Your Tool Kit for Life’s Journey A Compassionate Kit Bag is a place to put reminders for your compassionate self, so you can use your resources to nourish you along life’s journey.
You can use any bag or box or other container. If you are feeling challenged by your journey, you have these self-nurturing items with you help you connect to your strength. Collect together items that are meaningful, or those you know will be helpful.
You might find these items inspiring, empowering, calming, soothing, motivating, bringing confidence, strength, calm composure and wisdom. Some items you might choose may have some sadness attached by their association with an event or person. You will need to decide if it is right to include this item.
If you physically cannot put the item in the bag or box, then perhaps use a reminder of the item, for example, a picture of an iPod, mp3 player.
You may have some items that you immediately know would fit in this compassionate kit bag. As a traveller you don’t want big items, choose a few important items that make you feel good about yourself perhaps they bring up a positive memory, or represent something that is important, inspiring, motivating or gives you a boost in some way.
A talking book, self help or calming mp3
Smells – oils, favourite perfume or a sachet of coffee
Reminder of compassionate image (self or other)
Book, poem, quotes
Letter or cards from family or friends
Objects with meaning
Hobby e.g. drawing, photography
Reminders of your strengths
Grounding or soothing objects – soft woolly socks or blanket, hand or foot lotion, massage oil, warm bubble bath, nail varnish, make-up, bracelet
Fruity snack or treat
Keep your compassionate kit bag nearby, maybe next to your bed to remind yourself every day how strong and loved you are. It will help you ground yourself and connect with your inner strength. You will bounce back up and feel empowered.
Travel can be challenging. It doesn’t always go to plan. You’re in an ever-changing environment with new people all the time. It can be an onslaught to the senses, a culture-shock at times, which pushes you out of your comfort zone. Don’t be ******* yourself if one morning, one afternoon or one evening you feel a bit deflated or overwhelmed by it all. It’s perfectly normal.
It’s normal, but it isn’t something you want to indulge in. Notice how you feel. Have a think about it, why is this happening? What has knocked you out of your stride? A quiet moment journaling can help you get to the bottom of the issue, acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. This clarity may be all you need to move through it. Think about it in this way – open the front door, let the feeling in, understand it accept it and then open the back door and let it out. No inviting it in for a cup of tea, to sit down and make itself at home. You don’t want or need that negativity in your life.
First things first. Why is it happening? Why are you feeling down? Is there any physical reason?
Have you drunk enough water? Are you dehydrated?
Have you eaten? Has your blood-sugar crashed?
Did you get enough sleep? Are you tired and grumpy?
Are you too hot or too cold?
Malsow’s Hierarchy of needs makes its clear that we need to take care of the basics first.
Think about the questions above and write the answers below. This is just checking-in with yourself. It’s basic self-care. You need to be kind, like you would to a small child and see if there’s something that needs fixing at the first level.
Is there any physiological reason for you feeling bad?
Things you can do to address the imbalance:
This basic self-care needs to be a priority in life, all the time. It stops things before they start becoming a problem. They keep you in your equilibrium, your happy rested and energized state, ready to take on the world.
Sleep, Safety and Security
If you aren’t getting good sleep, you will be tired, and it will affect your awareness and ability to make good decisions. Sleep is so important. Think about where you are staying. Is it the best place for you now?
Are you getting a good night’s sleep?
Is it too noisy?
Do you feel safe?
Do your belongings feel safe?
If any of these questions help you pinpoint a problem, it’s helpful. Now you need to decide what you want to do about it.
Do you want to move or stay?
When you are tired, and it all feels overwhelming the last thing you want to do is pack your backs and put yourself out on the street. So, let’s take this one step at a time.
I’m going to share a story with you. I went to Cuzco in Peru. I was booked on the Inca trail trek and I had a couple of days before the trek to acclimatise and do a bit of sightseeing. I booked myself into a hostel close to the center. I got there, booked a trip that left at 4.30am the following day, packed my kit ready and went to bed. There were doors slamming and people putting the light on and banging their kit about through the night. I had booked into the party hostel! We had different aspirations.
