10 Things To Do When You Solo Travel

By Shasta Garcia (shastasjourney@gmail.com)

Solo travel can be nerve-wracking, but an exhilarating experience (all at the same time). I’ve been traveling by myself since I was 15-years-old. I flew from out of Sacramento and met a mission team in San Diego. I did that every year until I turned 18. After I graduated, I moved to an orphanage to serve for four months. I’ve learned a lot over the years of solo travel. A few weeks ago, I went on my biggest trip yet. I traveled to Nashville for a radio conference. I stayed in a hotel room by myself, used Uber/Lyft for the first time, and even took a red-eye flight. 

Here are my solo travels tips: 

1. Do research

Solo travel requires extra research. You can’t rely on anyone else to make plans for you. It’s important to check multiple sources. Google is great, but I prefer searching for the geotag (location) on Instagram. You can see photos from everyday people, instead of professionally edited. I feel like it gives a more realistic expectation of your destination. If you know anyone from that area – you can always get their advice on where to go or what to do. That’s what I did. It helped tremendously with my planning in Nashville. 

2. Pack light

Always pack light – there’s no need to pack two suitcases (trust me, I’ve done this once). When I moved to Mexico in 2016, I packed two suitcases. This might not seem like a lot for a couple of months, but it made life difficult. You may be asking why. Well, I got stuck at the San Diego airport for 8 hours and I was stuck with two suitcases. Even doing little things like going to the bathroom is extremely hard with that much luggage. I haven’t taken more than one bag since then. I only travel with one backpack now and I love it. I’m not restrained while traveling solo anymore. Plus, both of my hands are free to do anything when I just take a backpack. 

3. Bring cash 

You’d be surprised, but some places only take cash. I have been in situations where I wanted something and only had my debit card. Luckily, I’ve learned to carry cash now. 

4. Save locations 

I used Lyft and Uber for the first time a few weeks ago. Before traveling, I saved all of my predetermined locations into the apps. This made ordering my drivers quicker and easier. Plus, I didn’t have to remember any addresses or names of anything when it was already saved. 

5. Share plans

Sharing your plans is a crucial tip for solo travel. I’m a young female traveler and it can be dangerous going places alone. I always try to let my family or close friends know where I am or where I’m going. There are apps like Life360 which act as a tracker. This may sound weird, but it’s comforting to know that someone knows where you are – in case anything happens. 

6. Portable charger

Ok, this is a must! I brought three different portable chargers to Nashville. I used those so much (on the flight, in my car services, even walking down the street). Just don’t forget to pack your phone charger though. By the way, weather changes like serve cold can drain your battery faster. At one point, I was at the Parthenon in Nashville and my phone was at 50%. Within a minutes, it randomly shut off. It was 11 degrees and it drained my phone battery! There’s nothing scary than being on the other side of the country and your phone dies. 

7. Check reservations 

Make sure to double-check your reservations the night before or morning of (depending on your travel plans). If you arrive too early for check-in – ask your hotel if you can leave your bags there while you explore. 

8. Wear layers

Weather can change at the drop of a dime. Check the weather before traveling, but always be prepared. I wore multiple layers to Nashville. It’s better to wear too much instead of too little. I was able to take off my layers when needed but has layers when it counted. If you have a scarf – wear it. This clothing piece can come in handy as a blanket on the plane. 

9. Carry copies

Always carry copies of important things: identification, boarding pass, and emergency contacts. When you solo travel, you can only count on yourself. I usually bring my passport and ID and keep them in two separate areas. For instance, keep my passport in my backpack and put my ID in my jacket. If my backpack were stolen, I would still be able to board the plane or be identified. Also, have a printed version of your boarding pass and one on your phone (in case your phone dies). This works vice versa too. If you lose the paper boarding pass, you’d still have it on your phone. 

10. Plan ahead

Make sure to always plan, especially when traveling solo. Try to have a good understanding of what you would like to do. You don’t have to have every minute planned out, but a rough outline is best. Before going to Nashville, I knew what I wanted to do every day during my trip (even places I wanted to eat). Remember to not cut your plans to close to getting on or off your plane (or traffic while driving). 

Take these travel trips and go explore. Traveling solo doesn’t have to be scary, it can be fun. Things, like packing light and carrying a portable charger, can help you enjoy traveling alone. Trust me. 

If you have any questions or need more tips (you can email Shasta at shastasjourney@gmail.com).

Everyone Has a Story to Share

You have a story to share. Have you ever realized that? Every one of us can teach, heal, and inspire someone else. You have the power to connect with others using your experiences. There is not a right and a wrong way to share your story. However, it’s important to include the good and bad times. This allows others to rest knowing things will get better. 

