Traveling alone can be a daunting and scary decision to make. However, solo travel can also be self-empowering, exhilarating, and can give you the chance to be fully self-indulging. There are numerous things to remember when preparing for a solo trip, as being alone poses a few different concerns. Your ambitious need to travel may be accompanied by fears around safety, loneliness, and just self-survival. But, with a few of these tips and tricks, your worries will soon fade away.
First, you may be thinking... Why should I travel alone?
I recommend at least once in your life you travel alone. Here are a few reasons why I think so.
You'll Focus More on the Destination
When you're traveling alone, the lack of familiar people to interact with encourages you to become more aware of your surroundings and engage with the destination, not the people you're with. In fact, many solo travelers have more vivid memories of their trips because their attention is solely focused on their surroundings.
You'll Meet More Locals
Since you can't rely on other traveling partners to buy meals or get around, you have to turn to the locals for advice or help. Since you really have no other option, you will meet an abundance of new, interesting people wherever you go. Try to step out of your comfort zone!
Plans Can Change
When you're with a group of travelers, it can be difficult to make plans, change plans, and stick to one itinerary. With solo travel, you can find good use of precious vacation time by doing everything that interests you. No more worrying about what other people want to do; be a little selfish!
Complete Financial Control
Want to blow your money on extraordinary activities? Do it. Want to spend next to nothing on food? Go for it. Want to spend your money on Hostels over Hotels? Fine. When you travel solo, you have complete control over everything you pay for. All of it is completely up to you.
Traveling alone can seem somewhat lonely and unsettling to not have anyone around for backup. However, solo travelers say that new experiences help to break those fears and give you boosts of confidence along the way. Being able to learn how to get yourself out of jams or approaching people you don't know will quickly force you out of your comfort zone. By doing so, you'll gain a type of confidence you've never had before.
So, how can we do it safely and effectively?
Do your homework. Be sure to research about the destination, know how long it takes from the airport to the hotel. Make sure you know the area's common transportation system and don't let the taxi driver "take you for a ride". Instead, ask for an estimated fare before you leave.
Choose the right accommodations. If you know you'll be arriving late to the hotel, make sure to book one with a 24-hour front desk so you don't end up without lodging. If you don't speak the countries language, read up on common phrases, or make sure someone at the hotel speaks your language to help guide you.
Trust your gut. Your body will tell you if something doesn't feel right. Make sure you listen to it! When asking strangers for help, choose someone you think you can trust; typically families with small children are the best call.
Carry identification. And carry it discreetly! Constantly reaching in your pockets or bag for money can quickly draw unwanted attention to you. Invest in a theft resistant bag/purse for daily spending money and keep your passport locked away in a safe or on your body at all times.
Stick to open, public places. Especially at night. Don't go anywhere you get a bad feeling about, or anywhere that is hidden from other people. If you don't know the area well, be careful where you explore.
Exude confidence. Walk with a purpose, always, and don't let people have the chance to question your placement. This will deter unwanted attention, since appearing lost or confused can make you instantly vulnerable. If you're lost, walk into a nearby store or restaurant and ask for help.
Lie a little. There's nothing wrong with slightly stretching the truth to keep yourself safe. When asking for directions, simply say, "Can you direct me to the museum? I have to meet a friend." If a taxi driver asks where you're from, have a concrete answer in mind of a place in the area; they tend to take advantage of people that don't seem to know their way around.
Register with the State Department. For U.S. citizens traveling internationally, consider signing up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows the State Department to assist you in case of emergency.
Dress to blend in. Leave your valuables and flashy jewelry at home and avoid unwanted attention. Dress as conservatively as the people around you, some countries are more conservative than others, so do your research beforehand. It is important to make note of which body parts the local women/men cover and do the same.
Trust everyone and no one. One of the coolest aspects of travelling alone is to meet new people, but this does make you more vulnerable. It's okay to hangout and travel with new friends, but don't ask anyone to hold your money or identification. Scam artists can often be the most charming, so be careful who you talk to and never let your guard down.
Solo travel can help you learn a lot about who you are, what you care about, what excites you, and what you want to spend your time and money on in the future. When you're traveling alone, you can find your own rhythm and do exactly what you want. You'll find your strengths, weaknesses, and passions along the way. Finding your own way without compromise might not be possible in daily life, but it's great, indulgent fun on a solo vacation.
Would you travel solo? Tell us in the comments!