Throughout the years a lot of people ask me how I managed to travel around the world on my own. There is no formula, except to plan ahead, but not over think your fears at the same time. I feel sometimes when we over think our fears we tend to subconsciously bring them into our reality, therefore bringing some sort of justification towards them.
The key for me was starting off in places where I felt comfortable and familiar and slowly building up my confidence to exit my comfort zone. The first time I was left on my own was not by choice and came as a total surprise. It was my first trip abroad to Belgium an France. My friend had brought her mother along on our trip, and to my surprise and they took off and went to Germany together while leaving me at a hostel in Paris. The first few days I just slept in my bed, then I started taking walks around my area then I managed to get the courage to tackle the Parisian metro. And to my surprise I didn’t get horribly forever lost, and this was before google maps. Needless to say my confidence grew, it was my first time staying in a hostel and I had made all these new friends. By the time my friend came by to pick me up, I didn’t want to leave my new found independence or environment. I went from that to picking up and moving to Australia, going to Morocco on my own and doing a solo European backpacking trip. Soon I was going to Central America and Asia without too much worry.
Here are my top 10 tips, in no particular order:
- Stay in a hostel, be social on those long bus and train rides and make friends. I find that I actually don’t end up spending too much time on my own, there is always someone to meet, or maybe you’ll even find someone to continue part of your journey with.
- Never arrive anywhere after dark, it’s not safe anywhere, especially when you don’t know where you are going and you are carrying a big bag on your back. You may as well be a flashing neon sign for trouble. I try to book alot of my train and plane journeys overnight so that I arrive early the next morning. The benefit is that it also saves you on accommodation.
- Don’t get wasted with people you don’t know. You may have met these lovely people in a hostel and suddenly you feel relieved to have someone who speaks your language and that you can relate to but at the end of the day you don’t know them and you are on your own. I’ve been stuck in sticky situations before and felt completely unsafe in the middle of the night while wandering unknown streets, it’s not pleasant.
- Take triple care of your belongings, forget being a female traveller, you are a solo traveller. I never put all my things together in one place. That way if I get one bag stolen I still have options.Try to have as many option as possible, two debit cards, two credit cards…split up your cash etc. If your going to sleep on those long bus rides in Central or South America, put your passport and money in your bra or somewhere unreachable. People have been known to wake up from their slumber finding their day bags have been taken.
- Dress accordingly. If your don’t want to be a moving target it’s important to respect the cultures of the places in which you are visiting, especially if you are not travelling with a man. Do your research and ask around, and if your still unsure just cover up and play it safe.
- Pre book your hostel. I’ve found that there is this mentally that it’s cool to kind of wander around looking for a place to sleep, but for me there has been nothing like feeling good knowing that i’ve already sorted that out especially as a SFT. Of course I have taken my chances every now and then, however there are some things to keep in mind the size of the town or city (Do they have a lot of options?), the time of the year (Is there an event going on where space is limited?) and the location, do you want to be close to everything? Or end up having to stay in the outskirts because your area is booked up?
- Google maps is your friend, always preload your maps once your have some kind of internet access which usualy isn’t a problem in major train stations or airports. In case that would fail, I always take pictures of my direction so that I have them on my phone in case i need to show it to a cab driver.
- Respect all warnings. I’ve hard of girls going off and wandering into areas we were clearly told not to visit and come back with all their belongings taken. Why risk your amazing adventure over something like that. If the locals tell you not to do something, then most likely it’s not just a cautionary tail
- Practice or know some basic self defence, such as how to get out of zip lock ties. There is an amazing video on Youtube on how to do this, click here
- Smile, relax and take it all in. Sometimes there is nothing like being alone surrounded by majestic scenery. I live for those moments.