Yay for the weekend! Although in a few hours time it’ll be over and then it’s another five days of work, work, work. Boo to that. So as you all know (or maybe you don’t), I’ve been doing a lot of solo travel this past year. And more recently, I’ve found myself meeting others who are are about to embark on the amazing adventure that is solo travel, and I basically hold them hostage until I’ve told them every tip and tricks I know. If you were one of those people, I’m sorry if you had somewhere to be and I took up way too much of your time. But hopefully something I said was useful!
So then I thought, why not share what I’ve learnt here on my blog, because maybe someone, somewhere, will read this and it will be extremely beneficial.
When I was growing up, I struggled a lot to stay at friends houses, even my cousins house, for sleepovers and girly nights of fun. The unfamiliar surroundings made me feel uneasy and I was petrified of being away from my immediate family and the comfort of our home. I wouldn’t even walk down a separate isle to my mum in the grocery store for fear of losing her and being on my own. So who would have thought that years later, I’d be embarking on solo travel to foreign countries, almost every fortnight, and loving every second of it! Not me that’s for sure.
It’s an incredible achievement when you return from your first solo trip. You’ve accomplished something that isn’t as easy to do as people may think. You’ve overcome battles with your mind prior to your trip, that voice in your head trying to talk you out of it. You’ve overcome the fear and confusion of getting from the airport to your first point of interest, and navigating yourself around thereafter. And you’ve overcome the awkwardnesses of eating alone and those times you set up your tripod, put your camera on timer to capture photos of you and you alone.
Like most solo travellers I’ve met, I didn’t start out travelling by myself. I went on family vacations, trips with friends and spent two years globetrotting the world with my boyfriend. It wasn’t until said boyfriend and I broke up, that I found myself across the other side of the world and without a travel partner. I was at a crossroads but my desire to keep exploring pushed me into solo travel and to this day, I’ve never looked back.
So for those of you who are considering a solo adventure, here are a few tips to help you along the way.
Go Local… the key is to start small
Even if you’ve already booked your ticket, start small. Before I attempted solo travel abroad I started doing things on my own to get used to the feeling of being by myself. In my hometown, I would go to the movies and the theatre by myself, have lunch at local cafes, and I would take day trips to areas I hadn’t seen before. After that, I planned a few weekends away but still within my country, then once I was used to doing that, I went abroad.
Arrive During The Day… daylight is your best friend
Solo travel can at times be stressful. Especially the first few times. But arriving at your destination during the day makes everything a lot less daunting. You have more time to figure things out, and if you get slightly lost, it’s ten times easier to get back on track when it’s not pitch black outside. Plus, it gives you time to familiarise yourself with your surroundings, and to pick up any emergency supplies (toiletries, electronics, etc.) you may need.
Research Your Destination… don’t get caught out
It’s extremely important to research where you’re going beforehand. Print off maps, locations and addresses of where you’re staying and the places you want to visit. It’s not uncommon for technology to fail you when you need it the most (which is exactly what happened during my first solo trip), so trust me when I say you shouldn’t rely on it too heavily. Be aware of common scams and the safety precautions in the areas you’ll be visiting, and if a foreign language is spoken, it’s always best to learn a few key words and phrases beforehand.
Confidence Is Key… fake it till you make it
Never look worried or scared. Even when you’re lost and times become challenging, take a deep breath, leave that confused and stressed look off your face and remain assertive. Always remember that you’ve got this and things will be okay. Yes, it might take you a little longer to get to where you’re going, but you’ll get there.
When I’m using google maps, I like to memorise the first part (eg. straight for a few streets and then a left turn) and then put my phone away. Then when I need it, I get it out again and repeat the same step. Walking with confidence without constantly looking at a map, in my opinion, makes you less of a target as a tourist. And I know a few solo travellers who do the same.
Exploring At Night… it’s not for everyone and that’s okay
For my first few solo trips, I was extremely nervous to walk around at night. So I didn’t. There’s nothing wrong with having some chill time in your accommodation anyway, I mean you did pay for it. at the end of the day, if it’s not for you, then don’t do it. For me, even today there are times when that nervous feeling develops in the pit of my stomach, and I question if I should go out alone or stay in. I learned very quickly that my fear is mainly due to my imagination overreacting, but when I do go out, I make sure I’m aware of my surroundings at all times. I make sure I know the right areas to wander around, sticking to well-lit streets and the not staying to far from my accommodation.
Don’t Post In Real Time… hold off on the gram
I’ve gotten into a really great habit of taking all the pictures and videos I want to share on social media and when I get back to my accommodation at the end of the day, posting a “today’s adventures included…” post, and showing all my days highlights. I have an open Instagram account, and for me especially, I never know who may be following and so there’s a lot of risk if I post in real time. I could essentially be leading someone with impure intentions right to my location. So I never risk posting anything in real time.
My friends sister was on a trip in New York once and she posted in real time. She was at a cafe and within ten minutes of her posting, she was approached by a gentleman who she didn’t know, had been following her on social media. He then wouldn’t leave her alone and she began to feel quite uncomfortable and no longer like she was in a safe environment. She ended up going into a woman clothing store, telling a sales assistance of her situation and they let her wait in there until he eventually left.
Notify Friends & Family… it only takes a second
Something that takes no time at all and can save lives, can often be easily forgotten. Creating something like a WhatsApp group is great for this. Each time I land in a destination, I send a message to my family letting them know I’ve arrived safely. I continue to update them as I move from one location to the next, and when I get back from a day trip. If the worst does happen, then at least I know someone is looking out for me and has all the details of my last whereabouts.
A Book Is Your Best Friend… always
I never travel without a book or a few magazines. Not only does it help you pass the time at airports or on a long train journey, but it gives you something to do when you’re dining alone, and those times you find yourself sitting in a park, enjoying a little relaxation time.
Separate Your Valuables… don’t be left without
If your purse is stolen and you lose all your money/cards, then you’ll be in a tough situation. Similarly if your bag is stolen and you lose your passport, then things can become even worse. Always separate money into different sections of your bag, even hiding some in your bra. Have photocopies of your ID/passport, and place a copy in each of your bags. That way if one lot get’s taken, you always have a backup. Leave a copy with your family too, and have an electronic version saved on your phone. You can never be too prepared!
Don’t Trust People So Easily… even if they’re the cutest guy you’ve ever seen
Trust your instincts when you meet someone. If something feels off, it’s because it probably is. Having a prepared falsified version of yourself on hand to use as a story is an absolute must. Always tell people you’re traveling with friends or family, and that you’re headed to meet them; or that they’re not feeling well as to why you’re on the day trip solo, but that you’re meeting back up with them as soon as the tour is over. A little white lie is harmless and it may just deter those with un pure intentions.
Keep An Eye On Your Drink… including non alcoholic ones
It’s a known fact that even when you’re not travelling you should always watch your drinks. But you should always be extra careful when abroad. Don’t accept drinks from anyone, even if they’re really cute, or even if it’s water. Keep an eye as your drink is being made and when the bartender passes it to you. It only takes a second for someone to slip something in.
Join A Day Trip… it’s a great way to meet people and see the sights
Traveling solo doesn’t mean you always have to be by yourself. Guided day trips and walking tours can be such a blessing. They’re hassle free and a lot of the time you’ll meet fellow travellers where you can swap stories and get recommendations. I’ve met some amazing people from all over the world on a few of my day trips.