Solo Travel Tips + Memories from Rome

November 10th officially made it one year since I moved to Nigeria. And then it hit me: I’ve been stuck in this bittersweet country for a year. Adulting and wanderlust just don’t go well. I’ve been craving for a break—to travel off to a new place and come back refreshed and ready to tackle end of year deadlines. Alas, I can’t travel for so many reasons; none of which included having no one to go with. I’ve only travelled alone once (I’ve gone on trips for conferences and stayed alone), but I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and perhaps because I’m an only child, I think I prefer traveling alone than with people.

Solo travel is scary for so many people, especially if you’re a woman and you’re black (especially in European and Asian countries). So daunting, that when I told my best friend back in 2014 that I wanted to go to Rome alone, she panicked. I, however, was not bothered, I’m a master planner and pride myself in being able to navigate new places pretty fast (kinda). So, in 2014 I went to Rome alone for four days—and I survived. Except for one racist experience where I was mistaken for a prostitute (there are a lot of women trafficked from Nigeria and other African countries to Italy for prostitution), I had an amazing eat.pray.nolove trip. Here are some tips that made the trip easier and you should jot down when planning a trip alone.

After checking into my hotel around 6:30 pm, I looked for the nearest phone shop, checked the closest place on my list of sights to see and headed to the Vatican. Although it was quite late and I couldn't go inside. I loved seeing the Vatican at night.

Solo Travel Tips: 

1. Do your research 

 Know the do’s and don’ts of the country you’re visiting. This reminds me of all of Samantha's woes (menopause hormone pills and making out in public) in Sex and The City 2. Haha! Also, research whether traveling alone to that particular county would be a wise. Although, I have never felt unsafe in foreign countries, I have heard that certain countries are not best travelled to alone. Do your research and decide if visiting x country would be safe and appropriate for you, while also considering your strengths. I.e., If you know you’ll get lost because you always get lost, don’t go to a country where language might be a barrier and then you’ll get lost.

2. Plan, plan plan! 

 It’s so easy to just say hey i’m going to x place, and I’ll just go with the flow and do it “like the locals,” but in reality you're not a local and when you travel alone as a person of color in a country where your type is definitely a minority, you’re not really a local. Which makes planning is essential. know what you’ll be doing, where you’ll be doing it, and when you’ll be doing it. You don’t have to plan every hour down to a T but have a general idea of what you’d love to do, see and of course, eat. Which is my favorite thing about travelling alone, you get to do what you want, always! Planning also helps so you can inform your family and friends where you'll be in case of an emergency.

*Before I went to Rome, I went to a Barnes and Noble and considered buying a book called Top 10 in Rome along with some others and ended up sitting in the attached Starbucks and taking notes of top places I’d love to visit, which became the places I did visit.

Some of my top places to visit: (l-r) Villa Borghese, Pizza Navona (I ended up attending mass at Sant'Agnese in Agone, a beautiful church in the square, and of course the Vatican this view is from the top!
3. Be safety conscious

As mentioned above, you should be aware of safety concerns in the country you’ll be visiting. No matter how “safe” the Internet deems a place, as a foreigner you may draw attention to locals looking to exploit or take advantage. This includes being low key and not drawing attention to yourself. You’ll be alone and unfortunately predators around where you lodge may notice this, especially if you carry flashy things.

4. Be accessible/have access. 

 If you travel frequently, I’d first of all recommend having an unlocked phone. Because I move between Nigeria and the U.S, my phones have always been unlocked, which has helped greatly in traveling. I typically always get a spare sim card when I travel with a low costing plan to be able to make a few calls, use maps, and send messages to my friends and mom to let them know I’m safe & ok. If this isn’t an option, a lot of phone companies often offer affordable plans so you can roam your phone for emergencies. Also, writing down phone numbers (your hotel or host family, emergency personnel) helps if you can’t roam your phone or get a sim card. You can always use a telephone box, look for information centers in the downtown tourist area and ask for help with making a quick call in case of an emergency.

*Nowadays, a lot of tourist areas have free wifi so always check for this. You can make Whats App calls, and use google maps in case you get lost (also google maps and I believe Apple maps [like below] has an offline mode that shows you a moving blue dot as you walk, so if you pin a place while connected you might be able to see it when you’re offline and navigate your way there).

5. Write or document in your own way. 

The previous tips have been about being safe but one benefit of traveling is being able to reflect and enjoy your own company. When I went to Rome I recorded videos of myself and wrote in a journal whenever i went out to eat. Also writing the things you do and things you learn about the country while you are there is always fun. I sometimes find notes I took from previous trips and reflect fondly.

6. Have fun! 
Don’t be shy! Ask people to take pictures of you when you need to. I often set my camera/phone and stand where I’d want the shot taken and ask them politely to take the picture. Sometimes this doesn’t always work out and you get pictures with the hand covering the flash, but it’s still worth the potentially great shot! Don’t be lonely because you're alone! Take uplifting books and movie along to read watch when your back in your hotel room at night. Converse with people you meet at restaurants, tourist attractions libraries, museums and more. Not only will you learn more about the local culture but you’re bound to meet other tourists and learn about their culture too.

All in all, have fun be safe and don’t let the fact that you’re alone hold you back from enjoying a potentially life changing experience!

Have you ever travelled anywhere alone or have you had an itch to join team #solotravel? Comment below, and also add your own tips ;)

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