Hi, I’m Shani

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that.

5 Things You Need Before Traveling Alone

5 Things You Need Before Traveling Alone

I’m not shy in my love of solo travel. Quite the opposite, really. I’m getting a little nervous about ever having to travel with other people again. What I haven’t yet explained is my love of solo travel prep. Adventure planning is my favorite hobby and I shan’t be silent about it any longer. I, Shani, am a planner. File me under nerd, neurotic, or buzzkill, I don’t give a shit. I hope your unplanned meandering has a nice ending, but I know my itinerary does for sure.

I’ve learned that it’s helpful to think about travel well in advance, for a few different reasons, so I’ll share here a little solo travel wisdom you’ll need well before you board a plane.

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Black Elderberry, I also like Wellness Formula.

Immune System Prep

Maybe you don’t mind traveling with a sinus infection, but I sure as hell do. About a month before I travel, I start taking immunity-boosting supplements like elderberry and Wellness Formula to try and curtail the demolition of my health via open office floor plan.

Call it hippie shit if you want, and I realize the only doctorate I have is in law and I make no medical claims whatsoever, but I’ve lasted through mid-February without so much as a sniffle (minor detour for stomach flu, no supplement can stop a biblical plague).

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Nike Flyknits, this style is the Mariah.

Your Shoes

Whatever you plan to use for urban adventuring, wilderness hiking, whatever, make sure you give them a few good wears before you go. I love shiny new things for travel as much as the next person, but what I don’t appreciate are ill-fitting, blistering shoes that make my socks slide down under my heels. Seriously if I ever throw a brick through a window, when they search me at the police station they will find socks that couldn’t do the one job they had. Why does that happen? I could write a novel demonizing piece of shit socks and shoes that can’t get their act together but I’ll spare you any more vitriol here. Practice long walks in your sightseeing shoes, thank me later.

And yes, fashion bloggers, I walk around Paris in Nikes. If you plan to scuttle about the Marais in red-bottomed torture instruments I’d be happy to recommend a good podiatrist upon your return home.

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Birchbox 4 Eva


Hear me out. You can spend a bunch of money in the travel section at Target buying mediocre products that are available in TSA-compliant sizing, or you can sign up for Birchbox and collect tiny, fantastic beauty and skincare products that pop into a ziplock baggie and make the woman in 17C super jealous that she’s stuck using her grandad’s brand of hand lotion for an 8-hour flight.

At last inventory, I had Sunday Riley lactic acid treatment, Amore Pacific cleanser, Kiehl’s body polish, and Drunk Elephant serum. And darlings, that’s just scratching the surface. Hoarding? Yes. With purpose? Also yes.

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I’m a Knopf Guide girl.


Please do not wait until you’re in a city to try and figure that city out from scratch. That’s not spontaneous, it’s dumb. It is also a waste of time. I can see two museums and a street mural in the time it will take you to figure out the subway system so you can go to lunch. Spend a little time beforehand looking over city and public transit maps to at least get a sense of what you’re working with. I prefer the Knopf Mapguides, but you can use anything really. These books are small and fit into my crossbody bag easily, so I keep them with me while I sight-see. I also mark them up ahead of time in the event of shitty phone service. I’m not leaving my vacation in the hands of a European cell phone tower, thank you.

And please do not think you can accomplish this task on the airplane ride over there, Magellan. You’ll be tired, sleepy, potentially inebriated from free international flight wine. This is homework you should do before you’ve packed so much as a sock. Also pack extra socks. Love, Mom.

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The world’s virtual menu.


Instagram is the only reason I know where I’m going on my next trip. You can read about a place, or you can look at the world’s collection of photos of a place, and decide if these are things you want to experience for yourself. I know the world doesn’t need more help reading less, but I think this is really important.

Explore and follow hashtags that interest you, and it’s almost like watching a trailer of the trip to come. It’s also a great way to find out if certain attractions, restaurants, etc aren’t really your style.

Honorable Mention: Duolingo

You can travel to a foreign country without speaking the language, but it’s way more fun (and practical) when you do. I’ve been using Duolingo to study French on my morning subway rides for about two years, and while it has some flaws (I don’t understand why mistakes make you lose “health” to the point that you literally have to stop using the app until time passes and your heath is refilled, doesn’t that actually deter people from studying?!), it is still a really good method for grasping a cursory understanding of the language. I can’t converse, but I can understand street signs and menus and can ask a few simple and necessary questions. It’s never a bad idea to learn a little something, travel plans or no. C’est bon.

Dear Dickhead Who Stole My Cat Food

Dear Dickhead Who Stole My Cat Food

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He Wore A Bathing Suit On Our First Date