Traveling is one of the best teachers you can find. Traveling solo can change your life. When you travel alone, you gain confidence and practical skills for navigating life. You learn how to keep things in perspective and how competent you are. You also learn that the world is full of interesting people and begin to understand more about your place in it.
Of course, staying safe is important while traveling and can be harder to do when you’re alone. But all it takes is a bit more vigilance to safely explore the world solo. Always keep an eye on your belongings and never keep your phone or wallet in an easy to grab location such as on the table, or in a back pocket. If you drink, be sure to exercise caution while doing so. Avoid putting yourself into a vulnerable position by becoming severely inebriated. Remember to trust your instincts. If you get a bad feeling about a person, place, or activity, just walk away. As a solo traveler, you don’t have to force yourself to participate if you feel uncomfortable. If something about a street feels off to you, choose a different street to walk down.
Avoid becoming absorbed into your phone. When using a phone, we often forget to be aware of our surroundings, and when traveling solo that’s the last thing you want to do. Get an idea of where you are going and how to get there before you go. Keep phone usage short and be extra vigilant while doing so. Most people you will meet are extremely kind, well-meaning people. However, there may be some who are not so trustworthy. Be friendly and open to meeting new people, but be cautious with your trust.
If you have time to prepare before you start traveling, consider taking a self-defense course. Most likely, you will never need to use those skills, but it’s better to have them than not. Keep some local currency on hand in a place that is not your wallet. That way if your wallet is lost or stolen, you have some money to use while you replace what you lost. Pack multiple copies of important papers in different locations. If something should happen to your I.D. or passport, you still have some proof of who you are and your nationality.
Speaking of nationality, if you are an American citizen, you can sign up for STEP which stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. By using your trip information to enroll in this free program, you make it easier for the U.S. Government to help you in case of emergency situations abroad. It also helps your family contact you in case of an emergency. Once you are signed up, you can receive alerts for the area you are traveling to about potential disturbances in the area, allowing you to adjust your plans as needed. Other countries may have similar programs available. Make note of where your closest embassy is as well. That’s where you will go if your passport is lost, or you find yourself in a bad situation.
How to find people to connect with
Just because you’re traveling solo doesn’t mean you should be lonely. One of the best parts of traveling is meeting new people and making connections wherever you go. Of course, connecting with the locals is great, but often there is the challenge of a language barrier. Even if you don’t speak the local language, there are almost always expat communities you can find to meet other travelers who speak a language you understand. If you choose to stay in hostels instead of hotels you can often make friends with fellow travelers. Many hostels host social events during the week for exactly that purpose. In addition, hostels are also usually cheaper, so if you’re traveling on a budget they can be a good option. If you participate in a religion, you can most likely find local religious groups to connect with. The same is true with hobbies. Many larger cities have clubs for different kinds of activities.
While packing, keep in mind that you will have to carry everything you bring. You won’t be able to share the load. Everywhere you go, your luggage goes. Once you have a hotel or a locker at a hostel, you can leave some behind for day trips. Packing light can keep your luggage manageable. Meals can be another tricky thing to manage. Since you are only one person, and you most likely won’t have access to a kitchen, eating out may seem like the obvious choice. There are some amazing restaurants around the world. But if you are traveling for longer than a week or so, eating out breakfast, lunch and dinner can be both expensive and disenchanting. If breakfast is provided at your accommodations, that only leaves two meals per day to consider.
Traveling is totally worth the cost, but if you’re single it can be hard to find someone to travel with. Often people can’t afford the time or money to go with you. You’re left with two options. Either don’t go or go alone. Alone is typically the better option. There is a real sense of freedom you can get from traveling alone. To succeed as a solo traveler requires courage, curiosity, problem-solving skills, and a sense of adventure. It could be one of the hardest things you ever do, but it also might be the most rewarding. So where will you go on your next adventure?