From tackling logistical failures to embracing small joys, travelling alone helps make you more self-reliant and confident. But it’s not always a smooth ride, so here are my tips to help inspire you to go solo.
1. Best fit
Being adventurous is best done progressively, one trip at a time. Choose destinations within your comfort zone. A trip within Australia is a good place to start, or an overseas destination that is safe, hassle free and welcoming to tourists, like Singapore, Fiji, New Zealand, or Japan.
2. Do your research
Plan each day’s itinerary, so you know where you need to be, and how you’re going to get there. You can still go with the flow, with freedom to detour, but your itinerary will be there to guide you when you need it. Research the areas you’ll be visiting, always plan to arrive before nightfall, and work out how you will get from the airport, bus or train station, to your accommodation. Know the city’s layout, always choosing a central location in a safe area. Work out a few dining options and closest supermarket, and plan your sightseeing by checking public transport, hours of opening, and how to get there. Be aware of all border entry/exit formalities, and check regularly for updates.
3. Have a back up
If your flight, train or bus gets cancelled, have a back up plan that you can put in place. If there is a problem with your accommodation, have a few others listed that are close by. Have a list of emergency contacts and leave details of your itinerary with a close friend or family member.
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4. Always trust your instincts
When you sense something isn’t right, it’s often for good reason. Ask the hotel staff about areas that are best avoided, and if you go somewhere and it doesn’t feel right, turn back. When the taxi driver takes you someplace where you didn’t ask to go to (such as a diversion to a shopping emporium, or different hotel to the one you’ve booked) firmly refuse to get out.
You will meet people along the way, that’s part of the enriching experience of travel, but be aware. If you’re exploring on foot and someone appears alongside and strikes up a conversation, recognise that it’s most likely a scam. Don’t tell people you’ve just met where you’re staying, no matter how nice they seem, and don’t go out with them for a drink.
5. Have an alter ego
If you do receive unwanted attention, it’s time for your defensive self to come to the rescue. If someone unknown to you asks if you’re travelling alone, say no, you’re on your way to meet your friend. I always wear a wedding ring and say I’m with my “husband.”
6. Pack safe
There’s only you to ensure your belongings are safe. I carry a light weight bag and when using a restroom, it comes along. When flying, it goes above me, and I keep my handbag slung across me at all times. On trains, I padlock my bag to the
overhead luggage rack. In taxis, my bag sits alongside. I avoid long distance buses since bags go underneath, out of sight, and you can’t be sure your bag won’t be pilfered or taken when stops are made. Once when I dozed on a bus, I felt a hand trying to open my handbag. I use a PacSafe handbag fitted with wire mesh and a lock that I take with me when I’m after an extra layer of security.
7. Confidence is key
If you find yourself lost, try to remain confident. When it happens to me, I go inside a shop to collect my thoughts, and work out my bearings. If I feel uncomfortable, such as a sense that I’m being followed, I wait for tourists to pass by, and walk alongside them, go out a different exit, or walk back out and face them until they go away.
8. Understand the culture
Take a visual note of what locals wear at the country you’re visiting, and pack accordingly, so you’ll blend in. Clothing that covers your legs, arms and shoulders, and a scarf, will be appropriate in so many places, and more coverage is preferable to not enough. Where adherence to tradition is still strong, how you dress will impact how you are treated. So no matter how hot, consign shorts and tank tops to those destinations where it’s accepted.
9. Going alone vs an escorted tour
If you’d prefer everything to be taken care of for you, consider an escorted tour, freeing up more time for you to enjoy your trip. Escorted tours are also best suited to travelling to remote, inaccessible places that you would not be able to get to otherwise, where you would encounter logistical problems if you went alone, or where you would find it challenging to meet with local people. A knowledgeable tour guide can provide this
bridge so that you can connect with local people and their way of life in a way that wouldn’t be possible on your own.
10. Beating the Blues
To avoid feeling lonely while travelling, I look at ways to connect. I often stay at boutique sized accommodation, or hostels that provides a shared kitchen and lounge, I seek out activities to join in places I’m visiting, such as guided walking tours, a lecture at a museum, concert, or cooking class.
11. Embracing solo travel
There have been places I’ve travelled to that were unexpectedly challenging and left me feeling overwhelmed. But I’ve learnt from that, on what I can do better next time. The best part about solo travelling for me is the freedom to move through the world on my own when and how I want to go, and now that the world is slowly opening up once more, I’ve planned my way back. So let’s get out there, and let us know where you went.
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