Going Solo: A Guide for Traveling Alone

Traveling alone is one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges you can choose to take on. It gives you the freedom of choice: where to go, how to get there and what to do will be up to you. Traveling alone allows you to be more introspective, so that you discover new insights regarding your own nature and that of others. As a lone traveler, you also become more curious and active in your new environment allowing you to see everything with new eyes. While risk is always a factor when traveling, oftentimes there is danger to a group of unprepared travelers rather than a single prepared one. With this in mind, here are some things to consider when going on a solo trip.

Mini WaterfallPhoto Credit: dmwSpyder

As You Plan Your Trip

The beauty of solo travel is that it offers you the chance to be spontaneous, but planning the trip beforehand can go a long way:

Choose a destination appropriate for your travel experience. If you have never traveled unaccompanied before, you can plan to visit a place you have previously been to with companions and see it with fresh eyes traveling alone. Solo travel newbies can also plan on visiting a destination where it is not unusual for locals to see new faces.

Do your research. Study the location and transportation maps of your destination ahead of time. Contact people that you know who have been to your planned destination. They might be able to provide you with personalized tips. Find out everything you can about where you’re going, particularly the cultural norms, values and rules of etiquette of its residents.

Learn some phrases in the local dialect. Even if you’re unable to master the pronunciation, locals will appreciate the effort.

Memorize key phrases such as:
“Leave me alone!”
“Help!”
“Police!”
“No!”
“Where is the bathroom?”

Get connected. Before your trip, let family and friends in on your plans such as where you’ll be headed, your contact information, and how often they should expect to hear from you. Don’t forget to call or text them. This is so that in case something does happen, there is a trail that they can follow.

Back up. Store your information such as credit card numbers and a scanned copy of your identification in a safe place that you can easily access in the event that your stuff is lost or stolen.

Pack light. Take stock of what you really need, such as toiletries, underwear, and climate appropriate clothing. Bring only the essentials to make it easier for you to manage your luggage.

Be prepared against possible threats. Prior to your trip, practice some self defense moves. Pack a can of mace or pepper spray, and at the very least bring a whistle or a foghorn. Take note of emergency numbers at your destination.

Time your trip. If possible, schedule your arrival early on in the day. This leaves you more time to explore your destination in daylight. If you are flying to your destination, the earliest flights tend to be cheaper, saving you some money too.

Consider alternative lodging. When traveling solo, the cost of staying at a hotel tends to be more expensive since you are not sharing the room with someone else. Hostels, homestays, transient houses, or even somebody else’s couch are cheaper alternatives. Do some research and ensure that your accommodation is in a safe part of town.

Driving to Get to Your Destination

Have your car checked. Before leaving for your trip, make sure that your car is in good shape: check your vehicle’s oil, brakes, transmission fluid, coolant, and tires. Have a mechanic check out your vehicle about a week before you leave. Make sure that your spare tire is in good condition, and that you have the necessary equipment to set it up.

Map it out. When you’ve figured out where you want to go, plan out a loose itinerary of not just the trip itself, but of the roads you’ll be taking, including where you plan on stopping for meals, breaks, and gas.
Tech out. If you can afford it, invest in a good GPS system and a car-phone charger.

Lock your door at all times.

Getting There via Public Transportation

Know your route. If you’re going to take a bus, find out which bus companies have trips to your destination and check for direct routes. For some locations, a transfer may be necessary, so call ahead and find out where the transfer points are. Depending on the destination, you may be required to make a reservation for a seat. This is often true for long-distance trips, or during peak season. Take note of available transit systems along the way, in case you need to find alternative transportation.

Lie low. Avoid attracting unnecessary attention to yourself. Do not wear flashy or skimpy clothes, and avoid displaying valuables.

Pick your seat carefully. Sit beside a family or couple, if possible. Try to sit near the front, since it is harder for the driver and the conductor/ tour operator to view anything that happens at the back of the vehicle and intervene if a problem does occur.

Be aware. Make sure to guard your belongings. If it’s a long trip and you plan to sleep, keep your bag close to your body. A good trick is to use it as a pillow.

During Your Trip

Keep in mind the following guidelines as you travel around in the destination of your choice:

Look confident. Empower yourself by moving with confidence. Walk with your shoulders squared, chin up and eyes straight ahead.
Ask and you shall receive. If you’re lost, ask discreetly. Local police officers are always ready and willing to help. At the absence of an officer in uniform, ask tricycle or jeepney drivers. They know their way around and are good sources of information.

Stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings and learn to anticipate potential problems. Avoid dark alleyways or seedy areas.
Be polite. A smile can work wonders, and a gracious guest is better received than a rude stranger.
Watch your health. If you’re feeling ill, delay whatever it is that you have planned for the day and alert your accommodations manager. If you feel queasy on the road, stop and seek help while you can.

Stay sober. Traveling solo and drinking until you’re wasted do not mix.

Sleep well. Get enough rest so you that you are in top shape as you travel.

Help others with others. Call the attention of other people if somebody seems to be in need of help.

Spread your valuables out. Don’t keep all your documents and money in one container. If your accommodation is equipped with a safety deposit box, use it. Keep a secret stash of cash in an unlikely place, such as in the inside of your shoe, as an emergency fund.

Speak out, be noisy. The best thing you can do if someone touches you inappropriately is to yell, shout and make a fuss. Don’t worry about what the locals will think, if anything they will help you ward off the aggressor. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re alone with an attacker, use every tool you have: scream, spray him with pepper spray, pretend to throw up on him, kick him in his privates, and run for help.

Above all, trust your instincts.

Though caution should always be taken during any travel excursion, the kindness of strangers and the ease of solo travel in the any place can surpass that of even the most popular international tourist destination. Traveling alone is a chance to step outside of one’s comfort zone, meet new friends, and gain new perspectives. Stay safe, travel smart and don’t let your fears prevent you from enjoying the voyage.