That was the driving force behind the decision to travel by myself. For most of my life, I traveled with family or friends, which was great. I was young and didn’t have a lot of commitments outside of school, church and home. Fast forward a few years to ‘adult me’ begging for a travel buddy. I was out of college, working and eager to see the world during my allotted vacation time. The problem was, my schedule rarely matched up with those of my friends and family. When they did have the time, something always came up and POOF, all their emergency + travel funds were gone. No money, no travel. Road trips, girls’ trips, backpacking – I wanted to do it all with those I love the most but I couldn’t. So I waited. That was getting old, fast. I eventually stopped waiting and got traveling. From the moment I began solo travel, I was hooked. I wish I started sooner. Though it’s only been two years, I’ve developed a system for solo traveling that works for me.
*Buy tickets to attractions online before the trip (as much as possible):
The less I have to whip out money in public to pay for something, the better. I act as if I’m always being watched, even if I am not. It keeps me on my toes and thus, lessens my risk of being a target for thieves. In the past, I’ve bought tickets to concerts, Cirque du Soleil, opera, museums, whale watching, etc. all in advance. Doing this also allows me to skip long lines and avoid possible ripoffs from merchants’ questionable conversion rates.
*Never wear flashy clothes or accessories:
I never take my best clothes on the road. My goal is to discover, not to attract attention. In some foreign countries, my race or height (I’m 5’10”) are enough to draw stares. I don’t need to be any more of a spectacle! Ha! I also don’t wear jewelry when I travel but I’m not much of a jewelry person anyway.
*Beware of public intoxication:
I think being alone and high as a kite or drunk out of your mind is dangerous if you’re a solo traveler. These days everyone knows about money belts. If you aren’t sober/coherent, someone can steal your cash, cards & passport right off of you and you wouldn’t remember a thing. Increased chances of rape and bodily harm are also possible for solo women travelers. Have your fun but know your cut-off limit.
*Get out and meet people:
Solo travelers don’t have a ‘crutch’ like people with travel partners have. Either you put yourself out there, make friends and network OR feel lonely and isolated the whole time. Go with your gut. I’ve learned that a simple smile can be the start to loads of great conversation. You can also scope out & befriend obvious solo travelers (they’ll be the ones taking pics of themselves in front of buildings, HA). Introduce yourself, offer to take their pic, compare travel ideas, etc.
*Join group activities:
Go on a free walking tour, take a cooking class, go online and find out what free events locals attend, etc. Not only have I made many friends this way but I believe the experience was richer thanks to the healthy mix of personalities and cultures.
*Keep copies of everything:
I keep copies of travel documents, my drivers license, but also printed copies of hotel/hostel bookings, dinner reservations, directions, etc. You can never be too prepared in my book.
*Start a tradition & follow it on every trip:
My tradition is to get lost. Weird, I know. As prepared as I try to be, it’s always exciting to just ‘wing it’. For this reason, I never book an event/attraction during my first day. I use that free time to explore. I get a real feel for a city that way. It’s also a great way to avoid tourist traps and hang where the locals are. If the locals warm up to you, they’ll give you lots of tips for your trip! My tradition is to check in to my room, drop my bags and walk. For hours. Just walk and when I get hungry, eat wherever I can find food. Get lost.