So you've decided to take on the world, alone.
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS YOU BADASS. It takes a certain amount of courage and drive to want to travel on your own. Many people in this world will never have the guts to do it. Traveling alone can be one of the best experiences of your life if you do it right. But now you need to prepare. Planning your first solo trip can feel overwhelming, but don't sweat it! You've got this. Below are five things you need to know to set yourself up for a safe and epic solo adventure.
1. Research the biggest scams in the country you are going to.
Solo travelers especially are often targets for scammers. Before I go to any country I do a little research. For example, in Thailand there are a lot of taxi scams, so I read up on what to look out for. In Barcelona, there's a lot of pick pocketing, so I learned about techniques to protect myself and how to not make myself an easy target. It's as simple as googling "scams in _______."
2. Fake it till you make it.
Safety is a big thing when traveling solo. So another thing that protects you when you are traveling alone abroad, is to look like you know where you're going (even if you don't). Walk with confidence. People who look lost are easy targets. Especially fellow lady travelers our there. If you are lost, find an inconspicuous place to catch your bearings, like walking into a cafe and sitting down instead of standing in the middle of the street with a puzzled look on your face and your GPS in hand. On that note, there are far more good people in this world than there are bad, so don't be fearful. This is simply a good way to keep yourself safe.
3. Get your documentation in order.
This is especially important when you are traveling alone because you won't have the help of your friends to bail you out if you your credit cards and passport get stolen. I always have a photo of my passport, and my return flight (if I have one) on my phone, and a copy in my email. I also always have a google doc in my email with all important contact information which includes: phone numbers of certain friends and family, credit card international number, the number to the US embassy in whichever country I am in, etc. I also print this out and have a hard copy in my backpack.
4. Create a loose trip structure.
Key word being: Loose. You should have an idea of some of the places you are interested in exploring and certain experiences you want to have when you get to where you're going. However, ditch the daily agenda. That will hinder you more than help you. You are going to discover new things you want to do, change your mind, really like some things, really dislike some things, have spontaneous opportunities, join other people's adventures, and there's no way in knowing how your trip will pan out until you get there. For my Thailand trip I had my flight, my hostel booked for the day I arrived, a short list of the places I felt I wanted to see, a short list of experiences I read about that I wanted to have. That's it. Let the adventure take it's course. Have a structure in place, but give yourself wiggle room and the chance to change plans.
5. Befriend the Locals.
This is so important. Not only is it great to immerse yourself into the culture by befriending the local people, but they're also the best source of information. They know all the ins-and-outs, best secret spots, where to get the best food, what to look out for, everything. Don't limit yourself to experiencing just the typical touristy spots. Befriend the locals and get the inside scoop. Ask them what they recommend. My best experiences abroad have always been the things I didn't know about until I got to chatting with the locals.
Bonus: Have the time of your life.
Traveling alone, you're going to learn a lot about yourself. It's absolutely a self growth experience. There are going to be times where you're stressed and second guess yourself, and then there's going to be times where you are having the absolute best time of your life. Be patient with yourself, and be open to the experience. But most of all, ENJOY IT. You're living out your glory days!! The world is officially YOUR oyster. Best of luck, fellow adventurer. Maybe I'll see ya out there.