If you are anything like me, a travel junkie, then you might also be suffering from a severe case of wanderlust in the time of COVID-19.
As an empath, I can’t help but feel for the people that might have finally built up the courage to book their first solo trip this summer. Or the seasoned traveler that at last quit their job to travel around the world this year.
So, in efforts to help ease and cure wanderlust in this time of isolation, I wanted to share with you a few meditative thoughts and tips.
Sometimes to rise, we have to stand still.
And I will not be talking about virtual tours or printing your travel photos and hanging them up around your house. However, if you are interested in virtual travel tours, you can check out the Lonely Planet’s list of countries that are offering virtual tours right now.
1. Togetherness and Interconnectedness
If this global pandemic teaches us one thing, it is that nothing exists separately in this world we live in. Everything is intricately interconnected.
Seeing how fast a disease can spread across the globe from a remote village in China, really puts into perspective the effect we can have on the whole planet. It wasn’t one person that spread it, it was a collective act.
Imagine what we can collectively do to protect our planet in the future??
Anyways, I’m finding comfort in knowing that we are all going through this together. It feels a little tribal and it’s bringing out the empath in a lot of us.
This video by Visit Portugal is a beautiful message for all of us travelers right now:
You are not suffering solo. A lot of us are experiencing wanderlust right now. A lot of us are flipping through pictures from past trips feeling extremely nostalgic.
But, staying at home now is all we can do to start traveling sooner rather than later!
2. Travel is a Privilege
Feeling like the world is off-limits at the moment, got me thinking about how much of a privilege it is to be able to travel the world freely whenever we desire.
Thinking about all the people who have been living in a state of political unrest, war, and poverty for many years now. I just can not imagine living a life without the freedom to travel. Ever.
Travel for many of us has brought about lots of value, flavor, culture, and love into our lives. So, together we can practice gratitude for all those things that travel has brought to us.
And next time we are able to hop on a plane, we will be extremely thankful for that privilege we have.
3. Re-exploring the Known
As travelers, we are always on the go. We are constantly working hard to save up for the next adventure that we sometimes forget about the beauty that surrounds us and that’s within us.
Now that we are at home saving lives by not socially gathering or traveling, it is a great opportunity to travel within the known—our neighborhood and our Imagination.
Through this exploration, we will develop a new appreciation for the simple things.
The sunlight that comes through our windows, the blossoming trees that line our streets, the trail close by, the old bike in our garage, the birds and insects that seem happier than ever before.
We will fall in love with the little things and that will make us even better travelers.
Next time we are facing a majestic mountain or a breathtaking sunset on a beach, we will intentionally take in every single moment of that beauty in front of our eyes.
4. Responsible Travel
Now that we can clearly see the interconnectedness of things, we know better. We understand the impact we can have on mother Earth.
When we travel again, we will care for this Earth and the wellbeing of the people and animals around us. We will do our best to travel responsibly. We will reduce our waste and footprint wherever we go. Maybe even some of us will develop a new passion for volunteer travel!
There are studies out there that prove the planet is showing signs of healing due to less traffic and carbon emissions. Maybe a lot more people will adopt this car-less lifestyle even after the COVID-19 passes?
Also, since more people are working remotely, this might mean less pollution and paper waste from offices and more freedom and travel in the future? Now that’s work-life balance!
5. The Wonders Still Remain
Fact: The world’s wonders will still be here when this virus passes.
Stay home now so that we can travel later.
The Andes, the Pyramids, the Mayan Ruins, the Machu Picchu, and all the other wonders and beauties will be there.
We will have another chance to marvel at their greatness and wonder how the heck did people of ancient civilizations build this??
Watch this video for some inspiration from South Africa:
I take comfort in knowing that there will be another chance to travel soon and it will be even better than before.
6. Plan for the Future
I know that a lot of us might not be in the mood to even think about travel for a while. Some may even be feeling their wanderlust diminish day by day during the quarantine.
I’m feeling it too and I never thought I could feel that way as an avid solo traveler.
However, what if we took the time to imagine where we want to go as soon as we can travel again?
Where will we go??
Here is what I recommend right now to help revive our wanderlust
Re-write that old bucket list
Grab a world map and look up countries that you never considered traveling to
Our biggest lesson, in my opinion, is that things can change very very quickly.
Nothing is permanent. Not our jobs, not our homes, not our loved ones, not our health, and not even our planet. So what can we do about it?
Well, we can learn to take more chances on us and more risks in life.
This pandemic has made it clear to us that experiences and humans matter more than anything else.
That we need to go on that trip before its too late. That we should say “I love you” when we feel it. That we need to forgive others and let go of the fear or the baggage that is holding us back from living more vivaciously.
What is your biggest take away so far? I’d love to hear it in the comments below.
This carry-on packing checklist was specially designed for female travelers to help you pack lighter —carry-on only—and efficiently every time you travel. Giving you time back to focus on the adventure, not the packing.
No more “oops I think I forgot to pack a toothbrush…” moments or unnecessary things in your suitcase. Because really sis, who needs to be carrying around that extra baggage anyways!
The Carry-on packing checklist works for a one week or a month-long trip—or even longer if you pack those versatile basic pieces you own!! You can even tweak a few items to make it work for winter or summer trips.
Begin placing things in your suitcase or backpack: Start with the largest items and finish with the items that have not been grouped in bags/cubes
You can see exactly how I pack my carry-on backpack in the video below:
Relax, Breathe and Enjoy your Trip!
And remember that it is about the journey not what you will be wearing. Ultimately you can always find and purchase anything you need or left behind at your destination.
If you want a beginner-friendly complete guide on packing and traveling light, then check out this blog post:
Here you have it ladies, a carry-on packing checklist that you can reference anytime for your trip to ensure that you will be traveling light, effortlessly and fabulously but never leaving anything important behind. Feel free to comment if you thought this was helpful or reach out to be here with questions.
Follow me on my adventures on Insta: @__girgis.
Disclaimer: I might make a small commission on some of the links mentioned above at no extra added cost to you.
For some, travel can either be a very liberating experience or the most daunting thing they have to endure, usually due to packing and planning. In my experience, I noticed that travel became a lot more fun and way less stressful after mastering the art of packing light and traveling carry-on only.
Not only does packing light save you money on baggage fees, worrying about lost baggage, and time waiting at the airport, but also a lot of back pain and the noodle arms. Let me be real here, at only 4’11 this can be especially important for us small women. Something that I really struggled with on flights—before learning how to pack light—was lifting my carry-on into the overhead bin but usually, a kind smile (and maybe puppy eyes) got the person behind me to show some compassion and help. Can anyone else relate?
Here are some tested beginner-friendly packing tips for the female travelers out there that want to be carrying around as little baggage as possible—literally and figuratively speaking!
1. Start with Your Luggage
It would only make sense to start with the biggest item you will be traveling with— your luggage.
Personally, I find backpacks to be the easiest to travel with because you can kind of squeeze them into the overhead bins, under your seat, on busses and taxis. They have a lot more compartments than a regular wheeled suitcase allowing for more effective use of space. They are easy to move around in, especially if you are going to be visiting multiple cities and a good backpack will provide you with a lot of back and waist support.
Believe it or not, I spent a whole month looking for the perfect backpack for my very first solo backpacking trip back in 2015. None of the ones I was seeing and trying were sitting right on my waist because I have a short torso, plus they were just way too bulky. I’m sure you have come across those travelers with backpacks that go way over their heads… yeah, not a cute look!
After many failed trials, I found the Deva 60 Liter backpack from Gregory that was the perfect fit for me. I have it in X-Small, great for those under 5’2, and it is still in perfect condition after all I put it through.
Why is this backpack awesome?
It’s made for women! This backpack comes with a removable day pack, a rain cover (came in handy during monsoon season in Central America), it’s front and top-loading so it’s easy to access your stuff. Features lots of hip and back support and buckles to compress the bag after its all packed. So far, this backpack has worked as a carry-on for me on most airlines I used.
Not feeling the backpack look? Then check out these lightweight wheeled suitcases:
Lipault Paris makes ultra-chic and ULTRA light suitcases. At less than 5 pounds when empty, this will be a very easy one to lift up and stuff… just a little bit!
Most airlines allow for a carry-on plus a personal item and you really need to take advantage of this if you will be going on a long trip. I opt for a small expandable duffle bag like The Landon Carryall from Dagne Dover which made out of neoprene so its dirt and water resistant. Or a small daypack with at least two main compartments and a water bottle side pocket, this can be very useful when on the road!
