(Via Josephine Ross)
In this snowy February atmosphere, it feels like winter may last forever. As COVID regulations loosen and summer nears, students are beginning to plan their summer trips or gap years. Early young adulthood is the perfect time to get out of your comfort zone and try traveling with friends, with your partner, or completely alone. However, planning your first independent trip can feel both exciting and overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin.
Having just returned from my first solo international trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, I find myself well-positioned to offer you some tips and resources, fresh from my experiences in South America. From saving money, to finding affordable plane tickets, to booking decent accommodations, this is your short how-to independent travel guide.
Depending on where you’re going and the kind of travel lifestyle you’re aiming for, costs will vary. If you’re rarely eating out, staying in youth hostels, and avoiding costly tourist attractions, you can get by on far less money than someone dining out every night and staying in a four-star hotel. Regardless of how much you need, saving money can be difficult. I especially struggled with this. While many of you are probably far more organized and disciplined than I am, I only began to deprive myself of my daily 4$ oat milk latte when the fear of not having enough money for my trip set in. To avoid this panic, I would advise consulting your bank about opening a savings account. I was able to do this via my banking app, no awkward social encounters required! I found it helpful to create the type of account that you can’t easily withdraw funds from. I set a weekly budget and began making electronic money transfers after every paycheck.
Another easy way to save money is to book your plane tickets many months in advance; You can save hundreds of dollars with a little foresight. I used skyscanner.ca, which allowed me to view the cheapest flights offered by various international airlines. If you’re planning on traveling this summer, I suggest you start consulting and tracking prices now.
Youth hostels are both a great way to find decent accommodation on a budget and the best way of meeting fellow travelers. The lively ambience and sense of community that hostels provide make them an ideal choice for solo travelers. Hostelworld.com is one of the leading sites for booking, offering low prices, free cancellation for select locations, and a reliable rating system. Additionally, many of these hostels have built-in restaurants, bars or terraces. I met many fellow travelers in youth hostel bars in Buenos Aires. These moments of spontaneous and unlikely friendship ended up being some of my favourite experiences from the trip.
In Argentina, my friend and I opted to stay in an Airbnb over a youth hostel. While Airbnbs are generally pricier, those in Buenos Aires are cheaper than in other parts of the world. When booking accommodations, consider the length of your stay. For a stay of three weeks, we wanted access to our own private kitchen and bathroom. Most Airbnbs also offer discounts if you’re staying for a longer period of time.
Workaways are a great way to make money or gain a cultural experience while abroad. With a bit of research, you can find families in need of an English tutor for their children, or youth hostels hiring adventurous travelers to work during the summertime rush. Many backpackers I met while in Argentina told me about their positive experiences working on farms, planting trees, or picking fruit. Most of these workaways offer free accommodation and meals, while some even pay their country’s minimum wage for the hours you work. Workaway.info is a great website for finding these opportunities, although you will have to purchase a yearly membership, which will cost you 44 USD$ for individuals or 56 USD$ for couples.
While independent international travel is no easy feat, especially in times of COVID paperwork and bureaucracy, it is possible with hard work, planning, and foresight. I wouldn’t exchange my trip to Argentina for the world. It was truly one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. Leaving my comfort zone was simultaneously intimidating and refreshing, but it allowed me to reflect upon my past, live in the present, and re-evaluate my plans for the future.
· Workaway (workaway.info): Find cultural exchanges, working holidays and volunteering opportunities.
· Skyscanner (skyscanner.ca): My go-to website for worldwide cheap flights.
· Airbnb (airbnb.ca): Online marketplace for renting homes, private and shared rooms.
· Hostel World (hostelworld.com): Booking sites for youth hostels, offering cheaper accommodation and free cancellation for select locations.
· Eurail (eurail.com): Find train tickets and special travel passes for locations all over Europe.