Paris Metro 101

CiteThe Paris Metro is like arteries hidden under the city skin.  These tunnels take you all over the city.  I love rising from the Metro to find unexplored territory, or a grand sight right before me.  Some people may be intimidated by the system, but it really is efficient and much more affordable than a taxi.  I do have to warn you that it is not handicap-friendly.  If stairs or some walking are challenging for you, it may not be the best mode of transportation.  If you are looking for a how-to or some simple tips, read below for more information.

paris vacation 101Getting Ready for the Metro

Finding a Metro is typically easy unless you are away from the city center.  It can be handy to pick up a map that contains city streets and the Metro plan.  Even if you aren’t staying in a hotel, you can probably sneak in to pick one up.  If you are going soon, make sure the Metro map is updated.  They recently expanded some of the lines, so it is important to have an updated map.  You can always download a copy from the website as well.

Once you reach the Metro, you will descend to purchase tickets.  There are some machines that only take cards.  If you have a chipped card, you can use this, otherwise you will need a machine that accepts cash.  Make sure you have bills less than 50 €.

If you plan on using the Metro more than a couple times, I recommend purchasing a carnet.  This is a package deal containing 10 tickets for a little over 13 €.  Some Metro stations have a person working if you need to ask questions, but don’t rely on that.

Your ticket will be good until you pass through an exit.  You do not need a new ticket to change lines or go back if you made a mistake.  You could technically explore all of Paris underground if you wanted to.  Personally, I prefer the view above ground.

How the Metro WorksTurnstile

You’ve got your ticket, and you made it past the turnstile (sometimes this is more challenging than you would think), now what?  This is where having a metro map can be helpful in creating a plan ahead of time.  If you don’t have a map, there are maps posted on the walls.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the metro map, but you can click the map below to be linked so you can follow along.  Let’s do this step by step:

1. Find the Metro stop you are currently in.

2. Find the Metro stop you want to go to.

3. If it is on the same line (color/number), then this will be really easy, but that doesn’t happen very often.  Simply look in the direction you want to go until you find the last stop.  You will use the last stop to help you determine which direction you will go.  For example, if I was at Georges V and I wanted to go to Saint Paul, I would look for the sign that points to Chateau de Vincennes.  Then I would follow the signs until I reach the tunnel where I wait for the train.  Get on, and watch for your stop.

4.  If you need to change lines, don’t fret.  Do be prepared for some walking though.  Some stations are small, while others may have you walking close to a half mile.  Let’s say I’m at my home Metro stop of St. Paul and I want to go to Canal St. Martin.  I look at the map to see how I can make the fewest connections possible.  I notice that I will take line 1 to Chateau de Vincinnes to get on line 5 and exit at Bastille.  Then I will determine what the last station is in the direction I want to go.  I see that it is Bobigny Pablo Picaso, so I follow the signs that point to Bobigny Pablo Picaso.  When the train arrives, I’ll hop on and get off at Republique to make my way to Canal St. Martin.

Want some practice scenarios?  Check these out and look for the answers at the bottom of the post.  Remember, there is more than one way to get where you want to go, but typically we want the most straightforward approach.

Metro Map1. Hotel de Ville to Gare de Lyon

2. Abbesses to Châtlet

3. Opera to Tuilieries

Important Reminders

After going through the turnstile, make sure you put your ticket in a safe place.  I have never been on the Metro when they check your tickets, but I’ve heard from others that they do check.  Hold onto it to verify you paid your way so you won’t be paying more later.

One of the most important points to remember is to watch your valuable items.  The Metro is a mecca for pickpockets because we are easily distracted and the trains can become quite packed.  Try to keep your hand over your purse or pocket with your wallet, or wear a moneybelt.  Zippers and buttons are no match for pickpockets.  To learn other tips, check out my blog post about the topic.

Using the MetroWaiting for the Metro

Now that we have a better idea of how to use the Metro, we will be ready for the first installment of Paris by Metro tomorrow.  The first post will feature the Cité Metro stop and all of the wonderful sights within a kilometer.

