Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Business

Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Stephanie Maisonneuve visited the walled city of Cartagena, a port city off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. She rode horseback down the city’s cobbled streets clucking past flower-filled balconies and massive, wooden arched doors. The travel enthusiast trotted a hill to a chapel that sat at the city’s highest point. She ended her nights devouring street food.

That was Masonneuve’s Thanksgiving holiday last year.

For many travelers, the winter break welcomes built-in, extended time off from work. Maisonneuve, 31, who no longer celebrates many secular American holidays, said she feels isolated staying at home. "I rather go somewhere else and have a good time."

Maisonneuve is like a growing number of millennials who want to explore by traveling solo. According to a recent survey by the personal finance site Cashlorette, 58 percent of millennials would travel solo, and 26 percent have already gone alone. Among female millennials, 26 percent have taken a solo vacation, where as 27 percent who haven’t said they would.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:Ready to go it alone? Tips for easing into solo travel

And for whatever reason, some travelers are not allowing the holidays to slow them down.

Tia Smith hasn’t decided where to spend this Thanksgiving. She has considered Tokyo, Lisbon and Australia. And, she strongly contemplating Thailand for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

"I desire to see the world even though I do not prefer solo travel," said Smith, who has visited 13 countries. "I also do not wish to miss out on opportunities to do something I desire and enjoy. My goal is to taste my way around the world."

Street Smarts Apply

Smith said she picks her travel destinations based on a few factors: interest in the location, cost of the trip (flights, food, lodging and activities) and safety as a solo female traveler.

Traveling solo requires normal street smarts.

Smith said she remains attentive to her surroundings and tries not to be too flashy with expensive jewelry or money. She also splits her cash and credit card. That way if someone steals one; Smith always has another stash. She said she also researches to identify places to avoid and sites with heightened risks.

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service by the U.S. Department of State that allows Americans traveling or living abroad to notify the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate of their upcoming stay. A travel warning indicates a major conflict (unstable government, civil war or frequent terrorist attacks) within the country and means that the government wants Americans to reconsider their visit. The department also issues travel alert for "short-term" issues that a traveler should contemplate. A few days ago, an alert pointed to "reoccurring political protests throughout Togo, some of which have been violent, especially in the northern city of Sokode." The alert is set to expire at the end of January.

Maisonneuve, who has traveled to 20 countries, said she tries not to let others’ preconceived notions about a place deter her. Before she went to Cartagena, people told her "sordid stories of drug cartels and murders."

"No one can deny Colombia’s history; however, it has certainly revamped itself," Maisonneuve wrote on her blog Girl Gone Solo. "I will never forget my very first introduction to the kindness of Colombian people."

She took a taxi from the airport to her lodging. The taxi driver told her the ride would be 16,000 pesos or $5. She heard 60,000 pesos. The driver gestured that she had given him too much money. He explained the currency and how to count in Spanish.

"That interaction warmed my heart and set the stage for my entire trip," she wrote.

Regardless, it’s important for family members to know a traveler’s whereabouts. Smith sends her full itinerary to two people and checks-in daily.

"My mom is always nervous about me traveling solo, but she understands and supports my desires to explore the world," said Smith, who sends her mother a postcard from every destination.

Backing the wandering heart

Amy Williams, who has been to more than 35 countries, agreed that family support is key. Williams’ mom and sister — who are not big travelers — wait to celebrate Christmas until after she returns from her annual holiday trips. Most years, it’s more than a week after the actual day.

"It’s the spirit of the day that matters not necessarily the day," Williams said.

When she heads to her mom’s house in Melbourne in January, a two-hour drive east of Tampa, she expects to see the Christmas tree with unopened presents awaiting. She also anticipates a huge homemade breakfast.

Like always, she’ll bring back gifts from her latest excursion, like ornaments for her mom to hang on the tree.

"You come back and appreciate home and everything you have a little more," Williams said, who last year explored the safaris of South Africa. She flew over the Victoria Falls in Zambia. She ate warthog riblets and burgers made of elk and Kudo, a large mammal that reminds her a deer.

Even though she is traveling alone, Williams said it doesn’t mean she can’t make new friends. In December, Williams plans to visit Morocco and Portugal with a Canadian couple and a woman from Boston, who she met in South Africa the previous year. Between social media, video chats and phone calls, the travel posse planned their two-week adventure.

