Traveling by myself was one of the best things I’ve done in my twenty-one years of life. I gained so much confidence in myself and my abilities during that time and I would do it again and again and again. It isn’t always safe for women to travel alone, but I didn’t see that as a reason to not experience this. While it is important to listen and understand the concerns of friends and family prior to you leaving, don’t let them scare you out of doing something you want to do. Waiting around for someone else to want to go somewhere as bad as you do, and then hoping they commit to buying a ticket is next to impossible and I didn’t want to wait any longer. So why wait? Just go! Being on my own I learned a TON and I hope this post will help you in your own solo endeavors.
- Make sure people at home know where you are. Sharing your itinerary with family or friends at home is super important just in case something happens. If you go missing and no one has heard from you in weeks there’s no telling where you could be. I know it’s morbid to think about, but it’s important to think about these things before the possibility even occurs. Send it in a Facebook message, write it down before you leave, share your location on Find My Friends, whatever way it needs to be done, just make sure people at home know where you’ll be.
- Stay in an all girl hostel room. When you search for hostels you’ll probably notice that the descriptions often say “mixed dorm” – this means boys and girls sleep in the same room. In my first hostel I chose to stay in an all girl room and it was really awesome and super similar to any youth camp experience (minus the organized events and really bad food). You know the drill, you can change and shower without feeling like you’ve got to have all your bits and pieces covered at all times. Mixed dorms aren’t bad, they just offer much less privacy and you never know who you’ll be staying with in there.
- Get your sightseeing done during the day…because you can’t see that much at night anyway! Dad jokes aside, if anything is going to happen to you, it’s much more likely to happen under the cover of darkness. When you’re walking around by yourself during the day you don’t have to worry (as much) about creeps lurking around the corner or someone just straight up swiping you off the street. Okay I know you’ve seen the movie Taken, you know all about abduction, but it is REAL and it could happen to ANYONE. Walking alone at night is dangerous pretty much anywhere you go, so only go out at night if you’ve made friends at your hostel and you are going to stick together.
- Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. If you’re traveling to a touristy site (which chances are, you are…there’s NO shame in that), local creeps will be on the lookout for clueless travelers, and it’s even better if they are girls. If you got off at the wrong stop, your phone died and don’t have GPS anymore… whatever the case, tragedy has struck. It’s important to not get a crazed look on your face like this is the end of you. Act like a local would. Just breath through it and ask someone for directions. HOWEVER it’s important to be selective of who you ask directions from. A person working in a store, someone at the public transport booth, and old person, someone out and about with their family…all probably safe choices. Asking the wrong person for directions can quickly lead to a bad situation.
- Don’t get drunk, even if you go out with friends you’ve made. Getting drunk in Paris will feel exactly the same as getting drunk at the local bar at home, except its a lot more dangerous. You’re likely traveling to a place where you don’t speak the language and certainly don’t know your way around. Even if you go out with people you think you can trust, don’t get plastered. You will have just met these people, they have no ties to you, and if you’re an annoying drunk person they don’t have any reason to stick around. People will know you’re drunk and could try to take advantage of you. It is imperative to always be hyperaware of your surroundings, and being drunk severely inhibits that.
- Don’t react to catcalls/attention from men. A catcall is a catcall no matter where you are in the world: creepy. Chances are you’re going to get a lot more attention from men that you do at home because by and large men in Europe are much more…open…about their interests. I had people grabbing my arms as I walked by, whistling, touching my hair, and it’s not because I’m sooo irresistible. It’s just how they are. The last thing you want to do in these situations is make eye contact with them, because in some cultures eye contact is flirtation. Just keep walking and act like it never happened; looking their way even to frown at them is still encouraging it.
- If it seems weird or uncomfortable, it probably is. It’s really important to listen to your intuition – it can really save you from a lot of unsafe situations. If a person, a street, a bar, a whatever, is giving you a weird feeling, you either need to get out of there or heighten your awareness. Some situations are simply unavoidable, but don’t stick around if you don’t have to. You have no ties to the people or places around you, so don’t worry about whether or not you will hurt someone’s feelings by leaving. Your safety is more important that a stranger’s feelings.
- Don’t outright tell people you’ve just met that you’re alone. Like I mentioned before with the catcalling point, you’re probably going to get more attention from men than you’re used to. When you are walking around alone and someone comes up to you to talk, always leave out that you’re traveling alone. If someone is giving you a weird feeling or asking too many questions, it’s best to tell them you have to go meet up with your parents, boyfriend, or friends. If you tell the wrong person that you’re alone, you could end up in a situation you might not get out of.
Traveling solo is enriching for so many reasons and I’d recommend it to any lady or lad I know. The golden rule of solo travel is to be AWARE of your surroundings at all times. You don’t have someone else to watch your back, you only have yourself…a scary but awesome feeling! Let me know if this post was helpful for you in your travel preparation, you’re awesome for wanting to try out solo travel!