 

 

Answer Key

1-Look for Line 1 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes.  Get off at Gare de Lyon.

2-Look for Line 12 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Mairie d’Issy.  Get off at Concord.  Find Line 1 and head in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes.  Get off at Châtlet.

–or–

Look for Line 12 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Mairie d’Issy.  Get off at Madeline.  Find Line 14 and head in the direction of Olypiades.  Get off at Châtlet.

3-Look for Line 7 and take the Metro in the direction of Villejuif-Louis Aragon or Mairie d’Ivry (the line branches off, but this time it doesn’t matter which one you take).  Get off at Palais Royal/Musee de Louvre.  Find Line 1 and head in the direction of La Defense.  Get off at Tuilieries (and enjoy the gardens :).

Thoughts on Solo Travel

Mwah Solo travel is often portrayed through idealistic eyes.  I know that was my original perspective.  After being on my own for nearly a month, my view has become a little more realistic.  Every person will have a different perspective because we are all in different situations.  I am a young female who is not terribly harsh on the eyes.  My experience will be much different than a sixty year old male.  Here is what I experienced.

My Story

When I dreamed of solo travel, overarching themes came to mind like freedom, destiny, growth, and self-actualization.  I would be like a pioneer of my own life.  It is odd how sometimes thoughts become realities, but in a different way than you mapped out.

My first day and night alone were a little embarrassing.  I questioned what I was doing and wondered if I made a horrible mistake.  The fight vs. flight set right in, and my first reaction was flight.  I even considered calling the airline to see if I could change my flight.  After the initial panic (and sleep), I realized I was being ridiculous (especially the reoccurring thought that I might choke to death because no one could save me).  I told myself, “this is what you’ve been counting down for.  This is your dream.”  I decided to make a plan, because that is my coping mechanism.  I created a calendar and brainstormed everything I wanted to do.  Then I mapped out the days.

Once I knew all of the adventures I had planned, I felt better.  Routine started to set in and my photography really took off.  I was busy learning, seeing, and doing.  I even started to think, “what will I do when I get home?  Life will be so boring.”

Then, bad news came from home.  I thought my anxiety level was high in the beginning, but knowing that I was needed at home and I couldn’t get there was awful.  I feared that I wouldn’t make it home in time.  I’ve never had to make such important decisions on my own.  When is the right time to come home?  How will I get home?  How will I take care of all the “other” details like checking out with my landlord and getting everything done in time?  I’d like to say I kept my cool the whole time, but I’d be lying.

Through this experience, I have learned a lot about myself, what I want, and what I can accomplish.  This was the goal of the trip, but I didn’t realize this is how it would all happen.  I love travel, but I also love my family and friends.  I do need them.  I don’t think I can just move across the globe, but I sure can visit as many places as my heart desires as long as I have a home waiting for me.  Even as I wait for the dust to settle here, I dream of where I will be going next.  Perhaps I am a chronic sufferer of the grass being greener on the other side.  Talk about a paragraph being full of cliches…

So, what are my overall thoughts on solo travel?  There is good and bad.  I think if it is approached the right way, it can be a very liberating experience.  Here are some benefits and downsides to traveling alone, plus some tips to make it the best experience possible.

Pros to Solo Travel

-Freedom of Choice

-Create your own schedule

-Move at your own pace

-Greater growing experience

-No compromises have to be made with others

-Typically we are more approachable when we are alone

Cons to Solo Travel

-Loneliness can set in

-It can be more costly

-Sometimes paranoia can take over when too much time is spent alone

-Extra cautions need to be taken to remain safe

-If we are uncomfortable, we may be less adventurous and miss out on opportunities

-It can be challenging to trust others because we can become more guarded

Tips

-Select your destination carefully.  There are some places that are much more comforting to solo travelers than others.  I felt so much more comfortable and at ease during my layover in Dublin than I did my entire month in Paris.  Language barriers do make things more challenging.  Different cultures have different values and customs.  Perhaps it is best to find one that is more similar to your own for your first trip alone.

