How To Travel: broke, black, & solo

9:26 AM missusmonroe 0 Comments

Hello hello friends, special lil haaay to all the new readers/subscribers out there, be prepared to be here for a good time and a long time. Now! As I'm writing this I'm wrapping up my first true and through solo trip. I've been to Europe by myself and Nigeria as well, but this is the first time I traveled completely solo: no family or friends at my destination and as it turned out not too much contact with family and the world outside of my trip in general really.. It was a whirlwind of emotions, amazing memories, and monumental lessons. Here's a snapshot on how it's absolutely possible to survive traveling solo while being broke and a person of color ~specifically black and a woman. A lot of whammies here. I'm going to try and make this as concise as possible but there's a great amount of information, tips, and tricks below. Make sure to take your time and leave a comment or drop a DM with any questions. Let's get into it.

The end all, be all, first thing you must consider when escaping to a new world is not only choosing your coveted destination, which I hope you already have in mind, but also getting to that destination. If you're into the whole resort-stay-on-a-secluded-hotel-beach-area-and-not-be-among-the-local-people-and-culture then this guide is not for you at all. So for those who love to experience your destination fully, our number one focus would be
   #1. The Cheap Flight

Breaking this up into two smaller sections here: 
         When you travel matters 
The majority of us have seen either travel bloggers or statisticians discussing travel tricks mention the term flexible dates and how much they matter. This is the truth but it's a little more than just that. Flexible dates mean you aren't completely gung-ho on traveling on the third Sunday of the eleventh month in 2021. It means you're open and malleable to different traveling dates that may be presented. To me, it goes deeper. 
Does your destination have an "off season" or what may have you and how big of an impact would this have on your trip/the list of things you wanted to do (take pictures doing) that you surely saw some popular people on insta doing?
For tropical destinations this usually means the wet or rainy season. Some destinations are torrential downpours during this time and it makes absolutely no sense to travel and do what you could've done at home for free: sit in the house. For other destinations ... it's the hidden gem many travelers won't tell you (YES I SPILLED THE TEA DAMMIT but look, good karma is great karma) This time period could mean a heap of rain at night while you're alseep, some downpour in the morning depending on the weather's mood, it also means far less tourists because of their fear of the possibility of a ruined trip, cooler cooler cooler days compared to dry season, a dramatic decrease in hotel/hostel/villa prices, and the most important part (eep!): plane tickets for a whopping 50-75% less. Yes this is real this is not a drill, but also yes this obviously comes at a price. 
You're taking a bit of a risk, a risk that can be managed with and correct planning of your day, along with research on rainy day activities/tours in the case it pours later in your day and when your destinations' rainy seasons even is. However a risk is a risk, it can be mitigated and managed during this time but not erased. At the same time, hey what's a $500 flight to a beautiful island where you may have to stay inside for a few days compared to spending a solid $1500 minimum? (that's just the flight) Nothing if you don't plan on being on the beach every single day.

         The Bang for your Buck
If you're traveling to the East, whether that be Europe, Asia, Australia and even some parts of Africa, nine times out of ten you'll have many flight options with the possibility of many layovers. Usually the longer the entire flight is, including layovers, comes with a significant difference in the price and if you're like me who wanted to ~let's just throw something out there~ go to Singapore in the future but this specific trip was to Bali, Indonesia (pictured above) then sweetheart, why not just..go to both?
Unless, for the purpose of this example, your Singapore trip was to be a whole 7 day excursion, if you've wanted to go to multiple countries within the same region, to me it only makes sense to combine them and you can do this ever so effortlessly through layovers. There are actually a plethora of "travel agent" websites out there that allow you to pick each leg of your trip or specify you'll be leaving from JFK to Singapore on the 1st, on the 3rd you want to leave from Singapore to Bali and on your return you want to leave from Bali to Beijing, and from Beijing to Shanghai, then to JFK and so on. Then they bundle up your flights and present to you options if they already exist, or they essentially create a flight itinerary for you. The latter is likely pricier as a heads up. However if you're up for it, this gives you the luxury of day-trips to your smaller destinations (maybe a taste test to less "travelnoire" locations before making a costly trip) while also giving you a hot-n-ready price. PLUS, many of these airlines have lounges and most importantly free transit hotels that will accommodate you for transits/layovers ranging from 8-96 hours. Be weary not all airlines do this and for many it's more so a privilege, so ensure there are no additional outgoing flights after yours and you'll be good. (They likely won't allow you to stay if in their eyes, you could have been on another flight out to your destination in 3 hours but chose the option of the following evening. Basically they don't actually want to feel used. Blah blah)