"What’s funny about solo travel is that you don’t ever really have to be alone," she said.

When travelers don’t have family and friends who prioritize traveling, they sign up for local tours, stay in hostels or other community lodging and connect on social media to find other travelers. They share travel tips, places to see and things to eat.

"Traveling alone forces you outside your comfort zone and essentially makes it easier to make friends in the places you visit," said Omar Seidel, who has been to 59 countries and 46 states. "This has led to some wonderful friendships from all around the world that otherwise may not have materialized had I been with a group or a significant other."

Why Solo Travel

People choose to travel alone for various reasons.

"Solo travel allows me the opportunity to get away from everything, self-reflect on life and goals and decompress," said Mustafa Khan, who has been to more than 30 countries including China, Singapore, Thailand and the UAE.

Khan said he explores unfamiliar places, learns about diverse cultures and languages and observes breathtaking views. He works in the medical field with a flexible schedule and the ability to work remotely. He once wrote a business plan during a 15-hour flight to Dubai. Being single adds to his flexibility.

While many solo travelers are single or have no children that’s not always the case. Shauna Wilson said her boyfriend encourages her solo adventures. His schedule is not as flexible as that of Wilson, who has traveled to about 45 countries. But, when they can, they travel together.

Wilson often purchases jewelry during her trips that she later sells through her Tampa-based online store called A Queen’s Ransom Boutique. "Travel is definitely an asset to my work life," she said.

Contact Tierra Smith at [email protected] tampabay.com. Follow @bytierrasmith.

     
   
Comments
Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Among the marching bands and twirlers at Saturday’s St. Pete Pride Parade, one major sponsor, Tech Data, is sending by far a record number of employees — more than 700 at last count — to march in Florida’s largest gay pride parade.The parade, which d...
Updated: 4 hours ago
A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

TAMPA — Publix shoppers in South Tampa who hate circling the lot for parking can now toss their keys to a valet.The Publix at Dale Mabry and Neptune started testing a free valet service last week that could expand to more stores. Spokesman Brian West...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir

A sign asking customers at a Dunkin’ Donuts store in Baltimore to report employees who were heard not speaking English has set off a controversy.The sign, according tothe Baltimore Sun, would offer coupons to customers who reported workers at a dough...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida Bankers Association recognizes Bill Klich with award

Florida Bankers Association recognizes Bill Klich with award

Former Tampa Bay banking executive Bill Klich was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Bankers Association last week at an annual meeting in Palm Coast.Klich, 73, has a strong reputation with more than four decades of commercial ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Jeff Vinik-backed construction material firm headed to Port Tampa Bay

Jeff Vinik-backed construction material firm headed to Port Tampa Bay

TAMPA — With $3 billion in construction on the boards, Water Street Tampa will need a lot of concrete, so a company whose largest investor is Jeff Vinik is moving to Port Tampa Bay to begin importing fly ash, a component of concrete.Spartan Materials...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Drugs at your doorstep: CVS will deliver prescriptions to your home

Drugs at your doorstep: CVS will deliver prescriptions to your home

CVS Health will make prescription deliveries nationwide to accommodate the heightened expectations of convenience from consumers. The nation’s second-largest drugstore chain says it also will make home deliveries of other items, like allergy medicine...
Updated: 9 hours ago
St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

St. Petersburg residents will see higher water, sanitation bills

ST. PETERSBURG — Residents can expect their water and sanitation bills to increase between $7 and $11 starting in October.That represents an average of a 7-percent increase. Customers who use an average of 4,000 gallons a month, including reclaimed w...
Published: 06/19/18
Spectrum’s new service will eventually increase the cost for TV

Spectrum’s new service will eventually increase the cost for TV

Spectrum’s new all-digital service is set to bring more high definition, faster internet speeds and expanded on-demand offerings — but it also comes with higher costs for some of its TV customers in Tampa Bay. Each TV that receives service from Spect...
Published: 06/19/18
Medical manufacturer to add 116 jobs in Pasco County expansion

Medical manufacturer to add 116 jobs in Pasco County expansion

NEW PORT RICHEY — TouchPoint Medical, an engineering and manufacturer of high-tech hospital equipment, plans to put its global headquarters into a 125,000-square-foot industrial and corporate office building in Pasco County.Tuesday morning, county co...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITALS RECEIVE AWARD: Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Medical Center of Trinity were recipients of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals t...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/19/18