-Balance city and country in your itinerary.  City life can be harsh and sometimes we need to be able to let our guard down a little.

-Don’t be surprised when fear steps in, but have a plan to combat it.  If you know how to calm yourself down, you are a step ahead.  If not, try different strategies to cope.

-It is okay to be homesick.  Fill your needs with skype, home comforts (whether it is food or entertainment), and connections with other travelers.  I spaced out my English-speaking interactions with fun events like a cooking class, champagne tour, and guided walks through the city.  Even though I didn’t make long lasting friendships, I did have conversations that helped me fill my social quota.

-Do what feels comfortable.  If you don’t feel safe alone at night, enjoy each daylight hour.  I imagined myself exploring the night scene, but after being followed for almost a mile by a man and then approached, I realized that I would have to change my plans.  I received a lot of unwanted attention that made me realize being out late at night would make me feel uncomfortable.  It is unfortunate, but I will have to enjoy those moments with friends while I travel.

-Eat out at lunch.  I found that I could really enjoy my lunch on my own.  Eating alone at dinner seemed to draw more attention that I didn’t want.  I must have been sending off some serious pheromones because I’ve never gotten so many “I love you baby,” whistles, or looks in my life.

-If you want to avoid unwanted attention, whether they are gypsies, hagglers, perverts, drunks, or homeless people, you have to be harsh.  At home, I am the kind that smiles as someone walks by in the grocery store, or will say hi to the hiker walking past me on the trail.  In Paris I found that making eye contact more than once was not a good idea.  When I talked about this with my tour guide, she said that to avoid unwanted approaches, simply look through people.  You gaze as though they are invisible.  Eye contact in the states is different than eye contact in other countries.  Perhaps I am a little paranoid, but when I am on my own and have to handle every situation by myself, I find that caution is what feels best to me.

To Sum it Up…

Will I ever travel alone again?  You betcha.  Will I do it the same way I did this time?  No.  A big part of traveling alone is learning about what works for you.  After getting to know myself, I know that my next solo adventure will look a little different.  Sure there will be struggles again, but there will also be growth and unforgettable moments.  What a life…

The Problem with Pickpockets

A Monk Tourist at Notre DamePickpockets are a major problem in Europe and definitely a problem in Paris.  Someone I am traveling with was pickpocketed yesterday in the metro and she lost all of her money and cards.  Luckily she was not hurt and has a supportive group to help her out.  I can’t imagine how challenging it would have been if she was traveling alone.  Although it is a horrible situation to be in, there are lessons that can be learned.  I’m hoping to share some tips with you to prevent another occurrence.

How to Avoid Pickpockets

-Carry your Items Carefully

A zipper or clasp is nothing for a pickpocket to get past.  If you want to secure your important items, place them in a zippered pocket within the purse and then clasp/zipper.  My current bag has a zippered pocket, a zippered top, and a clasp top.  It would take some time to find my money, plus I place my hand over my bag.  If you are serious about security, consider the Pacsafe bags.  Men, keeping your wallet in your back pocket is a big no-no.  Money belts are probably the best option for you.

I also recommend wearing items across your body.  A shoulder bag is not a challenge for a thief.  One swift movement and it is gone before you know it.  They may be walking, or even ride by on a scooter and rip it off of you.

-Wear a Money Belt

This is probably the safest option.  It may not be the easiest or most flattering, but no one really knows your money is there.  When I am carrying large sums of money, I use a money belt.

-Don’t Act Like a Tourist

Usually tourists are targeted because we stick out.  We are louder, confused, and less aware of our personal surroundings.  There is so much stimulation, how could we notice someone grabbing our dough?  Try your best to have your senses heightened in typical danger areas.  These areas include: subways, museums, major tourists sights, airports, train stations, and any other place with large quantities of people.

-Try not to be too Trusting

Pickpockets are not easily picked out from a group of people.  It might be that man in a suit, or that mother with children.  They will use all kinds of tricks to distract you.  Watch out when people bump into you, spill something on you, or ask something of you.

