Pack Your Bags Now and Go!
My first international trip was with a group of my (all women) friends to Italy in 2012. That trip changed my life. I knew from then on that I had to see the world. What I didn’t realize after that trip is that it is really hard to get a group, or even ~one.single.freaking.person~ to commit to traveling abroad or even just traveling around your backyard.
After trying and failing to get people to come with me on a road trip (2 weeks and as many National parks we could possibly handle, who wouldn’t want to do that??), I finally got tired of waiting for someone to tag along in my adventures and I bit the bullet and booked a trip to Europe. I know that’s quite a stretch from driving around in my own country, but it seemed way more fun. I also figured it was a fairly safe place to start since most people spoke English and it’s easy to navigate. And guess what? It was! I had a lot of fun and I met a lot of cool people along the way.
Since that first solo trip in 2015, I have felt more comfortable and confident traveling alone. I find that it is nice to have the opportunity to do whatever you feel like for the day without having to worry about if another person is having a good time or not. This takes away some of the guilt, compromise, and rage that may come with traveling with friends and family. Somehow it is less stressful. I do prefer to travel with friends and family, but it’s also nice to be independent and be able to up and go when I please. Company welcome, but I can’t wait around all day for you guys!
How To Not Get Murdered Abroad
The first question I usually run into when I tell people I travel by myself is: Aren’t you afraid that someone will take advantage or murder you!!?? Well yes, that’s always something to think about when traveling solo. However, this applies to all travel, even with a buddy.
There is no infallible way to make sure that you can be safe at all times when traveling. My best advice is to not do anything stupid. I know, I should win a Nobel Prize for my glorious advice.
Here is a list of things I do or try to be aware of when traveling alone:
- Always be back at your place of lodging before dark. The creepers come out at night and safety goes waaay down. Find out before you leave for the day when sunset is. Sounds a little archaic but it gives a precise time for you to plan your activities and make sure you can get back by that time.
- Never fall asleep on public transportation. That is a good way to get your stuff stolen or end up somewhere you don’t want to be.
- Do not get drunk. At all. I know it sounds like it will ruin the fun at times but unless you are at your housing or with at least one person to watch over you, it’s just not a good idea. Trust me.
- Do not take drugs. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised. You don’t want anything that will inhibit your mental capacity. This applies especially to international travel. Last thing you want is to be thrown in a Vietnamese prison. German security guards scared me enough for trying to take a full water bottle from one plane to another. They mean business and that was just water!
- Don’t share your housing arrangements with strange men. Or people in general. This is how you get a weird stalker situation happening. Hostels let anyone in for the most part. That creepy guy who talked to you at the museum may just show up in the lobby of your hostel. If you have to, make up a hostel/hotel/motel name. Or you can just say a Trump hotel and see how they react. Usually only 2 ways: neutral or extremely bad. Makes for a good laugh.
- Wear appropriate clothes. Depending on the country, some places can be very conservative. Your clothes really do put off a message. Wearing a crop top with denim shorts that have half your butt cheeks hanging out may be ok in USA (I guess?) but don’t make yourself a target in an unfamiliar place. You are just asking for someone to ~minimally~ cat call you. Channel your inner nun.
This list is semi-based on some of my experiences and fails abroad (don’t worry, I did not do drugs or get thrown in jail in another country…yet). We all make mistakes or poor judgement calls, its part of life and learning. I honestly haven’t had too many bad experiences while traveling alone. For the most part, people are really nice and helpful. I met a lot more people while traveling alone than I ever did traveling with a group of friends and family. It kind of forces you to talk to people.
With that in mind, next time you see someone traveling alone, say Hi! They will probably be immensely grateful to just have a chat. But make sure not to give off creeper vibes. I know that I would have loved a friend when I was meandering around London. There always is a point where you are desperate to talk to someone, anyone!
I think the scariest part of traveling alone is the fear of being lost and not knowing what to do. I ran into that problem a lot. I am directionally challenged and this fact adds a lot of stress in my travels. Having a good game plan and not panicking will take you really far. Google maps is my true hero.
I think that people’s biggest problem with traveling alone, in reality, is the being alone part. A lot of people think that they will be lonely and bored and not have any fun. I can’t recall any time that I felt bored. The lonely part can sneak up on you at times but that’s why you always have a plan and keep on moving. I think it is healthy to be able to spend time by yourself. If you can’t stand to be alone with yourself, how do you expect others to want to be around you?
Not sure you will like it? Give it a test run somewhere local. You may surprise yourself. Only one way to find out…