solo travel freedomSolo travel can be exhilarating, relaxing and a great way to meet wonderful people. Alternately it can be stressful, scary and isolating when you travel alone. What makes the difference?

So much depends on how prepared you are and how you approach each situation.

How to stay safe and have fun the next time you travel solo:

1. Managing electronic temptations: You haven’t come this far to spend your precious time doing just what you do at home – catching up on emails and social media. It’s tempting and sometimes unavoidable but if you can’t go cold turkey, then schedule a defined time, reach it and then close shop. When you travel alone there’s no one else to answer to, so here’s a chance to master the skill.

Download Google Maps and your emergency numbers into your phone before you leave. Avoid exorbitant roaming fees by turning off the call function on your phone but consider using your phone as a WiFi beacon to help your wandering. Practice setting that up or ask a tech savvy friend to help before departing.

Digital film is cheap! Keep your camera, charger and an extra memory card close by and easy to get to. You may find that solo travel allows you to connect with your subjects more easily.

2. Get out of your comfort zone: Traveling solo gives you every reason to try something new. No incriminating witnesses will spread stories at home after a less than graceful zip line landing, or pummel you with jokes about loosing a fin while snorkeling.

You have every chance to reinvent yourself, cast off cubicle woes and boring habits. There’s also the chance to make new friends. Perhaps you can take a cooking class and make new friends who will happily share your triumphs. By the time you return, there’ll be plenty of stories and pictures to prove your new prowess.

3. Ask questions:

Go local. Don’t be afraid to ask where the farmer’s market, craft market or best beer can be found. Check out several guide books before leaving home and bring only your favorite. Make sure it’s the latest edition and then use that information to lead you to local hang-outs, events and food.

If there’s a language barrier, learn a phrase or two to open the conversation. Most locals are charmed by the effort and if they can’t help will point you to someone who can. It can open doors to extraordinary opportunities.

4. Be safe:

  • Trust your instincts. They work well for you at home and will continue to wherever you are.  Carry an easy to reach whistle if traveling after dark and a lightweight rubber door stop to secure your door from the inside as you sleep.
  • Carry two copies of your passport and drivers license. Have one on you at all times. Make sure there’s a copy at home where a family member or friend can access it if needed, as well as your itinerary and hotels. A cloud sourced service that’s handy when you have internet access is Dropbox. Sign up for free!
  • Make a copy of your emergency phone numbers in case your phone is lost and a copy of the back of your credit cards in case they go missing.
  • Don’t carry lots of cash on you. Use hotel safes or better yet use ATM machines. They can be found in most every urban area. Just be sure that you’ve let your credit card company and bank know that you’ll be traveling and what countries so they don’t freeze your account in misguided security efforts.
Another blog that’s great for anyone contemplating adventures on their own is: Solo Traveler Blog. You can hear an interview with the founder, Janice Waugh on the Gathering Road Podcast.
Want more info on solo travel? Check out: Women on the Road: the essential guide for baby boomer travel
Have more tips when you travel alone? I’d love to add your suggestions to the mix.