How Jackie Traveled To 40 Countries by Overcoming Her Fear of Solo Travel
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17th Jul | 9 min read

Table of Contents

    Jackie is an American living in London who is obsessed with travel & good food. She runs a blog called Jou Jou Travels, where she inspires females to not be afraid to explore the world solo. You can connect with Jackie through her Instagram @joujoutravels

    At London

    At London

    What Inspired Me To Start Traveling Solo

    My passion for travel started when I used to work at Delta and I could travel the world for practically FREE! I started solo traveling at this time because I couldn’t benefit from these travel perks with friends outside the company since my plans could never be concrete (standby life- no seats left on the flight means you can’t get on). I also tried to make friends at work to travel with, but they didn’t have the same goals as me to go EVERYWHERE! I finally found someone who said she’d go somewhere with me but then she canceled! My heart was broken, but at that moment I decided I wouldn’t let it stop me. I was very scared but I took my first flight solo. I thought if I couldn’t make the flight because it was full, it would mean that it wasn’t meant to be. But that day, I made it to the flight and it changed me forever. 

    Fast forward 2 years and I left my job at Delta which was a hard thing to do. I then made it my mission to move abroad because I wanted to have Europe at my fingertips. It’s now been 3 exact years since I found out my dream of moving to London from Atlanta, GA (big change!) became real. While living in London, I’ve traveled to over 25 countries and I’m loving every minute of it.

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    How I Meet People When I Travel

    Solo travel doesn’t mean being alone all the time. I have met some of the most amazing people during my solo travels. It has actually given me more of a chance to meet people than it would have if I was traveling with friends. When you travel with friends, you tend to only socialize with those friends. Traveling alone opens you up to others. You are more likely to say hi to that person sitting in the coffee shop, asking them where their favorite local restaurant is, or talking to the bartender and asking them what their favorite part of the city is. It allows you to make connections and also gives you a chance to find out where to go from a local perspective. I am all about seeing the city like a local instead of seeing it as a tourist. By avoiding the mainstream tourist places, you get the chance to find the truly best spots. I’m also not going to lie, I’ve used dating apps such as Tinder and have had some amazing tours from locals by doing this, the freeway. I met a really close friend who was also traveling solo. We took a cooking course together in Florence and have since traveled together to numerous places and we talk all the time!  

    At London Regent St

    How Often I Travel And What I Usually Like To Do When Traveling 

    During the pre-covid days, I would travel at least once a month, especially while living in London where everything is so close. I am not big on doing museums or typical tourist attractions. Instead, I like to explore like a local, finding the more unique things to do. On my trips, I enjoy finding the best food to eat as I’m a big foodie, so you will find me at a nice food market or café. I also do a lot of walking to explore cities on foot, taking in the charming vibes all around me as I like to find good hidden gems. I will sometimes do a tour, whether it be a cooking class (pasta making in Florence, yes please!), food tour (pintxos bar-hopping in San Sebastian!), or sightseeing tour (like a boat tour in Puglia where you can see the beautiful and unique caves or a bike tour in the Netherlands to see the Tulip fields).  

    Cave Tour Boat Ride in Polignano a Mare, Italy

    Netherlands Bike tour through the Tulip fields

    The Usual Lengths Of My Trips

    I usually enjoy shorter trips and spend around 2-3 days in one town as I like to see as much as possible! I have rented a car before in Italy, Portugal, and Croatia. Each trip was around 6-7 days and I’d use the car to go to lesser-known places. 

    When I travel, I like to find hidden gems and not the usual places everyone goes to. This might be because I’ve already hit big places like Paris, Tokyo, London, etc. I really love finding places that could be described as a fairytale or medieval village. 

    How I Use Pinterest Or Instagram To Decide Where To Go Next 

    I plan where I want to go next by finding inspiration from Pinterest or Instagram. I save cool places I see in my Pinterest Boards or Instagram collections. I also use both of these platforms to plan my trip, find blogger posts on Pinterest, and mark all the places I want to eat and visit on an amazing app called City Maps 2 Go. It helps me keep the things I want to do organized, and it works offline too!

    Hidden Gems All The Way! 

    I have visited 40 countries. Hidden gems all the way! My favorite memory was when I went to Ireland with my friend and we stayed in a shared hostel and met some of the coolest people. An older couple who love to travel as much as we do. We all went to dinner together with the hostel mates after exploring the city together and being super adventurous. We still keep in touch to this day. 

    Colmar Christmas Market

    How I Pack For My Trips And Must-haves I Carry When I Travel

    I really like to travel light so I don’t have too much to lug around. My luggage is by Away and I use packing cubes to organize what I bring into separate compartments. It also compresses my stuff so I can pack more in a small space. I will never leave without my DSLR camera and lately, my tripod is a must! Since I travel alone a lot and want to take photos of myself on my travels, it has been a game-changer! Before I would ask people to take photos of me which also worked out ok.

    Taken solo with my tripod in Polignano a Mare, Italy

    Solo in Agueda, Portugal

    Solo in Madrid, Spain

    How I Document My Trip And My Favorite Solo Travel Experiences

    I take lots of pictures of course and use them on my social media and blog to share tips on what I did, and the experiences I’ve had. My most adventurous solo trip was in Cappadocia, Turkey. First of all, I rode in a hot air balloon and gazed at the 1000 other ones floating in the sky. I also rode an ATV all on my own! It was such an incredible experience riding through the valleys of Cappadocia and seeing the best views ever. Don’t get me wrong, I was super nervous at first but when I got going, I couldn’t stop smiling and admiring all the beauty around me. This was the best way to see and experience the stunning town in my opinion.

     Cappadocia ATV Sunset Tour

    Cappadocia Rooftop

    How I Manage My Budget & Costs When I Travel

    I try to keep my hotels less than $100 a night, especially when I travel on my own as it can get really expensive. I do tend to find ways to save money on flights by subscribing to a newsletter called Thrifty Traveler. This allowed me to go to Greece from Atlanta, Ga for only $300! I also always book hotels directly! You can use to find where you want to stay and then visit the hotel site to see if the rooms are cheaper. If they aren’t I will sometimes email the hotel and ask if they will offer me a discount if I book directly through them, and most of the time they will as takes an 18% cut! 

    My Bucket List

    I still have not been to Australia because it requires a longer trip since it’s so far away, but I would love to go there! I also would love to go to Bali! Also, my favorite place where I can go to repeatedly is Italy. I have a slight obsession!

    Venice Canal

    This picture was taken by some cute older ladies who were confused when I told them I would be going down there, but they could take the photo from over the canal! They loved my idea and were all about it. 

    Nothing Stops Me From Traveling More! 

    Nothing stops me from traveling more! What stopped me before is having someone to go with and now that I am an experienced solo traveler, I don’t let that stop me. The biggest challenge of traveling solo is that it can be lonely at times which is why I try to find ways to meet locals and do different tours. While it can be uncomfortable for some people to have to eat by themselves, it doesn’t bother me at all. One thing I don’t do much is going out to experience nightlife as it might be unsafe on my own and I find it to be difficult as this is more of social activity and would be best with the company. But what I want to remind you is, solo traveling is NOT as weird or scary as you might think.

    Traveling Solo for the First Time Was a Little Scary, but Now I’m a Pro

    The first time for me was a little scary but now I’m a pro & I really enjoy the time to explore, reflect, and do my own thing. And as I mentioned above, I am not always alone. I meet lots of locals along the way and they show me around better than any tour guide.

    People ask me why I travel alone. Some think it’s strange and I tell them that if I didn’t decide to travel alone, I would end up staying at home, maybe on the couch, and not be able to see the rest of the world.

    You can’t depend on others or their schedules. The other good thing is you can be selfish and do anything YOU want to do.

    So, what are you waiting for - go travel!

    Some Advice for Those Who Are Preparing To Travel Solo for the First Time

    One of the biggest concerns for traveling solo especially as a female is a safety. I can tell you I have been to so many places on my own and I have never felt unsafe. I have been all around Europe by myself – places like Turkey, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and more! The key is to travel smart. When selecting where you want to travel, be sure to keep safety in mind. I have some dedicated posts on my blog on tips for solo travel and finding safe places to go if you are thinking about your first trip alone. In short, I would not be shy to meet locals, go outside my comfort zone and try something new, and eat out alone (you have to try the amazing food, right!?).

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