Everyone should take at least one trip alone in his or her lifetime. Traveling without a companion can be incredibly fun and rewarding, but learning to eat alone, explore alone and navigate foreign streets alone can at times be intimidating.
Concerns over personal safety shouldn't be a deterrent for intrepid solo travelers. The unique freedom of seeing the world entirely on your own terms is too good to pass up. Both men and women can confidently travel alone, if they just follow a few simple ground rules:
Although solo travelers are currently making their way through almost every country on earth, first-time adventurers will want to think hard about where they head first. Some countries are much easier to travel in than others, and picking a less challenging location will allow you to get your feet wet traveling alone without too much stress. Some popular solo travel destinations include Western Europe, the US and Japan.
The most important rule of traveling solo is to always be aware of your surroundings. With just one pair of eyes and ears and no back-up support, it's important to always pay attention to what's happening around you and the demeanor of those close by. This doesn't mean being constantly on high alert, it just means taking safety cues from those around you.
Always know where you're going or, if you're wandering, where you are in relation to your hotel. Make sure you only get into licensed cabs, or have your hotel call a car for you if you're unsure about the ones on the street. I always keep a business card from my hotel on hand so that I can show the driver the address in case of language issues.
You probably don't need to invest in a money belt (although go ahead if it makes you feel more secure), but you do want to make sure that your valuables are always in a safe place. Keep your passport locked up in your hotel, and don't carry too much money at any given time.
Women will want to invest in a secure cross-body purse that zips closed. Men should avoid having their wallet stick out of their back pocket and place it somewhere more secure. Don't flash around expensive items and keep your money close and you should be fine.
Without a friend to watch your back you will want to take extra care to always maintain mental control. When out at night know your limits and stop before you've had too much. Both men and women should always keep an eye on their drink to make sure nothing is slipped in.
With only yourself to rely on, it is important to know and trust your basic instincts. If something doesn't feel right, leave, even if you can't pinpoint the problem. If someone seems untrustworthy, listen to yourself and don't trust them.
Along with trusting your instincts comes the important skill of asserting yourself when necessary. If you feel your safety is threatened don't worry about coming across as polite, and focus on extricating yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. Remember that your primary responsibility is your own safety.
These tips are not meant to scare travelers – in general the world is a very safe place for solo travelers who use common sense and act responsibly. Just make sure you are one of those people, and focus on exploring the world.
What recommendations do you have for solo travelers?
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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