We’d planned to spend that week together, but life happened and I wasn’t able to join him on that trip. Knowing that I was getting the travel itch, he suggested that I go to Iceland.
“Like a solo trip???” I asked. It was something I’d always wanted to do, but the physical act of doing it never registered in my mind as something I could make a reality. Ross, on the other hand, is no novice to solo travel and has explored countless countries on his own after being drawn to those places by basketball work. The excitement that radiates off him when calling me on FaceTime from the mountains of Switzerland while enjoying an apple strudel after running through basketball plays to the tunes of The Sound of Music is simply…infectious. I wanted experiences like that for myself and felt nothing but excitement from his suggestion.
Although the lure of floating in the Blue Lagoons and gazing at the Northern Lights was enticing, I decided that Iceland was a bit out of my budget…and cold. So I went on Google Maps and looked at the countries closest to New York that were affordable, safe for a solo female traveler, and offered the opporunity for a cultural immersion that I’d never experienced.
Enter Portugal. No one I know had ever been, and honestly that was what appealed to me the most. I made a reservation for a standby flight (my baby sis is a flight attendant so being able to fly at low cost AND last minute is amazing!) and spent the next week searching the internet for the best way to spend my time in Portugal. I’m not the type of traveler who likes to stick to a strict itinerary, but I do like to have a list of “can’t miss” sites and restaurants to guide me.
Also, since this was my first solo travel I wanted to leave my peeps with a list of places they could look if I went missing. Okay that sounds a little somber but it’s reality. For me, the excitement of experiencing the world will always outweigh the fear of the unknown, but that doesn’t mean being naive about what dangers exist for travelers. So here’s a couple tips that allowed me and my loved ones to feel secure in my ventures:
Registered my travel details with the U.S. Embassy located in Lisbon & plugged the address & phone number
Read up on the current travel warnings and weather in Portugal
Made an itinerary with my flight & hotel details, as well as specific locations that I planned to go to during my trip with addresses and phone numbers
Left a copy all of my pre-purchased train & tourism tickets, passport, social security card, and driver’s license at my apartment (and also took copies with me in case I got mugged)
Made sure to pack my pepper spray and borrowed Ross’s coaching whistle in the event I needed to make some extra noise lol.
All in all, my trip ended up being SUPER safe and worry free because I was so prepared and about my wits the entire time.
Okay back to the fun parts. I arrived to Newark airport and when I was given an actual seat on the plane, called Ross on FaceTime and said…"YO! I’M GOING TO PORTUGAL!!” Like the excitement literally did not hit me until that point. It became real. Three long, incredible, life changing days later I made my way back home to New York. Looking back through pictures brings the excitement of each moment back so vividly. Portugal was the perfect place for my first solo travel experience, Lisbon is my new favorite city in the world, and I dream of a tiny cup of cafe and a pasteis de nata every night. Keep scrolling for highlights from each day!