I woke up today wishing that I could pack my bags, kiss my mum goodbye, and go somewhere new for a while. Then reality hit me and I remembered that I had a job to go to and things that I would have to sort out first before I take such trip. Oh well, since I can’t just ‘run away’ like the characters in those foreign RomComs, the best I can do is plan for when I can take a proper trip. My dream solo trip with just me. myself and I. If you are dreaming of doing the same thing you darling kindred spirit, read on to know what you need to go on a solo trip.
- Social Media Is A Great Tool To Keep Safe
Telling your friends and family where you will be and when before you leave is only part of the story to keep safe – you really need to keep people at home updated on your movements so they know roughly where you are at all times. That way if things do go wrong, you can easily be traced to your last point of checking in on Facebook, a photo uploaded to Instagram or a tweet about what you’re up to that day.
- Copy Your Passport And Important Documents
As a general rule, you should give a copy to someone at home, keep a copy in your purse, an extra copy in your suitcase (in case you lose your purse) and take a photo on your phone as a last minute resort.
- It’s Okay To Splurge
Don’t feel guilty to plan to spend, at least one night in a cozy hotel room instead of “roughing it” at a hostel. I totally agree that meeting new people from around the world IS the travel experience, but don’t feel guilty about spending extra on a good night of rest as that is something that should be important to you. Don’t feel guilty for splurging on what is important to you: be that a nice hotel, a night out partying with your new friends, a nice evening meal, or going on a shopping spree every once and a while. We’re all different, that’s what makes us interesting.
- Dress Like A Local
Not only does dressing like a local result in a safer experience (as you blend in and don’t have the word “TOURIST” as a target on your back for pickpockets, etc.) but it also results in a much better travel experience, whereby you become a part of the city or country you are visiting, not just an onlooker.
- Be Prepared For Catcalling
It will happen – sadly it is more a case of when than if. Being called out to in the street from onlookers is a global phenomenon and although you’ve likely experienced it in your lifetime (those boys on the streets and market that always scream “my colour” when you are light-skinned and they are dark as the night), it becomes slightly more intimidating on your own in a foreign country. Don’t be phased by it, be prepared for it, act like you didn’t hear it and keep being fabulous.
- ‘Table For One’ Is One Of The Hardest Parts About Traveling Solo
As women, we love to talk. We love to reminisce, to chat about our day and we sure do love to plan (the next day before the current one is even over!) Thus one of the hardest parts about solo travel as a female is the inevitable “table for one” evening meal. There are plenty of ways to avoid eating out alone at night, like going to a communal dinner, making new friends and meeting them for dinner, or sometimes just grabbing take out and eating back at your hotel while you skim over your travel snaps for the day and write a quick journal entry.
- Walk Everywhere
Before you leave, make a promise to yourself to walk absolutely everywhere you can, taking public transport wherever it may not be possible. This way you can keep your body and mind busy, making more room for those chocolate croissants and allowing plenty of time to wander freely.
- Headphones On, World Off
Carry a pair of headphones with you for those times where you don’t want to talk to a stranger at a coffee shop, don’t want to spend the entire train ride listening to the couple next to you smooch and don’t want to attract conversation from that guy on the train that keeps trying to make eye contact. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time, talking to strangers is all part of the traveling experience, but somedays you just feel like putting your headphones on, world off. Do it.
- You Will Meet Other Travelers
Making friends as a traveler isn’t nearly as hard as making friends in school so that’s a start. There will be many other solo travelers out there, especially many solo female travelers. Making friends is easy as you both have that one thing in common: that you’re both solo and eager to meet other people.
- Be Firm When Saying ‘No’
Whether it be an offer for a dinner date, an offer to take your photo by a questionable type of person or an offer to go out for drinks when you would really rather not, don’t find it difficult to be firm in saying ‘NO’ and wind up doing things that you are not really sure about. The best way is to be firm when you say ‘No’ with a polite smile that says that is a kind offer, thank you, but I have other plans. Furthermore, you can just follow it up with an “I have other plans” to seal the deal.
- Keep A Journal
One thing that should be mandatory as a solo female traveler is to keep a journal – even if that just means dot point entries instead of a full 12-page spread about your day. Not only is this a great way to reflect on each day, but it also serves as a permanent memory of all the little things that took your breath away that day, all the people who made you smile, all the thoughts that swirled around your head and all the confrontations of culture shock you encountered. Looking back on these memories is priceless as you will see yourself quite literally grow and change over the pages.
- Come Prepared Every Day
One of my biggest mistakes in my early days was thinking that I could “wing it” with everything. It would always work out in the end, but too many times I found myself frantically looking for my hotel or short-term apartment in the late hours of the evening with no idea if I was in the right neighbourhood let alone the right street. The best idea as a solo female traveler is to always have a map of the city with a big old X marks the spot of your accommodation. That way you can always ask a local to point out where you are on the map so you can find your way home.
- Aim To Arrive During The Day
As mentioned earlier, as much as you can you should try to spend every waking hour outdoors, but after dark, it is better to be safe than sorry (especially if carrying 20+ kilograms of luggage up the metro stairs!)
- Find The Perfect Travel Purse
One thing about traveling solo is that it is important to ditch the backpack and handbag, instead opting for a cross body bag. This allows you to keep an eye on your bag at all times, as well as having it securely across your body and not able to be snatched easily.
- Pack Light
With the above two points made, it should also be said that it is easiest to travel lightly as a solo female traveler. There’ll be no strong Thor-like eye candy to carry that suitcase up the stairs for you, so you’d better be able to lug it up half-gracefully on your own! Don’t feel too bad if you don’t get it right the first time. As a general rule, if you’re going for 2 weeks or less, you can entirely do so with a carry-on only.
- Learn New Skills
One of the best ways to keep yourself entertained on your travels is to try and learn new things. I’m talking cooking classes, painting classes, language classes… anything that allows you to learn a new skill. Something that you can hold on to aside great memories and photos.
- Learn How To Take Your Own Photos
I have this fear that I will give someone my camera to take pictures of me and the person will just take the camera and start running. You know. Like the person will zoom off with my camera (don’t ask me why). However in a few words: tripod, camera, self-timer, et voila!
- Download Travel-Relevant Apps
There are a bunch of apps that make travel a lot easier than it ever has been before, including apps like Google Maps, Currency Converter, and a Translator.
- Read Books To Inspire Your Journey
Excited about your adventure but need a little convincing? There are some great solo female travel books out there to help squash any cold feet you might be feeling. You could even read books about the destination to help give you a picture of what to expect.
- It’s Easier Than You Think
The most important point to make is that solo travel is fun, exciting, invigorating and incredibly liberating. There’s no way you won’t have a good time if you’re prepared for what lay ahead, have a positive attitude (not just before the trip but every single day of the trip) and remember it is okay to talk yourself through it sometimes.