By Laura Garcia
Whether it’s the resplendent temples of Thailand, the awe-inspiring sunsets of Santorini or the crystal clear beaches of the Philippines that are calling your name, whether your heart is needs to heal, or your soul is just aching to explore, there is something lurking inside every solo traveller.
There is a yearning so strong, it gives us the courage we need to put away our fears, to calm our nerves, and to go–to whatever part of the world is beckoning us the loudest.
When you stand on your own two feet, in an unknown land, carrying your own bags, figuring out your own way, it births a confidence you perhaps didn’t know you had. When you experience something magical because you pushed yourself to do something you weren’t sure you would be able to do, pride blooms. When time and again you see just how capable you are, your beauty and self-love will ignite from within.
Solo travel can be life-changing. With every step, you will learn, you will grow, you will strengthen, and afterwards, you will never be the same. The idea, however, is quite frankly, frightening. Which is why your friends may look at you like you’re crazy; your parents will likely be infuriated at the prospect; and some will even wonder if you’re desperate. And that’s ok. This is about you.
So get used to the stares (you’re likely to get them when you ask for a table for one anyway), keep listening to your heart and trust your instincts. Then follow these tips, and go chase those dreams.
The What, The Where, The When
Push yourself, but know yourself.
One Pinterest search on “best locations for solo travel” and you’ll be swimming in advice so deep, you’ll wish you were floating on a unicorn floatie. Do your research, follow your heart, but don’t kid yourself. Know who you are and plan for that person, not some person you miraculously hope to turn into upon landing in a different country. Plan enough so that you’re comfortable, but not so much that you take away the freedom to entertain your whims. Check cancellation policies, and if you can, leave your return flight flexible.
Before You Go
- Take it easy on the packing, and consider where you are going. You will need to carry these bags, yourself–everywhere you go. Narrow cobblestone streets and un-ending bridges of Venice? Not fun with a huge four-wheel suitcase.
- Remember you can buy almost anything you need, anywhere you go.
- Pack a fast-dry towel, a filtered reusable water bottle (check out Lifestraw), and a few padlocks.
- Plan to arrive during the day. If this isn’t possible, check with your hostel or hotel to se if their front desk will be open when you arrive.
- Pre-arrange your transport from the airport to your hotel or hostel. Once you are rested and situated, you can figure out local transport, learn to barter for taxi rides, rent a scooter, whatever.
- Research the local ride-hailing apps like Uber, Grab and Navigo beforehand. Download the apps and set up an account so you are ready.
- Check international travel alerts for the countries you are visiting and stay tuned into the current climate to stay out of trouble.
- Check with your mobile phone carrier so you know what the roaming charges are and don’t drain your travelling cash .
- Double check all of your bookings, make sure your dates line up. Carry a physical copy of all the names and addresses of where you are staying. Then give your entire itinerary to a loved one or two. Remember to include flight details.
- Make colour photocopies of your passport to carry with you. You never know when you may need one— to rent a bike or to help you with the local authorities if your’s is lost or stolen.
- Research and follow the cultural norms and etiquette; we suggest using the country’s tourism board. This is not only respectful, but it will help to keep you safe.
- Join a Facebook solo travel group for tips as well as support when you need it.
- Local SIM cards should be available at the airport, in convenience stores or mobile phone shops. They are the best way to keep mobile roaming changes in check.
- Only carry with you enough cash to get you through the day and one credit card if needed. You know the saying: “never put all your eggs in one basket.”
- Lock each compartment of every bag. If you don’t have travelling companion, it’s hard to watch everything all the time. Be safe.
- Use your body wallet. Yes, seriously, especially when in major cities and at airports.
- Know the exchange rate, and know how to calculate it without your phone.
- Be careful with how/when you use your phone. Not only is it easy pickings, but it also makes you look distracted, making you easy pickings.
- Bring your bitch face. Do not engage with people on the street, the guy giving you a “free” bracelet will want $5 for it as soon as it’s on you, the lady who’s smiling at you may have a friend who’s tracking you. Keep your eyes and ears open and be aware of your surroundings. Look confident and like you know where you’re going. This isn’t about being paranoid, it’s about not being easy prey.
- Consider a purse with a chain strap that can’t be cut, and carry it with the opening towards you.
- Have a list of emergency contacts on you at all times.
- Travel with two credit cards and leave one locked up back in your room. If you need to cancel one because it was lost or stolen, you’ll be thankful you have a backup.
- Leave your passport and the majority of your cash locked up in your hostel or hotel. Keep a photocopy of your passport with you at all times.
- Know the emergency phone number (999, or equivalent) of the country you are visiting.
- Get good travel insurance.
- Keep your eye on your drink, don’t accept drinks from strangers, and be careful with your intake.
- And do not tell strangers that you are travelling alone. A white lie is better than putting yourself at risk.
While it may be a dream of a lifetime, it’s not going to be all ice cream cones and hot air balloon rides. There may be times you’ll feel lonely, nervous, or even scared. But then they’ll be a smiling new face looking for a friend to chase a sunset, another asking you to join in a night of salsa dancing on cobblestone roads, or a local inviting you into their home for a warm meal. There will be memory after ever-lasting memory that is uniquely yours, on a holiday that was designed and curated by you, for you.
So go, and show the world, but more importantly, yourself, just exactly who you are.