When I was growing up, I struggled to stay at friends houses for sleepovers or birthday parties. The unfamiliar surroundings made me feel uneasy and I was petrified of being away from my family and the comfort of my 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, and loving every second of it.
I didn’t start out travelling solo. I did family vacations, trips with friends and two years globetrotting 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 so far it’s been amazing.
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 and put your camera on timer to capture photos of you and you alone.
After returning from my first solo trip I thought to myself, “I did it!” and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was so proud of myself and my confidence level in general increased dramatically. Even though it wasn’t all smooth sailing, I enjoyed my trip more than I expected and I definitely learnt a lot from it. So for those of you who may be about to embark on your first solo travel adventure, here are a few tips.
Always start small. Before I attempted solo travel abroad I started doing things on my own to get used to the feeling. 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 where I was required to take a plane (but still within my country), and once I was used to doing that, I went abroad.
Arrive During The Day
Solo travel can at times be stressful. Especially if it’s your first time. 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’s nice for your first impression to be of the incredible surroundings of your destination and not of the street lights that may or may not be well lit.
Research Your Destination
It’s 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.
Exploring At Night
For my first few solo trips, I was extremely nervous to walk around at night. And still, there are often times when that nervous feeling develops in the pit of my stomach, but I learned quickly that it’s mainly my imagination overreacting. Just be aware, and make sure you know the right areas to wander around alone, and always stick to well-lit streets.
Notify Friends & Family Of Your Travel Plans
Something that takes almost no time at all, and extremely beneficial, can often be forgotten. I always send my flight and accommodation details to my family, making sure to message them when I land/arrive and checkout/return home. I have a WhatsApp group with my friends called ‘Home’ and we use this to keep track of everyone’s whereabouts. Each time we travel, we let each other know that we’ve arrived in a destination safely and continue to update as we move from one location to the next. Having something like this ensures that, if the worst does happen, then someone is looking out for you and knows all the details of your last whereabouts.
Never Keep Your Valuable’s In The Same Place
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 ID then things can become even worse. I always separate my money into different sections of my bag, even hiding some in my bra. I have photocopies of my ID, which I place in each of my bags, and I always leave a copy with my family. I also have an electronic version saved on my phone – I mean, you can never be too prepared!
A Book Is Your Best Friend
I always travel with a book or a few magazines. Not only does it help me pass the time at airports or on a long train journey, but it gives me something to do if I want to sit in a park and enjoy my surroundings, or when I’m dining alone.
Don’t Trust People So Easily
Don’t get me wrong, not everyone you encounter when travelling is bad. But trust your instincts when you meet someone. If something feels off, it’s because it probably is. Always tell people you’re traveling with friends or family, and that you’re headed to meet them. A little white lie is harmless and it may just deter those with unpure intentions.
Keep An Eye On Your Drink (including non alcoholic)
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 it’s a really cute guy, or even if it’s simply an open bottle of water. Be sure to keep an eye on the bartenders as well. I had a friend who had something slipped into her drink by one when travelling abroad. She’s ok but it could have ended in a really bad situation.