The first step to solo travel? Just do it. Close your eyes, okay not completely, click Confirm Registration and know the best is yet to come. Pocket the anxiety of being on your own for another time. Save money from each pay-check and stop supplying yourself with an excuse. Travel is an expense that's hard to regret and impossible to forget.

   #2. The Opportunity Cost of living
A big question I have for my future travelers is, what are you willing to get less of to be given the experience that you are seeking? Many people I see and know want these big resorts or 4-5 star villas, all-inclusive this, spa included that. Which is cute, it really is but I'm sorry did you book a flight to the hotel or to the country of choice? Did you want to leave the spa or not because realistically you could have simply traveled locally to the West Coast if you wanted a beach-front and a spa-cay (unless of course you just really wanted to create a new Insta "Mexico" highlight and change the location on your pics..). If your true intention to travel was to well, leave what you know and venture into what you don't, then spending the big bucks on accommodation doesn't truly make sense because you'll be out of it the majority of the time. For me, that's what I'm willing to have less of. I don't mind a no-frill, clean and simple hotel as long as I am getting the experience I was seeking when I am out of it. This pockets some change for you to then spend on activities and experiences of your destination. It's actually far more than change because hotel costs can shoot up, but you'd be so shocked that you can actually find amazing, one-of-a-kind gems for something like $25 a night and less (Yes, infinity pool included).
Don't be afraid to do things you would never do at home. I conquered multiple fears, not entirely on purpose, and participated in tours I would have wholeheartedly passed on here in New York, because I wanted the experience and I knew that it was almost once in a lifetime. Take the risk!
         Are you really a breakfast person anyway?
If you have the chance to have a hotel with breakfast included, check out the feedback on the food and if it's a green-light choose the breakfast. This gives you the chance to load up on a heavy morning start, thus only needing a light lunch and a phenomenal dinner you won't feel guilty about spending on. I am absolutely one of those people who feel bad about extravagant meal prices because baby, in a blink of an eye and I do mean a blink, it'll be gone and quickly forgotten. So, if breakfast is one of those things you are willing to have less of to keep a few more bucks to spend on a flourishing lunch and packed dinner, go for it. When I first arrived in Ubud, the hotel I was in was a phenomenal service, budget "villa" which provided coffee and tea in the rooms, along with the option of breakfast if I wanted to purchase in their restaurant area. (I absolutely believe coffee and a kettle should be apart of the essentials in any hotel room no matter the price, but alas.) I'm used to having no breakfast or coffee as a form of breakfast, so this option was great for me and allowed me to have my lunch whenever I wanted to, I didn't have to eat breakfast at 7 AM or search for food the first thing after getting dressed, and plus I only had to purchase two meals a day versus three.

