Ah, the most complex question about traveling alone: Is traveling solo safe?
And, if it is actually safe, what are ways that you can ensure your safety when you're on the road?
After I wrote about why you should travel solo at least once, I received several emails asking for tips on how to stay safe when traveling the world alone. So, I decided to turn the answer into a blog post to help as many people as I possibly can to get over that initial fear and to just book that amazing trip already.
When I took my first solo trip to Europe two years ago, I was completely terrified and almost didn't go, to be honest. I read so many solo traveler's stories and thought how the hell can I ever be that brave. The reality was, I could. But, I let all the crazy movies and news stories muddle my thoughts about traveling abroad to the point that I almost didn't even book the ticket! It would have been one of the worst mistakes I would have made to date and I also would not be in the position to inspire others to do exactly what I did -- which would have really sucked too.
But, I did it. And guess what? I'm still alive! I eventually silenced my fears and I refused to continue letting my mind come in between me and exploring the world in a new and exciting way.
Now, on to why you came to this post in the first place. Here is how I practice safety during my solo adventures and what I'd suggest to you as well.
1. Know that being "safe" is relative.
First and foremost, let's give ourselves a little reality check by remembering that things can happen to anyone at anytime regardless of our location in the world. In case you don't believe me, just turn on your local evening news. There are probably several examples of unsafe things going on in your very own city right now. Not trying to be pessimistic Patty. Just sayin'. Whether you are traveling with a friend or alone, backpacking in Europe or going out for a night on the town in your own neighborhood, you can only control yourself and not others. Look at it like driving a car. You can control your performance on the road, but you can never predict the danger that another driver may cause. You just can't. So knowing this, why worry like crazy and limit yourself to just your home country anyway? Get out and go!
2. Make sure someone knows where you are at all times.
Your mom. Your boyfriend. Your uncle. Someone close to you should always be aware of your whereabouts when you are traveling far away from home. Before I went to Spain, I compiled my entire itinerary into a single document for five of my closest family and friends to have at their fingertips. This document contained my flight schedules including the name of the airlines and flight numbers. I included other important information such as the hostels I stayed at and the address and contact number. When I rode the bus from Madrid to Barcelona, you can bet my mom was the first one to receive all of my reservation information. Doing this can be very tedious, but it makes your loved ones feel more at ease and it makes you feel better too.
3. Stay in contact with family and friends while you're on the road.
Providing them with all of your itineraries and reservations isn't enough. Always remember to use some form of communication to let them know you've reached your next stop and that you are safe. Whenever I travel, I always use the messaging app WhatsApp to constantly stay connected with everyone. As long as you have wifi wherever you are, you won't eat away at your data and your phone bill won't get outrageously high. Another option is obviously Skype. Whatever method you choose, stay connected.
4. Make copies of important documents.
I always make sure to travel with a copy of my passport and driver's license. When I stay in hostels, I tend to keep the originals locked up in my room and I'll carry the photocopies around with me while I explore. That way in the unfortunate event that anything does happen to my purse, I always have the originals right where I left them.
5. Pack light.
Packing too many things not only weighs you down, but it slows you down. The less stuff you bring with you, the easier it is to move around quickly should you end up in a situation that you need to get out of fast.
6. Don't draw a lot of attention to yourself.
Tourists can be spotted from a mile away. From the big fancy cameras that we lug around to the huge maps that we hold close under our eyes with puzzled expressions, we just aren't that hard to spot in the first place. The last thing you want to do is show up in a new country with your largest pieces of expensive jewelry. The easiest way to not attract unwanted attention is to leave those items back home. Also, even if you are a bit confused by which direction you are going, try not to lose sight of your surroundings. Look at the map, but remember to look up too so you seem purposeful and not vulnerable.
7. Be cautious about pickpocketers.
I was informed before I traveled abroad that pickpocketing is huge in certain areas of the world, particularly in Spain. I always made sure I wore a crossbody bag that stayed positioned toward the front of my body so that I could always feel my belongings. For guys, I'd suggest not putting anything in your back pocket. They love when you do that. It makes their job easier.
8. Make new friends but use good judgement.
It's inevitable that you will make some new amazing friends when you travel solo. That's the beauty of going it alone! Go out, have fun and explore with them, but always be mindful that you did just meet them. If you're going out to a bar, don't drink as much as you may drink back home with the friends you've known forever. Always remain aware of your situation and surroundings.
9. Always go with your gut instinct.
It never steers you wrong. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. If you find yourself in a situation that's not what you expected and you're not having a good time, leave.
10. Remember to have fun!
Don't get too bogged down with worrying about traveling solo that you forget to enjoy the experience. Take chances, live a lot and enjoy the adventure!
A version of this blog post first appeared on Jaimee's travel and inspirational blog, This Way North
More articles on This Way North: