Solo travel is a big trend these days especially among youngsters and the over20-under30 crowd. People are more independent, adventurous, financially unburdened and thanks to the Internet more knowledgeable about the places they’d like to explore.
But travelling solo need not necessarily mean being unsafe. If one just keeps their wits about them solo travel can be anything and everything you want it to be. It could be relaxing, rejuvenating, thrilling or calming. You get to do what you want when you want. You can connect with people if you wish or avoid them completely if you want to be alone.
When you travel alone, you travel on your terms.
So, here are a handful of tips to set you free in the world of solo travel and return happy and content:
- Sponsor Your Own Travel:
Travel at your own expense, never on loans from parents or friends and definitely not on a bank loan. For one, it gives you much more happiness and a sense of satisfaction and two, you don’t come home to a feeling of ‘payback time’.
- Plan Meticulously:
You’re going to be alone so check out all details thoroughly before embarking on your journey. Try and book solo-tourist friendly accommodations like B&Bs, Student Hostels, Homestays etc. these places are usually filled with like minded travellers or in the least you will always make new friends with the local owners or hostel wardens.
Also, have a bucket list ready for every destination. That way you won’t end up wasting time and lethargy won’t set in. You needn’t always plan everything before hand, sometimes even play it by the ear or depend on locals’ suggestions. There is only so much guide books will help you with.
- Pack Light:
Keep your hands free as much as possible. Pack only as much as you can carry on your person. Don’t lug around too much luggage. You will be bogged down with securing it and will not know whom to trust it with in case you need to make trips to the washroom or one day hikes etc.
Don’t carry valuables like expensive watches or jewelry. Learn to let go and have fun with yourself and not your valuables. Also, you will attract the wrong kind of attention if you seem to be too loaded.
- Protect Your Identity:
Never give away your full name when asked. Be on a first name basis with strangers and never disclose details about where your staying unless you trust the person explicitly; which in the case of strangers, is moot anyways.
Always carry your passport and other important identity documents on your person. Never trust even hotel lockers with them. Never give away copies of your identity documents unless for official purposes.
Make multiple copies of your tickets, identity documents, credit/debit cards digitally and share them with friends or family and upload the same over cloud storage as well. That way, even if you lose any of your documents you could always take fresh printouts and will not need to remember card numbers in order to have them blocked.
- Insure Yourself:
Better be safe than sorry especially while travelling solo. In case of accidents, hospitalization and medical expenses could prove to be a dampener. So secure yourself with medical and travel insurance. This will ensure that no matter what the disaster you will never be dealt a rough hand.
- Know Your Currency:
If travelling abroad carry as much cash as you are authorised to and as much as your budget permits. Don’t get caught on a wrong foot in a new land. Don’t over exceed permissible cash limits because if caught you could even get detained for the same.
Always place cash in multiple spots; on your person and also a little bit in a secure compartment of your luggage so that if for some reason you lose the cash in one spot you continue to have backup elsewhere.
Memorise conversion rates of your country’s currency vis-à-vis the foreign country or keep a mobile app handy for the purpose. So that you know when to splurge and when to hold back and don’t end up broke.
- Learn To Read A Map:
You don’t need to be an Army man with military precision in map reading but know where you’re standing, which way’s up and which is down. A few basic tips on map reading will hold you in good stead if your stuck alone on a lonely trail with no one around to ask directions from.
- Learn A New Language:
No! I don’t mean you need to speak like a pro in the country you’re visiting but a few key words, phrases and most importantly a smile will help locals warm up to you and most often once they know your making a genuine attempt to speak their tongue, they will be most helpful.
Moreover, if you have a million different and difficult food preferences you must learn how to verbalise them lest you end up being served ox tongue stew.
- Visit Local Bars And Cafes:
If you want to make good friends with trustworthy people frequent bars and cafes that are popular with locals and not the tourists. Most often you will come across regular, friendly folk going about their own business instead of shady, out-to-fleece you thugs who hang around spots frequented by tourists.
Eat at communal tables or at the bar so that you can strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you or the barman. In all likelihood you won’t end up eating alone in a new place.
Try and stick to a pattern of visiting the same bars or cafes for your meals and befriend the staff. If they see you regularly, they will look out for you.
- Carry A Companion:
Even in the day and age of mobiles, a book still is your best friend and you must keep your best bud close especially while travelling solo. Preferably pick a funny book. It will keep you company and in high spirits. Plus, a funny book that you can laugh along with always opens up many doors because anyone feels like connecting with a person with a smiling countenance rather than a gloomy demeanour.
Finally, let your whereabouts be known to your loved ones and your country’s embassy.
So, get ready to pack your bags and explore the world- alone, never lonely.
Written by: Delshad Master