Namaste, my fellow wanderlust-laden thespian! So you think you wanna solo travel, but aren’t sure you have the necessary skills to survive in the big wide world all by yourself? Have people told you you need things like “money”, “common sense” and “a basic sense of self-preservation, for the love of god”? Haha, friend! You’re an actor! You laugh in the face of those things! And it turns out, you’re in luck- being an actor has unwittingly provided you with all the know-how and resources you need to survive- nay, thrive- in whatever foreign country you decide to throw yourself into. Here are just a few of the amazing things acting has taught you that will come in super handy in your adventures to come:
1: Lack of Money. Okay, I know what you’re thinking- but Clare, isn’t money the most important part of being able to travel the world? Isn’t this why we hate on those rich white kids on the ‘gram when they use hashtags like #travelislife, #privilegeequalsopportunity and #hahafuckyoupoorpeople? If we’re struggling to barely make rent, how can we possibly afford to see the world?
Let me tell you, you’re looking at this the complete wrong way. Acting is the best profession for aspiring travellers, because it teaches you how to BUDGET and make HARD SACRIFICES. When every day you’re having to choose between a subway ride to that big Tim Horton’s audition and, you know, eating, you learn how to make crucial financial decisions that will stretch your shackles tighter than the belt you’re wearing to hold up your pants because you’ve lost weight recently (I know it’s because you can’t afford protein due to Doug Ford scrapping the minimum wage, but girl, let me tell you, you look amazing). So when you get to Europe and are faced with the decision between sleeping in a comfortable hostel for the night and that sweet-looking llama excursion, you’ll have so much experience to draw from when you obviously choose the llama ride. Besides, actors often operate on a barter system: try offering the llama-keeper a bottle of wine in exchange for the ride, or a massage! Trust me, he’ll totally bite. Just hopefully the llamas won’t when you’re secretly sleeping in the pen that night because you couldn’t afford that hostel anymore. #travelislife #blessed #rabies
2: Obscure And Useless Skills. Quick- take a look at your Professional Actor Resume. Scroll down to your Special Skills section. What’s on there? Yodelling? Your double-jointed knees? Raptor impersonations?* It’s probably a list of things that you never really thought you’d actually use in real life- just quirks that hopefully will book you that SOC role in a Windex commercial. But lucky for you, those special skills are gonna come in so handy in your solo travels. Want to be the king of your hostel common room? Bust out that one breakdance move you’ve got listed on there that you truthfully haven’t done in ten years! It probably won’t cripple you! Want to impress that beautiful Latvian woman you met at the pub? Show off those flexible knees, you stud! Ladies can never resist a good double-jointed limb! Why, when I was in Switzerland last year, I won a yodelling contest and got my picture posted on the bar wall under the sign “People Never Allowed Back In This Bar”. How cool is that?! The moral of the story: all these skills make you a more interesting, well-rounded person, and those are the type of people who flourish in solo travel situations.
*The dinosaur, obviously, not the sports team. You don’t care about sports. You are an artist. You care about raptors.
3: Social Skills. Oh boy, I cannot emphasize this enough: having social skills is the most crucial thing about travelling by yourself. You have no friends or family to lean on- all you have is yourself, alone against the world, having to make friends and alliances while competing in challenges for immunity idols, and- oh, wait, sorry, my bad, I was thinking about Survivor. What a great show. Well, anyway, you gotta make friends. And here is where your years of networking and schmoozing at those terrible film parties will come in handy, because the ability to charm people and make them want to hang out with you can make or break your travel experience. Lucky for you, you’re a pro. You’ll feel totally confident asking that stranger for directions- hell, you once asked Martin Scorsese where the bathroom was because you mistook him for an usher! You’ll have no problem talking to that cute guy in your hostel dorm room, because you totally sweet-talked that casting assistant into letting you bump the line that one time because your serving shift got moved up. You’ll charm the pants off your entire tour group with your intimate knowledge of Brecht! What more could they possibly be interested in? Being an actor is practically a living, breathing guidebook for complete solo travel social domination.
4: The Art of Transit Hopping. When you’re travelling by yourself, the trick to seeing as many countries as possible under budget is being flexible with your transit options. Sure, you could take that quick flight from Ireland to Uzbekistan, but then you’d have to spend your whole day in an airport, and that’s wasting valuable sightseeing time! Also, talk about expensive! You have so many more options available to you: buses; trains; bikes; pack horses- the list is practically endless, and mostly legal. Most travellers would stick up their noses at the idea of anything but the luxury that planes offer, but you- YOU- are a starving artist, and you are used to literally doing anything short of commandeering a taxi at knifepoint in order to be on time for your friend’s strange experimental robot show set in the basement of that abandoned taxidermy factory. It’s not your fault the TTC shut down, damnit, you scream in impotent rage at the sky as you pedal furiously down the Danforth. It’s not your fault!