For me, my story is much more than just a chronological biography and yours may be too. I share my testimony. It’s the story of how I came to know Christ. Ultimately, this story has shaped and molded me into the woman I am today. 

Most people have the assumption, I grew up in a “perfect” Christian family, but that was far from the truth. I did not grow up with parents who believed in God. It wasn’t until I met a girl named Monique when I had any concept of faith. Her parents bought me the first Bible I ever received. My friend Monique, eventually moved. I started to get bullied non-stop throughout elementary and middle school. I was jumped at the end of 7th grade that prompted my family to move to Calaveras County. 

I was invited to go to a church camp called Radical Reality. We raised money, and I was able to go. I left with my parents fighting – contemplating divorce. I had no idea what home would be like when the camp was over.

During the church camp, I came face-to-face with the girl who jumped me. I learned the power of forgiveness and the love God has for me. I prayed that I could be a light in my family. When I went home, I told my parents about Jesus and the good news. They promised to go to church the next Sunday, and they did. My parents are still married to this day. 

This is a small part of my story. I’m currently working on a book that will be compiled with stories of God’s faithfulness in my life. I plan to release the book in 2020.  

There are many reasons why people should share their story or testimony.

1. It’s your legacy

Your story is your legacy. If you share your story – people will know what your life was like. I once interviewed a man named Lance on Shasta’s Journey, a faith-based television program. He was battling cancer and asked to share his story. He passed away a few weeks after. To this day, people still talk about the life he lived. Lance’s story continues to impact others. 

2. Inspire others 

Each of us goes through different things. Lance’s story can inspire people who may be battling cancer or have seen others suffer from it. Whereas, my story may connect with people who are being bullied, or have someone in their lives who don’t believe. You have been through things to inspire people who I may never be able to inspire. Not to mention, you meet people who I may never come in contact with. Isn’t it amazing? You have the power to inspire others. You can use your words for you. You can use your pain to give hope.

3.Gives perspective

Sharing your story gives you perspective on how far you’ve come. I’m always in shock with all the good things that have come from the bad. I wouldn’t have realized this, if I didn’t think about my story, or share it. 

The first step to sharing your story is realizing you have one. The second step is to think about what your life has consisted of and how you can relate to others. The third step is to realize the impact it can have and share your story!

Shasta Garcia is the founder of Shasta’s Journey. Contact Shasta at shastasjourney@gmail.com.

3 Ways Dreamers Can Become Doers

Want to see your dreams become a reality? Keep reading. I’ve always been a dreamer. I would daydream in classes that I was accepting an award for a television show, or that I was getting interviewed by Ellen. I didn’t realize until recently that being a dreamer isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I just needed to figure out a way to become a doer. Over the years, I have learned to take big dreams, make a plan, and put it into action. I will share my three secrets to become a doer. 

1. Take big dreams and think smaller 

You read that right. It’s time to make your big dreams and make them smaller. This does not mean to stop dreaming big! All you need to do is think about a plan with smaller steps to achieve the bigger plan. For instance, if you want to save $1,000 in a year – you need to save around $20 a week. Look how easy that was! If you think smaller, big dreams don’t look that big anymore. Here’s another example, if you want to hit 10K on Instagram – start by reaching 1,000 first. Then, go from there. *NOTE: The most important thing about this tip is to make sure you can reach the smaller goals. If you don’t give yourself attainable goals  – you will give up faster! Whenever you hit a smaller goal, you will feel more inspired to keep going! Trust me. Recently, my parents tried dieting and exercising and started to lose weight. As soon as they saw the weight change on the scale  – it inspired them to keep going. They have both lost over 40 pounds and I couldn’t be more proud. 

2. Do research, then make a plan

I dread the word research, but I promise it isn’t as bad as it sounds. When I wanted to become a TV host at age 13-years-old, I started to do research on Oprah. I was pleasantly surprised to see she started in radio and has a very humble background. This was really refreshing to me. Hard work does payoff! It’s not just a phrase. Everyone reached their goals somehow. You may not reach your goals the same way, but it’s inspiring to see that it’s possible! No dream is too big. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that. Just make a plan to implement. If you need your degree  – finish it! If you need money – save it! If you need time – make time for it. Anything is possible, the sky isn’t the limit (you are). Only you can set a limit on your dreams and the future outcome. 