-Don’t Keep Everything in One Location

Although prevention is the best hope, there is always a chance something will happen.  Try not to carry everything with you.  Many tourists carry their money, cards, passports, and tickets all together.  I now keep a credit card, debit card, and minimal cash in my purse.  My other cards and big money are stowed safely away somewhere else as backup.

-Bring Copies of Important Information

Before I leave, I make a copy of all my credit/debit cards and passport.  It may not be necessary, but it makes the recovery process much easier.  Important information like phone numbers and account information will be saved on your copies if you are ever in need.

What to do if you are a Victim

-Cancel all Cards Immediately

Many thieves will just take your cash and be done, but you cannot count on it.  Call your companies to report theft.  Before you call, try to remember your last transaction because this is a way they help to verify you are the card owner.

-File a Police Report

This is most necessary if you have lost your passport or any kind of ticket.  If you are in a subway, you can most likely go to any police station.  If not, you have to go to the police station that has jurisdiction over that area.  I have read that this is an essential part if you are claiming something for traveler’s insurance or need replacement of a passport.  If your passport has been stolen, you will need to go to the embassy.

I hope that you will be safe in your travels.  Travel is always worthwhile and this is no reason to avoid it, but be prepared and aware.

50 Things to do on Your Own

PonderExploring on your own should be an activity written in all guidebooks.  Whether you are traveling alone, or just want to get away from the group for a bit, here are some things you can do:

Academic

1. Take an art history class

-If you’ve never liked art, or never understood it, why not start?  Even if you like art, there is always more to learn about the masterpiece in front of you.

2. Brush up on the language

-Take a class, or find a private tutor.  Maybe you’ll be opened up to a new circle of friends.

3. Go to a museum

-There seems to be a museum for every interest.  Military, history, science, and even toilets; there seems to be something out there for everyone.

4. Check out a library

-Even if you don’t possess the power of a library card, it can still be interesting to see what events are going on.

5.  Check out the art scene

-Art can be found everywhere.  Don’t just consider the museums.  Some of the coolest art can be found in the streets.

6. Gaze at the architecture

-There are a variety of styles.  Some destinations are filled with multiple kinds.  Make sure you look up and around.

7. Learn a new artistic form

-Think about what art forms you enjoy and get involved.  Maybe you’ll be the next Rodin.

8. Read a newspaper out in publicA Monk Tourist at Notre Dame

-Make sure you get out.  Few memorable experiences will take place in your hotel.

9. Go to the historical sights

-It seems every town has some history to share.  See what makes that place unique.

10. Check out an author reading/signing

-Even if you’ve never heard of the book or author, it is a chance to learn and be around people.

11. Read literature from/about the destination

-One way to bring a place to life is through the words and experiences of others.

Walking

12. Dive into a neighborhood

-Spend a day wandering in just one area.  Learning about a place will open up more knowledge about the people.

13. Stop by a cemetery

-Cemeteries are different all over the world.  Check out the graves, and maybe you’ll even come across someone famous.

14. Watch the vendors set up early in the morning

-Getting out early is a great way to avoid tourists, and peak into everyday life.

15. Be Roman, Passeggiata

-The Romans love to stroll in the evening.  As the day starts to settle down, grab some ice cream or gelato as you walk through, and watch people congregate in areas and socialize.

Shopping

Waiting Artist16. Peruse the market

-There are markets for everyone: food, clothing, books, etc.  Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, you can still look.  Take the opportunity to talk to a local about their products.

17. Hunt for bargains at a flea market

-You don’t have to buy anything, but it can still be enjoyable to check out the interesting items.

18. Window shop at boutiques

-Sometimes the pocketbook doesn’t hold enough currency to purchase anything behind the windows, but at least it is free to look and get ideas.

19. Immerse yourself in a bookstore

-Books are cool.  People that like books are cool.

Nature

20. Visit a park

-You can sit, sun bathe, eat, nap, or do whatever your heart desires (within reason).

21. Watch the sun set/rise

-Find a nice spot to settle down, and welcome or say goodbye to the sun.