Sorry. Got lost in that memory there for a hot second. Anyway, what I’m saying is, you are willing to move heaven and earth to get to whatever artistic endeavour you need to go, driven by an innate knowledge that your pre-determined travel plans will inevitably fail you. And that will serve you well overseas, because there will come a time when you try to book a bus in Italian and instead wind up having to cross the border by paddle boat because it turns out Google Translate hates you and wants you to be stranded in a place that only speaks Ukrainian. I speak from experience.
5: Constant Self-Doubt. This is a surprising one. You’d think that the crippling insecurity that comes with being an actor in an ever-fluctuating and highly demanding and judgmental industry would only serve to hinder you in solo travel situations, but you would be WRONG, friend. Having to second guess every single decision you make out of sheer terror that it could potentially ruin your career/relationships/castability is actually extraordinarily useful when it comes to the decisions you’re going to have to make on your adventures. These decisions include:
“Do I go down that cool-looking dark alley in Venice at 3:00AM because I smell roasted meat?”
“Should I really drunkenly hit on that guy on the ghost tour and talk to him about Dungeons and Dragons?”
“Do I really need another shot of this suspicious-looking fuchsia liqueur? I can’t feel my feet.”
Most people, when faced with these decisions, would say “carpe diem” and go forth without a second thought, and they would probably regret it. But not you. YOU have been trained in the art of self-doubt. YOU alone will survive.
6: Accents. Need I say more? I’ve got so many accents listed on my actor resume it’s practically a miracle I can remember what my own voice sounds like. It’s extremely impressive, is what I’m getting at. And what better place to practice those beautiful RPs than whatever European country you happen to be in at the time? They love it when tourists do that! It’s not offensive to them at all. Pro tip from a seasoned veteran: it doesn’t matter if you can’t actually speak Russian. Just speak the Queen’s English with the closest approximation to a vaguely Eastern European accent you can bastardize and You. Are. IN, comrade. They’ll accept you as one of their own. That one audition for X-Company that you didn’t book will finally pay off big time. So far I’ve dazzled locals all over Scotland, Ireland and France with my various liltings, and they’ve all been super enthusiastic about it and never get mad at me at all.
7: Improvisation. Okay, folks- let’s get real here. If you’re gonna be an actor, you’ve gotta learn how to improvise. I mean, really, who hasn’t been in a commercial audition and been told “We haven’t written any lines, so can you just, I don’t know, say something funny about mops?”*? It’s practically a rite of passage. So you take the classes, learn from the greats, and emerge triumphantly on the other side like a beautiful butterfly who knows how to think quickly on its little spindly feet, each flap of its wing like a wonderfully crafted quip made up entirely on the fly. You know what, this metaphor has gotten away from me. Let’s move on.
Having improv skills will be incredibly useful to you as a solo traveller. Picture, if you will, this situation: you arrive at the airport in Kyrgystan, backpack hitched firmly, dreams on the horizon. You are confident. You are collected. You pull out your printed ticket...and realize it’s actually a ticket for a train, and that train left two hours ago, and also the train was in Romania. Your first thought is “Man, how drunk was I when I booked this?”. Your second: “How am I going to get out of this wacky situation?” A regular person would crumble under the pressure. Lucky for you, you studied improv! You use whatever possessions you own to barter your way into possession of a pack horse, charm the local police into not arresting you for riding a pack horse down the middle of the road, and manage to make your way to the border, dignity mostly intact. THAT is thinking on your feet. I’m proud of you, friend.
Relevant personal anecdote time! Last year I was supposed to take a plane from Barcelona to Florence. I got to the airport at 2:00AM, witnessed a sketchy-looking fellow drop a full backpack into a garbage can right in front of the checkout line and then run away, and proceeded to decide I didn’t really need to fly to Florence, anyway, because who needs airports or being in them? Improv time! My solution: cry, cry some more, cry in front of the bus driver so he feels sorry for you and lets you ride back to the city for free, and then book a gruelling 22 hour non-stop bus ride to Florence instead of the quick 1.5 hour flight. Thanks, expensive improv classes!
