“What happens if I feel bad or get sick while being alone in a foreign country without anyone who cares about me?”
“What if my worst nightmare comes true and I get raped?”
“What if I never see my family and friends again? What if they are right?”
“Will I not feel lonely?”
These are probably just some of the many questions that circulate your head as you consider your first solo trip. You probably think about everything that can go wrong. And this is quite normal. I understand that such a journey can be just as appealing as frightening and your fears and well-being before and during this journey are very important. I had the same doubts and fears before I went on my first long solo journey.
With this post, I hope to help all those cool women who think about such a journey, but they are still not sure if this is a good idea, and a lot of questions or doubts pass through their heads how to prepare for such a journey and what especially they should pay attention to. About my first, long and lonely journey, which started in Colombia (yes I know a good start :)) I will write in another post and this one I keep it more general and practical..
GOLDEN RULES OF THE SOLO TRAVELER
Not only for travel, but just like in everything else in life, good preparation is essential. Before you leave, you try to find out as much as possible about the place where you plan your trip. In addition to basic information such as currency, internet, accommodation, weather, possible natural disasters, current political trends, cultural norms, approach to tourists, you also should read the opinions of others, preferably also women traveling alone on the internet (blogs, forums and travel groups). It’s best to ask other women who chose the same style of travel about their experience of visiting a given country. On Facebook, you can find a lot of such groups . Absorb knowledge but remove all the terrifying assumptions about the destination from your head (and other people who have never been there) and focus and trust above all facts. But remember and be prepared mentally that depending on what country you are going to, after getting off the plane, you can see a completely different world, which can be totally opposite from what you knew so far.
BE AWARE OF PEOPLE AROUND YOU…
Many times I have met many people who say that they are not actually looking / paying attention to people around them when they are in new places While traveling alone, this rule should be your most important. Look at the people around you – both those close and a little further. For example, if someone follows you longer, go to a store or other public place and see if they continue. Does anyone come very close to you, make an artificial crowd or try to push you. These are typical pickpocket behaviors at markets or at street stalls. Does anyone look at you longer? or did this car slow down strangely behind you? Maybe not immediately, but over time you can easily learn to notice such things and even when you are delighted with the moment, you really loved that bracelet on a stall full of people, at the back of your head you will automatically remember about your safety. Because it really guarantees us what is the most important while travelling – good memories. I am not sure if I would like to wear a bracelet from the market where I was robbed. If you like to walk with headphones in your ears, it’s good to have them only in one ear to hear footsteps or sudden sounds.
SPECIAL CAUTION AT NIGHT TIME…
When booking the plane, it is worth paying attention to time when we will reach out to our destination. Day flights are always evening ones unless we are going to some big city with very good public transport even at night. If you are planning to have some fun at nights and going to party during your travels, leave all valuable things in your hotel and take only cash and the most necessary things.. Do not take cards or documents. Try not to go out alone but rather join a group with similar plans for the evening, such groups can be easily found in hostels or on different Facebook groups.
USE YOUR PHONE IN A SMART WAY…
A phone used in smart way can be of great help to provide additional security or comfort during a solo trip. Therefore, it is worth to pack an additional power bank to always have the battery charged. Likewise with a local phone card, if your intention is to stop in a country longer, is definitely worth to get one. Another important thing is to turn on the geolocation feature on your Google account, which can be useful when your phone is lost or stolen. Then you can log into another device in your Google account and can verify the location of our phone. Fortunately, I never had to verify if this really works, but I met many people that it turned out to be very useful. Of course, while traveling, we will also use the phone for obvious purposes, such as keeping in touch with our beloved ones, checking a map or a word in the online dictionary. And here it is worth installing the application or downloading offline maps beforehand, which will save a lot of time and battery. As soon as you arrive at a new place, it is good to send our location to your family or friends, so they can know exactly where we are. I am not talking about sharing your location on social media in real time, because this is not recommended at all. It is always worth to insure not only your phone but other valuable equipment while travelling. Especially if you are in dangerous or high risk countries if you want to quickly check something on your phone enter to a store or a restaurant. Another good option could be to bring your old, cheap phone as a backup in case something happens to your smartphone.
