Traveling is often considered a means to escape the mundane, explore unfamiliar places, or embrace a new adventure. While many individuals travel with their partners, family members or a group of friends, there is an increasing popularity in traveling solo.
Solo traveling is exactly what it sounds like - traveling alone. Though it may sound unnerving to some, avid solo travelers find that lapse of comfort maximizes the potential for self-discovery. Many enjoy the feeling of freedom, independence, and challenge.
That is not to dismiss the potential dangers that arise from solo travel. Whether you’re going on an extended charter, flying to a different country, or hiking a new trail, you must invest time in prevention to ensure smooth travels. In this article, we will discuss five tips and resources to help you stay safe traveling alone.
1. Communication is Key
Preparation is the first and most vital step to solo travel. Before your departure, you should contact family members and friends to let them know of your plans. If possible, update them throughout your journey so they can stay informed of your whereabouts. If something happens during your solo travels, you can be assured that you have trusted people looking out for you back home.
If you plan on staying at a hotel or hostel, you can even alert staff of your adventure plans as a backup. Consider carrying your housing’s business card in the event you get lost and need to ask for directions.
If you find yourself without internet service, you can download Instabridge in the app store. Instabridge is a Wi-Fi sharing service that helps you find free Wi-Fi nearby. This will help if you need to get in touch with somebody. Use it in conjunction with a VPN to further protect your privacy.
2. Prepare for the Worst
It is smart to anticipate emergency situations, when they may occur, and how to manage them. Prioritize learning where the nearest emergency services are, including police stations and hospitals. Depending on where you are traveling to, it may be worthwhile to research the area in terms of food, animals, plants, restaurants, and water quality to avoid illnesses.
Consider bringing PPE like medical grade gloves or masks for good measure.
Look into TripWhistle, an app where you can reach fire, police or EMS services with the click of a button. Your coordinates will be immediately shared with first responders. Alternatively, if you dial “112” in almost any country, it will connect you to local emergency services without needing TripWhistle.
Bonus tip: If you need help and do not have cell service, rerecord your voicemail with any pertinent information that could bring assistance. This way, anyone who calls you will be alerted of your emergency. This is especially helpful if you are stranded and do not have a lot of battery left on your devices.
3. Research, Research, Research!
Whether you are visiting a new country or hiking an unfamiliar trail, you should do your research before you travel. For example, if you’re going to a different country, it may be smart to familiarize yourself with social cues, global customs, local neighborhoods, and public transportation. This will prevent any unwanted altercations with locals, law enforcement, or strangers who may cause harm. If you're hiking, study your path and bring a compass, GPS or multiple copies of maps.
If you have accommodations, avoid first floor units that are easy targets for burglary. Utilize the safety measures provided by your housing, like locks, safes, and curtains. Avoid loitering outside of your room or answering the door for unexpected visitors.
You may want to download a translation app, like Google Translate, to reduce miscommunication. Even if you can speak and write in the local language, it may be difficult to convey what you need in a time of emergency.
4. Think Logically
This may seem obvious, but it is easy to go off-route once you begin your travels. Do not stray away from your plan, especially without updating your friends and family. It is imperative to avoid drugs, over-indulging in alcohol, or anything else that may alter your sense of judgment.
Always be conscious of your surroundings. If at any point you feel uncomfortable, try to locate a bustling public area. This will lessen the chance of becoming a target. You can also refer to an app like Red Panic Button, which will create a loud noise meant to scare off attackers or suspicious individuals. Once the button is pressed, the app will send a message containing your GPS coordinates to a designated list of people chosen by you.
Most importantly, do not let anyone you meet know that you are solo traveling. This tells people you are in a state of vulnerability, making you more susceptible to danger. Instead, say you are on your way to meet up with your partner, family, or friends.
5. Protect your Valuables
Reduce the number of valuable items you take with you and secure the rest in a safe place. Pickpocketing is an extremely common tactic used on naive tourists. Luckily, there are many ways to prepare and prevent thievery of your credit cards, money, tickets, and passports. For example, you can purchase a money belt or neck wallet that hides under your clothes. Some brands offer RFID-blocking technology to protect electronic data that could be scanned through regular fabric.
Consider splitting up your valuables. If you have a lot of cash on you, stow away small amounts in different, safe places. This will minimize the damage done in the event you are a victim of theft. Instead of being left with no money, you can be assured that you have more stored somewhere else.
If you are traveling with expensive technological devices, look into the tech tracking services they may offer. Apple has a feature called Find My, where you can connect all your Apple devices. If you misplace your MacBook, iPad, iPhone, or Apple Watch, you can send a loud ping to your device, erase device data or lock device access.
You can also invest in an Apple Air Tag that attaches to almost anything that can support a keychain apparatus. It can be connected to the Find My app and supply accurate GPS coordinates to help you locate your items.
Do you have a solo trip coming up? It is completely understandable to feel uneasy traveling alone. But the truth is, you already have all the skills you need to stay safe. They are the same skills you use every day, just applied a little differently. Happy solo traveling!