Hola everyone as some of you know by now Jeff my boyfriend spends a good deal of time in Alaska working. It sadly is a necessity still at this point in our lives. I am extremely grateful for all his hard work and his dedication to our life. However, this leaves me to live and travel alone quite frequently. Yes sometimes I travel with a friend or two but the majority of the time it’s just me. I’m going to share with you the good, the bad and …. Of traveling alone in countries that many still view as the third world. I do not always agree with this term analogy but to each their own. My viewpoint is that it’s just a different world compared to some of the other countries like say, The United States of America or Europe. Which is also why I am so intrigued, enthralled and love it here.
Okay, so when I travel alone I typically do it the cheapest way possible. As of now, we don’t get paid to travel we travel because it calls to us. I share all our stories with you because I love sharing them with you. Writing and traveling is my passion in life. I spend as little as possible on transportation and accommodations I’d rather use that money for experiences. I stay mostly in hostels but from time to time an airbnb. This next trip I’m taking I’m actually staying in a beautiful home for free while pet sitting. I’ve learned many ways to cut corners. I try to eat the majority of my meals where I’m staying. This way I can experience more of the cultural foods around me. I pick one meal a day where I’ll eat out and it’s usually not some fancy place. I mean I can eat in a restaurant at home. I like to eat at the food vendors, food trucks and small local mom and pop places. This is always where the good stuff is. Not only is the food more authentic but it’s always cheaper.
Now some of you might be thinking to yourselves what about safety? In my eyes safety is an issue anywhere in the world. Traveling smart is the key. Don’t leave your belongings anywhere, don’t walk in the dark so on and so forth. Whenever humanly possible when I arrive somewhere new I try to schedule my arrival to be during the daylight hours. This way it’s not as confusing and uncomfortable to get around in a new place. The light of day makes it easier. In my experience, bad people are kind of like cockroaches they come out at night usually. Oh and always use a licensed taxi service.
Another thing I always do is download where I’m going and the places I’ll be staying in google maps. This way if I do get turned around anywhere all I have to do is bring up the address on my smartphone. It’s like the old “leave the porch light on for you” thing but it’s at my fingertips. This being said I always keep a written copy of what all the addresses are and the cross streets just encase. I mean we’ve all at one time or another forgot our phone, maybe we left it charging in the hostel or maybe left it at the last coffee shop oops. Now, this has never happened to me (Knock on wood). But I have accidentally left my phone charging at home when I was out for a walk and gotten turned around in a new area here in Mazatlan. Fortunately here I know if I head toward either the Malecon or to Centro I can figure out where the heck I need to go. But if it was somewhere new I wouldn’t have this advantage so when traveling I keep a backup of the necessary information with me always.
Many of the towns, cities and countryside areas I travel to will have visitor kiosks or centers some of them have city maps. Whenever visiting a place that has a visitors center that is my first stop. I can get the lay of the land this way and many times get a map for free. Most of these centers want your experience in their town to be great so they’ll share a ton of information with you. Keep in mind that Mexico and Central America depend greatly on tourism so it is important for these tourist centers to help you have a good time. Another good thing about these people for those of you that speak no Spanish is most speak at least some English. Many of them can even help you set up a tour if you like to explore this way better. I typically don’t do a lot of tours but they can be helpful from time to time.
Depending on how long of a distance my next adventure is to take place I will fly or take the bus. Amazingly sometimes it’s actually less expensive to fly. One thing about the larger bus companies in Mexico, is they are frequently awesome as far as buses go. I’ve done my fair share of traveling in the US on bus lines and I have to say the buses here are way better. The seats recline some all the way and some slightly, most have footrest. There is almost always WIFI available with charging plugin, not always the greatest connection but when in city areas it usually works fairly well. When taking a bus on a longer trip they have decent bathrooms and there are small screen individual monitors in front of each seat. They are well air-conditioned and when a bus stops somewhere, frequently I’ve seen small vendors jump on for a few minutes to sell food and/or drink items. Really who can complain? All this in mind whenever a trip is more than say ten hours or so this is when I really try to fly depending on the cost of course. While the buses are nice here It does get a little uncomfortable when you can’t get up and walk around after several hours.