HobbiesIce Cream Break

22. Take photographs

-Consider focusing on a theme to create your own view of your destination.

23. Go to a movie

-Even if you’re in a foreign country, sometimes you can find movies in English.  If not, interpret the movie the best you can from the imagery.

24. Sketch a scene

-My aunt carries a few colored pencils with her in case she sees a scene she wants to sketch.  It is another memento to take with you.

25. Write your thoughts

-Journaling is a great activity to do out in public.  Somehow I become more observant with a pen and paper in hand.

26. Volunteer

-If you are looking to meet some good people, consider volunteering to help.  There are always food pantries that need help.  Get involved with a community and make an impact with your stay.

27. Start a blog

-As you can probably tell, I love this one.  When those nights come around, and you don’t want to go out, but you don’t want to go to bed, write a post to share your activities and reflect.

Benchwarmer28. Join in on a cooking class

-Whether your expertise doesn’t go beyond ramen noodles or you are America’s Top Chef, we can learn new ideas, and create fusions through cooking classes.  This is also another great way to meet people.  Food always brings people together.

Eat

29. Have a picnic

-Grab some bread, cheese, meat, and maybe a little wine.  Find a prime spot in a park and plop down.  If you are nervous about eating out alone, a picnic can be a nice compromise.

30. Sit at a café

-Some places definitely have café culture.  Order a drink of choice and relax.

31. Order a cappuccino at the bar

-If you don’t like sitting by yourself, go up to the coffee bar and get a drink.  Sometimes this is a cheaper option as well.

32. Sip at a wine tasting

-Everyone gets friendly with a little wine in them.  Make it a double win by enjoying wine and meeting other wine fans.

33. Pick up a gelato

-Gelato is delicious and a bit healthier than ice cream.  You can grab some and go, or stay.

34. Savor the local dessertsArtist at Work

-When your sweet tooth is calling, answer with the dessert of the destination.

35. Taste at a brewery

-I’m not a beer fan, but even I will do a little tasting at a brewery.  Yet another way to meet people.

36. Taste the local alcohol

-Sometimes wine or beer is not the specialty on the menu.  Think about a whiskey,  schnapps, or other local beverage tasting.

37. Have a Sunday dinner with a local

-I just signed up for one in Paris.  He typically has over 40 guests.  The cost is very reasonable, and all types of people come together.  Some places have agencies that can arrange it or check out meetup.com.

Sight See

38. Join a tour

-Learning from a local can provide the most comprehensive view of a place.  They can also make recommendations for places to visit if you need ideas.

39. People watch

-Some countries have this as a pastime.  I love to find a bench to watch people on a nice day.

Solitude40. Cruise down the river

-Get another perspective of the city.  The view from the water generally encompasses many of the major sights.

41. Ride the lines

-Sometimes I will get on the metro in Paris and just ride.  The stations all have a unique vibe and some can be considered art museums themselves.

42. Search for pop culture sights

-If you’ve seen a movie, read a book, or listened to a song about the place you are visiting, see if you can find the sights mentioned.

Entertainment

43. Attend a concert

-You can find a band from that country, or find familiar acts.

44. Watch a game at a local bar/pub

-Every country loves sports.  America loves baseball, football, and basketball.  Europe loves soccer.  Figure out what the most popular sport is, and cheer on the local team.

45. Visit an open house

-If a home is open to view, check it out to see how someone else lives.

46. Watch bar windows for posters to see a live band

-If you don’t want to pay the fee of a concert, consider catching a band at the bar.

Spiritual

47. Stroll through a church

-Churches are very popular in Europe.  If there are interesting churches where you are going, step inside.

48. Walk through a synagogue

-Be sure to check that people are welcome when you want to visit.  See how others warship.

49. Visit a temple

-Same as above.  Temples are often welcoming and hope you join them for meditation.

50. Investigate a Mosque

-Same as above.  Some Mosques even have little cafes if you’d like to try a different kind of fare.

Helpful Resources

Meetup.com

Couchsurfing

What is your favorite thing to do on your own?