*My joke, for the record, was as follows: “Watch out, Dave, cause I’m gonna mop the floor with you!” I didn’t book the job. I am now banned from the casting house. Worth it.
8: Unhealthy Eating Habits. Let’s not kid ourselves here, fellow thespians. We can brag alllll we want about how amazing our kale, chia seed and, I don’t know, vinegar*, smoothies are, and show off our carefully-packed rations of veggies and organic, grain-fed, free-range hummus in rehearsals, but we all know, WE ALL KNOW, that when tech week comes, the only thing we’re putting in our bodies is extra-meat pizza, 4:00AM shawarma, and cheap bourbon. And our bodies have accepted this completely random dietary cycle. They thrive on it! And this comes in handy, let me tell you, when you’re by yourself in a foreign country, like Italy, and make the incredibly sensible decision to eat nothing but gelato and aperol spritzes for five days in a row, because goddamnit you are an adult and no one, no one can make you feel bad about your choices, not even your mother after she emails you saying she’s concerned about you and is setting you up with her life coach when you come home. Regular people couldn’t handle the extreme dietary fluctuation. Regular people would probably have a pulmonary embolism. But not you. You were born in the darkness of whiskey-burrito diets. You were molded by them. Because you…are an indie actor.
*Full disclosure: I don’t drink healthy smoothies. I don’t have a clue what goes in them. I just assume it’s things like vinegar and despair, because they always taste like God is dead and has left us to suffer.
9: Looking Insane in Public. It’s every normal person’s nightmare: you’re caught talking to yourself in front of people you don’t know! Oh no! They’ll think you’re unhinged! However will you handle such an embarrassing situation?
LOL, just kidding. You don’t care about these things, because you’ve progressed to the “vocal warmups on the streetcar” phase of your career. You’re fully comfortable with stretching your face to its max capacity on a subway full of people wondering exactly what drugs you’re on at nine in the morning, and reciting tongue twisters while maintaining direct eye contact with the sketchy man outside the casting house on Queen street. I myself have often recited the entirely of my Shakespearean monologue repertoire under my breath after a night of of vigorous alcoholic imbibing at the Fringe tent in order to keep my mind off of the need to hurl on the night bus.* Look, what I’m saying here, is that you are WAY past feeling self-conscious about being seen as “that weird person” on the street.
This will serve you particularly well in your solo adventures, because let me tell you from personal experience, you will have full arguments with yourself standing in front of a city map, trying to decide if North is THIS way, or THAT way, because as we all know, Australia does things a little differently and that includes directions. You will cry from stress at the airport when you can’t find the washroom, you’ve been up for 24 hours, and a small child just tried to steal your wallet. You will full-on monologue about personal hygiene in front of your entire hostel common room because you’ve just been wildcamping alone for two weeks and forgot social mores, like indoor voices, and showering. And it will seem normal to you, because you’re an actor! How awesome is that?
*This is true. It is a true thing I’ve done in the past. I can smell your judgment from here and it is delicious.
10: Comfort in Strange Accommodations. To hostel, or not to hostel? Truly, that is the question. If you’re travelling with a group of friends, or a loved one, hotels and Air B&Bs are much more enticing because you already have people to travel with. When you’re alone, however, you want to surround yourself with as many people you don’t know as humanly possible. Every night you find yourself asking, “Is sleeping in the same room with 20 strangers not enough strangers? Also, was that a bedbug I just saw or a fleck of dirt? Eh, probably dirt.” Hostels can be the most fun in terms of meeting people to hang out with- but tell a non-artsy person that you’re staying in one and you’ll get a reaction like you just told them you’re sleeping in a prostitute-laden meth den where the rats are in charge and the bedbugs don’t take no for an answer.
But as an actor, you’re totally used to sleeping in weird and uncomfortable places! You’ve slept in rehearsal halls during theatre school when the time between the end of rehearsals and morning tutorials isn’t long enough to justify the journey home! You’ve slept on your stage manager’s floor during tech week when you’re so stressed you can’t even remember where you live anymore! You’ve gotten so drunk at the Fringe that you’ve fallen asleep in a planter! Hostels? They’re practically palaces! Go forth and prosper, and remember: you can try not to let the bedbugs bite, but those little shits are gonna do whatever they damn well please.
And there you have it! Don’t you feel so much more comforted? Are you now ready to take on the world? If so, great! I’m so proud of you. If not- maybe go take another improv class. It’ll probably do you some good.