   #3. Yes, you are the only Black Girl in the world.
As everyone continues to stare and stare at you, many of the stereotypical thoughts we've had may come to mind. "It's cause I'm black, isn't it?" Yes.
"I mean, am I the only black person on this Earth? Damn." ..Yes.
"They looking at me like they've never seen a black girl before.".. well
Truth is, many of them have not seen our type in actual human flesh form. That and the black people they have witnessed are celebrities or frequently on TV or the internet.. places that seem real but are not real life yet still. It may be your first solo trip? Well often times when traveling to Asia or developing countries, many local people have never even been on a plane, much less seen and interacted with people who do not look like them. You can research this as much as you wish prior to your departure and read up on their culture or habits, but nothing and I mean nothing will prepare you for the stares, the long glances, and for goodness sake, the children pointing and laughing, speaking in their dialect to their parent and watching the parent attempt to avoid your eyes. We know when someone is making fun of us; you don't need to know the language. The best thing to actually do is equip yourself with an extra dose of patience and a reminder that they just may not know. It's not an excuse but it's the truth. Another thing, stop wallowing in your annoyance long enough to spark up a conversation if they speak English, maybe starting with "Why are you so surprised by my skin color?" and see where that takes you.

   #4. #SoloGoals
Solo traveling is exhilarating, it's anxiety-ridden, and hip but there are so many things people never think about when it comes to traveling by yourself. It can actually be far more expensive than even just traveling in twos, depending on where you go. And then, no matter how alluring the destination may be you always have to take into consideration how safe it is to be there by yourself. If you find yourself at a very tourist heavy destination or a couples friendly, honeymoon spot, be prepared for many private tours and cost of activities to be based off of a two person minimum and it may not be the easiest of tasks to find a pre-existing group to be added to. In my experience I've seen for 2 people minimums, the price per head be $35/ea. but for solo it be $80. Just be prepared to search and search around, don't stop at the first price you see. As I stated before, a transportation driver could be an effective tour guide too as far as getting to the location goes; if you don't mind getting that information and being on your own to explore the land in something like a self-made "tour" if you will, I say go for it. I definitely did that a few times of my own, it may not be as informative but it gives you the opportunity to form your own opinions and not be constrained to a group, a price, or a pace. Not your thing? Tripadvisor was a great way to browse through a multitude of tours, attractions, and things to do within the different cities I wanted to visit and it also was my baseline for my loosely drawn itinerary. Be mindful the prices they list are usually based off of the biggest group number possible, don't be fooled by the click-bait.
No matter how much you love your own company and how attractive the thought of solo traveling can be, how glamorized it is on social media, it can get very lonely and quite anxiety driven. There were times where I forgot I was on my own and felt free as Willy, there were other times my anxiety peaked and I'd triple check over my shoulder. Researching your destination doesn't just end with the most picturesque place, it should begin with safety protocols. Some places are known for finding love, some are known for snatching young black women and selling them. These are facts. Find out more of how I secured my safety in my next post but for now remember these tips: 

  • If your intuition is telling you something is off? Believe it.
  • When you first arrive to your villa/hotel, take a walk outside your surroundings in the daytime and get familiar before you ever just gallivant by yourself at night
  • Do not pick fights with locals or haggle to the point of arguments. Some things are better off just left alone.
  • Take suggestions from locals but be sure to do your own research about the attractions/venues. Everyone seems friendly and helpful until they are not

   #5. Plan for your Best. Prepare for your Worst.
No matter how much planning goes into your trip, it can all be to shit and you'll have to deal with it and learn from it. It can be amazing, truly eye-opening, but it will beat your ass all the way to get to that point. I wanted so badly to just go with the wind, not plan every day to the T because that's my personality but I also didn't want to get to a whole new country, continent everything, and not know what to do, thus wasting days figuring out what I could've tried to map out at home. Then, a series of sadistic events occurred where I literally had to plan everything all over again when I got to Bali. I ended up planning the following day the evenings before because there were so many options and I kept adjusting what I wanted to do and the order to do them in to the weather and my budget. Sooo, in reality I ended up doing what I was for the most part trying to avoid, which ended up being what I'd wanted in the first place... LOL just prepare for the worst and sometimes that just means prepare how you'll react to the worst. It's not all the time you can physically get it right.

