Women are often warned against traveling alone, but it’s actually one of the most freeing and enlightening experiences you can have. However, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. Before setting out for a solo adventure, it’s important to be prepared for all these things — and for all the things that can go right as well, because you don't want to miss any opportunities.
"It’s perfectly normal to be anxious before any trip you go on," Hostelworld’s head of product and design and travel expert Breffni Horgan tells Bustle. "You are, after all, traveling into unfamiliar territory. But that’s part of all the excitement and one of the reasons why I want to encourage women to embrace not just traveling, but traveling alone." Research shows that people who travel alone appreciate not having to compromise with anyone. Another plus? Being by yourself leaves you open to meet new people.
"I think a lot of women are afraid to travel solo because they’ve been told it’s not possible or it’s not safe," says Horgan. "Don’t let that stop you. If you’ve done your research, planned wisely, and set your mind on traveling, you will succeed and it will change your life. Everyone tells you that traveling will make you more confident, that you’ll find yourself, that you’ll be creatively inspired. That’s all true, but only if you take a chance on solo travel and embrace the challenges that will inevitably pop up along the way."
Here are some ways to make your solo adventures freeing, enlightening, and occasionally scary... but in a good way.
1. Understand The Culture You’re Entering
If you enter a new place without knowing anything about the culture, you could fall victim to some embarrassing misunderstandings, says Horgan. A thumbs-up, for example, can be offensive in some places. If you’re looking to meet and befriend people, understanding how to communicate with them will go a long way. Another way to prepare for conversations with locals and ensure you don't do anything tone-deaf is to read up on current events happening where you're going.
2. Keep Emergency Contact Info On You
When you’re in your home country, it’s usually taken for granted that you can call the police in an emergency. But in a foreign country, you need to learn the number. Some countries have separate numbers for crimes and medical emergencies. Horgan advises learning these numbers and keeping them on your phone and written down in case your phone dies. Also let your friends and family know how to reach you in an emergency.
3. Stay Someplace Where You'll Meet People
People sometimes warn solo female travelers to get hotel rooms to protect themselves, but many shared living spaces are perfectly safe, says Horgan. Hostels, host families, and shared Airbnbs not only are more affordable but also help you meet people.
4. Take Photos Of Critical Documents
You never know what might get lost, so Horgan recommends keeping photos of your passport, insurance card, and any other critical documents on your phone — or, even better, in the cloud, so you can get them even if you lose your phone.
5. Know Where You're Going
Check out maps of the area where you'll be traveling in advance, and look up routes before you walk around. Try to carry yourself like you know where you're going, because people might try to take advantage of those who look scared or lost, says Horgan.
6. Ask Locals For Recommendations
Asking about restaurants or stores is a great way to break the ice, and it'll also help you get around like a local instead of a tourist, says Horgan.
7. Take A Class
Another way to get to know new people is to sign up for a yoga class, cooking class, or whatever kind of class fits your fancy. Your instructor's bound to know a lot about the city. Horgan recommends checking out Meetup.com for classes and other group activities.
"The key is to tailor your trip to ensure you have experiences that will be worthwhile for you," says Horgan. "Don’t let anyone deter you from taking the trip you want to take just because you’re traveling solo."