest evenly on your face with no major gaps. A gentle inhale through your nose should seal the mask to your face. Next, try these same tests with a snorkel mouthpiece or regulator. If the fit remains good, try the mask with the strap on. The air pocket for the nose shouldn’t actually touch your nose, and the skirt should feel comfortable on your lip.
A diver’s next critical piece of equipment is a regulator. Thankfully, you won’t have a hard time finding good quality regulators at any budget as long as you stick to reputable shops or websites. A regulator takes the high-pressure air from your tank and converts it to ambient pressure, allowing you to breathe. It also delivers air to your BC inflator (more about it later). Look for a high-performance regulator that’s rated for the depths you intend to dive. You also want one that’s got a comfortable mouthpiece that fits well with your mask.
A snorkel will obviously be necessary if you intend to do any snorkeling. In addition, many divers rely on their snorkels near the surface, as this helps conserve air. There aren’t major differences between snorkel models; just look for one that feels comfortable in your mouth.
Fins (or flippers) are the best way to move through the water. Fins should fit comfortably; you should be able to wiggle your toes readily, and your arches shouldn’t feel compressed. Divers with great hip and leg strength do well with larger, stiffer fins. Those who are smaller or not as well conditioned generally do better with smaller and more flexible flippers.
When it comes to choosing a wetsuit, it’s as simple as finding one that fits snugly without being constricting. Too tight, and you could have trouble moving or even breathing; too loose, and water will be able to enter. Dive suits are available in multiple thicknesses designed for various water temps. If you plan to dive in seriously cold waters, you might consider a fleece-lined suit.
Now that the basics are covered, it’s time to get to the really important stuff: Life support equipment. The buoyancy compensator, or BC, is the most complex and most important of all the pieces of diving gear you’ll own. The BC is what gives you neutral buoyancy no matter how deep you go and helps you float when you’re near the surface. It also holds the rest of your gear in place with minimal effort on your part. What size BC you’ll need depends on the type of diving you’ll do; sizes range from 12 to 80 pounds. When choosing your BC, you should be wearing your wetsuit. Make sure that the BC can be fully inflated without getting so tight that it restricts your breathing.
Lastly, a dive computer monitors depth and bottom time, as well as ascent rate and tank pressure, all of which can help you enjoy longer dives with no decompression. Look for models that are user friendly. Lots of bells and whistles don’t do any good if you can’t figure out how to use them.
Keeping your basic needs in mind when shopping for scuba gear can keep you from feeling like you’re drowning in an endless sea of choices and get you on your way to a great new hobby!
Traveling the world is an adventure many dream of, but few get to pursue. If you’re one of the lucky ones, the following tips can help you make the most of your journey.
Patience and a positive attitude are your best travel companions
The more you travel, the more you’ll come to value patience and a positive outlook. You will face travel delays, weather that keeps you from exploring your current location, language barriers, cultural differences and any number of other inconveniences. If you can’t do anything about it–don’t sweat it. Your adventures can’t all be smooth sailing, but, as in the “regular” world, how you choose to deal with adversity makes a world of difference.
Don’t just visit a place–be part of it
Don’t think of yourself as a tourist. Instead, think of yourself as a new, if temporary, resident. Get up early and watch a sunrise. See the place before it’s overrun with tourists. Early morning can be a great chance to interact with locals who can tell you where their favorite restaurants and other great points of interest are. Also, most areas are safer during the early morning hours–before scammers, pickpockets, and other sketchy characters are up and about. Interacting with locals can be the best way to get a true feel for the culture. The people who live in a place are far more “real” than any travel guides. Going where locals go and watching locals going about their daily lives is a far more cultural experience than just sticking with traditional tourist routes.
Keep a journal about your journey
Take tons of photos and plenty of notes during your travels. This kind of documentation will allow you to revisit various once-in-a-lifetime locations whenever you want. They’ll help keep details clearer, longer. They’ll also give you a way of comparing and contrasting various cultures. You can share your adventures with family and friends who can’t travel with you. You could even start a travel blog and maybe inspire others to pack their bags or remind them of their own journeys to faraway places.
Be sure to backup everything. Religiously. This applies to photos and notes as well as important documents like visas, ID, your passport, health insurance info, etc. In short, make sure that if your computer, phone, or wallet gets stolen, you have a reliable backup record of anything you need. External hard drives are a good choice, as are quality internet-based applications.
Keep extra cash on hand
Along the lines of “stuff happens,” keep in mind that you’re bound to run into some sort of financial emergency every now and again. Whether it’s a small shop that doesn’t take credit cards, a busted ATM, a stolen wallet, or some other minor or major emergency, there will be times when having extra cash stashed away comes in handy. Having a few hundred bucks tucked safely away in a shoe, jacket lining, toiletry kit and/or any other non-obvious place could well save the day.
Don’t forget to call home
Let your wanderlust be your guide. See as much as you can, meet as many people as you can, and make enough memories to last several lifetimes, but don’t forget to stay in touch with the folks back home. Besides the fact that the family and friends back home represent more permanent relationships than any you develop while traveling, checking in on a regular basis and sharing your plans will keep loved ones from worrying too much. Also, in the event that you do run into serious trouble of some kind, a missed check-in could alert others that something is wrong, which could be a lifesaver, literally.
If you’re fortunate enough to “go out and see the world,” don’t ever forget what a gift it really is, and don’t get so caught up in destinations that you miss out on the journey.