Lately, I have been traveling with only a small backpack (as my personal item on some airlines that don’t allow a carry-on) for trips 2 weeks or shorter. If I’m traveling for more than two weeks, I will take the Deva 60L backpack as my carry-on bag and a small daypack as my personal item.
The secret sauce for packing light and traveling carry-on only is two words:
Packing cubes allow you to not only save on space by compressing your clothes but also stay organized on your trip by categorizing your cubes. This way you won’t have to dig through all your folded or rolled clothes all the way at the bottom of your backpack or suitcase. You simply pull out the cube that has what you are looking for.
I have the Eagle Creek cube set which I bought almost 5 years ago and they are still holding up. Hands down these are the best on the market!
Here is how I categorize my cubes:
Large Cube–bulkiest items (shorts, pants, and dresses)
Medium Cube–lightweight items (t-shirts, tank tops, and swimsuits)
Small Cube–best for underwear and socks
I never have to unpack when I’m on a trip because these cubes act as my closet basically. Paired with my front-loading Deva backpack; this is an organizational power duo!
Rolling Your Clothes
Folding your clothes wastes so much space in your bag and even your packing cubes. Army rolling your clothes will help you pack your carry-on effectively with space to spare for that extra pair of shoes you really wanted to bring!
Watch the video below to learn how I pack my carry-on backpack and how to roll clothes for your packing cubes:
Traveling during the summer?
A summer trip is the easiest to pack for. I recommend packing a week’s worth of clothes regardless of how long your trip is.
The Simple Summer Packing List for Female Travelers:
7 different types of tops—T-shirts that can double up as PJs, crop tops (you can pack more since they’re smaller!), tank tops, one or two nice night time tops
Well, this is trickier to pack for but can be done by getting a little more creative with how you wear your clothes. You will definitely need to utilize the Packing Cubes and what you wear on the plane.
The Simple Winter Packing List for Female Travelers:
2-4 thermals(tops and bottoms—these are thin under layers to wear under your clothes to keep you warm)
1-2 neutral colored turtleneck (you can layer under a crewneck sweater for styling and warmth!)
Waterproof (snow) boots, black or brown booties, tennis shoes (wear those on the plane)
Laundry While Traveling
The reason I recommend packing only a week’s worth of clothes regardless of how long your trip is because doing laundry is easy and affordable abroad. Your hostel or hotel will usually offer laundry services for a small fee or you can find local laundromats that will wash and fold your clothes for a few dollars.
Something that I got in the habit of doing is washing my swimsuits and underwear in the shower using Dr. Bronner’s all-purpose castile soap. This helps me go longer before I start worrying about doing my laundry.
3. Toiletries and Beauty Products
The truth is that toiletries are where we really tend to overpack. Especially if you are a curly girl like me—you know the struggle is even more real. When it comes to toiletries and beauty products, the key to packing light and smart is to bring multi-purpose products and buying products at your destination.
For curly girls like me that can’t go without their hair products, I just bring enough of my favorite styling product and conditioner in 3oz silicone containers (or recycled travel-sized containers) and simply buy more if I run out while traveling. My wet brush comes with me everywhere I go, this is a non-negotiable item if you have knotty hair!
You don’t have to skip on makeup just because you are backpacking or traveling light. Bringing a lipstick and an eyeliner won’t take that much space and you’ll be glad you brought them.
FYI 1, you can save some $$ on the Bluemercury site by using Rakuten to get 10% cashback!
FYI 2, the best bag you can store your makeup in while traveling is the free Glossier bubble wrap bag you get when you make a purchase with them because It protects your powders from shattering!
Shoes are usually the bulkiest items to pack and the hardest to decide on when packing for an upcoming trip. My rule of thumb is to limit yourself to 3 pairs, one of those pairs you’ll be wearing on the plane…no cheating. This is what I consider when packing my 3 pairs of shoes:
Something comfortable, something versatile, and something necessary/functional (based on the activities you plan on doing).
Something comfortable could be your walking sandals, something versatile could be your flip flop sandals as they work at the beach and at night time, and something functional is like hiking boots or tennis shoes.
