Solo Travel Roadmap: Baby Steps to Adventure!

One day you will wake up and there won’t be anymore time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Do it now!
— Paulo Coehlo
Roma 2014- Castel Sant' Angelo

Roma 2014- Castel Sant' Angelo

Lately there has been a lot of discussions about solo travel and female solo travel in particular. It is almost as if it's becoming a movement. I have been traveling solo for several years now and honestly I've had so many questions about my adventures.  I started to feel I should .....I don't know......blog about it. So Cultured Americana was born! I would like to share with you my thoughts and experiences with traveling on my own. I prefer these blog post to be quick reads because people generally have short attention spans .This is an interesting topic that may result in several blog post.  So post #1 will be how I started this enthralling journey of traveling solo!

How did I start on this solo travel path? I've always had people in my life who would say "one day I'm gonna...one day I should" and sadly "one day" or "some day" never came. Or perhaps it came and went. No disrespect but I don't want that to be my life. I say "don't talk about it be about it! You are the architect of your life. Turn your dreams into a plan and then execute! Collect Experiences!!!"  OK off my soap box. I quickly learned that a lot of people deprive themselves of life's beautiful experiences; whether it be something as simple as going to the movies or taking an international trip because they don't have a companion to share the experience. I couldn't let this be my life! I value shared experiences with loved ones but if they aren't ready I can't wait around as life quickly marches on. Ya feel me?? Carpe Diem ya'll! 

So once I mustered up the courage to live life on my own terms and venture alone...How did I go about it? I took baby steps. If you are reading this and you are interested in traveling solo but intimidated, I suggest you take baby steps as well. You can do this!! I didn't just wake up and take a big trip to Europe by myself. My progression plan was as follows:

2008- I went to NYC to visit a friend. Now technically this isn't a solo trip but since my friend worked in the day I was left alone to explore a big city on my own. One small step in the West Village would lead to one large leap into Rome one day! I realized it's no different then exploring my own city solo.  No big deal. 

2009- My bravery grew so I went on a Caribbean Cruise (Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Martin). This was actually a singles cruise! So I went alone but once on the cruise I was part of a group. Now let me share with you the genius of this. I was with a group but on my own since I didn't come with anyone. Therefore,  I wasn't responsible for anyone but myself. Most people bring a single buddy on cruises like that. After a few days on the cruise people that had brought friends would tell me "you are soooo smart coming alone!"  I was also forced to put myself out there and make friends. And believe you me... I made a lot of friends! I'm still friends with some of the people I met on that trip. Solo (or semi-solo ) travel success! This was another baby step.....but a bit bigger. 

2010- My first REAL solo trip.....Domestic but still all alone in our Nation's capital, Washington D.C. On this trip I started to learn a little bit on how to travel solo but not be totally alone. I would sit at the chef's table at restaurants and chat up the culinary talent. I also became chummy with the concierge at the hotel when I suspected he was Ghanaian (I'm half Ghanaian). Once it was confirmed we had the African connection, he sent complimentary wine and cheese to my room and suggested a great tour. I already had done a "bike the sights" tour from a company I found online. However, the concierge suggested Chocolate City Tours.  This was a private tour where I saw the sights via segwey and learn about African-American history in Washington D.C. This didn't feel like a traditional tour. Instead it felt like my tour guide, Corey was an old friend who was showing me his city and he happened to be a African-American History major. He was fun and provided great insight and education. Additionally, he doubled as my personal photographer! 

