Tips and advice for travellers has been done countless times before, but I still wanted to share some of the things I have learnt from travelling, mainly solo. However, I will be doing this by listing out 10 challenges that I think you should set yourself! Enjoy!
1 Have a conversation with 5 new people per day
If you are travelling solo you have to put yourself out there. It’s possible to meet loads of people and form great friendships whilst on the road, but you have to put some effort in. It’s often hard to be confident with these things, but if you can force yourself to create conversations on a daily basis with this challenge, your confidence will grow and it will become much easier. These 5 conversations could happen with fellow travellers in your dorm or common room, with the local shop keeper, with a tour guide or even someone you randomly come into contact with whilst out and about. Talking to fellow travellers is the best way to meet people because you’re all in the same situation. Ask them their name and where they’re from, what they’re doing today, what’s their favourite thing about the city, or even just the location of the kitchen. By being open and friendly you could create opportunities for yourself or at the least, exchange some casual conversation with someone you wouldn’t normally talk to.
2 Learn to converse in the local language
I don’t mean you have to become fluent in the language of every country you visit, but it is polite to learn some of the basics. Being able to say ‘hello’, ask someone how they are, tell them your name and order your favourite drink will go a long way. Not only will it make your life easier, but you will gain respect and appreciation from the locals by showing that you’ve made a conscious effort to learn their language. I have found that using Duolingo is great for picking up the basics and learning how to pronounce them properly!
3 Live with a local
The best way to get to know a place is through a local. There are now many ways to actually live with a local and it’s well worth doing. The most popular way at the moment is through airbnb. Instead of looking for an ‘entire place’ to rent, go for a room in someone’s house. That way you’ll be sharing their living space, can get to know them and can pick up tips about the place you’re staying in. You can also try couch surfing which has the benefit of being free, and typically the people that offer out their couch are travellers. (I’ve never tried it though.) Workaway is another way you can stay for free, but in exchange for a few hours of work per day. This is the best way to stay with locals for a longer period of time and often become part of a family. Challenge yourself to spend some time living with a local!
4 Make a positive impact everywhere you go
This is a lasting challenge that I think every traveller should be conscious of. I think that as travellers we have a responsibility to have a positive impact on the places we visit, and concentrate on reducing any negative impact we may have. By helping the community in some way, or even just a tiny part of the community, you will be leaving a tiny legacy. It could be as simple as offering help to someone, or volunteering with a project. It could be disposing of your rubbish properly, or having a conversation with someone who is lonely. It’s a good feeling to know that you’ve done something with a positive impact. Don’t just be a ‘traveller’, be someone who makes a difference.
5 Write down 5 memorable things each day
This challenge could be interpreted in many ways, from simply keeping a few notes each day of things you want to remember, to keeping a full-blown journal or writing a blog. At it’s simplest I think it’s a nice thing to note down 5 things that you want to remember. Not things like ‘I went to the Colosseum’ or ‘I bought this scarf’, but little personal things that you are likely to forget. Things like ‘I had a conversation with the Greek carriage driver’ or ‘I had drinks with a group of people from around the world’ or ‘I found the best ice cream shop!’. Looking back through this can be far more valuable and fun than a lengthy diary.
6 Don’t plan
This challenge is the easiest one. Go with the flow! There’s no need to book everything way in advance and plan each day out. A few days in advance is more than enough to book a bed in a decent hostel and a quick google search or browse in the guidebook is enough to have an idea of what you want to do. Allow yourself to be guided by what people say or the pictures on a map. Let yourself get lost and discover things that no-one advertises. Say yes to people when they suggest doing something fun! You’ll enjoy it far more.
7 Turn off your wifi
It’s actually not as necessary as you might feel it is and going without it for a while will do you the world of good. For example, go and sit in the common room, turn off your wifi and talk to people. Or head out for the day with only a map and find your way around without having to use data or stop for wifi. For once, don’t search for a restaurant ahead of time and instead head for somewhere that attracts you because of lovely smells and a room full of happy locals. Wifi is not always needed!
8 Try a day without spending money
This can be a big challenge but if you’re in the right place then it’s totally possible! It can force you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to entertain yourself without paying for attractions or tours. If you have a hostel with a free breakfast, fill up on this in the morning. Often that can last me until mid afternoon. Food for the rest of the day can often be found in the free food box in your hostel – one of the most useful things to know about! If you’re somewhere with an abundance of fruit trees then go and pick some fresh fruit for a snack. At the end of the day it might even be possible to get some free bread from bakeries. Be creative and see what you can get your hands on! You may even be able to eat with people in the hostel and take turns cooking over a few days so you could get a free meal or two. As for what to spend your day doing? Read, walk, sunbathe, photograph, paint, go to free museums or attractions. The list is endless!
9 Treat yourself
This is kind of the opposite to the previous challenge, and is less of a challenge. Sometimes, even as a budget traveller, it’s important to indulge a bit. This could be as simple as a nice coffee in a posh cafe or as lavish as a special activity that you’ve always wanted to do like a skydive. If you’re needing some alone time or a comfy bed, treat yourself to a single room with a balcony once in a while. Don’t always live on a strict budget, it’s important to do things that make you really happy.
10 Wake up for sunrise
My personal favourite challenge. Everywhere you go, make an effort to be awake before everyone else. I don’t mean every day, but at least once. You’ll get a different perspective on the place you’re in, some striking photos and you’ll have a nice long day ahead to enjoy. I do this very often when travelling as I believe it’s the best time of day.
So there you go. 10 challenges to try when you’re travelling. You may not agree with all of them, but I think your trip will be just a little bit better by trying at least one. Good luck! Let me know if you have any other challenges in mind.