Want to go to a new exciting place, but don’t have anyone to tag along? There may be times when you have to travel alone in a foreign land. Whether just for fun or on official business, you have to take safety measures. Traveling alone need not be lonely. It could be fun in more ways than one. Don’t be reluctant to travel just because your on your own. Just remember these things:
Take a city map
You better study how to read maps. Needless to say, these can guide you where you are going, especially if it’s the first time you’re going to that place. Relying too much on the cab driver is not a good idea.
Learn the language
Just study the basics, and the most common things you’re likely to ask a local. Learn it before you arrive.
Hide your valuables
Put your guard up. Don’t invite muggers to come and get you. Don’t wear too much jewelry outside the streets. Use inexpensive accessories.
Check what the locals wear on a given time of day. You don’t want your clothes screaming you’re a tourist. The lesser attention you draw to yourself, the better.
Don’t be afraid to ask for directions
It would be okay to ask someone for directions, but be sure you are going to choose who to ask. You can ask a waiter in restaurant, or the receptionist in your hotel. Just be sure you get all information. Asking from a complete stranger outside is not advisable.
Bring some cash
Take just enough. Traveler’s checks and credit cards are good, and it could be your primary mode of payment, but you might want to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket with local money.
Enjoy your self
Well, you are traveling, so make the most of it. Make friends with a local. Talk to somebody over lunch in a café. Get the addresses of the friends you make to send them a thank you card. Maybe next time, you’d be their host.
Some Tips For Women Traveling Alone
First, if you are a woman traveling alone abroad, you need to check the rules in the country you will be visiting. Not traveling abroad? This tips still apply to you. So you can read on…
Each country and culture has their own views of what is appropriate behavior for women. Although you may not agree with these views, it is wise to abide by the local laws and customs to avoid problems. Please become familiar with the laws and customs of the places where you wish to go.
Here are two examples of situations you may encounter:
- It is illegal in Laos to invite Lao nationals of the opposite sex to one’s hotel room.
- Foreigners in Saudi Arabia have been arrested in the past for “improper dress.”
Women traveling alone can be more vulnerable to problems in certain cultures. Keeping in mind the following information can help make your trip as safe and rewarding as possible.
Preparing for your trip
- Passports & Visas: Make sure your passport is still valid or apply for a new one long before you plan to travel. Make sure you have the right travel documents and visas for your destinations.
- Your Destinations: Make an effort to learn about the locations you plan to visit, their culture, and any problems that might be occurring there.
- Many exciting and exotic destinations may have very conservative views about women.
- Being a foreigner makes you stand out; a woman traveling alone can be even more of an oddity in some places.
- What to Leave Behind: Leave a detailed itinerary and a copy of your passport’s identification page with a friend or relative at home. Include names, addresses and telephone numbers where you will be staying. Leave a copy of your flight and ticket information with them as well.
- You may wish to establish certain check in dates when you will either call, e-mail, fax, etc. to let someone know that you are all right. But remember that if you happen to miss a check-in, your loved ones may assume that you are having a problem or are in trouble.
- Leave any valuables, extra credit cards and jewelry – even fake jewelry – at home.
- Thieves often won’t know the real from the fake until after they take it, so why risk your personal safety?
- Health: Make sure you have adequate health insurance coverage while abroad and that your coverage includes medical evacuations. Your policy might not cover you overseas and you may need to purchase traveler’s insurance.
- If you have any condition that might develop complications- especially if you are pregnant, check with your doctor before you go abroad. If you experience complications, a medical evacuation might still take several precious hours to arrange.
- Then if you take prescription medication, make sure you have enough to last the duration of the trip, including extra medication in case you are delayed. Always carry your prescriptions in their labeled containers as many countries have strict anti-trafficking laws and might be suspicious of pills in unlabeled bottles. Bring your prescription information and the names of their generic equivalents with you just in case.
Off you go
- Safety and Security: Use common sense and be alert and aware of your surroundings. If you are unsure in general about the local situation, feel free to check with the American Citizens Services section of the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the latest security information.
- Don’t announce that you are traveling alone! Some guides for women even advise wearing a wedding ring if you’re single. If you feel like you’re being followed, step into a store or other safe place and wait to see if the person you think is following has passed.
- Do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for someone to double check for you to see if all is safe. Display confidence. By looking and acting as if you know where you’re going, you may be able to ward off some potential danger.