2012- Big Leap Ya'll!! My First solo international trip: London and Paris! This is a good route to take to ease oneself into traveling abroad solo. London is great because it's foreign, it's European.....but they still speak English. I spent a few days there and got my feet wet being in a foreign land on my own. I then took the Eurostar to Paris. France was an amazing shock and gave me an opportunity to stare my solo travel fear dead in the eyes. I was afraid of going to a country where English was not the national language. I loved Paris! Who doesn't love Paris! I struggled to communicate because I knew very little French. However, I learned a lot during this stretch of my journey. Two key lessons learnt: 1) I learned to sympathize more with people who move to the United States who don't speak a lick of English. The shoe was on the other foot now. I just wanted to be understood and yearned for a little patience (by the way, the French weren't rude when they realized I couldn't speak French contrary to popular belief). I went home having a lot more compassion for foreigners. Now isn't that the point of travel....to gain perspective and perhaps a new point of view?? 2) I also learned that if one is going to go to another country where their home language isn't the national language, they will have a more enriched, meaningful experience if they learn the language and learn as much about the culture as possible!

 

2014- Italia! This was my best wanderlust adventure to date. Italy was my longest international solo trip and my second trip to a place where English was not the national language.  I was better prepared this time around. I studied Italian for three months and became obsessed with Italian culture months before my trip. I also discovered great podcast and travel books to prepare myself for the journey. I highly recommend Rick Steves' books, TV shows and podcast. To date, I have written two blog post about Italy and I have a couple of more up my sleeve. This trip changed me!

 2015- Now, I am planning a solo trip to España (Spain)! I hope to collect fantastic experiences to share with you later this year. 

Stay tuned for more blog post about solo travel which will include more lessons learnt, tips, and other discoveries. There are also tons of blogs out there about solo travel so just immerse yourself in the possibilities and take a leap of faith. Let me know if you have any questions. I'd love to hear from you! Ciao!

----The Cultured Americana

Welcome to New York Pt. 2- Hellloooooo Brooklyn!!!!

It ain’t hard to tell, I’m the new Jean-Michel, surrounded by Warhols my whole team ball!
— Jay Z- Picasso Baby
Outside the Jean-Michel Basquiat "Lost Notebooks" exhibit at Brooklyn Museum

Outside the Jean-Michel Basquiat "Lost Notebooks" exhibit at Brooklyn Museum

Where were we? Oh I just finished telling you about my first two days in NYC. This is part II of my "Welcome to New York City" blog post. So as I said in part 1, the highlight of my Birthday trip was Day 3 when we left Manhattan for Brooklyn. Brooklyn stand up!!! Brooklyn Go Hard! I was just having a hip-hop moment......I digress.

Day 3

Visited the Brooklyn Museum to see two fantastic exhibits! My life and this blog is about collecting experiences.  I am not an art expert and can probably be considered an art novice but I do LOVE art. As such my goal is to see with my own two eyes the best art in the world. I've visited the Louvre, D'Orsay, Vatican Museum and the British Museum to name a few and I must say Brooklyn Museum is one of my favorites. If I lived in New York, I would definitely be a member and visit several times a year. 

Cost:  Suggested cost $16. I love what they are doing and I was visiting from out of town so I paid the suggested price but I could have just as easily paid $1. 

Exhibits:

Kehinde Wiley’s: A New Republic-

I was first introduced to Wiley’s work a couple of years ago at the Minneapolis Institute of Art where I was mesmerized by Wiley's painting, Santos Dumont. Well, Santos Dumont was included with the 60 paintings and sculptures featured in this incredible exhibit. Wiley, known for his paintings which feature black men in positions of grander inspired by the European Masters took things to the next level by including art work featuring black women! His work questions our thoughts about gender, race and politics. This exhibit is totally worth the time. I love how accessible his work is. I invited a friend of mine who is a Brooklyn native and swore she was only at the museum because me “her pretentious California girlfriend” insisted she go was also inspired and impressed by Wiley’s art. Bottom line…..his work speaks to people! You don’t need to be an MFA to “get it”.

 

Santos Dumont

Santos Dumont

 Jean-Michel Basquiat- The Unknown Notebooks #basquiatnotebooks

This Brand new exhibit at Brooklyn Museum  features pages from Brooklyn’s own Jean-Michel Basquiat. Exhibit go-ers had an opportunity to read cryptic excerpts from journals which included themes like race, politics, history and class as well as related art works. A must see to contemporary art lovers, hip-hop heads and culture enthusiast .