Because I’m a woman traveling solo there are other precautions I take. Like keeping a small stash of money in different places. I don’t walk down a dark alley or into anyplace that looks a little shady. I keep my packing LIGHT! This is important I’m not some young twenty-something and as most of you know I have some debilitating at times medical issues. Dragging a lot around with me by myself is a nightmare. I try to keep everything in one backpack or suitcase. This way it’s easy for me to schlep around and I able to move around everything even on my bad days. For packing tips and ideas check out my KISS post it’s full of great ideas on packing and things to bring. Plus some more safety tips.
Fears… I’ll be honest the first time I traveled anywhere in Mexico alone I was a little terrified. I mean I had been all over the USA by myself but this was different right?. At the time I knew almost NO Spanish and I had no idea where I was going or how to get around. I had to remind myself on occasion that I was strong enough to do this and when I’d get nervous I’d sing that old Helen Reddy song “I am woman hear me roar” (Video Below) This may sound quite silly to some of you and some of you may be saying to your self Helen who? But believe it or not, this actually helped. I have found that the fear was typically created in my own head fed by the over exaggerations on the news media.
Example, Mazatlan Sinaloa is currently rated a four on the Mexico travel advisory. A four… A four is the highest rating meaning DO NOT GO. Yes there is cartel here in Mexico yes they shoot each other over turfs etc.. Mostly they are hurting each other and in specific neighborhoods. It’s not like their running around all over every inch of Mexico shooting it out like the OK corral. Kidnapping can be a concern so I keep it real I do my best to always blend in so to speak. These same issues apply in large cities throughout the world there are shootings and kidnappings everywhere.
I live in Mazatlan am I afraid? No, honestly I was more afraid when I lived in Los Angeles. I’m just a little more cautious of where I go and when. After realizing all of this I was able to move past my fears and just do it. Life is so short I don’t want to miss a thing. I wanted to travel and I was going to do it even when Jeff wasn’t able to come.
One thing I’ve learned traveling alone is you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. There’s no debating on where to go next or maybe putting off your want’s to please the other person or people. I can eat when and whatever I want, I can go to bed when I want and get up when I want. It’s a very freeing experience.
It’s amazing to me how much better you get to know yourself when your traveling alone. I mean at nearly fifty I thought I knew myself pretty darn well but you’d be surprised at how much better you get to know yourself when you only have yourself to talk to you. Yes, I talk to myself I just try not to do it out loud haha around other people. When I’m walking through say a beautiful gallery or looking at an incredible sunset alone the inner reflection I find during these times is priceless. I sincerely think that because of traveling solo from time to time that the relationship that Jeff and I share is the better for it. I love myself and have learned to really enjoy my own company which in turn allows for me to be a much better partner to Jeff. I understand myself so much better now that I’m able to communicate my needs, likes dislikes. There’s no guessing for Jeff to have to go through he knows he can just ask me. All of this from me traveling solo.
Is it nice to have another person to share all the experiences with? Absolutely. Sometimes when I travel alone I miss having someone to bounce ideas off of or to talk with. But this also forces me to interact more with the people of the community I’m visiting. For me being alone on a trip the time I miss with others most is usually meals. It’s nice to share a meal with a loved one be it Jeff or a friend. In the evenings when you return from some place really cool and interesting I’ll sometimes miss being able to pour a glass of wine and chat with Jeff or my friend all about it. When I feel like this I write it all down this way I am chatting all about it, reflecting and sharing the experience.
So in my humble opinion traveling solo can do anyone good. It’s really not as scary as it is in your own head. I’ve met fantastic people and enjoyed amazing experiences by just doing it.
Please share in the comments if you have any ideas, questions or feed back.
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