by Bret Hanna
raveling alone can seem daunting, or downright scary for some. But for those willing to go beyond their travel comfort zone, the rewards can be plenty. It can build self-confidence and make you more comfortable “in your own skin.” It can offer experiences that are seen through one’s own eyes only, rather than filtered through the eyes of others. And in the days of 24-hour contact with others and devices, it offers the opportunity to truly appreciate solitude and silence. However, there are some important things to keep in mind as one sets forth solo. Here are ten:
1 Tell friends and family what your itinerary is. Once you have your itinerary finalized, share it with friends and family. Also, make plans with one or two people to have regular ‘check-ins” so that those who care about you can make sure your trip is going as planned and you are safe.
2 Don’t overschedule. Trying to do too much in too little time can really take a toll on how much you enjoy your trip, particularly when you are responsible for everything from planning to execution of every detail. Know your limits, and plan excursions and activities accordingly. You’ll want to look back and reflect upon the experiences you had, rather than reviewing a check-list of places and experiences you managed to “fit in.”
3 Learn to be dishonest. That’s right, learn to lie. That is, when you encounter people along the way, don’t tell them you are traveling alone or where you are staying until you are completely comfortable with whoever you are interacting with. Even then, don’t share more information than you need to.
4 Be aware of your surroundings. Be in control of your faculties at all times. It’s not that you can’t go out and have a good time, but if you go too far, you can make yourself vulnerable to those who might want to take advantage of you.
5 Carefully consider your lodging options. Many solo travelers are drawn to hostels or guesthouses, because those types of communal lodging options can make it easy to meet fellow travelers. But also consider more traditional hotels if you think safety may be an issue in a particular location, or if you want a quiet, comfortable lodging experience. Hotels also tend to more often prioritize conveniences over the alternatives.
6 Carefully consider money issues. It’s always important to have some cash on hand for incidentals and minor emergencies but look carefully at how to access currency for your destinations. Exchanging money in foreign countries can be very expensive, even if you are using known, trusted sources such as airport exchanges and services such as Western Union. The transaction fees can kill you. If you don’t want to carry a lot of cash on you, as many don’t feel comfortable doing, look for a credit card that charges small or no fees for foreign transactions. Carry that card with you and use it when you can. Have some cash with you for transactions where the card is not accepted.
7 Enjoy your own schedule. One major perk of solo travel is you get to be the master of your own destiny. Set a daily schedule that works for you, travel when you want, sight see when you want, and relax when you want.
8 Prepare to entertain yourself. If writing is your thing, keep your journal with you so can write when the mood strikes. If sketching or painting is your thing, keep your supplies handy for when you come across the perfect landscape. If reading is it for you, keep a good book handy for entertaining yourself at that café lunch or on that perfect park bench.
9 Listen to your intuition. If you find yourself in a situation that just doesn’t “feel right,” remove yourself from it immediately until you can determine one way or another that it is safe for you.
10 Have a plan B (and C). When planning accommodations and activities, have backups for each. That way, when what you have planned is not “as advertised,” you are not scrambling to make sure you have your bases covered.
While traveling alone may seem intimidating, it can also be very rewarding. Don’t let the potential challenges stop you; instead, plan for them and enjoy your travels.