Have you ever wondered what it was like to go on a solo adventure? Are you thinking of doing it but are a little hesitant to venture on your own?
I've been lucky enough to experience a good dose of travel so far. I have travelled with a tour group, on both sides of the fence. I used to work for a tour company and have also been as a customer with other tour groups. I've travelled with a group of friends or just one other friend and have travelled alone.
To be honest, I really do enjoy solo travel. It forces you outside of your comfort zone. It teaches you to be alert yet enjoy your surroundings. I do feel travel alone, gives you much needed "you" time and allows you to be able to do some good old fashion soul searching. Also, when you travel alone, you can do what you want, when you want and how you want. There is no one else you need to compromise with or worry about. It is completely and solely YOUR trip.
If you do decide to take that leap and embark on what could be one of your biggest adventures, below I have listed my top 10 solo travel tips based on my own experiences.
1. TAKE PHOTOCOPIES OF ALL OF YOUR IDENTIFICATION
You never know what could happen so make sure you have photocopies of your passport, licence, travel insurance and any other important documents that you may have. I suggest to email it to a friend or family member and to also email it to yourself. This way, no matter where you are, if you to need to access these documents unexpectedly, you can log onto any computer and retrieve it.
2. SMILE AND SAY HI TO STRANGERS
When your overseas on your own, you don't know anyone. You will need to make friends and talk to strangers. As daunting as it seems, it really isn't that bad. Most people are a lot friendlier than we think at the best of times. Even if you're too shy to say something to someone, make sure you gain eye contact and smile. You never know, someone else may strike up a conversation with you and hey, they may even be travelling alone too!
3. IF YOU ARE LISTENING TO MUSIC, ONLY HAVE THE MUSIC ON LOW
If you decide to wander the scene and listen to music, make sure you are still alert. Only use one earphone so you can still hear what is going on around you. Alternatively, just have the music on low. You don't want to get hit by a car, tuk tuk or jeepney because you didn't hear it coming and you also don't want to get mugged because you didn't hear someone approaching you.
4. LEAVE YOUR EXPENSIVE ITEMS AT HOME
When I travel, I usually don't even pack any make up (unless I am going somewhere that requires me to dress up). I leave all of my jewelry, expensive gadgets and flashy items at home. There was a time I bought an expensive camera just for my trip, low and behold, it was stolen. I was more devastated about the photos I had lost. If you are going to travel alone, especially to third world countries, it would be wise to not be flashing around how much money you have or the nice things you own. This opens you up for extortion or gives the wrong people the impression that you are a great candidate to rob. Personally, I switch to my cheap $10 sunglasses and leave the Ray bans at home. Keep it simple and stick to necessities.
5. TELL PEOPLE WHERE YOU ARE GOING NEXT
You may be alone but for precautionary reasons, let people know what your plans are. If you meet people where you are staying, let them know in conversation that you plan to go to the hidden island or plan to check out the temples. This way, if anything was to happen, you can be easily traced. I tend to Facebook message my friends and let them know what my plans are. I also let people that I meet know what I plan to do. You never know what can happen.
6. LOCK YOUR SUITCASE/BACKPACK
I have purchased a TSA approved padlock. This is so I can also see if airport security opened my luggage. They also won't need to break the lock to gain access to my belongings. I always have my suitcase/backpack locked. You never know if someone is trying to smuggle something illegal and tries to place it into your suitcase and it also prevents anything being stolen from you. Better to be safe than sorry.
7. DON'T GET DRUNK
When you're alone, you need to keep your wits about you. Sure, meet people, have a few drinks, just don't go overboard. You don't want to end up in a compromising position later on in the evening or worse yet, wake up in the morning full of regret as something bad happened that is irreversible. When I first started to travel, I was quite young and a little naive. Enjoy the moment, just don't get white girl wasted. This makes you a prime target for anyone with bad intentions. I have also learnt to always keep an eye on my drink. Drink spiking is quite common in many countries. Even bartenders have been known to be the culprit.
8. TELL PEOPLE YOU ARE TAKEN/MARRIED EVEN IF YOU ARE SINGLE
This one is mainly for the ladies out there. Every time I have travelled alone, I have been single. One thing I have learnt is to tell the opposite sex that you have friends back at the hotel/hostel and that you have a boyfriend/husband. There have been times in the past where guys have known that I was alone and single. Sometimes they can get pushy and even aggressive. Especially if they know you are alone and there won't be an angry other half coming after him if he were to try anything. Unless you like the guy and want to hook up, my advice is to not advertise that you are alone and single.
9. BE SPONTANEOUS AND LEAVE ROOM FOR SURPRISES
Whenever I travel on my own, I usually wing the whole trip. I have a few things that I know I definitely want to do and leave the rest open. The reason I do this is so there is room for spontaneity. What if you meet other like minded people and they know of some cool place you had never heard of or thought to go to? What if you met a local that told you of some places to go that were off the beaten track that most travellers don't get to experience? You never know who you will meet along the way and if you have every second planned on your solo trip, how is it possible for you to join the awesome group of people you just met when you have something else booked on your own?
10. GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE AND THE CULTURE
Being solo, gives you the opportunity to meet the locals, get to know how they live, immerse in their culture. Instead of just being a tourist and seeing the sites, make the effort to meet the locals. They will be able to teach you a lot more about the way of living and the culture than you could ever learn on a guided tour. They will also be able to tell you of the hot spots and places to check out off the tourist zone. The tourist zones are typically a lot more expensive than where the locals go, so it's a bonus to be in the know! Take the time to learn the basics of the language. It's common courtesy to at least be able to say "Hello" and "Thank you". Imagine someone coming to your country and not even being able to say those two words? It shows respect and manners. The locals will appreciate it you making the effort, even if you do pronounce it wrong.
I hope my top 10 tips come in handy for you. The main thing is to enjoy yourself. Learn another way of living, see how other people are. Take in as much as you can. You will be surprised that when you return home, you somehow see and look at things a little different than before. Usually in a good way!
Have an amazing time on your solo trip and I guarantee that you will not regret taking the plunge. You never know, but this could be a decision that proves to be life changing! Happy Travels!