A year ago, I backpacked the Caribbean Coast of Colombia with no one but myself. I made my way East from Cartagena to Santa Marta and back to Cartagena for a few days before my flight back to New York City. I am a well traveled young Latina woman for my age. I am only 24 and have been to eight countries outside of the United States. However, my trip to Colombia was particularly empowering because it was my first time traveling entirely alone. I have traveled alone to Malaga before but had previously been with friends in Granada with whom I was going to meet in Paris afterward. I spent a maximum of four days by myself on the southern tip of Spain doing nothing but eating and tanning naked. It was great! I’ll admit when I parted with my friends in Granada, I was nervous but did so knowing that I’d generally be safe.

Traveling to Colombia was a little different. I had to consider the country's political, economic, and social climate as well as the fact that I would be a young woman traveling by myself from a first-world country. Once I got back and saw my friends’ shocked faces when I told them about my trip, I realized I had just done one of the most self-revolutionary and ballsiest thing ever! I say self-revolutionary because, for so much of our human evolution, women have had their social, political, economic freedoms withheld and regulated. All with the intention of disabling women of intellectual and physical mobility. Woman of color moving freely has not always been the norm. In fact, my female ancestors were once enslaved and even today are often held back by cultural expectations and restrictions placed on their personhood. For example, there are cultures that prohibit women from leaving their homes without a male escort. Traveling is a privilege that I am now able to enjoy and have acknowledged how lucky I am to be able to do so.

During my time in Colombia, there were situations that completely scared me out of my mind. I’m specifically thinking about when I got lost trying to hike my way out of Parque Tayrona, which is a jungle that I was told has Colombian guerillas in hiding. Or a few hours after I landed and went into a panic attack in Barranquilla with 1% battery thinking my driver was trying to hand me off to the Narcos! Despite these high anxiety producing moments, traveling alone is a beautiful experience. When you travel alone you, and I mean just by yourself, you are not only completely outside of your comfort zone but it is also a time when you connect with yourself deeper than you thought possible. What I took away from my trip to Colombia was a self-realizing of just how strong and fearless I am and that it’s not alway necessary for me to push myself beyond my limits in order to prove to myself that I am capable. Multiple times, people complimented my friendly and outgoing personality. I realized that I am really comfortable doing things on my own — five-star dining, sketching, drinking, introducing myself to new people, hiking, going to the beach, staying at a hostel, or even just laying in a hammock for hours.


Tips for Your Solo Trips

Traveling alone feels like taking yourself out to dinner in New York City – but on steroids. Everything about the experience is heightened because you are in new territory that your body is not familiar with. You get an initial feeling of nervousness, wondering if you’re being judged, hearing your thoughts really loud and not having anyone distracting you to ease the alone time. Below are some things that I have found help ease the anxiety of traveling alone and thus contribute to a more successful trip!


Before Your Trip 

  1. Do Your Research

If you’re traveling somewhere for the first time, do your research on the country! You’ll want to know what the weather is like, their top attractions, must-have foods, cool scenic views, etc. There isn’t a right way to research, just do a quick Google search and see what comes up and let yourself get lost for an hour or two. LonelyPlanet.Com is a great online resource as well as Trip Advisor.

Currency is a big thing to note. If you’d like to exchange your US dollars for a different currency prior to your trip, sometimes it takes a few days for you bank to make that order. Give yourself enough time. Traveling with a credit card only gets you so far. You’ll need a debit in case you need actual cash. International ATMs will do the work of converting your money


  1. Book Lodging Ahead of Time

I will never forget the night my friend and I made it to Cahuita, Costa Rica after traveling for hours from San Jose only to be left wandering through the night trying to find a hostel with rooms available. It wasn’t as scary as it would have been if I were alone, but I learned my lesson with that one. Book things ahead of time so that you’ll be set with a place to lay your head.

  1. Create A Rough Itinerary

An itinerary is a written doc that lays out a set plan for an extended amount of days. You can make this as rough or specific as you like. Before I travel I like having an idea of how long I’m staying in one region before making my way to the next, where I’m staying and the things I want to do or places I’d like to check out for that region respectively. It makes exploring a new country so much easier! I don’t like to make it too specific because I’m a natural wanderer and need to leave a lot of space for getting caught up with something or someone. Don’t be shy to ask other people if they have an itinerary for the place you’re headed!


During your Trip

  1. Check In With A Friend From Home When You Land

Have you ever seen Taken? The movie is about an American girl who gets abducted after landing in Paris by men linked to people trafficking. It wasn’t funny that the movie came out weeks before I left to live in Paris for a summer! The person who you contact doesn't need to be your parent, but just someone you can check in with when you land and when you get to your lodging accommodations. 

You can call your phone company to get an international plan or travel with a wifi device — such as your phone, kindle, nook or an iPad. If you’d like to avoid being charged for international data turn of the roaming on your phone and set it to airplane mode. You’ll still be able to use the wifi.


  1. Have Fun! Explore! Be In The Moment! Indulge! Meet People!

I’m SO happy to tell you the initial travel alone jitters are normal. I met two girls at the hostel I stayed in in Colombia that assured me I was not the only one internally freaking out. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable times, I promise they build character. Do the things that make you happy! I don’t like historical tourist attractions so I skip those and spend my time on eating, tanning, partying, and doing nature things.

In February 2015 the New York Times published a really helpful article titled, A Solo Traveler's Guide to Meeting People. My best friend, a young woman of color currently planning her first solo-trip to Europe before starting law school, forwarded it to me. I find this article useful because if offers a lot of different suggestions for how to meet people while traveling alone that you can choose from depending on what you feel most comfortable with. It also includes safety tips! You can read the article here

  1. Travel Consciously

Navigating space is much more difficult as a woman than it is for men and you really feel that discomfort when traveling alone. Be conscious of the times when you’re commuting from one part of the country to another. The European Union has a great train system but in Latin America sometimes coach buses are the best way to travel. Additionally,  you can do small things you’d normally do at home like walking on the side of the street that has better lighting at night or look after your drink, etc.


After Your Trip

  1. Reflect.

When you land back home, the feeling of all that is familiar is so refreshing. In that comfort, when you no longer need to be “on” allow yourself to think about the experience — the good and the bad. What did you learn about yourself? Did the trip change your perspective on anything? Your reflection can be as deep as you want it to be. After all, you just did one of the badest things a woman can do!