3.  Work hard, and do it for yourself 

You know how I said, I have been dreaming to become a national TV host? Well, I did become a local TV host in Calaveras County when I was 13, but on a small scale. I’ve been working non-stop for the last 7 years hoping my big dream will happen. I know, eventually it will  – if I keep pushing forward. Dreams don’t happen overnight, or at random, unless you are the yodeling kid at Walmart. If you aren’t familiar with the story, he yodeled at Walmart and became famous. I wish it happened like that for everyone, but that’s why I’m sharing these 3 secrets to become a doer. 

Not to mention, some people will not believe in you. They will think you are crazy. You need to always remember why you are pursuing a dream. For me, I want to become a national television host to have a platform for people to share stories of God’s faithfulness. That’s why I continue to work harder and harder each day to make that happen. I have small goals for my bigger dreams. 

Your dreams will become reality when you least expect it. Keep dreaming big, but think small to make it attainable. Also, you need to get some inspiration by doing research to make a plan. Lastly, it’s going to take hard work. Don’t forget why your dreams matter.

In case nobody has told you this  – you got this! 

5 Tips to Reduce Stress as a College Student

College students deal with stress daily. I know because I’m a college student myself. We are constantly being bombarded with assignments, exams, and questions about our future. It can often make our college experience more difficult than it needs to be. That’s why I wanted to share 5 tips to reduce stress. These tips have helped me recognize what’s important and I hope these help you manage your college schedule and enjoy your time at Sac State.

1. Use a planner 

This may seem like a silly tip, but a planner can seriously make a difference in your stress level. Now, this doesn’t have to be a paper planner – even though I find it satisfying to cross off things I’ve done. I bought mine at Ross for only $2.99! Beat that. But, if you prefer something on your phone – there are plenty of apps you can download. Both methods with help keep your homework and exam deadlines organized. I find that a planner makes the craziness of the college workload manageable.

I suggest getting on the planner train at the start of the semester (ideally!) At the start of each semester, I usually read through each syllabus and write down all of the important dates. Right away this gives me an idea of what’s expected. Not to mention, this will also help you stay away from procrastinating because you have no excuse. You will know what needs to be done and when it is due.

Get yourself a planner!

2. Stop saying “What if…”

The two words “what if” are at the root of my anxiety about 98% of the time. No joke. What if I fail this exam? What if I’m late for class? What if I can’t find parking? What if I don’t have enough money my tuition next semester? What if I don’t make any friends? Ok. You get the point.

What if can create worry and leave you with crippling anxiety. I never realized how pointless it was to worry about something that hasn’t happened until it didn’t. I worried about failing my exam and kept saying what if, but I got an A. I could have saved myself stress if I just stopped saying what if.

Let’s face it…what if doesn’t help. So, stop saying it! You’ll thank me later.

Take time for yourself 

This tip can be hard to implement. I get it, you have so many other things to do! After you complete something on your to-do list – take a break. You will recharge, feel happier, and will be motivated to get work done. I usually try to set aside 15 to 30 mins between tasks. During that time, I do something completely unrelated to work or school. For instance, I pray, workout, or even play a board game with my little sisters. I have never regretted taking a few moments for myself.

If you don’t take time for yourself – you will be overwhelmed and ultimately S-T-R-E-S-S-E-D.

Set aside 15 minutes today.

4. Surround yourself with like-minded people 

We all want to be understood. Some people don’t understand the stress that college students endure. That’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with like-minded people. Making friends with other college students is the first step. You can vent to them and they will most likely understand. The second step is to find people who live their life similar to yours. For instance, if you’re an athlete – only another athlete will know how much time that takes up! You can study together between practices. If you are a Christian, you can meet other Christians on campus. You can pray and even read the Bible together. Go meet other people and join a club! 

You never know until you try.

***This tip will enhance your college experience! I promise. It’s hard to endure the college journey – alone.

5. Make it fun!  

You may be thinking to yourself….how do I make college fun? Well, there are many ways.

First, you don’t have to do homework in silent. I usually blast worship music, drink coffee, and even sit with a facial mask on sometimes. I’ve even done my homework at Round Table with friends during the buffet hour – unlimited pizza and salad. Did I mention? There’s also Wi-Fi! Change up your study area.

Secondly, you don’t just have to commute back and forth or go back straight to your dorm. You can get involved on campus. Sac State always has events with food and activities. This will give you positive memories to look back on.

Time flies. Before you know it – you will be walking across the graduation stage about to accept your diploma. Your hard work will pay off! Don’t give up.

Remember…buy yourself a planner, stop saying “what if”, make time for yourself, hang out with people who get you, and have fun!