After my day trip, I looked for a different hostel, moved 50m down the hill and got a nice bed in a quiet hostel with great food and showers. It was a great upgrade!
What do you want at your new accommodation?
You now have a checklist of key criteria for your search of the local area. If you have stayed in the town/city for a night, you will be learning where the noisy streets are with traffic and people. You can either head towards the noise and action or head away from it depending on what you want to do with your time.
If you want a quiet sociable place to stay, look for a quiet hostel or a family run guesthouse. Guidebooks also give details of popular hotels. I’ve done my homework and found places locally that might be good, but I’ll go down and ask at reception for a recommendation. Other travelers have heard me asking and invited me to join them, as they were just heading that way.
If you want to be on your own a hotel may be best. You can hide in your room on your own or be sociable in the communal spaces if you choose.
Sometimes we just need our own space, time to hide from the constant change and just do a bit of self-nurturing. This is a time to be quiet and calm yourself. Ground yourself so you feel whole a stable rather that in a busy whirlwind that’s pulling you all out of shape.
If you keep a travel journal, writing up the last few days may be a good way to acknowledge all the things you have been doing. How busy you have been, what you have achieved. It is a step towards understanding how much you are putting yourself through. When you are at home you aren’t doing different things every 24 hours, there are some familiar routines, space to unwind.
Travel journal can be mini-scrapbooks, full of your tickets, postcards, pictures from leaflets and your own drawings. Having a quiet, creative, reflective few hours can be all you need to get you back on track. You’ll feel proud of who you are, what you are doing. Acknowledging all the feelings you’re experiencing as you explore this new land is also important. Sometimes we are awed by the beauty and brought to tears, sometimes devastated by the poverty and squalor. Not being able to do anything about it makes us feel helpless and possibly angry.
You may not be able to change the world, but you are responsible for how you choose to act. Treating people with loving kindness always is a choice. If you decide you want to do something to solve a problem you have seen, you can choose to do so. It’s your life and you need to do what’s right for you.
Get out into Nature
You can always choose to do something different. Being in a busy city may not be the best environment for you. It could make you feel lonely and overwhelmed. Maybe it was a great when you were planning, but now you’re there, it’s just not right. Sometimes being in nature is the best place. It helps us feel grounded and calm. Being on a tropical beach or staying in a bungalow in the forest where you can admire the Milkway at night can be humbling and enriching.
I suggest you meditate to calm your mind and get clarity. Below is a guide on accessing your inner quiet space. This will allow you to relax and settle yourself.
Accessing your inner quiet space
There’s lots about meditation and mindfulness now. Whether you have your own practice or not, I offer this meditation to you. This is to help you access your inner stillness and your intuition.
Find yourself and quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit comfortably with your back straight and your feet on the floor, hands in your lap or lie down. Take three slow deep breathes in to the bottom of your belly, to help you relax. Feel the contact of your body, where it meets the chair or bed. Feel the support and allow yourself to relax deeper.
Now breathe in slowly and as you breathe out, I want you to drop down a layer in your consciousness. It’s just like dropping through a trapdoor and floating to the next layer below. Don’t rush this just go one layer at a time. To be honest your mind will probably try to distract you with chatter, just stay at that layer until you quieten your mind, then, breather in and as you breathe out float down to the next layer. You will go down several layers and, in the end, you will find yourself in a dark and quiet space. It’s like finding the ground. This is your quiet space. When you are ready you can come back up.
You can access this any time you want. It is very grounding and centering. It gets easier and quicker to access the more you practice. This meditation reminds you that you are more than just the chatter in your head. There is an inner quiet space that you can access. You may want to take a few moments and write about your experience in your journal.
Understand your feelings
Human have had to survive all sorts of different environments and different dangers. You will have heard of Fight or Flight. This is our inbuilt system that looks out for dangers and acts to keep us safe. We get a spike of adrenaline that will allow us run away or fight our way from the danger. Previously, dangers were simply Wooly Mammoths. Now in our complex world many things can seem to be a dangerous, the internet, the traffic and strangers.