The lightest camera you can pack is your phone. But also something like a mirrorless camera can be space-efficient. If you are just going to take your phone but still want to create bomb videos of your trip and capture more selfies then consider buying a gimbal. The DJI Osmo phone gimbal is foldable so it packs small and will provide you with smooth videos.
Chargers & Adapters
I never go anywhere without my portable charger. It saved my life many times. The Anker Portable Phone Charger is pretty lightweight and fits in almost all of my purses.
I know that nothing is like reading a real paperback book. If you must, try to limit yourself to one paperback book and get the rest of your books either on Audible (get any two audiobooks for free here) or download them to the Kindle app on your phone. I highly recommend packing a slim language book to help you practice the local language and use it whenever you can’t use Google Translate.
BTW, I found a bunch of Lonely Planet travel guide books on Amazon Prime for free when I selected the kindle version at checkout.
I hope that this guide will help you travel with more freedom so that you can fully enjoy your trip and focus on what’s important—creating memories!
Does your Instagram mood board mainly consist of beautiful travel destinations? Do you find yourself constantly daydreaming about the next place you would like to visit?
If answered yes to any of the above, then I’m assuming the only issue is that you can’t find someone to join you or the thought of traveling abroad solo as a female seems terrifying.
This blog post is for YOU wanderluster.
Life is short. You can either keep waiting for someone to join you or you can gather all your female power and courage to book that flight and start living your life!!
That is how I ended up on my first solo trip to Southeast Asia because no one was serious about joining me. And I would not have had it any other way because I had the time of my life! I will be honest, I was terrified at first. I had no idea how to do it and did not think I was capable of going alone. But just like you, I started googling around to find tips from other solo female travelers and probably read over 10 blogs on traveling solo.
Traveling alone is scary. Traveling alone as a woman is even scarier but the most rewarding, life-changing, and empowering experience you can have.
The good news is that traveling solo is a skill that you can learn how to do and it gets easier each time. In this post, I will share with you simple tips that will help solo female travelers plan for their first solo travel experience to make it less intimidating and more enjoyable.
1. Mental Prep
The very first and most IMPORTANT thing you need to do is to mentally prepare for this new experience by setting realistic expectations and embracing change.
Understand that you will face unexpected situations on the road—especially if you decide to travel to third world countries. No matter how much you plan, you won’t be able to plan for everything and that is part of the adventure. This is how you will learn and grow on your journey.
Remember that you have overcome harder things in life. Take stock of all the difficulties you have had to deal with and how once they were accomplished, you thought to yourself, “why was I so worried/scared/anxious about this in the first place?!”
Traveling alone gets easier after the first week/month/year. I recommend trying a mini solo trip to a city nearby or even doing things like going to dinner or the movies alone pre-trip to get used to being alone even if it’s uncomfortable. However, I have to admit that I don’t think the US is a great place for first-time solo travelers (I personally have not truly traveled solo in the States). Places like Thailand or Costa Rica, for example, are a backpacker’s Mecca and many people travel there solo. So you’ll easily blend in, find resources, and make friends along your trip unlike in the states, where it is less common to find that kind of space.
Trust me, I cried my first week alone in Thailand because I thought I wouldn’t meet people. I was so confused and frustrated by the language barrier, but I realized that it was my attitude that was preventing me from having the trip I dreamed of.
Change your attitude and you’ll change your experience. Realize that you have everything you need right now to be able to travel alone.
2. Create a Trip Outline but Don’t Over Plan
If you plan for everything, you leave no room for adventures to happen.
I understand that not everyone is comfortable traveling without knowing exactly where they’ll be staying or what tours they’ll be going on. That is just how I like to travel because I end up in the coolest places and experience the craziest things.
For your first solo trip, do your research.
Read that Lonely Planet guide book, watch those Youtube videos, but don’t get too attached to your plans. Allow for spontaneity.
What should you plan?
My recommendation is to figure out your route, the number of countries you hope to visit on the trip, and the order you’ll be visiting them in.
