As I am sat here at the airport about to embark on my next adventure I can not help but think what a great time I have had in America these past 4 months. I have met incredible people, seen some beautiful places and learnt so much about different cultures (not just America’s but the global cultures of fellow international travelers).
My eyes have been opened to the vast contrasts and inequality in America. From starting out in the middle of nowhere in the beautiful, tranquil, peaceful wild west to traveling to San Francisco, Vegas and San Diego- which were littered with people and the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Here poverty struck me, seeing homeless people on the streets next to huge amounts of wealth. It shocked me how in Montana, folks did not lock their homes or cars and crime rates were so low. I was amazed at how relaxed people were and loved the fact that everything revolved around being outside with nature. In Dillon, Montana I did not see one homeless person.
On my journey so far I have explored 5 states – Montana, Idaho, California, Nevada and Arizona. Each of these huge and by no means fully explored. There are still so many places in them and in the rest of the states that I want to come back and visit. For now though, I am ready to leave and experience a whole different culture in Central America.
Here are my top tips for solo travel in the USA:
– Car situation: Americans are highly reliant on cars, every tourist information point I went to gave me directions to places by car, claimed it would be impossible without one and said public transport was infrequent. While this was partially true, I found getting by without renting a car myself manageable. There are trains and buses which link major cities and in each city generally speaking there are buses. However, the cheapest, quickest and most fun option was making friends with people who owned cars or were up for joint hiring them and taking a road trip. Petrol in America is fairly cheap too. The problem with hiring cars is you have to be 25 or over – so as long as your new buddy is, then all is grand. Hitch hiking is frowned upon in America but I did meet someone who successfully tried it – this is another option.
–Accommodation: there are lots of options dependent on your budget. For me there is nothing better than a hostel if you are a solo traveler. In every hostel I stayed, I made friends. While sharing a room with strangers can be a pain, it is cheaper than private rooms and means you meet more like minded people. You do also bump into the strange hostel guests but it only makes it more of an adventure. Reviews online are usually pretty reliable too, so you can check out the hostel before booking. I use hostel world to book my next place online or you can use a free phone in the hostel you are in to book. I generally book the next hostel a day or so before I am about to leave. Motels are good if you are in a group and can split the price of a room. They are however, from my experience a bit more basic and less homely than hostels.
–Flexibility : the best thing to do is have no plans, wake up on the morning with an idea of what you want to do and make it happen. Chances are others will fancy joining you or have been before and can advise you.
–Breakfast is the best time to make friends: in the mornings over a free breakfast no one is unhappy. Most people will also have an idea of what they are doing that day – so perfect chance to find some day trip pals.
–No harm in asking: this has been my favourite phrase this trip. There is nothing to lose by asking for things, if it’s to move rooms in the hostel, get a lift somewhere or an extra cup of tea at breakfast – the worst that will happen is you will be told no.