Not all strangers mean us harm, in fact the majority are very friendly and are willing to help. The situation isn’t always dangerous. You may have a lot of false alarms going off. Feeling anxious because you are stressed, and think you are under attack it’s a sustainable situation. You need time to relax your body. Let it know you’re safe, so it can turn off all the alarms and rest properly. Doing some deep breathing exercises to connect with your body and the meditation above will make a real difference.
You need to calm yourself. Let your brain know that not everything is dangerous. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. Going out into the world and experiencing something new can be stressful at first as you see in the graph below. But the more you do it, the more normal it seems, and you no longer feel stressed.
When I travel, I take a few specific things with me to make me feel special, connected, comforted and enable me to be creative, as I’ve explained with the Travel Journal.
These are my self-soothing tools.
If it’s my birthday or Christmas while I’m away, I’ll take a few cards and a little present to open. I make sure I have my own room, I make a fuss of myself, putting my cards up and opening a present. I might have bought myself a gift, such as a bracelet I can wear. I have energising music playing (I like dance music and electro-swing). I do something creative or go out somewhere special. This is a great time to do exactly what you want.
If I need to calm myself, I need space to nurture myself. Breathing exercises make me focus on breathing down into my body. This focuses my mind and gets me in touch with how my body feels. I have a Chill-out playlist that I listen to or I can use a guided meditation.
Using nice bath products and moisturisers makes me feel special. I carry a little pot of nail varnish on long trip and paint my toenails. I have a bit of perfume to make me feel feminine.
How can you self-nurture as you travel? List items you can take:
Make sure you make self-care a priority and put together your own compassionate kit bag. I have detailed what you could include below. This isn’t an afterthought; this is core to making sure you can flex with whatever comes your way.
Let’s be honest, people will tell you not to go travelling on your own because something terrible will happen. If you’ve the gumption to step beyond the nay-sayer’s personal fears, you’ll experience the most wonderful, liberating gift you can give yourself. I have brought together some important tips to enable you to be safe on your life changing journey. You’ll find plenty of wisdom you can use on your own trip.
Do your research Before you head off to the destination of your dreams, do your research. Find out where’s good to stay in the city. Every city has good and bed spots, make sure you know where to go and what not to do. Don’t go offending anyone, be aware of the cultural norms, these may be different o your own. For example don’t show the soles of your feet to Buddhist statues.
Make a plan Do your research before-hand and create a plan for your trip. You need to share this with friends/family, so they know your whereabouts. If you decide to alter your plans as you travel, keep them up to date. Let them know if you are going off-line for a few days to go trekking etc. so they won’t worry.
If you need help to create your plan, join my training course Adventurous Spirit where I clearly explain how to do this.
Arrive in the light If you are travelling to somewhere new on your own make sure you arrive in the daylight. Have accommodation booked for the first night. This allows you to get to grips with a new culture, currency and way of doing things. If you’ve had a long journey rest and recoup.
Advice on where to stay Don’t skimp on your safety. Pay a bit extra to make sure you are staying in a safe area of town, in a good place. This doesn’t have to be a 4 star hotel, there are great hostels, but make sure your walk back is well lit at night and it feels safe. If you don’t feel good about anything, move. Listen to your gut instinct – it’s always right. Read other guest’s reviews when you are choosing where to stay.
Take a card When you head out of your hostel/hotel, make sure you collect one of their cards. If you get disorientated and need to get back, you can show it to a taxi driver and they’ll know exactly where to go.
Follow your gut If you have a feeling that a situation is unsafe, go with it. Avoid it or remove yourself from it. Going travelling solo will force you into new situations and you need to make snap decisions. Being able to listen to your internal guidance is crucial. I explain how to get in touch with your intuition in Adventurous Spirit. This is your inner compass – so use it!
People are the best protection If you don’t feel good about a situation remove yourself as quickly and calmly as you can. Ask for help from locals/travellers that look good souls. Most people around you will be ready to help so don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help or advice. Most people are good, we just hear all the media noise about the few bad ones which can make us suspicious. Don’t think that everyone is there to rob you/rip you off. Be open to the kindness and friendliness of people and you will have the most wonderful and profound travel experience. Life is about giving and receiving. Make sure you do both in equal measure.