Before my first ever solo 6-week trip to South East Asia, I created an outline by looking at the map and figuring out the travel time between countries. After researching, I realized that I would only have enough time to go to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
I booked a round-trip ticket to Bangkok so I could start in Thailand, travel south towards the islands then north towards Chiang Mai which led me to Hanoi in Northern Vietnam by air. (If I had more time I could have taken a bus from northern Thailand into Laos to lead me into Vietnam, but I’ll save that for another trip!) In Vietnam, I traveled by bus through the entire country, north to south, and crossed the border into Cambodia. From there, I crossed the border by land back into Thailand and spent my last night in Bangkok before I took my flight back home.
Create the most logistical outline and book as few things as possible without feeling super anxious. I typically just book my first night in the new country or city I’m visiting and then go from there. If that is not your cup of tea but you still want to stay open to spontaneity, make sure your bookings are refundable.
3. Travel Light
At barely 5 feet and an average fitness level, I have to make sure I can carry my backpack through airports, on and off buses, and walk to hostels from the bus stations up and down steep hills.
I really can’t stress how important and overlooked this is for first-time solo female travelers. You have to be able to carry your own stuff so pack smart!
The lighter your bag is, the freer and less frustrated you’ll feel on the road. I have witnessed female travelers struggling with overstuffed backpacks that are bigger than they are and they never looked too happy.
Therefore, I recommend investing in a really good backpack (if you are not into that look, invest in a four-wheeled suitcase that can easily move around with you). I boughtthis backpack, made specifically for petite females with size options ranging from X-Small to Medium, about four years ago. I put this bag through so much and it is still going strong.
It’s easy to carry with back and waist support. It has front access like a normal suitcase (most backpacks are top loading) and many convenient compartments. I also recommend packing cubes to compress and organize your clothes.
If you don’t want to be completely alone the whole trip and wish to meet like-minded travelers from all over the world, I highly suggest staying in hostels.
I always end up meeting the coolest people, and from experience, travelers tend to be generous with information. They will be your best travel guide/resource for your next destination. I still maintain a lot of the friendships I had while traveling, so really you are building your network around the world! Not to mention you will be saving loads of money staying at hostels vs. hotels.
However, I do understand that there are many stereotypes about hostels, especially in the states. But believe me, they are not all true… at least most of them aren’t. I never felt like my safety was threatened, even in the bigger dorm rooms. But of course, practice common sense and lock up your valuables. (BTW, you can always book amazing private rooms or private tents at hostels for half the price of hotels if sharing a room is not your thing!)
I find clean, safe, and cute hostels all around the world on HostelWorld or Booking.com. I love the HostelWorld app to book on the go. Make sure you read the reviews because other travelers have made it easy for us to avoid those nasty hostels!
5. Make Travel Buddies
To add on to tip #4, when you stay in hostels, you WILL end up meeting other solo travelers and making friends. Even if you are not an extrovert, the environment and the culture of travel makes it easy for people to connect because you already have a lot in common. Remember, they are also searching for friends so don’t hesitate to make that first move!
Often times other travelers are taking the same route around the country or region as you, which makes it easy to have travel buddies. So far, every solo trip I have taken, I had one or two people join me on parts of my trip, so really I wasn’t always on my own!
Stay open to opportunities, join other travelers, and don’t be afraid to ask them to join you (perk, you can split costs!!). This brings me back to tip #2; when you travel without solid plans or pre-planned bookings, you have the freedom to join people and leave space for unexpected adventures.
6. Adapt to the Local Scene
Blending in will save you a lot of harassment and unwanted attention. Don’t be flashy and you’ll survive!
If you are traveling to a modest country, for instance, think about the community as a whole. How they dress, what is considered offensive, local laws, etc. just to name a few. We’re used to space and being able to express ourselves freely in the States–sometimes this can be the trickiest / biggest part of stepping outside your comfort zone!
You are still free to dress as you wish and be your truest self but if you want to avoid trouble, it may be a good idea to show that you understand and respect the culture. This is where researching the countries you’re visiting and their culture is crucial.
When it comes to electronics, I usually walk around with my phone out for pictures but I will put it away when I’m at markets or crowded places. I take a fanny pack (I wear it across my chest) or a crossbody bag with only essentials such as enough cash for the day, my travel credit card, portable charger, and hand sanitizer, which is all I ever need for the day!
However, I feel like a big camera around your neck can make you more vulnerable in some parts of cities. I always like to ask the front desk and other travelers if they felt safe wearing certain things or taking their electronics with them around town.
