As I travel around the world the one question I always run into is "how do you travel on your own?" You'd be surprise how many people believe women shouldn't travel on their own. At first I was taken aback by all of this but now I take it in stride, because the question stems from a sense of wonder and shock.
The fact of the matter is that I love to travel and explore new destinations, I think it has to do with my curious nature. I had always traveled as a child with my parents but I didn't start traveling solo extensively until I moved to DC. I wanted to take advantage of the proximity to a major airport (Dulles) and the number of nonstop flights to various destinations. Additionally, I was the only one in my group of friends that had 5 weeks of vacation to use while they had the standard two weeks. I wasn't going to put my adventures on hold while I waited for everyone else, so naturally, I had to travel on my own.
I will admit that my first solo trip was a bit scary but I had already traveled alone once for my study abroad in college so I equated it to the same experience. Still, wherever I go I do follow a set of rules to stay safe, especially if you love to travel off the beaten path.
1) Bad things happen everywhere- The first thing I tell everyone is bad things happen everywhere. Even on the streets of New York if I'm flashing cash I can be robbed, this is no different than anywhere else. So why shouldn't I travel elsewhere on my own? Keep in mind though I don't travel to destinations actively involved in war or have significant security concerns.
2) Be aware of your surroundings- It's important to be aware of your surroundings. Just because you are on vacation doesn't mean you should let your guard down, even if you think you're in the safest place on earth. Before I leave the hotel I look up my destination on Google Maps and take note of the major landmarks as well as map out public transportation in the area. That way I have some idea of where I am and I what to expect.
3) Blend in- I say the less you look like a tourist the less likely you are to be targeted. I try to speak the local language which has helped in many cases and thankfully English, French and Spanish are spoken at many destinations. Additionally, I tend to not wear flip flops, unless I'm at the beach or other items that scream tourist. Lastly, I don't flash my valuables i.e. my cameras, cash and especially my cell phone. Cell phones- high end cell phones are a hot commodity overseas and are easily stolen when they're visible.
4) Join an online expats community group. You can easily find these groups all over Facebook- they offer great information on destinations and safety measures if needed. I follow many expat groups and have found invaluable information as to where are the safest places to stay, how the locals live and the best places to visit. If you're planning on staying in a place for the long haul another good website to check out is Internations.
5) Have fun!- While you're busy staying safe don't forget to have fun. There's so much to do in every destination and you should take advantage of your time. Remember when you travel solo this is the only time that you will do what you want as opposed to when you travel with a group. For instance on my very first trip to Paris I lived solely on Nutella crepes and ventured out the city to discover a really good Middle Eastern restaurant. I Colombia I ventured off to Santa Marta, on my own and discovered my favorite place on earth.
Need more resources on travel, check out the State Department Women Travel Page.
Until next time- Happy Travels!