Preparing for Your Trip

A Monk Tourist at Notre DameAccommodations have been arranged.  Transportation has been taken care of.  Now it is time to get ready.  Planning, and the anticipation building up before the trip can almost be as exciting as actually traveling.  Get your escape from the everyday by researching before your trip.

1. Check out the Library

Guidebooks, fiction, nonfiction, they’ve got it all.  When I first decide where I’m going, I raid the shelves.  I typically check out 20 or more books to start the investigation.  What do I want to see?  What do I want to do?  Who can I live through vicariously until my own departure date?

Beyond researching through nonfiction, you may also want to consider browsing the fiction section.  Reading a story about the setting you will be visiting can spark an interest in something you may not have considered.  I loved the novel, Sarah’s Key.  Although it is historical fiction, it made me wonder what kind of deportation memorials exist in Paris.

2. Pop Some Popcorn and Watch a Movie

Watching a movie is a little escape.  Why not visit your destination in a movie?  Midnight in Paris is a great example of a movie I watch, and feel as though I am there.   Don’t count out the visual as a way to learn and see what is out there.

3. Hover Over Forums

Most likely, others have traveled to where you want to go, and are sharing their experiences.  TripAdvisor, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, and Rick Steves have great discussion boards ready for comments and questions.

4. Follow Blogs

I have learned about markets, events, and other happenings through the news on other bloDoisneaugs.  There are so many resources.  I love following expat blogs.  They typically have a similar perspective to mine, but are living where I am visiting.  As you know, wordpress has some great blogs.

5. Take a Class

I would be a professional student if I could, so I’m a little impartial to taking classes.  Community education courses can be an affordable way to learn more without going back to the loan days.  I’ve taken writing and photography classes before traveling.   I also see value in language and art history classes.  The more you know about a place before you visit, the more you can comprehend.

6. Call your Credit Card Company

It would be quite a bummer to finally reach your destination, go to a restaurant to grab some dinner, and after trying to pay with your credit card, realize that it has been blocked.  Even if you are traveling in your own country, I would recommend calling to notify about travel dates.  The more you can prepare ahead of time, the smoother your journey will go.

7. Contact you Cell Phone Provider

This is very similar to the cell phone.  I had a friend who traveled to Indiana and her cell phone went kaput.  I’ve also had issues with going abroad and it not working right away.  Talk to your cell phone company to see what your phone is capable of.  Warning: data charges can be outrageous.  Make sure you are clear about all charges when traveling.

8. Consider your AttireFeet in the Med

Shoes are probably the most important item to evaluate for your trip.  Sore feet are no good.  I take at least two types are wear them before I go.  This is an area that I spend a little more on since it greatly impacts my ability to explore.

Besides your kicks, also think about your clothing.  I check out the climate to have an idea what to expect, but also bring clothing that is warmer and cooler than necessary.  Think about foldability and flexibility.  Will it wrinkle like crazy?  Can you wear it in more than one way?  Worse case scenario: you have to go do a little shopping.

5 Steps to Moving Beyond the Beaten Path

Lost
Lost

Move beyond the beaten path.  Experience the culture.  Avoid the tourist traps.  We’ve heard this from most travel experts, but branching out can be scary to the novice traveler.  When I first started traveling, I immediately darted for the places that were a “must see.”  Perhaps it was climbing the Eiffel Tower or visiting the Champs Elysees that enticed my presence, but when I think back to the moments, or hours I spent at these places, I do not see them as highlights.  I went, I saw, I moved on.

There are some sights that should be visited, but determine that yourself after doing some research.  To build a trip that is more rich and filling, follow some of these simple guidelines.  You can begin with one piece of advice and expand from there, or try it all.  Consider trying these tips in a local destination for practice.

