Preparing for your first solo trip as told by “Friends”

It’s fairly common for students to take solo weekend trips while studying abroad. Packing up and leaving home to arrive in another country with nobody expecting or supervising you and nothing to stop you from changing plans on a dime and doing whatever you feel like, on the other hand, is a totally different situation.

I’m currently in the middle of planning my first solo trip, and it’s been quite the experience. I’ve also gotten some pretty great reactions from other people as I plan — so without further ado, here are the phases of planning that first solo trip, as told by “Friends”!

Wait, I can actually do this?

This is the first moment you realize this trip could ACTUALLY HAPPEN. It might mean you just found out you can afford a trip, your parents finally gave you their blessing or you got the courage to go for it. Whatever the circumstances, this moment is totally surreal.

Total, blinding excitement

This is also known as the phase when everyone begins to hate you. You tell anyone and everyone, from every single friend you’ve made since middle school, to the random guy next to you on the train to all the relatives that are obligated to listen to you. The looks of shock when you say you’re traveling alone are enough reason to keep bragging, and you’re loving the attention. You’ve never felt so cool.  “Hey, did I tell you I’m going on a trip? A SOLO TRIP?”

Logistics are hard

Wait… where am I going? How do I get there? How do I get around? Can I walk? Is this the bad side of town? What should I be seeing? How long do I stay? How long can I afford to stay? WHERE do I stay? This is when you start buying too many guide books, pulling up Google Maps for the opposite side of the world to check walking distances and discover that there are more travel blogs than you ever thought possible.

Budgets and spreadsheets and itineraries, oh my!

If you’re anything like me, the fact that you’re traveling solo will make you more detail oriented than ever before in your life. Before you know what’s happening you’ll be comparing plane ticket prices through dozens of different airlines and through just about every major airport on the continent you’re visiting. Personally, I’ve been checking the price of my ticket on Icelandair at least once every other day since early August. I can tell you more about airline ticket price patterns than I ever thought possible. But that’s not the end of it — there’s also accommodations and further travel to account for. Will you stay in hostels or hotels? Or maybe airbnbs? Will you take buses, trains, taxis, ferries or some other form of transportation? Oh, and how much will this all cost? It’s overwhelming at times, but don’t lie: you know you love it.

When everyone else asks “But what if?”

If I had a dime for every time someone asked me “But aren’t you afraid you’ll get lost/mugged/kidnapped/murdered/struck by lightning?,” then my trip would be paid for. I’m traveling solo because I want to, I think it will be fun, and I refuse to live my life in fear. Could I get kidnapped on my visit to the U.K.? You bet. Could I get kidnapped at the mall where I’ve shopped my whole life? YOU BET.

Booking the plane ticket

Your heart is racing. Your hands are sweating. You’ve read all the fine print about a dozen times. But when you click “Purchase,” it’s still totally terrifying, and then the adrenaline hits and suddenly everything else in your life is compromised because you’re living in one big daydream.

The Buying Spree

I had no idea how many smart travel products there are until I started looking. Packing cubes? Yep. Solid shampoo, conditioner and lotion? You bet. Silk sleep sack? Absolutely. Not to mention the sudden need to have the perfect travel shoes and wardrobe! Eventually you have to rein it in and only pick the essentials or you’ll have NO money once you get to your destination.

Packing… and unpacking… and repacking

Many people traveling solo choose to travel carry-on only, as it’s easier to travel if you have less stuff, and it’s under your control at all times. If you’ve ever had to sprint to make a connection or dragged a suitcase over cobblestones to get to where you’re staying, then you know what I mean. But now you’ve got to find some way to make everything fit neatly in that little bag — not to mention that you’re ready to just go already!

The last minute panic

Everything’s great, your trip is booked and you’ve packed your bag. Then suddenly you realize that you’re going ALONE. A million what-ifs start swirling through your head and you wonder why on earth you’re doing something so insane, but the scariest thought of all is that it might not be as amazing as you’ve hoped.

Taking the plunge

You take a deep breath, swallowing any nerves. You remember all the reasons you’re excited, hardly believing this could really be happening. You check three times to make sure you have everything from your passport to your neck pillow, go through security and catch your flight. Hours later, you step off the plane with a smile, a stomach full of butterflies and the realization that everything that happens now is up to you. Let the adventure begin!