If you crave adventure, but the idea of solo travel scares you, ask yourself why? Do you think being a solo traveler means embarking on a lonely road? To travel on your own, using nothing but your gut intuition and Google to figure your way around an unfamiliar, foreign environment may sound intimidating to many – Heck, even flat-out terrifying. Good news, though: You’re not alone if you do (no pun intended).
As apprehensive as you may be at the idea of making the bold step of venturing out on your own, traveling solo can be the very transformative experience you never knew you needed. Solo travel offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself even deeper in a destination and feel the transformative benefits of travel. Exploring a destination without the company of a travel partner challenges you to rely on yourself only. It primes you to embrace the environment, engage and socialize with locals and fellow travelers, and discover more about yourself and the world around you.
Meet Alan Schneider, who has ventured across 6 continents and 40 countries. While he considers himself to be a solo traveler, he rarely travels alone. As a middle school social studies teacher, Alan increases his knowledge of world events, geography, and history through travel. But ultimately, he finds that travel enriches his soul and fulfills his need for adventure.
“Walking the grounds of a battlefield allows me to feel the presence of the past,” he says. “It allows me to bring real-world experiences into my classroom. I attribute much of my enthusiasm for teaching to my love of travel.”
There is no doubt that solo traveling requires you to get out of your comfort zone, especially if it’s something you have never done before. Here are Alan’s top ten tips for solo travelers:
- Just commit.
- Be willing to try new things.
- Be open-minded.
- Seek adventure.
- Plan in advance.
- Feel a sense of awareness.
- Have set intentions of what you want to do.
- Know what’s available to you but allow room for serendipity.
- Get up the nerve to talk to people you don’t know.
- Remember that even if you start out as a solo traveler, you can invite others to join you!
“Some of the best adventures happen when we are willing to turn the page,” Alan says.
Many of Alan’s adventures are inspired by the famous American playwriter and novelist, Thornton Wilder who wrote:
“The test of adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself, ‘Oh now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.’ And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.”
Alan recites this frequently. He has ended up in hundreds of places worldwide simply because he made that commitment while sitting quietly at home on a given day. That ring in my ear would tell me it was time to travel again!
Here is a brief Q&A with one of our favorite travelers:
How did you become interested in travel?
Alan: I’ve loved getting away since I was a child. Even a weekend away at a hotel was something new and exciting. Travel is a disruption to our world, which at times can become comfortably mundane. But, we all need little adventures in our lives to realize who we are, what we love, and what we want to become. The person I am today, the life I live, is the culmination of all my journeys.
Tell us about one of your fondest travel memories.
I have so many incredible memories from the travel. In 2016, I traveled to Israel on an educational seminar sponsored by the Milwaukee Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC). We had the honor of meeting and listening to Hannah Gosler, the childhood friend of Anne Frank. What Hannah experienced was an explicit reminder of the horrors and dangers of war. This was a fantastic firsthand experience I can now share with all of my students.
How does travel challenge you?
Committing to travel means breaking away from your life, including your responsibilities and commitments to others. With older parents, sometimes I feel like I am abandoning them, especially when I go on long international trips. HOWEVER, when I return home, I find that the time we spend together talking about my travels far outweighs the time apart.
How do you begin to plan travel?
I ask myself where I want to go and what do I want to experience. Then I look for people to travel with me – and if I cannot find any, I explore itineraries that I can do on my own or as part of a group.
What benefits does travel provide you?
It makes me feel alive.
What advice do you have for someone who has never traveled outside the country?
There is safety in numbers. Figure out where you want to go, and choose an itinerary that incorporates things of interest to you: history, cooking, biking, or a mixture of many things. Traveling with a group gives you some security and reduces stress, as group travel is well organized.
Besides being an avid globetrotter, what are some of your other interests?
I love history, art, music, culture, and cuisine. I am also an avid runner, downhill skier, swimmer, and tennis player. On my trips, I try to mix all my interests into each day. For example, I spent a day in Dubrovnik, Croatia, with some newfound friends who, like me, were intent on an active day.
We hired a tour guide who took us kayaking. In the sea off the coast, our guide explained the historical founding of this medieval walled city. From our kayaks, we stopped at different viewpoints as our guide shared stories and facts as we drifted along the waterline of the Adriatic Sea. We jumped from cliffs some 60 meters high, swam, and snorkeled. Not to miss experiencing the inner center of this magical city, we ended our day with a personalized guided walking tour. For me, this was the perfect day!
What were some of your favorite trips?
Over the past 20 years, I have organized annual school ski trips by bus to destinations such as Breckenridge and Steamboat, Colorado. These trips were so much fun! In fact, two years ago I traveled with a group of former students (now all adults) to Chile and Argentina to ski and snowboard in the Andes Mountains.
Where do you plan to travel in the future?
Antarctica! I have been to all six inhabited continents, which has led me to my ultimate goal of traveling to all seven continents.
About Alan Schneider
Alan Schneider is a 7th-grade teacher at Templeton Middle School in Sussex, Wisconsin. Mr. Schneider was named the Wisconsin Middle School Social Studies Teacher of the Year in 2014.
Knowing his passion for both inspiring and educating himself and his students through world travel, the BTA team can only hope to have the one and only Alan agree to potentially lead a group tour for a life-changing journey one day in the near future… What do ya say, Alan?
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