Solo travelers! I love to travel solo and some of my best trips were from traveling alone. I’ve traveled solo to Beijing (I didn’t speak Mandarin), New Orleans, Seville, Spain, and many other places. However, my travels have taught me a few lessons, including how not to make the same mistakes. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years personally and from other solo travelers.
Traveling solo for the first time can seem scary. You don’t know anyone and you’re going to a place you’ve never been to. But don’t let that stop you. Take one thing at a time. When you get to your destination, you figure it out as you go. You meet the right people. Things naturally unfold.
Y’all, just don’t do it. Overpacking kills the trip. Whatever you pack, you have to carry. There’s nothing worse than carrying a heavy suitcase up the steps or trying to lug it around town. Also, depending on your airline’s baggage requirements, you may have to pay extra if your bag is overweight. That’s money down the drain.
In your travels, you’re going to meet people who are going to try it. It could be the storekeeper who is trying to get you to buy something you don’t want or a man who doesn’t get the hint that you’re not interested. In those cases, you have to put your foot down and use your voice. Give them a firm NO if they keep making you uncomfortable.
You may also encounter people who want to know every detail of your life. And while at times it may be innocent, you shouldn’t give out where you’re staying or the fact that you’re traveling alone. Sometimes, makeup information or remove yourself from the situation. Also, you don’t have to add them on social media, if you don’t want to. One of your top jobs when traveling is to stay safe and make it back home.
Huh? You just told me not to overshare. What I mean is you should let your family and friends back home know what you’re doing. If you’re traveling solo, you might have loved ones who are concerned about you. Leave your itinerary with someone you trust.
Before you go, register for the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This program allows U.S. citizens to receive information from the Embassy about conditions in their host country. The U.S. Embassy will also contact you in case of an emergency, and helps family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
I am a huge fan of talking to the locals. Why? Because you’re in their home. They know where to go for food and entertainment. They also know the places to avoid for safety reasons. The locals may have key information for you to stay safe and have fun.
When you are traveling, besides keeping yourself safe, you need to keep your possessions safe. Common things I’ve seen in the past are:
Not doing your research beforehand can be an expensive mistake. For example, not knowing a country is in typhoon season can leave you in your hotel during your whole stay.
Or not paying attention to religious holidays can put a damper on your plans because businesses and tourist sites might close early or stay closed.
There are so many mistakes that can be avoided if you do research ahead of time.
Let’s say you’re backpacking throughout Southeast Asia for two weeks or more. If you’re not careful, booking the same airline or hotel accommodation twice could happen. It’s also easy to forget that you didn’t book anything at all.
Keep all reservations in a special folder in an email. Also, there are apps that can help keep track of what you booked and didn’t book. Or you can go old school and use a pen and paper to keep a list.
If you’re traveling in a conservative area or visiting a religious site, usually its a requirement to cover your shoulders/have clothing that goes below your knees. This is out of respect. Don’t forget to consider these items if you are planning to visit religious sites.
Things look a lot different during the day than at night. When you get to your destination during the day, you can scope out your surroundings. This will allow you to have an idea of where you are. You’ll also be able to identify key landmarks better. If you can avoid it, don’t arrive at night.
If you are out at a bar, keep an eye on your drink. Someone could slip something into your drink if you aren’t paying attention. If you leave your drink, do not come back and drink it. Just order a new one. And since you’re traveling solo and not with trusted family and friends, trust no-one. Not even the people you may have just befriended.
It is fine to shop, eat out, and enjoy yourself. But have a budget so you won’t be broke when you return home.