Solo travel. It can sound so daunting sometimes. Time and time again I have had so many people question me in regards to the matter. ‘How do you do it?’, ‘Aren’t you afraid?’.
I literally just do it, and don’t really think about it. It is something that comes very naturally to me. I love traveling alone, although if you are in the company of a very good travel companion(which can be hard to find) then I much prefer traveling with someone at times. It truly depends on where I am going. Every continent and culture is different.
There are pros and cons to everything in life though. When you are alone, you get charged higher prices for everything, you get harassed more(again, depending on which continent your on), and when you get lost and have no idea where you are going, you have absolutely no one to lean on. It’s all on you baby.
Although on the plus side, when you are alone you get to go where and when you want, there is nobody holding you back. You meet plenty of more people and locals where you are, and there are always people that want to help you. If you are with someone, people tend to leave you alone and not reach out in the same way.
However if you are alone, there are some tactics you can use to make sure you feel safe.
Always be aware of your surroundings and situations. Kind of like how your peripheral vision works, you want to make sure your keeping mental tabs of what is happening around you. When you are aware that also means you are alert, which in turn will help you stay safe. I mean if someone was following you, it would be a lot easier to pick up if you are being aware. Be very careful going wandering alone when you have been drinking.
Make eye contact with people when you speak with them. You can tell so much by looking into someones eyes. If they are dodgy it will for sure show in their eyes and in their mannerisms. It has always helped me read people much faster.
Don’t wear expensive flashy things. It will only draw attention to you and make you a target. When I am traveling in destinations that have high crime rates and poverty, I stick to handmade local jewelry, and I don’t carry a lot of cash or valuables with me.
I always carry a purse, but I always choose a purse that goes across my body and closes very well. That way it stays close to me and is not easily broken into. If I am on a bus and sleeping, I make sure that I am holding my bag straight beneath my hands. That way if anyone tried to grab it I would already have a hold of it.
It doesn’t hurt to get a money belt for under your clothes as well.
Take a photo copy of your passport. I usually lock my passport in the safe where ever I stay, that way I know it will be safe. In place of it, I always have a photo copy and an extra photo ID.
Having a cheap cell phone with a local SIM where ever you go, will make sure that you always have a means of contact. If you ever feel scared or alone its so nice to be able to call or text someone. Also if you are heading on a long trek with some dodgy traveling, you can make sure to keep in extra contact with help if you needed it.
Make friends with locals. It has also really been a great advantage to feeling safe when I make friends with locals along the way. If I get good vibes off someone I will always strike up a chat. When you are with a local, people will leave you alone and the other plus is you will get local prices in the places that way up charge tourist. Trust me, I have been ripped off a couple times in my travels. But generally the locals always love to meet foreigners, and I have made some amazing life long friends this way.
Definitely carry a lock. If you are staying at hostels and things, the majority of them will have lockers in the rooms for your valuables and bags. Now make sure its a good quality lock as locks can be broken. There was a time in Malawi that I had a funny feeling in my gut when I checked into this hostel, so instead of locking my bag in the lockers, I stuffed mine under the bed. It could barely fit, but I got under. Turned out that the rooms and lockers got broken into, passports and valuables taken, and since I listened to my gut, my stuff was fine.
Which leads me to another point. Always listen to your intuition. We have it for a reason and it is always right. Any time I ignored it, something went wrong.
Make sure to always have a little stash of backup money tucked away. Being prepared for everything and a little more will always keep you at ease.
Sometimes you just have to be strong minded. When I was traveling in Central/South America and Africa, I had to just be strong at times. Particularly with how I carried myself. Men can be very forward and quite aggressive. So I would always make sure to walk confidently and with purpose, and if they did harass me I would make it clear not to come to close simply with my demeanor and body language. It would usually end the men whom were trying to be pushy telling me I am very strong(I was just a well seasoned traveler) and they would retreat.
Dress appropriately. Unless harassment and male attention is what you want, it is better to be a little more modest then usual. It is best not to attract the wrong kind of attention when you are alone.
Always be very mindful of your alcohol and recreational fun. All it takes is for you to turn your back for one second to have something slipped into your drink. You never know what a stranger will give you, so be very aware and cautious.
Don’t arrive to a new place after dark. After dark is when things always get more dangerous. If you are going somewhere new, try and get there when it is still light, and only take registered taxi’s. Also it is very wise to have a room or bed pre-booked before you arrive.
Solo travel as a female generally does just come down to common sense. I have done loads of global solo travel and had the most amazing experiences of my life. Some tough of course, but that is to be expected no matter where or what you are doing with life.
Also it is so easy to meet other travelers along the way, and many times you end up traveling for awhile with some of them. It can happen so often I would sometimes have to purposely choose to go on, on my own, so I could enjoy a bit of ‘me time’ again.
There truly is something so invigorating and freeing about solo travel. If you have often thought about it, and yet havn’t, then I highly suggest giving it a go! It will shape your mindset in a whole new way. Happy Trails!