So, you’ve finally decided to exchange your armchair dreams for the real thing. You have the funds, you know the destination. The only hitch is that if you’re going to make this trip, it must, for various reasons, be on your own. This seems a rather daunting prospect for first time solo travelers, but it needn’t be. With adequate planning, in-depth research, and sensible precautions, solo traveling can be an enjoyable and growing experience. You learn to rely on yourself, and it is always a very pleasant surprise to find that the things once considered ‘beyond my scope’ are, in fact, well within achievable range. Another perk, no less important, is the chance for some much-needed self-indulgence, to reconnect with yourself―the self that had somehow got overlooked in all the daily details of living, working, managing family responsibilities, friends’ expectations, and so on. You also get the chance to interact with different people from different backgrounds and cultures, and some of these meetings may lead to delightful, life-long friendships. Others, although more temporal, may yet stay in mind for having opened up a whole new and different perspective on the world.
Tips When Traveling Alone
Today, there are tour agencies, travel guides, and travel websites that, if not devoted entirely to the solo woman traveler, at least have special itineraries, information, and tips intended for such. If you’re going on your own, here are some common-sense things to remember, gleaned from personal experience and a variety of on-line sources.
Research your destination and the safety thereof, and book hotel rooms in advance. Make sure the hotel is in a good neighborhood.
Check that your travel documents are in order, and keep extra copies handy. Store copies in your e-mail account that can be accessed from anywhere.
Pack light, as you will have to carry it all yourself. Keep money in a secure and hidden waist-pouch.
Dress conservatively―some cultures require this and, whether you think this fair or not, be mindful of local customs―you’re going on a visit not on a make-over mission―so, as they say, in Rome, don’t be a smart Greek. You will also prevent a lot of unwanted attention and harassment.
If you have a penchant for expensive jewelry, squash this penchant for the trip duration. Forgo even expensive-looking jewelry. The kind of petty thief I’m inferring here is a petty thief because he’s not smart to begin with―and he’s not likely to be able to tell the difference between the real thing and the fake. I’ve heard of cases where, having discovered it was fake later, the man actually returned and hit the person he had robbed―for having cheated him!
Wear sensible shoes. Not just for running away from Robin Hood, but also because it will be kinder to your feet if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking.
Carry a whistle with you. It’s great for drawing attention to yourself―whether the situation warrants it or not.
Keep someone regularly informed about your whereabouts, and also keep a mobile phone with you, along with the phone numbers of local police-stations, hospitals, railway and bus services, your embassy, etc.
Don’t travel alone at night. No point in being unnecessarily brave.
Try to sit next to another woman while traveling on public transport, and, if asking for directions, ask a woman or a man with children.
Trust your intuition about people, but it’s wiser not to tell strangers you’re alone or divulge travel plans or personal information. If you feel uneasy about somebody, don’t stick around to test your intuition. Even if it seems rude, better safe than sorry.
Think twice too, before asking a total stranger to take your photo―they could very well run away with your precious camera. Never take food/drinks from strangers―it might be drugged. And even if it’s not, there’s the remote possibility of ending up with the Delhi-belly or Montezuma’s Curse.
Now, take a pinch of salt and don’t become paranoid. While it is always a good idea to remain vigilant, you will realize as you travel that the world is really a far better and friendlier place than is generally assumed. There are plenty of good folk out there that will reach out to you in friendship, transcending the barriers of nationality and race. People who have nothing themselves will joyously offer you something―a part of their life as you pass along their way. It is enough to restore anybody’s faith in humanity.