Solo travel is an amazing experience, it allows us to explore our limitations, push our boundaries and gives us an undeniable sense of unbounded freedom. Probably for the first time in your life, you have no responsibilities to anyone other than yourself. You can organise and decorate your time however you want, moving entirely at your own pace. You can experience life in an absolute, bountiful and limitless way.
This being said, the concept of traveling alone can be exceptionally daunting, especially if you are a female. You may have to deal with unwanted attention, uncomfortable situations and work your way through various different challenges. Although the risks can be very real, solo travel can really help you to define yourself, and, as a woman, it can teach you many lessons on staying true to yourself and discovering what you stand for.
PLAN as much (or as little!) as you like.
If – like me – you are very much a “wing it” kind of person, planning is not probably not your favourite activity. I personally don’t think planning is a vital part of traveling and I think there is a certain freedom attached to living without a plan. That being said, I definitely recommend having your first hostel/hotel/hammock booked in advance and making sure that, if you are plan-less, you are traveling by recommendation and with company. As a rule of thumb, I don’t suggest traveling from hostel to hostel alone. Even if none of your newly made traveler friends are not going in the same direction as you, find another traveler – possibly another solo female traveler – who is. That way both of you can ensure you will arrive safely and have the security of company.
Have a photocopy of your passport in all of your different bags at all times, and if you are carrying cash, divide it up and also store it in various places. Make sure you always know exactly where your valuables. Pack a basic first aid kit, a needle and thread, tampons – or your choice of menstrual wear, a raincoat, earbuds, nail clippers and sarongs (which can be made into almost any type of clothing). These are the essentials, don’t let anyone else tell you differently – you can get toiletries along the way.
Possibly the most important part of traveling safely. Always be aware of what is going on around you. A friend once told me “believe nothing and be aware of everything” – I find this is a good mantra for life as well as to travel with. Be constantly aware of where your things are, being only responsible for yourself means that you are the only one responsible for you. A slip up in your awareness could result in stolen or lost items and lead to – at the very least – disappointments… not something you want when you’re trying to have the time of your life.
Stating the obvious a bit here but you are much more vulnerable if you’re wasted. A big part of traveling is knowing your own limits. Don’t pick up drinks that aren’t yours, don’t put your drink down and be cautious about who you let buy you a drink. Its fun to have a couple of drinks but stay safe, stay classy, nobody likes a spewer.
DON’T GIVE INTO FEAR
There is definitely a difference between being cautious and fearful. When it comes to making decisions – for example your next destination – listen to your intuition and go with whatever feels right, don’t do anything where you don’t feel at peace. The great thing about traveling alone means you can find your own voice and use it. Don’t feel pressured into doing something or going somewhere just because some people you met are doing so. Its ok to stay true to you and change your plans as often as you like until you find a way that works the best for you.
Of course traveling alone is not for everyone, it comes with its risks and challenges. However with challenge comes growth and if you’re willing to take the plunge, without a doubt you will come away a little wiser and a little more aware. Along the way you will find out what nourishes you, you will set your own rules and you will follow your own path. Some of the most amazing women I have met have been traveling their path alone. Explore, play, be respectful and be yourself. You will be rewarded with wonderful experiences, connections and adventures.