How Solo Travel Was My Greatest Teacher

I still distinctly remember the minor freak out that I had when I first arrived in Buenos Aires three years ago. I was writing for Let’s Go, a student-run travel guide company, and was going to be traveling around Argentina for two months.

Most importantly, however, was the fact that this was the first time I would be traveling completely by myself in a foreign country for that long of a time. I was excited. I was scared. I froze for a second – promptly realized that this was actually, really happening – and then proceeded to send up a prayer for some kind of divine help and guidance.

Then I calmly made my way out of the plane, all while frantically running through the things I needed to do in my head. At the time, I’m sure I didn’t realize how important, meaningful and life-changing those two months were going to be, but I can assure you that I quickly realized it. Since then, I have continued to reflect on what those first two months of independent travel have taught me.

I’m a fan of lists. Always have been and likely will always be. I like to think that it makes it easier to share my wisdom – the haters will say whatever it is that they have to say to disagree. Either way, here are the biggest takeaways, lessons and general truths I’ve gathered from my solo travel experiences; all presented to you in classic Aracely style (I don’t really know what that is, if I’m being completely honest… just go with it).

Don’t get in your head.

solo travel Sheldon

I can’t stress this enough. Right now I’m enjoying a trip down memory lane, specifically of an 18-year-old Aracely freaking out in the bathroom of her Buenos Aires hostel, trying to pluck up the courage to visit Caminito and La Boca. I had read online that tourists should be very, very wary – La Boca was a barrio that had quite the bit of petty crimes reported.

I read testimonial after testimonial of this tourist and that tourist getting assaulted and robbed. I terrified myself. And, in the end, I feel like I was too afraid to really enjoy my time there when I finally did go. Ever since that experience, I’ve refused to overthink things, much to the apparent chagrin of a couple of people (hi mom and dad). With that said….

Constant vigilance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

solo travel Mad Eye

Be smart and be aware. This is especially important when traveling solo. Overthinking and over worrying everything won’t make your trip a very pleasant one (obviously), but a healthy amount of it will. Be the responsible person your parents hopefully think you can be and abstain from doing anything illegal or overly sketchy (very difficult I know, but if I, Aracely “Why Not” Aguirre, can do it (mostly), than anyone can).

Making friends is easier than it seems. 

My favorite thing about traveling has always been meeting new people from all walks of life and from all over the world. We humans are social creatures and, while I can appreciate being the master of my fate, sometimes sharing experiences with other people can be equally as amazing. Traveling by yourself will force you to learn how to make quick friends with others – which I firmly believe is a skill that we should all have.

Singing along to Webbie’s Independent (a classic I tell ya) will be more relevant than ever. 

solo travel Queen B

If you’re searching for a confidence booster, look no further than traveling all by yourself. Having an experience like that under your belt not only makes a person more independent, but also will forever and always make everything else seem more manageable, no matter what life throws your way.

Always remember that every little thing is gonna be alright (bet you sang that just now). 

No trip will ever be completely perfect. There will be setbacks, and accidents, and misunderstandings, and all manner of bad news sometimes. Always keep in mind that you can work something out and that things can be fixed or changed. That mindset, once you reach it, will make you an unstoppable force. And, if you can take that kind of mindset with you once you finish traveling (jokes, I’m never going to stop traveling), you could rule the world.

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Aracely hails from the wild lands of Hope, Arkansas where she grew up living on a farm and gaining a love for travel. She is currently a Senior at Harvard University studying Psychology and wondering what she's going to do after graduation. When she's not traipsing around taking pictures or day dreaming about the next time she'll get to travel, you can find her dancing or serenading people with her ukulele.


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