My previous travel experiences are mostly with family or friends. I love being in a group and getting shared experiences. It makes for great stories when back home.
However, once in awhile it’s nice to travel out on your own. Many of us fear solo travel because of safety issues, and it just plainly feels weird. Women, in particular, are looked upon oddly when traveling by themselves, but these days, more and more people are trying out solo travel.
In general, planning for a solo trip is very similar to planning for a couple or group trip. The difference? You’re looking out for just yourself. So here are some practical tips to help you get started.
1. Be knowledgeable
When you’re heading out to somewhere new, it pays to know about when you are going. Since you’re already researching about accommodations, activities and food, why not add in some history and culture? Knowing these will give you an idea of what to bring and how you should conduct yourself while you are there.
Do your homework. Tap into the numerous travel sites and look for reviews and blog posts about your destination. Nothing beats first hand information, and you can use what you know to plan your trip.
2. Be prepared for emergencies
While I don’t like sounding so negative, being prepared for the unexpected (good or bad) gives you an advantage. Practice some simple preparations: Make photocopies and digital scans of all your important documents and identification and keep it in a safe place. Have emergency contact information on hand so you know who to call should the need arise. These include your embassy or consulate, medical numbers, family, and your travel insurance company. Make sure to note your hotel name and contact information and if possible, the manager’s name.
This also covers the financial aspect of your trip. Set aside some money that you can tap in to should you need it. Don’t put all your money in one place and take advantage of hotel safes if there are any.
3. Bring only what you need
It’s tempting to carry as much as you can for your trip to cover all the bases, but it’s impractical. Bringing only the necessities lightens the load that you have to carry and lessens the strain on your body. It also means that you have better flexibility and mobility. You also have less items to pack making it easy for you to get going.
4. Use social media, and use it wisely
It’s pretty easy for us these days to keep track of each other. Use your social media status updates to let everyone back home that you’re alive and doing well. You don’t have to check-in every hour. Every few hours or so should be ok, or perhaps at the end of the day before you turn in.
5. Go local
While its great to get tips from other travelers who’ve been to your destination, try tapping into locals. They could be the staff of the hotel where you are staying, or people manning a nearby bar. Meet locals by joining travel sites like Couchsurfing or following blogs written by people who live there. Getting someone who is familiar with the place to guide you will help make you feel more at ease and you’ll have a greater time during your stay.
6. Be aware and be responsible
The fact that being on your own gives you the freedom to do what you want also means that you don’t have someone looking out for you but yourself. It’s up to you to keep yourself out of trouble. Be aware of your surroundings, and always keep your guard up while having a good time. Remember, you are responsible for yourself on this trip, so be good.
7. Don’t be flashy
Like it or not, there are plenty of people who are willing to take advantage of you. When traveling solo, dress simply and don’t flaunt your expensive gadgets or other items. There will be times when you will hopelessly stand out because of your physical features, but you can downplay that by keeping things simple.
8. Treat others with respect
There will be many challenges when you travel solo. Among these include the language barrier and the cultural differences between you and the locals. No matter the situation, treat all the people you encounter with respect. Smile. It may not make things less frustrating, but showing that you consider them your equal and that you are willing to work things out counts for a lot.
9. Follow your gut feel
If someone offers you something and your instincts tell you not to accept, go with your instincts. As mentioned in tip #7, there are unscrupulous people even in the most modern and safe places. Say no, and mean it. Keeping yourself safe is your first and foremost concern.
10. Just do it
On another note that definitely contradicts the previous tip, sometimes you just have to take the plunge. It’s good to be cautious, but if you let your fear take over every time, you’ll never enjoy yourself. The key to this is knowing the difference between your gut feeling of danger and pure fear of the unknown. My adventurous best friend and travel partner keeps dragging me to do things that challenge several of my phobias: white-water rafting (my fear of water), zip lining (my fear of falling), roller coasters (my fear of the safety harness snapping) and so on. Yet I did it all and what do I have now? Fun memories from activities I didn’t want to do but do not regret doing.
Traveling alone is a scary thought, but it frees you from expectations and allows you to get to know yourself better. It gives you a better perspective on other people and their culture, which is a great lesson you can’t get if you travel in groups and your attention is focused in keeping the harmony. Solo travel helps you grow. Try it just once. You won’t regret it. Happy and safe travels![fblike style=”standard” float=”left” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”] [twitter style=”horizontal” float=”left”] [google_plusone size=”standard” float=”left” annotation=”none” language=”English (US)”]