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 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.
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.
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.
You will learn to have firm boundaries. Learn to say no, nicely but firmly. Do what’s right for you. Never question your instincts.
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.