     - book your very first hotel before leaving
If you plan on exploring or visiting multiple cities, wait until you get there to plan for when you'll leave for the other destinations and where you'll stay. Sade also agrees on this 100%. You could have an amazing tour guide or airport transportation that suggests locals' favorites or hidden gems you never would've found on your own (remember, still verify them) and even better, they know of the places to dine and sleep for the low. They also know which city may not be worth a full two day trip but rather a healthy  half-day excursion and here you would've been out here lookin' dumb and ignorant for a day and a half.

     - wait to book tours/transportation
Similar to the above, you could be wasting your time booking some private tours through an online hack while your airport transportation who is just as knowledgeable could do the same for half the price 

     - haggle like you're broke. which you are
Don't be afraid to lowball, your first price is supposed to be obscenely low. More importantly don't be afraid to walk away because someone will indeed take your price and you don't need to ruffle any feathers

     - please, do not forget an emergency fund
No matter how broke you are, do not go anywhere without a fund preparation for, I don't know, losing everything and having to make up for it in a foreign country. Before I even got to Bali I suddenly had to shell out almost $350 I did not plan for but had to in order for me to have a safe trip but also an enjoyable one without regretting everything. That bump took some hefty change out of my pockets but I'm so grateful I even had it available in the first instance. Don't be stuck and be forced to stay in your hotel eating buffet food for the duration of your trip ~I've read enough online stories okay, believe me~ and even worse don't find yourself in a sticky safety situation because you decided to go the shiesty way of things because it appeared cheap. Traveling is even more about street-smart than it is whatever you're reading in your books.

   #5.5 Skip the foreign ATM fees and scam scares
This is 5.5 because I didn't try this for myself so I can't 100% speak on it but it is worth looking into for any traveler out there, I certainly wish I had thought of it before leaving. I suggest prior to leaving you withdrawing the amount of cash you are of course willing to spend then when you get to your destination, unless you are in a mad rush, wait until you get closer to town or your hotel before exchanging currency. As you should know but maybe you don't, airport rates are crazy low and they will for the most part rip you completely off and leave you short. And don't be confused, in this case low is not good. They are giving you a lower than usual rate to buy and higher rate to sell your USD/home currency. Their rates are competitive..among themselves and they get many first-time travelers because they are "conveniently" placed right when you exit security and customs. Unless you can and need to, wait. I also don't suggest changing all your money at once ~please don't forget the USD is still a heavy weight hitter out here, don't be so quick to let it go because if you have a surplus that you want to change back to dollar.. in no way shape or form are you going to get the same value back~
So let's say your cash is low and you still have a few days remaining with a load of shit to do and food to eat but you don't want to deal with the strife of money conversion with ATM fees of the foreign atm, in addition to the fee your own bank will charge you as well. These days the multitude of money transfer apps, Cashapp, Venmo, Paypal, Zelle etc, have the option of obtaining a physical card with your loaded money on it, as if it's a debit card. Before you leave on your trip, you can set aside some money on a card, I'd choose Paypal because it is more widely accepted but I'd urge you to do your research on this and absolutely move the money prior to you leaving I cannot stress this enough, and use this as an option to withdraw more money. Skip the excessive fees, accept the ease. I've seen many stories online of using these cards to replace credit cards and such, especially in cases where you may have forgotten to notify your bank that you were leaving the country and you tried to swipe and of course your card is now locked. On a Saturday. When your bank is closed. See where it would just be easier to have something where you already moved your money into and it can operate on its own? Look into this if you want more information though, or possibly travelers accounts/cards because as I said I wish I'd thought of it but I didn't utilize this method.

Well. That was a mouthful. And all I've got for y'all for now. Very soon I will have a full run-down of my Bali trip with vlogs and everything to go along with it but as of right now, this solo trip actually took a lot out of me as it poured into me. I hope this how-to helped so many of you all that had questions of how I did it and tips on how you can as well. Like I said before, if you're thinking about it just do it.

xxoo missusmonroe