Five Quick Tips for travelling on your own

Out on a business trip in Vancouver right now and wanted to put in a few cents on my experiences so far.

As a first time lone traveller and certainly an amateur when it comes to this kinda stuff it’s been a little stressful, but I’m learning as I go.

Here’s a few quick tips I’ve gathered so far from this experience.

Maps, Maps, Maps

No matter where you are or how good your innate sense of direction may be always try to have a map. Whether it’s on your phone or printed out at home, having a map that you can pull out of your pocket will do you wonders on any trip.

Just a few hours ago, I was out looking for a Staples in downtown Vancouver and I was able to find it with a quick snapshot I took on my iPad. Easy. Getting back to the apartment I’m staying in… that was a little more difficult.

And don’t just let your map hoarding stop at a few locations, try to find a bunch of places you’d like to visit and make sure you have zoomed in and zoomed out versions. There were a few times when having such a zoomed up map right to somewhere like Vancouver Central Library was helpful, but also made life hard when trying to go elsewhere.

No matter how stressed you feel going from A to B, maps are awesome for giving you that feeling of safety when it comes to knowing where you’re going. And soon enough you’ll be a pro and you’ll scoff at having maps. Also ask for directions!

Tokyo Time

Tokyo Time is something I say a lot, although from a Google search I don’t think other people know what it is.

It basically means, be early everywhere you go. At least a half an hour early, depending on the situation, will help ensure that you’re able to get where you need to be, check-in with whoever you’re meeting, and not feel stressed all to heck.

For instance, I got the airport this morning at 6 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. flight (which was delayed, thanks Air Canada). Although it was quite a buffer of time and I had basically nothing to do for almost an hour and a half, but it gave me a chance to get over my jitters and read a book, which according to CBC de-stresses you quite a bit.

Luckily for a few passengers, the flight delay gave them just enough time to make their flights too. Still, imagine if they were early, yeah, amirite? They wouldn’t be panting and puffing, swearing and sweating like they were. They’d be all chill like me, although internally crapping myself because I was totally alone on a flight.

Don’t load yourself down

Travelling light is something I’ve seriously attempted to do on all of my travels, but have never been able to do successfully. My bags on this trip are loaded down my with camera equipment, audio-recording equipment, laptop (and charger), medical stuff, books, clothes, and other shite not worth mentioning.

As much as everyone should pack the essentials and there’s nothing wrong with overpacking just a little bit, I think most people should try to get rid of things that aren’t essential to your trip. Do you need that sweater if the weather is going to be warm (actually this is a bad idea as the airplane was damn near freezing the whole time)? Do you need that extra bottle of conditioner along with your shampoo? Do you need that extra speciality lens for your camera?

Going onto the Canada Line, hulking my bags onto transit, and having to go up-hill to get to my lodgings was quite the undertaking, but with a lighter bag it would have been a piece of cake. Still, everything I packed I need even though a lot of it is heavy and somewhat redundant.

Also coats, if you’re travelling during a warm time of the year leave your coat at home. For whatever reason, coats have been the hugest burden on all of my trips. They’re heavy, get wet if it rains, and you just have to lug them around. If you’re going somewhere wintery you gotta bring it, but if it’s somewhere warm leave it behind.

I think there’s a lot to be said for buying things when you get to your destination. Although no one wants to break the bank, but if you can buy something cheap wherever you’re going: go for it. It’s a hell of a lot better than lugging it.

Itineraries are good (and bad)

Sometimes people go on vacation or a business trip with a laser-focused schedule. Monday – be here, Tuesday – be there, Wednesday – eat thing, Thursday – eat that, but sometimes you just gotta go with the flow, you know.

Over the next three days, I’m going to be taking part in a conference, so that’ll take up most of my time, but for the rest of the time I’m here I’ll be free to do whatever. I still have meetings, yes, but I also have free time to just explore and see the sights.

However, make sure you have a plan to get where you need to go and have a list of what you want to see. This goes back to that map thing I wrote above. You don’t want to overthink things, but you don’t want to just think you’ll walk in one direction and find something cool. That’s a recipe for disappointment.

The best thing to do is ask around. Find out what some cool places are and try to find some fun people to go with. As a stranger in this city, with nary a friend around, that part is a little difficult, but it’s not impossible.

Best idea, try to find some cool stuff to do and also try to factor in some free time to just chill out.

Do nothing for a bit

Earlier today, I had a plan. That plan went to, for lack of a better word, shit after a few hours of skulking about. There was something I had to take care of and people just didn’t seem to want to help, so I’m back at the lodgings with a dinner entre, a beer, and my laptop. Life is good again.

Doing nothing might seem like a waste of time during a trip, but it really helps you get a sense of where you are and what you need to do. Walking around all day trying to make things work can often end in disaster when you’re in a new and strange place. Take a load of ya big nerd and smell the roses, or the slightly burnt smell of a frozen dinner.

However, this means bringing distractions.

There’s nothing more distracting than the Internet, but after a while refreshing the front page of Reddit can loose a bit of its lustre. Bring a whole slew of media to play around with while you’re on a vacation. I have: My Nintendo DS (with Chrono Trigger), the Cowboy Bebop Collection, a huge Terry Pratchett book, a shit tonne of actual work I should be doing, and lots of tape. I’ll do a column on that one day.

It just helps being away from being out there. Shelter is the first human desire and after a day of, admittedly, overcast and rainy weather there’s nothing better than this (you’ll have to imagine me sitting on a couch writing).

That’s it!

So that brings an end to this short blog. Sorry there aren’t any images, I’m just kinda writing and not really thinking about constructing a whole intricate post tonight.

If I’ve taken away one huge thing from this trip so far it’s to find a moment of peace. Whether that means meditating, watching a YouTube video, writing a blog post, or just having a cup of coffee, sitting down for a minute to just relax does wonders while you’re travelling.

Seriously, I felt like garbage while I was out on my “task” today. Sure, it got done in the end, but only now is the little stress knot in my stomach finally going away. That’s the kind of thing that’ll ruin a trip for you.

Anyway, enough of my preaching. Be safe on your journeys and feel free to leave some comments and some sound advice to people who might read this post!

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2 thoughts on “Five Quick Tips for travelling on your own

  1. Great tips! Wholly agree with the rest-and-save-time-for-yourself during travel. It always feels like I need to always be out there, exploring new territory to justify the cost of my plane ticket, but it gets stressful. Ten or 15 mins just sitting down and taking everything in always does the trick for me. Also love the CBC books infographic you linked to. Enjoy your travels!

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