It was a warm day, and after walking around exploring the small town of Chalong, I sat down at a coffee shop at the side of the street. The shop was empty, except for the two Thai waitresses and a table of local Thai ladies, laughing and talking amongst themselves. I ordered a bottle of water and tried occupying myself by fiddling with my handphone and looking at the pictures I took earlier that day. After awhile, the Thai ladies turned their attention to me; asking in their broken English what I was doing alone in Chalong. I told them that I was here to dive, and they nodded their heads. We then had a short conversation, in whatever way we could communicate– and the handphone was forgotten. After that, every time I passed the coffee shop on my way to the dive center, they would wave at me.
In another city, this time in Europe– I was exploring the old city of Nice when I decided to sit by a fountain to rest my tired feet. There was a bubble-maker a few feet away, and he was entertaining a group of children. I laughed to myself as the children jumped and ran after the bubbles to pop them. Little did I know that while I was watching them, an old man sitting next to me was watching me. He was taken aback when I turned around and noticed him looking at me. He sheepishly smiled and said, “You have pretty almond shaped eyes.” I said thank you and asked him where he was from. He told me that he is French and was in Nice with his wife; who was shopping in the market. We talked for a while until she returned; and they both walked away hand in hand.
These are some of the stories I have collected from traveling solo. Honestly, I never thought traveling alone would be something I would ever do. When I was younger, doing anything by myself meant that I didn’t have any friends, and am a very sad lonely person. However, throughout the years; due to my flexible and abnormal schedule, it was hard to arranged meetups with friends… what more plan holidays together. So instead of waiting around for someone to be available to go for a holiday with me, I just decided to go. It took a lot of courage for me to do it the first time– I was scared, lonely and feared my own safety. Being a photo enthusiast, I even wondered to myself; who’s going to take my photos?
But by having your wits about you, staying very cautious, always being aware of your surroundings, and with a little creativity and guts– solo travel can be refreshing, exciting and fun. Just do whatever you do in your own country to be safe, and you should be fine.
It is very important to keep in mind some safety tips and rules of survival– and though it may sound like common sense, I make sure to always continuously remind myself about them, and I thought I’d share some with you.
1) Don’t Trust Anyone
It is important to be friendly and smile to people– it is easier to get help and make friends that way. However, never fully trust anyone that you meet on your travels, even if they become really close friends or have interesting conversations with you. You can share your stories and experiences, but never get too personal (especially telling random people that you’re traveling alone).
2) Look Like You Know What You’re Doing
Never look like you’re lost, even if you are. Looking like a lost solo tourist makes you an easy target for scams. Try to blend in with your surroundings, and if you really need help– ask from somewhere reliable, like a tourist information center, a ticket counter, or a hotel.
3) Stay Connected and Reachable
I always make sure that I am connected to my friends and family– at least one person knows where I am and where I am going to be. The movie ‘127 Hours’ starring James Franco reminds me of this. I usually try to get a local SIM card as soon as I get out of the airport.
4) Be Informed
Find out as much information as you can on the country or city you’re visiting. Best to know exactly where you’re staying, where you’re going, and how to get there and around. Also, find out about the local scams– you can either research online, or ask people in the hotel/hostel you’re staying at.
5) Keep Important Documents Safe
Divide your money and keep it in different places. I have a small pouch that I carry inside my shirt– where I keep my important papers and some cash. This is to ensure that if I ever get pick-pocketed, I will still be able to get home! You can also keep some money in your bra or undies. Take a picture of your passport, licenses, visas etc… and send a copy to someone at home.
It is always best to ensure that you are staying at a trustworthy and safe hostel/hotel in a safe part of town, especially when you’re a female traveling alone. I usually try to read up as many reviews of other travelers online as I can– to ensure that I understand the conditions, suitability and exact location of the place I am going to stay in.
Public transportation are the easiest places to get pick-pocketed– so be extra careful when you’re cramped in a bus or train full of people. It is, however, better to travel on a public transport that has a lot of people in it, than no one at all. Never get in an empty bus, train, or compartment. Also, if you’re traveling long distance and would prefer sitting next to another lady, just ask. You might not always get your request, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
8) Never Go Anywhere Alone
This applies to transportation, as above; and also when walking in dark alleys and streets at night, or early in the morning. NEVER walk alone. It is always safest when there are people around, just in case you need help. Be wary of your surroundings– do not walk with your headphones on, or while looking at your phone. Keep your eyes opened, your ears peeled, and your feet ready to run.
9) Stay Healthy
When traveling, be careful of what you consume (no tap water, uncooked food etc)– you don’t want to be sick and all alone in a foreign land. Never accept food or drinks from a stranger, or leave them out of your sight. It is also very important to remind ourselves to never party so hard until we get too drunk and lose all consciousness. Moderation is key.
10) Trust Your Instincts
As women, we are known to have good instincts. So trust them! If you don’t feel comfortable about something or someone, just ignore them or walk away. It is better to be rude than put yourself in harm’s way.
In the end of the day, it really is all about luck. What we do as solo female travelers, is to take precautions to minimize whatever dangers are out there. Always be aware and prepared– and never let your fears stop you from traveling.