So you’ve booked yourself a solo trip – you’re off on a one-woman adventure of a lifetime. You feel really proud of yourself, your friends are envious and your parents are tentatively supportive. You think it’s all going swimmingly, until one of them tells you how ‘brave’ you are (which you know is code for ‘insane’) and relays, with a sort of grim satisfaction over a cup of tea, the story of a friend-of-a-friend who went off on their own and got eaten by a gorilla in a Mexican jungle.
Before you decide to cancel the whole trip just remember that many a woman has beaten the path before you and knows exactly the contradiction of emotions you’re going through.
As someone who’s been on several solo adventures – and has so far managed to keep all my limbs from the jaws of a primate – I can safely say you’ll be fine. Here are my tips on how to keep your wits about you when you’re travelling alone.
Share your itinerary with a friend or relative
Before you head off on your travels, tell someone responsible where you’re going – give them your itinerary and let them know when they can expect to hear from you. Just to be clear, when I say responsible, I don’t mean the friend who says ‘text me when you get home’ after a night out but doesn’t follow up.
It needs to be someone who will actually remember when you said you would Facetime, email or carrier pigeon them. Without sounding dramatic, knowing that someone else is aware of where you are and will raise the alarm if you suddenly go AWOL is a hugely comforting thought when you’re travelling solo.
It’s more important to be safe than polite
I once ended up spending an entire day with a man because I was too polite to say no when he insisted on showing me around the town in which he lived and I was staying. Spending an entire day on the back of a moped wondering if the driver is going to kidnap you, I can say with absolute certainty, is not The One. So, even if you offend someone by refusing, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
…But don’t be afraid to chat to the locals
Despite what I just said, believe it or not, not everyone is trying to kill you. Most of the locals you meet with be lovely – some of the most profound kindness I’ve experienced in my life has been from residents in far-flung places. Be open and friendly to them and they will most likely return the sentiment.
Invest in decent luggage
By decent I don’t mean flashy – just something that’s not going to give you a hernia every time you pick it up. You might think you want to save all the dollar for when you’re away but just think about it – all those budget hotels you’ll be staying in? They don’t have lifts. And, because irony can be a bitch sometimes, you’ll most likely have a room on the top floor.
I would personally recommend the Antler Juno range – each of these cases comes with a combination look, wheels smoother than John Legend’s voice and a hard shell that can take a bit of bashing.
Keep your phone charged
Going off the grid when you’re in a safe place is cool – having no battery when you’re stranded in a town in the mountains at midnight without a place to stay is not. This one is pretty self-explanatory.
Hide your valuables in things that people won’t want to steal
So you get to the beach. The sun is shining, the waves are lapping and you want nothing more than to dive bomb into the cold water. But what about all your stuff? You can hardly leave it on show or entrust it to strangers.
Use items that people won’t touch to conceal your money, phone and passport. Notes can be rolled up and hidden inside a tampon applicator and phones and passports will fit inside a nappy. There are myriad, seemingly gross-sounding ways to make sure your belongings stay with you and not somewhere on the black market.
Follow the dress code
If you’re heading to a Muslim country, make sure you dress like the local women – getting your legs or even arms out in public when no one else does is not only disrespectful but could attract unwanted attention, or – in some Arabic countries – actually get you arrested.
Yes – it might be hot and your boobs might be sweating more than Mo Farah after a marathon, but unless you want to be teaching your fellow inmates Madonna songs a la Bee-jit Jones, do your research and cover up when advised.
On that note, wear a wedding ring
In countries where women are seen as the property of men (so basically everywhere – sob) wearing a simple band on your wedding finger can save you a lot of grief. If you’re a Western woman exploring somewhere not that affluent, local people will be fascinated by you – particularly the dudes.
If I had a penny for every time I was proposed to or had my picture taken by strangers on my travels, I’d be a very rich woman. However annoying it may be, if locals think you’ve got a man looking after you, you won’t get nearly as much unwanted attention.
Book some day trips and excursions
One of the best ways to meet new people when you’re travelling solo is to book onto a group day trip – there will likely be other lone wanderers looking for someone to have dinner with and, even if there aren’t, you’re bound to meet friendly people who’d be happy to go on some adventures with you.
And most of all, ENJOY
Travelling alone might seem more terrifying than Trump’s perma-tan but, I promise you, it’ll be one of the most rewarding experiences you ever have. Having the freedom to do what you want, when you want, without having to consider anyone else is truly liberating and allows you to tailor your trip exactly to your taste. You’ll meet people as you go, have plenty of pinch-me moments and will probably have booked your next solo excursion before you’ve even made it home.