When after a long day of traveling you come to a new place, most likely your only dream is to relax and have some rest rather than worrying if you have chosen the right place. Therefore, always read the reviews when booking a hostel, airbnb or any other form of accommodation. Look for reviews especially written by women. Do not guide yourself only by price. It is always good to save while traveling, but it should never be at the expense of your well-being. That is why it is never worth to save on cheaper accommodation, saving on the taxi while getting back at night or you should even consider changing the hostel, when you simply do not like its location or do not feel safe in it. At first, it is better to verify how your accommodation looks compared to what was offered on the Internet. When deciding to sleep in a hostel, always try to choose those with female bedroom.
SAFETY OF YOUR DOCUMENTS…
Exactly the safety of the most important one while overseas – a passport. I have been in countries where, when signing up for a day trip to a desert island in an office under a palm tree, I was asked to show my passport anyway. Therefore, the best thing you can do is photocopied it and keep a copy with you. It applies not only to passport but also to your insurance, visa or any other important documents. Then the originals can be left in hostel’s locker so even when our bag or backpack gets stolen we will be able to leave the country without unnecessary stress and trips to the embassy or consulate. And this can really spoil our journey and force us to completely change our plans. Another good option is to take a picture and save it on your phone.
Pack only the essentials of your trip. Carrying too many things can easily make your trip more difficult, in addition, while struggling with too many bags you will attract unnecessary attention of others. Pack in smart way, the best is to organize stuff in sections and make a list with the most necessary things beforehand. Pack your valuable items into a separate, smaller bag or backpack and keep it with you always. Even if you are asked to check in your at the airport or to put it into the trunk of the bus you will easily and quickly take out all your most valuable items and you will not forget anything. It is also obvious not to pack any other valuable or sentimental items for the checked in luggage. It may be lost or can fly to completely different destination, or it may be damaged during transport. Never keep original documents and their copies together, same with your credit cards or cash. If one bag is stolen, you will still have cash or a card in another bag. Always have your bag in front of you in crowded places and never keep the phone in your pockets. It is also always worth having a few small padlocks with you to be able to lock your most valuable items in a locker or even keep it closed in your suitcase.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT…
Because it is highly probable that it is right … Even if you travel alone, very often you will find yourself in a situation that you will have to rely on others, strangers. In most cases, when I was asking for directions or other tips, I didn’t face any unpleasant situation and most people were nice and helpful. However, we all know that some people do not have the best intentions and have a very different approach to tourists. Unfortunately, there are also many who consider a tourist as a person whom you can say or sell anything and they will listen to it anyway. If you have the impression or feeling that someone has not the best intentions, shows you a completely different path than the one you saw on the map, or intricately answers your questions, you should listen to your inner voice. It will be easier to get out of the situation sooner than later. Your gut will help you in many situations, but you have to remember about it. I even think that while on solo travel your inner gut is even stronger.
DO NOT FORGET TO REST
So many places to see and even more things to do. While travelling and being constantly on the go is super easy to forget about ourselves. That is why it is so important to take care of yourself first. Most important, we should never forget about proper hydration and good and fairly regular meals. If you constantly have to take some medicine, pack them properly in special containers so that you always have them close to you and take them regularly without having to look at the bottom of the suitcase. When you feel tired or just need some time in your pajamas, take a day off from exploring and just stay in a hotel / hostel to sleep and do just nothing. Just because you are traveling, you really like the new places you discover doesn’t mean that every day has to be planned or you have to see or visit everything. Sometimes it is good to stop for a moment to regain your energy and keep going
Another important issue is to learn admit your weaknesses or problem, e.g. when climbing a mountain we feel the symptoms of altitude sickness, or while on the bus feeling nauseous, even if until now we never have experienced this before it is totally fine letting people know about it earlier rather than waiting until the last moment.
IT IS OK TO FAKE A LITTLE BIT
You may feel scared during your first solo trip, especially at the beginning but you should show it as little as possible. If you look lost and afraid, you become a much easier target. Try to be confident, even if you do not feel it inside, fake it until you make it applies here perfectly. Same thing when someone exaggeratedly asks you, e.g. about traveling alone or wants to know too many details about your plans. Nothing will happen if you lie or give not entirely true information.
Probably until you try it yourself, it can be hard to believe but with proper mindset and good preparation your solo trip can be unforgettable adventure that will only make you stronger and better person and most importantly you will have a memory of your lifetime.