Be vigilant Be aware of your surroundings and your stuff. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Who’s around and can you duck in to a business if you need? Use your common sense and don’t go down quiet streets that you wouldn’t use at home. You can fend for yourself, just be aware of who you drink with and how much you drink. When you are travelling alone its safer to get hammered. You don’t need loads of alcohol to have an enjoyable time and connect with people.
Guided tour Book yourself on occasional guided tour to meet other people and get to places that might be hard to get to. If you meet other travellers you like, you can choose to hook up and travel together for a while. Travelling on your own allows you to meet lots of wonderful new people and make new friends. You are never alone unless you want to be.
Don’t rely on one way to pay Bring a mixture of cash, debit cards, credit cards and prepaid cards when you travel. Don’t rely on one. I often spend time on my first day visiting several ATMs with cards working out which bank works with which card – don’t assume they will all work. Carry small amounts of change in your pocket close to hand.
Emergency cash and cards Always have emergency cash squirrelled in another place in your suitcase/backpack. In another place hide a credit card and some cash. If your purse/ bag gets pinched/ lost, you have back up while you get new cards issued. Keep your money in a belt bag or body wallet. You can get stylish clothing with concealed zipped pockets.
Copy important documents Passport, tickets, insurance etc. make a copy and give them to your home contact. I also put them on my email. If everything is lost, I can get access to the copies, print them off and head to the embassy to get help to get replacement quickly.
Know where you are going This is back to planning – know where you are going. Get a local map and be aware of where you are. When you get a taxi follow where you are going on the map and get a sense of the place. You will get a mental map of the place. If you aren’t going in the right direction, ask why. I had a tuk-tuk driver take me to the wrong place because he didn’t know where we wanted to go but didn’t want to lose face or the fare. It wasn’t a dangerous situation, but I knew that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be bad how to direct us to our hotel. You’re not a passenger, you’re the director of the course of your life.
Be confident Keep your wits about you and don’t go taking unnecessary risks, don’t walk unlit streets in the dark. Walk with purpose – you’ve got your map and know where you’re going. Even if you don’t know where you’re going, walk confidently. Confidence comes from the inside out. Stand tall and look like you know what you are doing, even if you have to nip into a shop and ask the shop assistant where you are and how to get to where you want to go. Don’t look like a victim. You’ve got this. You can confidently not know where you are going if you are just exploring – just keep an eye on your whereabouts on the map.
Don’t draw attention to yourself Wear appropriate clothing in the country you are in. If the local cover up, you should. Be respectful and blend in. I don’t travel in my best clothes. I don’t want to look like a wealthy target. I have t-shirts that always go travelling they aren’t fashion icons, in fact I have one with tiny holes in so I don’t look at all wealthy. I try to blend in in a poor country.
Don’t rush decisions Take your time and don’t let anyone rush you when you’re making decisions. Step back, listen to your gut instinct and only do it if it feels right.
Look after yourself Carry your own first aid kit so you can deal with the small stuff. Make sure you eat well, stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. If you get run-down, you can pick up bugs and colds. You don’t make your best decisions if you are tired. Having a woolly head makes you indecisive and feel vulnerable. Your health is your highest priority.
Don’t over commit One thing you learn from travelling solo is to plan in flexibility and rest days. You need to look after yourself. Doing, doing, doing days will deplete you. Take time to rest, reflect and plan the next part of your trip. I love to keep a travel journal, and this is an enforced rest, as well ad my way of processing and appreciating everything that’s happening to me.
Say No You will learn to have firm boundaries. Learn to say no, nicely but firmly. Do what’s right for you. Never question your instincts.
Start small Learning solo travel skills takes time. Start by taking small trips in your own culture and building your confidence and skills. When you feel ready you can book a trip abroad and add in the complications of culture, language, currency etc. Some people dive-in having a horrible experience because they get over-whelmed. Don’t set yourself up for failure, gain your skills safely and gradually.