7. Stay Safe and Trust your Gut
If it feels good, then it must be good. If it feels shady, then it must be unsafe.
This is really the only way I stay safe—look at me, I’m still alive after 10 solo trips and all in one piece!
I really believe that our intuition is heightened when we travel. It is even more powerful when we travel alone because we really only have ourselves to depend on. So, ladies, there is no better time to trust that inner voice and practice trusting it than on your trip!
8. Seek Help
Just because you’re doing this on your own, doesn’t mean you can’t depend on others for answers and recommendations.
People all around the world are willing to help travelers, even if they can barely speak the language, you just have to ask.
Travelers will also be willing to share their best tips and places to visit. Locals will be very happy to walk you to your destination and help you figure out where you’re going or even give you money if are stuck in a situation like this one:
When I was in Colombia a few years ago, I was on a bus going to a different city, the tire went out on the way, and my phone was about to die. I really had no idea where we were or how long it would take us to get back on the road. A lady noticed that I was freaking out and started talking to me. She soon realized that my Spanish was… pretty bad, so she pulled out her phone for us to speak through Google Translate. We talked that way the whole ride until we eventually got to our destination. (Side note: language is never a barrier. It is our own thoughts that create these barriers. I made many friendships with people without speaking their language or them speaking mine.)
I literally had no phone, no cash, and it was late at night when we arrived. I tried to use the ATMs but there was no cash available—very common in Central/South America I noticed. This amazing woman refused to leave my side, despite me asking her to! She got me a taxi, rode with me, and even paid for the fare. She texted me later to make sure I was safe and we are still friends to this day.
What I’m trying to say is that you may be traveling alone but you are never really alone—unless you want to be, of course. People are there for you and will help you if you need help.
8.5. Travel Photos for the Solo Traveler
You have to be shameless when it comes to getting your travel photos. You worked so hard to get there, you better get those pics for the gram and your future self!
This is how I do it: smile at the person, be confident and then ask in the local language if they could take your photo. No one has ever said no or gave me a dirty look, in my experience. Then frame the photo on your phone for them and ask if they can take multiple photos so you have options to edit later. Simple!
9. Change Direction
Stay open to unexpected changes to your travel plans. Your flight might get canceled, there might not be a bus until the next day to your next destination, or it might be the rainy season and you are stuck in the hostel for a day or two. Learn to love these moments of uncertainty.
Since I’m an Egyptian citizen, I usually have trouble getting visas to some countries (so if you are an American citizen—the world is your oyster, utilize that power!!) I often have to change my travel destinations due to visa issues. But honestly, I never cry over not going somewhere. I still have a blast in whichever country I end up in!
Travel is full of unexpected events. Things that are simple at home can be complicated abroad. From getting your laundry done to trying to order off of a foreign menu, it is all an adventure. Stay flexible and you will have the coolest stories!
10. Keep a Journal
I love re-reading my journal entries from my very first trip. You can track your growth and understand who you are when you’re all alone in an unfamiliar place.
Also, it is very hard to remember the little crazy things you experience and the places you visit in a few years. I think it is really cool to have those written down to revisit and think “WOW! I really did this?!!”
Check out these super compact lined journals here.
11. Own Your Freedom
Nothing I have experienced in my adult life as a female has been more liberating than traveling alone. Having complete ownership of my daily activities and independent thoughts.
You are your truest self when you do not have to adapt to the crowds’ mentality. Traveling solo will make you more adaptable. You will learn to trust yourself and you will learn to let go. When you’re back home, you will find it easier to let go of negative emotions, relationships that no longer serve you well and places that don’t allow you to shine! Because you now know how powerful, smart, and independent you can be.
I’m not saying it’s going to be great all the time. You will get sick, you’ll feel lonely, and you will want the people that love you the most around you, to comfort you. But you’ll know just how much you can handle on your own and what breaks you. How to be your own source of comfort is one of the most powerful parts of the journey.
I didn’t know that one day I would be capable of moving to a new city like NYC all by myself, without any plans, until I experienced traveling alone. I hope you find the courage wherever you may be in your life, to take a chance on yourself, and do the thing that scares you the most!
Disclaimer: I might make a commission on some of the links mentioned in this post at no additional cost to you.
Do you still have any questions or tips about traveling solo? Share them with the community below. Much love and happy traveling!