Step 1: Plan Sparingly

Having a plan can be very comforting for the anxious traveler.  It can also be beneficial for saving money, and making the most of your time.  On a previous trip, I saved some considerable euros by purchasing a museum pass in Paris.  This is a great idea, but be cautious.  I made the mistake of trying to plan everything.  I ended up with a trip that was overfilled with museums and lacking in authentic experiences.  My time felt limited, so I wanted to do everything, but I eliminated the opportunity for spontaneity.  When I reminisce about the highlights of my trips, I find the most fond memories take place during my interactions with people.  You can’t plan the people you will meet, so make sure you leave room for them in your schedule.

I don’t discourage planning because it makes the wait for the departure date more manaPassage-4geable.  Knowing that I will be immersing myself in another place builds anticipation.  So don’t cut out planning, but stick with a tentative itinerary.  Consider options.  When you are building an itinerary, understand that it is a guideline, not the requirement.  Be open to changing plans.

Step 2: Carefully Consider your Base

Deciding on sleeping quarters can greatly affect your ability to seek adventure.  When I am visiting a big city, I like to stay in a neighborhood downtown that has easy access to public transportation, restaurants, and sights to see.  A few years ago during my beginner traveler days, I was booking a hotel in Savannah, Georgia.  The price was great, and so were the reviews, so I booked it.  Unfortunately, the hotel was located just off the interstate many miles from the city center.  Luckily we had a car, but it definitely limited our chance to explore.

Just recently I had to book a hotel in Paris for a solo night.  Since I knew I would be alone, I wanted to pick a safe place with a lot of options for activities.  I decided to go with the Rue Cler neighborhood because it is a pedestrian street with many restaurants.  The metro is also very close which will be important for traveling to the airport, and it makes the city very accessible.  The location is great because I am within walking distance to the Seine and Eiffel Tower.  In other words, I recommend you consider what you want to see and do, and how you will get around before reserving accommodations.  Selecting the right accommodations can provide you with the confidence and opportunity you need to experience the unexpected.

Step 3: Go for a Walk

One of my favorite moments in my travels took place alone.  I was tired of waiting for my travel companions to finish getting ready, so I decided to go for a walk. As I weaved across the canals of Venice, I stumbled upon a special service for Palm Sunday.  Outside a church I found a band of young men playing a song that still lingers in my mind today.  I do not know what it is about, or even the name of the song, but the memory is so strong that it plays on repeat.  I think one of the reasons that I am so fond of thMorning-Rideis memory relies on the pride in being the only one to have this experience out of my travel group.  I felt like I got a little treat, and was privileged to be a part of this private concert.

During solo travel, it is important to stay safe, and feel comfortable while on your own.  My recommendations do not differ much from going on a blind date.  Go out during the day, stay in populated areas, and being aware of your surroundings are all examples of ways to stay safe.  If you can follow this advice early on in your independent ventures, you will become more savvy for future adventures on your own.

Step 4: Ask Locals for Advice

This tip is one that is stated so often, yet so many do not follow it.  The turistico menu seems so appealing after a long day of sightseeing, and before you know it, you are sucked into mediocre food that lacks tradition.  Go with some ideas of cuisine you’d like to try and ask a trusted local for suggestions.

If you are nervous about asking locals on the street, there are many respectable opinions out there that are within easy reach.  One of the best places to start is your hotel host or concierge.  The more detail you can provide about your interest, the more likely they will be able to provide a good match.  I found a great Indian restaurant in London this way.  Other great resources include store employees, bartenders, and visitor information desks.  Don’t forget, the touristy danger spots are usually close to the major attractions. Beware.

Step 5: Go During the Off-Season

Avoiding tourist season offers many benefits.  One of  the primary reasons people avoid booking trips during peak times is based on the cost factor.  Flights and sleeping accommodations can be far less expensive during time periods that are less common with vacationers.  Besides saving some money, we can also bypass the stereotypical tMarket-1ourist behavior.

One of the best ways to get out of the mold is to immerse yourself in the culture.  This task is much easier when there are fewer tourists around.  You are naturally being placed in an environment that encourages you to interact with locals rather than a larger pool of visitors. If you have the time available, definitely consider this option.

I’d love to hear your favorite “off the beaten path” stories.  Feel free to share in the comments!