After years of being frustrated and tired of waiting for friends’ schedules to line up or canceling at the last minute, I decided that I couldn’t keep making excuses for not visiting the places I wanted to visit, so I began to travel alone. It’s a daunting task for a lot of people, on your own in a foreign country. However, with proper preparation, there isn’t a place you can’t go and experience yourself, instead of missing out because your days off or free time didn’t coincide with others.

Traveling solo can be a little uncomfortable mentally, but there are upsides to it. Getting to explore the Riviera Maya can be one very good reason.

  1. You can start at the hour you want, without having to depend on the schedule of others.
  2. This means you can stop and eat in that interesting hole-in-the-wall place that caught your eye. Maybe others would find it not up to par, but you know it has potential.
  3. If you find an interesting after-party to go to, you don’t have to worry about someone bailing out because they have to sleep, or not feeling in the mood and not as enthused as you are about going. Or vice versa.
  4. If you are in a country where the people do not speak the same language as you do, you may be forced to speak and communicate a lot more than if you were with traveling companions. With friends, you would most likely confer amongst yourselves to try and figure it out before asking someone, especially if you have very little experience traveling. Alone, you will have to try and make yourself understood, which is a daunting, but rewarding experience. Learn at least a couple of phrases that you can use. Having a phrase book can be helpful too, as they are normally quite compact and can be neatly tucked away.
  5. See the things you want. In group, you will always have to make concessions, regardless of how alike you are to your travel mates. It is refreshing to be able to see EVERYTHING you want to, give yourself the time to see the things you want to dedicate more time to and enjoy everything the way you want.

If this seems a little overwhelming, try a few baby steps. I began sojourning solo with small trips first, like going to eat by myself or to the movie theater alone. It may feel weird at first, but it does get easier. In all honesty, going to the movies by yourself is no different than going with someone, only because you wouldn’t speak to each other during the movie.

Once you’ve got that down, the thing to remember about traveling alone in Mexico is that you always need to know where you are going and how to get there. The first is of the utmost importance. If you know where you are going and have studied the map enough, you will be harder to dupe and be less of an obvious tourist. Locals are always willing to help out but beware: most can’t say “no” when giving directions, even when they don’t know where something is, so you may find yourself lost very quickly. Read up on the sections about the local forms of transportation, which more often than not, will be buses. In the major cities, you will have metro service as well as taxis. Different cities will have different taxi systems. Some do ride share with fares that are going in the same general direction, and others will charge a flat rate to a certain area. Know what the rules are for the city you are going to.

Another thing to remember is that normally, not everything tourist-related is published online, because unless you are in the city, it’s somewhat difficult to find the information any other way. The government pages in Spanish are normally the most reliable, so if you are unsure, do a search in Spanish by using a translation page and translate the phrase you are searching for. Another option is to search for online forums with ex-pat communities in Mexico, especially in parts of the Riviera Maya, like Playa del Carmen and Akumal. These can be good resources as you can ask questions and start discussions about the topic that you are most curious about, in real time and from people who actually live there. Look for a forum for the city you plan to visit and do some reading on the topic.

These are just a few tips to start your journey on a very fulfilling path. Traveling alone can give you a number of things, such as discovering what you are and are not comfortable with, finding out how well you can truly fend for yourself and a good dose of time management. A situation that can be found when you are wandering is that you will definitely learn something, whether it is about the food, the local customs or the transportation. So the next time you feel the urge to get out there and see the wonders of Mexico but don’t have anyone who can join you, don’t fret! Traveling solo can be one of the most rewarding experiences you may ever encounter.

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