Fresh off a breakup in early 2018, I proclaimed it would be my year of solo travel. I then proceeded to book a birthday getaway to one of my favorite cities in the US, New Orleans, in January. I wanted to have beignets as my birthday cake!
I went on one of the coldest days of the year for New Orleans, and when I touched down at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, I got the rudest message the city I love could give me. Sorry, you can’t use the restroom because all the pipes are frozen and the plumbing system is jacked up. And oh yeah, don’t drink or touch the water. #Wompwomp
Needless to say, the trip ended up better than it started. I had beignets for my birthday and ate chargrilled oysters from ACME Oyster House until my sides felt tight. I also took in the jazz clubs and lounges on Franklin Street and spent some time walking and enjoying the city. Although I didn’t get to the Grand Canyon as I wanted to, my next solo travel experiences were Austin and Houston, TX, Atlanta, GA, and Cleveland, OH. This year, I’ve already gone to Paris and Barcelona, with a few South American and Caribbean destinations slated for later this year.
What I learned
Solo travel is something we should all experience. Not having another person there to add voice and decision to what you do creates a relaxing atmosphere that allows you to really explore the activities that are of absolute bliss TO YOU. I tried new things, and I sought out opportunities to try and see local interests. It even forced me to look into websites that had lists of events and activities for me to take advantage of. But, most importantly, I spent time getting to know Jamila.
Tools that helped me
There were a number of tools that I used to make my experience richer and navigation easier. From getting around to finding activities, the digital universe has an endless cache of tools, albeit, some are better than others. With that said, here are a few of my favorites.
If you’re visiting a walkable city like New Orleans, LA; Savannah, GA; or Charleston, SC, having a car isn’t necessary unless you want to explore the outer regions of the city. Having both these apps downloaded to your phone will allow you to easily get a ride from the airport to your accommodations, restaurants, and local attractions within a 0- to 20-mile radius. Of course, you can go much further, but the round-trip cost could be closer to renting a car for the day.
2. Google Maps or CityMaps2Go
Gone are the days of you walking around the city reading a large paper map with a pencil-drawn route. Google and CityMaps2Go are an essential part of solo travel and really just city navigation in general. I know that digital service can be unreliable, and the best thing about these two apps is you can actually download a map of the city you are visiting, which means you shouldn’t have a service interruption right in the middle of getting to your destination. HELLO! I used Google Maps when I was in Europe and very rarely did I lose my way.
A communication app like WhatsApp is perfect for keeping in touch with family members and friends when traveling abroad. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection to send message and pictures during your trip. The interface is very easy to use and mirrors the general chat application already on your smartphone. Worried about privacy? The messages are encrypted so that they can’t be stolen over any of the free Wi-Fi services you find. The only tricky part is making sure your friends and family have the app too. So, make sure to send them a download invitation before you go.
4. Eventbrite or Facebook Events
If you want to find cool local events happening during the time of your stay in a new city, be sure and check out Eventbrite and Facebook Events. You can do a search by location and interest. If you’re into gardening, art, or literature, chances are there will be something unique happening to interest you. Although these are websites, they also offer applications you can easily download on your phone. I went to a roller-derby competition in Texas because of an event I found on Facebook events. I had the best time and it was something I had never done before.
5. Google Translate
Scared to visit another country because you don’t know the language? Google Translate has you covered! I went to Paris and Barcelona without knowing a lick of French or Catalan. Okay, well that’s only partially true. I did take a year of French in college, but I didn’t have any conversational knowledge. This app was a complete lifesaver! You can download the language dictionary you’ll need on your trip to have access to the information whether you are connected to Wi-Fi or not. This app can listen to the language and translate it for you, you can take a picture of text and it will translate it, and you can also type in words or phrases you want translated to speak. Talk about best inventions! Now you can take that trip to Brazil and speak Portuguese with the natives
Do you have any tools you love for digital travel? Please share them with us!