I’ve traveled to four countries by myself in the last 5 years: Namibia, South Africa, Thailand, and Norway. Often times people ask me how I travel by myself? Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:
I’ve included some of my favorite travel photos at the end to hopefully motivate you to plan your next big adventure!
- Plane Puzzles: To start, most people do not relish the thought of a 15 hour flight by themselves…that’s like 15 Adele albums. The best solution I’ve come up with is movie/tv + puzzle book combo. Airports typically sell these overpriced puzzle books next to the Sudoku. It might be more than the cost of 2 airport dinners, but trust me it will pass time and keep your mind from slowly dying.
- Don’t Tell People You Meet Your Travel Plans: This seems pretty obvious. Stranger danger! This one is easy for me because my default is to assume everyone is a serial killer until proven otherwise. However, well-meaning people you meet along the way tend to ask questions about your trip like, “how long are you staying?” or “where are you going next?” Odds are they are being polite and/or are genuinely curious. The best advice I can give you? Lie. There’s no other polite way out of it. It works best if you use some version of the truth but change the days or location.
- Set a Curfew: If you don’t know the city well you should plan to be back to your hotel well before dark. That castle will still be there in the daylight and you will be able to see it better. Additionally, always carry a business card from your hotel with you. Cab drivers do not know every hotel; but they do know streets.
- Be Aware: Always be conscious of the situation and people around you. Follow your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable get yourself out as fast as possible. It’s easy to get comfortable in a city after you’ve been there a few days. Fight the urge-eating at a local pub does not a native make.
- Not More Than One Drink: I love beer. A lot. But I’d rather skip the alcohol to stay alert. I’ve seen one too many episodes of Criminal Minds. Let your fear of people overcome your love of international beer.
- Plan-then OVER-plan: It seems almost ridiculous the amount of time spent planning every transition. However, bus and train routes are hard enough to figure out if they are in your native language. Imagine now they are in Norwegian. Additionally as a solo female, you do not want to be sitting in a bus stop looking confused trying to figure out where you should go. The internet has everything! Plan ahead that way you can walk confident like you know where you’re going because you totally do.
- Give Your Itinerary To Someone: It’s important someone back in the states (or wherever you call home) knows where you are supposed to be. Also, I’m sure your mom really appreciates those I’m alive and made it to [Insert-Country-Here] e-mails.
- Do Your Research: You are not just in another country, you are now in a different culture as well. Make sure to do your due diligence. For example, in Thailand it’s considered rude to point your feet at someone. In Norway, honking, passing, or general aggressive driving can get you a ticket. Be discrete and respectful-Americans have a poor reputation. My aunt goes as far as using a Canadian flag on her pack. Let’s face it no one hates Canadians! Eh?
- Join A Group: There are several group adventure tours ranging in price typically led by local guides. The local guides know where to go and will really make your experience special and unique. On my last trip we ended up in a small fjord-town dining on local beer and cheese as the mayor sang us folk songs. You can’t create experiences like those on your own. I prefer the active adventures because hiking and kayaking in another country is just surreal. Group trips have so many advantages. If your stay is longer than a week it’s nice to see some familiar faces over a few days and let down your guard a bit. Here’s a few I’ve used for reference.
- Intrepid Travel
- N/a’an ku se Wildlife Sanctuary
- REI Adventures ($$ but well planned)
10. Book it-today: How do I travel by myself? Well I’m conveniently very impulsive. The hardest part is to pick a location and book it, book it now! Click the button I know you have it in you. Once you have your plane ticket, you get to plan the rest.
These rules are not set in stone. I’ve broken several of them which have at times gotten me into a bad situation. Trust your instincts. A good friend of mine bought me the book The Gift of Fear, by Gavin DeBecker before my first trip. It’s a good read especially if you don’t share my natural fear of people. If anyone has any other tips they’ve learned abroad feel free to add in the comments!
Here are some of my favorite photos and experiences. Find your next big adventure today you don’t know what you could be missing! Go now.