You will learn so much more about yourself and the other culture if you travel alone/independently. This article has given you easy tools and techniques for keeping yourself safe while solo travelling. Time spent planning before you go is an investment in your safety. If you want help with how to plan, enrol on the online course Adventurous Spirit. While you travel be vigilant, don’t get yourself in to situations you can’t back out of. Be confident, even if you don’t know where you are. Make sure you have more than one way to pay and keep yourself healthy. Be open to adventure and expanding your comfort zone. Solo travel will reward you with amazing experiences leaving you feeling wonderment. That’s why I support people to go on their own life-changing adventures.
Do you have dream destinations that you’d love to travel to… and no one to travel with now? The question is do you put your life on hold waiting for a travel buddy? Do you wait one year, two, ten, more for that person to come along? One that wants to go to the same place as you, do the same sort of things and has prioritised the time and money to do it. Or do you step outside your comfort zone and travel on your own? What are the common solo-travel fears that might be holding you back? In this blog, I’ll confront and dispel them, so you can choose to follow your dreams.
‘I’m worried about the cost of solo travel’
I can’t afford to go travelling on my own is a common view, but I disagree with this. You can choose how you want to travel and where you want to travel. You can set the budget, you don’t have to spend more that you want because you are travelling with someone that has a bigger budget than you. You’re in control. You can book rooms that don’t charge a single supplement or stay in a dorm in a hostel. You can decide your perfect holiday and you don’t need anyone’s approval.
‘Is it safe to travel solo?’
It’s a reasonable question. Some members of your family or friends will tell you that you’ll dies and get your stuff stolen. Those are their fears, don’t take them onboard. Like everything in your life, you do need to look out for yourself. Being in a group may make you feel comfortable, but you may get complacent and that’s when things could go wrong. Planning your trip, choosing carefully where to go and reading up about the place, will ensure that you have chosen a destination that you are comfortable with.
‘I might be lonely or feel homesick’
There will be lots of other people travelling when you go. You are guaranteed to meet lots of people and it is easier when you are on your own. People just come up to you and start talking to you and likewise you can just chat to other. Waiters and bar staff will often chat with you if you are on your own. Enjoy being on your own, read a book or write your travel journal. Let yourself be immersed in the beautiful place you are visiting.
‘I’ll feel guilty about going away’
But why? We should all live joyful lives, so get out there and have some fun. You will be great company if you’re enjoying yourself, visiting new places and having adventures. You only live once, don’t be held back by other people’s values. People that love you should want you to develop yourself by travelling and seeing the world. You can stay in touch easily while you’re away, so they know you’re fine.
‘I’m too old to go travelling on my own’
Utter nonsense! You don’t need to be a 20 something to get out there and have a wonderful time travelling. There are lots of diverse ways to travel. Find a way that suits you and what you’re passionate about. Being older means you have much more life experience to draw on. There will be lots of travellers of different ages who will be willing to chat and share top tips along the route. Age isn’t a problem. Have the right attitude is the key.
‘I can’t leave my job’
You don’t need to leave your job to go travelling. You can visit places all over the world in your one-, two- or three-week vacations. You need to prioritise and choose a way of travelling that delivers what you want. If you choose to leave your job and go off travelling for a longer period, it will give you time to re-evaluate your values and beliefs. This can be a catalyst for you deciding to live more inline with your values on your return, which will make you happier in the long-term.
‘I’m not brave enough or I haven’t got the experience’
You have a life time of experiences. You don’t need to be fearless, just determined to give it a go. There are tour operators that cater for single travellers if you want to go away but not be on your own. I suggest that you go on trips in your own country to build up your confidence and get used to talking to strangers and visiting new places. Each month I have a challenge in Women Travellers Tribe which helps you build the skills and confidence you need. You don’t need to be an extrovert to go travelling, you just need to be you.
If you’re thinking about planning your own trip and need guidance on what to do and how to do it, but more importantly on busting your solo-traveller fears, then sign up for Adventurous Spirit a four-week online course that will set you up for your first trip. There’s a weekly call to answer any specific questions. What are you waiting for? Is it time to make your dreams come true?