- Ask for directions before you set out. No matter how modest your lodgings are, your hotel concierge or other hotel staff should be able to help. If you find yourself lost, do not be afraid to ask for directions. Generally, the safest people to ask are families or women with children. Getting the right information may save you from ending up in a potentially unsafe area.
- Hotels: Choose a hotel where security is good and transportation is readily available and nearby. Check that all the doors and windows in your room have locks and that they work. If you feel uncomfortable, ask hotel security to escort you to and from parking lots or your room at night. Always use your peephole and common sense about letting strangers into your room.
- Clothing: There is no doubt that fashion makes a statement. Unfortunately, not everyone will interpret how you dress the same way you would. What you consider casual clothing might be seen as provocative or inappropriate in other cultures. Thieves might choose you over another potential target based on your style of dress or the amount of makeup or jewelry you are wearing. Other might single you out for harassment or even physical violence because they find your clothing offensive, based on their cultural norms. By taking your cues from local women, or at least by dressing conservatively, you could save yourself a great deal of trouble.
- Use common sense, do your homework before you go, and have a safe and fun trip.
Why I Travel Alone (Sometimes)
Some people shy away from traveling alone, a few embrace it. Look at the decided advantages of going it alone.
First, traveling solo is the ultimate freedom. The itinerary you set and all the decisions you make are your creations without concern or acquiescence to any other person or group. In other words, no compromises. No arguments, no second-guessing!
Traveling alone is a confidence builder as well. When I was young, at the tender age of 16 I traveled alone to work in Biddeford-Saco, Maine. I was over a hundred miles from home and family for the first time in my life. I was just a snipe of a boy and yet I was never terrified. Only a bit lonely. In retrospect, I realize the great value of that small journey (though a big one at the time) for a new found confidence was born in me. This always happens with travel by oneself. You learn you can solve problems, get over the blues, and find hidden treasures all by yourself.
Have you noticed that when you’re on your own as a Traveling Pauper, people are more willing to start a conversation with you? You may feel like taking the initiative as well. Up pops an invitation for a meal, a side trip, a stay at someone’s home. For some odd reason people keep a slight distance from couples and groups for they seem so self-contained in their association. Whereas the single Pauper looks ready about for a fellow human being that he might engage at any moment in pleasant conversation and simple exhanges about his travels.
Thomas Jefferson once said:
One travels more usefully when alone because he reflects more.
It’s true: you have abundant time for contemplating, even vegetating, or anything you want. A day long visit to one museum? No problem. A long hike on a trail frought with danger? Not an issue. You don’t have to deal with someone else’s mood swings, —nor they with yours.
Here are two more exicting reasons that solo travel apeals to me: I find you learn language faster when you don’t have someone else talking to you in your own all the time. It’s funny, but we interact, are FORCED to interact much more frequently when we travel alone in a country that doesn’t speak our native tongue. And finally, romance. I won’t get into specifics, (this is such a tender and private sort of thing) but when you’re on your own you’re free to meet someone who might turn out to be very important in your life.
The most important factor to consider in your decision to make a trip alone is your own sense of independence. If you find that you have little tolerence for the idiosyncracies of others (and I confess this is my problem) you might be happier traveling alone.
But what if you have an eager spouse, relative, or friend that would feel somehow diminished by your decision to take off by yourself? Not to sound indelicate but, that my friend, is your problem. You’ll simply have to open up these relationships in your life and solidly communicate the value of traveling alone. I pray your loved ones will be open and understanding enough to allow your wish to become reality.
But in this article, I hope I’ve at least opened the door, shown you the great benefits of leaving everyone behind as you discover the world INSIDE and outside of yourself.
Why not plan such a trip this year? Tell everyone of your decision or keep it to yourself and, with no explanation given, leave with great joy in your heart for the adventure to come. It’s your choice!
As for this Pauper, I’ve done both and found each a liberating experience each time. In such action I’ve rediscovered that little boy that traipsed off to far away Maine on his own without permission asked or granted. I rebel still at conformity and the restriction of others upon me. I wasn’t placed on this earth to always beckon to anyone who wished to call.
Traveling alone can be your best experience. With solo traveling, you will definitely learn more about your self and what you can do. Try it. It would be fun!
So, I challenge you to answer your own inner traveling pauper, to pick up your courage and let your heart lead the way to a new adventure and landscape. Be it near or far—go it alone!