 I was so impressed with both exhibits and just the overall cool vibe of the museum. They also have upcoming exhibits like the Rise of Sneaker Culture (July 10th- October 4, 2015) and FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds also July 10th-October 4, 2015. If you happen to be in Brooklyn, check it out and let me know what you think!

 

 

Welcome to New York City

Yeah I’m out that Brooklyn, now I’m down in Tribeca..Right next to DeNiro, but I’ll be hood forever. I’m the new Sinatra and since I made it here I can make it anywhere,yeah they love me everywhere. I used to cop in Harlem, hola Domincanos.
— Empire State of Mind- Jay Z

This year I spent my birthday in the Big Apple! It wasn't my first trip but it was definitely a whirlwind where I jumped from Harlem, SoHo, Chelsea to Brooklyn. Here is my fantastic itinerary.

Accommodations: Hosted by my bestie and his sweet boxer, Chloe in Harlem World New York: Cost: Free Ninety-Nine!

Day 1

Double Dutch Espresso Cafe- Harlem, New York: Great local gem, rustic and just a cool sea of MacBooks. I love to visit local coffee shops when I visit different cities. No pics though! I guess I slammed my cappuccino down in seconds. 

Apollo Theatre Amateur Night- Harlem, New York- Dream come true the legendary Apollo Theatre! I watched Showtime at the Apollo  as kid and enjoyed joining in with the boos and jeers when amaetuers weren’t up to par. Unfortunately, I went on the wrong amateur night. There was no booing allowed as the “amateurs” were doing a tribute to Broadway. Sadly all the acts were talented and hardly amateurs so no one would have deserved to be boo’d even if it were allowed that night.  There's always next time.

Cost: Around $40/ person for second row seats

The Legendary Apollo Theatre

The Legendary Apollo Theatre

Barawine: Local Harlem winebar…Nothing to write home about as I can’t think of anything remarkable to write about this place, Nice decor?? Sort of reminds me of Adesso in Piedmont (Oakland, CA). If you are in Oakland, check out Adesso.....Note to self "consider writing post about Adesso."

Day 2 (My Birthday)

Subway over to “The New Museum”. Worth a visit as it’s Manhattan’s only museum dedicated to contemporary art.   Neighborhood: Lower East Side Cost: $16

Laduree- Famous French Luxury Bakery

Neighborhood: SoHo 

Who needs birthday cake when you can have macaroons!!

Who needs birthday cake when you can have macaroons!!

Walked the high line- NYC  had some annoying weather. It was freezing the day I arrived but luckily on my big day the weather was beautiful and spring-like. As such, it was a lovely day for walking the High Line (Highline Park). Highland park is an elevated park which runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District and I believe it ends somewhere around the West side Yard. Excuse me if that’s not completely accurate. 

Cost $ Free Ninety Nine!!!

After lunch and an early evening workout we headed over to the Comedy Cellar for the 8pm show. The comics were funny enough but nothing that had me in stitches enough where I care to go into great detail here. However, I would say this is a traditional “throw-back” comedy club and definitely a great way to spend an evening.  It’s best to make a reservation ahead of time. Reservations are freeCost: Thursday night $14 + 2 drink minimum. 

We left the Comedy Cellar and went to  The Spotted Pig for my birthday dinner.  Warnings: They do not take reservations and there is a long wait (estimate we received was hour and a half but it didn’t seem that long). However, there are wine bars in the area where you can wait it out  and they will call you when they are ready for you. 

I ordered the Seared Mackerel with Sweet Potato Mash & House Pancetta and Shoestring fries as a starter! I was very pleased!

I loved the unique, eclectic decor. Great food and great vibe! Definitely worth a visit. 

Neighborhood: West Village

Cost: Free Ninety Nine!!! My bestie treated me as it was my bday!

Michelin stars: 1

Day 3

On my third day in NYC we took the subway to Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Museum. This was the highlight of the trip! Stay tuned for Welcome to New York Part 2. Hellooooo Brooklyn!