Astrid Clements’ first solo travel experience was a study-abroad stint in Nuremberg, Germany, as an LSU student. This experience, while transformative, also delivered a healthy dose of culture shock. “When I arrived in Nuremberg, it was the most foreboding train station you have ever seen—like something out of a spy movie. There were armed guards,” said Clements. “Tears started coming out of my eyes. I was completely scared, but I was trying to be brave. I thought, I wanted to do this!” The accommodations were equally alarming. “The bathrooms were communal with no hot water. You had to go down to the basement to get hot water to bathe.”
Traveling alone, the young student was forced to immerse herself in the culture; yet once acclimated to her new environment, Clements thrived. “This whole experience taught me about culture shock—being prepared for different smells, music, sounds … all kinds of things,” said Clements. “It set the tone for my love of adventure.”
After a successful career in business and with thirty-five countries now under her belt, Baton Rouge-based Clements felt compelled to share her travel acumen with others. “I started looking at all of these people who blogged about travel, and I realized, I know a lot about this,” said Clements. “My approach is from experience. I have been blessed to have been able to travel a lot and on a very nice level, so I really do have a lot of discernment when it comes to that. You will find that on my blog.”
The vivacious traveler exudes enthusiasm for adventure, and a quick browse through her Instagram feed transports you to the many exotic destinations in her travel repertoire. Combining these assets with her keen business savvy, Clements had the perfect formula to launch her business, Astrid Solo Travel Advisor, at the beginning of 2016. “My whole focus is affordable luxury ideas for the solo traveler. This is my niche. Most companies are focused on backpackers,” Clements said. “I started seeing more people like me, who had probably traveled themselves all their life, but they have gotten to the stage where they wanted to do it solo.”
The website, AstridTravel.com, serves as a resource for travelers, assisting with trip-planning details such as the best sites to book hotels and airfare or how to pack for a weekend getaway to New York City. With the website in place, Clements began planning for her trip of a lifetime: circling the globe via seven locations in fifty days. “I did this trip to introduce the concept of affordable luxury—to show how you could go around the world and do it on a very nice level—to do the things you want to do, stay long enough in each place, and to really absorb different cultures,” said Clements.
Although Clements’ typical trip caters to patrons accustomed to five-star accommodations and business class airfare, her extensive travel experience translates to travelers of all budgets, especially those making the trip alone. “First and foremost, you get my experience and insight on all kinds of different topics: cultural dos and don’ts, reviewing food tours, or what you should do [on vacation],” said Clements.
Readers will find tips on how to score deals on well-appointed boutique hotels through sites like jetsetter.com and hipmunk.com as well as spreadsheets that help to plan and budget for every aspect of a vacation. Clements also recommends going as far as watching YouTube videos of prospective hotels posted by travelers to get a first-hand look and to narrow down the options. “By being prepared, you slide into where you are easier and get into the culture. You start adapting, and you would be surprised how vibrant that is,” said Clements.
While Clements relishes immersion in foreign cultures, she values the solo travel experience for the insight and self-reflection it provides, regardless of destination. One of her fondest memories is of a road trip she took alone last year, visiting sights along the East Coast from Maine to Miami; a similar trek down the West Coast is already in the works. “Traveling solo is different. I like the solo thing because I can do what I want when I want,’” said Clements. She also appreciates the connection it allows with people—locals as well as other solitary travelers. “I have met people from all over the world; I have so many Facebook friends I keep in touch with now.”
At 65, Clements shows no signs of slowing down. She has her first two episodes for her podcast, Solo Travel Talk with Astrid, recorded and will soon expand the website to include her own line of travel products and services. A collaboration with the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge will also allow her to curate art-focused vacation packages available to the public in the coming year.
In between blogging and managing her fast-growing company, Clements is always looking forward to her next trip; she has her eye on an African safari. “I am very passionate about [travel]. There is nothing like going somewhere else. It makes you a happier and more content person. It is transformational.”