Preparing for any solo trip can often bring on some fears, especially if it is your first, and for good reason as there are a lot of things that can cause anxiety. You can overcome these worries, and the fears that you obsess about before you travel will drift away once you arrive in your destination.
Probably your biggest fears, but it is something that can be mitigated. Criminals are generally opportunists that look for vulnerable travelers who have their attention diverted, or have bags or items out in the open.
While you may not be able to control everything, make sure that you are smart, keep your wallet and documents in an inside pocket and avoid wearing clothing or accessories that will make you stick out.
2. Unwanted Attention from Men
Men in certain countries will be pushy or aggressive. While dressing conservatively may reduce such attention, responding to such behavior by being firm and confident is typically enough to deter the men. If the situation does start to develop and get worse, it’s best to move to a public area where you can ask for help, such as a restaurant, or towards a police station.
3. Table for One
You may have never had a meal alone out in public before. Over time it will become a normal occurrence, and you will not mind it. You won’t be be drawing a face on a volleyball to sit across the table from you! Eating alone allows you to make friends with locals, waiters and other travellers, and really enjoy the experience of dining in your destination.
Being lonely is something that can happen to anyone, and at times you will experience it. Knowing this ahead of time, you can plan to Skype home or to call friends at specific times. You will also meet people along your trip, and if you are sociable in your hostel or accommodation, then you will rarely find yourself without anyone to talk to.
5. Being Out of Your Comfort Zone
This is a natural fear to have, but until you are actually on your trip, you won’t really understand how well you respond to the experience of traveling. The biggest thing you will probably learn is how resilient you are, and even if you are terribly anxious about being out of your comfort zone, you will be astounded at how resourceful you can be once things start to happen.
6. Getting Stranded
A very valid and scary fear, but in reality, it is rare. Make sure that you have a back up plan, and know what you will do in emergency situations. Having the contact number for your travel insurance company’s emergency line is a good place to start. Make copies of your passport and travel documents and store them digitally where you can access them if needed.
MITIGATING THOSE FEARS – Things you can do to increase your safety
Violence against women happens everywhere, at home or abroad. The question should not be “should I travel as a woman, alone”. It should be “why is it unsafe for me to walk alone at night in so many countries of the world?” Things – bad things, ugly things, evil things – often cannot be mitigated or planned. Nor do they only happen in countries far away. It is almost exclusively the women who write with concerns. Iit is understandable. However, the tips below can and should be applied by both genders, despite the label of this section. Many are common sense
1. Carry a rubber doorstop to wedge from the inside of your room at night.
2. Carry a safety whistle (also keeps the monkeys at bayd).
3. Pay a bit more to stay at a central hostel or guesthouse in a well-lit area of town, with a 24 hour front desk.
4. Watch your drink and certainly don’t get drunk, especially if you’re alone.
5. Err on the side of dressing conservatively. I don’t want to get into a “but it’s an issue of men’s perceptions of women” debate because the reality remains that when you’re traveling, you do need to err on the side of dressing conservatively. Buy a longyi in Myanmar, cover your head in parts of Indonesia, wear long sleeves, long dresses and scarves throughout the Middle East and parts of Morocco. In the end, you still stood out, but in respecting the local dress, you will definitely feel and see a difference in the way you are treated.
6. Be vague about your hostel/guesthouse. Sometimes a casual conversation will lead to a question about what hostel you are at, or where you are headed next. It’s wise to stay purposefully vague, or have a (faux) backup hostel or guesthouse in mind for those situations. Always be wary of giving too much information about your whereabouts when traveling alone. This applies, of course, to men as well.
7. Be aware that eye contact in some countries can invite aggressive behavior. Again, it’s not the message you’d like to put out (as in, I wish this wasn’t something we had to worry about) but it can be the case. Be mindful of this fact, especially if from places where eye contact is accepted.
8. If you are travelling in a country for more than a few days, register with your local embassy. I’ve done so here for Canada in Vietnam, as have my American and Australian friends in town. Most consular services do include registration for citizens abroad, and it is very helpful in the event of emergency (or even natural disasters).