I know what it’s like to have wanderlust, and the need to seek out adventure when work and life just seem to always be getting in the way. In fact that’s part of what prompted me to leave the 9-to-5 culture, move to California and begin the launch of my own blog and freelance writing business. Travel was calling. From a young age there were things I wanted to do, places I wanted to see, but, my friends or family didn’t always have the same deep desire, or means, to accompany me. In high school, there were poetry festivals and hip-hop dance classes in NYC from neighboring NJ where I lived that sparked my enthusiasm to get up and go. Then I had an insatiable need to attend every rock show that came through the Big Apple.
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Later a foray into the fitness world brought me to a fitness retreat here in California. I had visited L.A. with a friend for the first time a year earlier and ever since was determined to find a place to live in L.A. So, the second time around I bought a one-way ticket. Traveling 3000 miles to make a new home in California is probably my biggest adventure to date. It took almost a month and half to explore all the California cities I was considering moving to (L.A., San Francisco, San Diego and the OC) and to find an apartment, but it taught me a lot about immersing yourself quickly to discover a city’s finer’s points. So, I’d like to share some tips I picked up along the way to make solo travel better. Here’s some of what I leaned…
Make Nice with the Locals: Talk to the locals before you go, through friends or friends of friends you may know. Put the word out on Facebook or to other social networks that your are looking for tips on travel in a particular city. It’s always a good idea to chat up a seat-mate while on the plane who may be returning home and friendly enough to share some tips of theirs. And talk to the locals when you arrive to your destination and don’t be afraid to dine alone to do it! When it comes to travel you want to see how the locals live so little tips on the best coffee shops and night-out spots can go a long way.
There’s an app for that: Curate what you learn and save it to apps like Citymaps and trip.com.You can also research magazines and travel websites. I often save the complimentary magazines from hotel rooms because more often than not they are geared toward sightseeing. Some of my favorites: C. Magazine, Los Angeles magazine, and Afar. Through my research, I knew all the best brunch spots in Los Angeles (Perch, Republique) before I even moved here. Citymaps allowed me to map them out on walkable routes. And AirBNB also has a great resource on city neighborhoods that will give you a vibe of a particular area which I found so helpful when deciding where to relocate. Jetsetter has some of my favorite reviews from their experts for well-curated stays as well. Apps like Bumble, BumbleBizz and BumbleFriends can also connect you with peers. And Airbnb offer travel experiences hosted by locals. I’ve seen some really fun offerings like beach picnics and street art walks.
Utilize your concierge Some things I discovered while talking to my concierge, beyond the standard maps and directions: sightseeing experiences and packages, getting on the VIP list for events, skipping the line at night-out hot spots plus hard-to-get dinner reservations, spa services, tips on living like a local and even real estate advice. Be sure to mention if it’s your birthday or a special occasion you are celebrating in advance over the phone with the booking agent. Ask to talk to the concierge beforehand or on arrival and you could land some perks. A seat at a hard-to book restaurant is always a great reason to utilize your concierge. If you are celebrating a special occasion like a birthday some hotels will go out of the way to help you celebrate with a complimentary dessert or champagne at the very least. You can also “schmooze” with the host/hostess for lack of a better word. I had dinner at the famed Chateau Marmont just by being nice. My uber mistakenly dropped me off at the hotel entrance for Chateau Marmont instead of the bar and I told the hostess I couldn’t get a dinner reservation and she got me and a friend in immediately.
Go it Alone: It bears repeating: When I first moved to NYC, I attended a salsa movie screening alone and had one very adventurous evening that included meeting the cast, a one on one salsa lesson and dancing the night away in a nondescript but smoking hot salsa club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In L.A. I’ve been lucky to also have some fun adventures by way of the tons of speakeasies and underground dinner spots and clubs here in L.A. just waiting to be uncovered but you’ll have to come to visit to ask me where!
And now I find myself settled in a new place in L.A. surrounded by new adventures. My curiosity has led me to a new home and summoning my courage has been my greatest ally. And I’ve had the luck to meet some of my idols who seem to be walking around every corner here. I can’t believe I’m saying this but in less than the year and half I’ve lived in L.A., I’ve met Paul McCartney, Rachel Zoe and Trina Turk. So, I say if you have an itch and especially if you have a burning desire to travel or try something new, don’t wait. You can even do it alone. As they say, there’s no time like the present. I feel some wanderlust kicking in and can’t wait to see where it takes me next. I hope you will chase after yours too.