Take the Solo Trip

By: Kayla Keats

Hi, my name is Kayla and I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain for the fall of 2023. A huge goal I had for my time abroad was not only to learn about the country I would be living in, but the countries surrounding it and just like every student that’s studied abroad, I was nervous. A big preoccupation I had was finding like-minded people that wanted to travel to the same destinations and do the same things that I wanted to do. I’m a huge art history nerd, so museums are always high on my list when visiting a new place. I was so worried that people on my CIEE program wouldn’t want to spend time exploring a museum or going on walking tours. What if I was the only one that wanted to go to a destination? How would I do it alone?

If you’re thinking of studying abroad and you have a similar worry, don’t fret. Almost every study abroad student has been in your exact shoes before and they always turn out alright. My advice to you? Take the solo trip. 

Initially, while studying abroad is exhilarating, it can also feel intimidating to practically start an entire new life in a new country and when you saddle your own personal travel goals on top of that it can feel oppressing overwhelming. And hey, sometimes your friends will have other plans the weekend you want to travel and that’s OKAY! Don’t be scared to try new things by yourself! 

Here is my solo travel advice coming from a student that visited over 10 cities alone while studying abroad.

  1. Plan it early
    1. Having a trip itinerary well-formed before you get to your location will alleviate a ton of stress you will feel when you get there. Have a plan for how you’ll get from the airport to your hostel. Where are you going to eat the night you land? Are you going to bring food with you? What sites do you want to make sure you see during your time there and how will you get there?
  2. Have a backup phone plan
    1. When I went to Dublin my Spanish SIM card spontaneously combusted (couldn’t tell you why) so I went the entire trip without the use of my phone on WIFI which, initially, was very stressful. If I had brought my American SIM card with me as a backup, I wouldn’t have had to worry so on my future trips I made sure to bring it just in case. 
  3. Check your chargers before you leave
    1. Make sure you have your phone/watch adapters BEFORE you leave for the airport. Too many times have I heard of friends who accidentally forgot theirs at home and needed to buy a new one. Don’t be that person and just double check!
    2. I would also invest in a good portable charger. You’ll need it. 
  4. Bring what you NEED
    1. Solo travel means you only have yourself to depend on so it’s on you to be prepared for an emergency. This means making sure you have extra prescription medication, an extra pair or two of socks, advil, and a water bottle. Your future self will thank you. 
  5. Fill out the CIEE travel form
    1. On the off chance that something goes wrong in the city you’re in, CIEE can be there to help you through it, but they need to know where you are. Make sure you fill out that form in your CIEE portal before you leave. 
  6. Relish in the time alone!
    1. It’s so rare that we get to have unique experiences completely to ourselves. Go on an adventure and see what you can learn about yourself on the way. You’ll surprise yourself with how capable you are in the face of a challenge. Also, don’t be afraid to splurge a little bit on yourself. You got yourself to a new place! Celebrate that!

Have fun and take lots of photos; you’ll want them later! 

Happy traveling, 

Kayla K