Consider these tips the next time you travel on your own.
1. Keep your money and documents safe.
With no one watching your back, you have to be extra careful. Purchase locks for your bags before your journey; it’s better to be safe than sorry. Photocopy all your documents and keep them separate from the originals. I keep the originals with me and place the photocopied documents in my main travel bag.
When I go on a trip, I carry about two-thirds of my cash and a credit card with me and the rest of my cash and cards in my travel bags. This provides me with backup. A money belt can be useful and I’ve met many travelers who opt for one. I find it cumbersome, but it’s a nice thing to have if you’re worried about losing your items.
If you ever decide to take a night train, place most of your documents and cash inside your travel bag and lock it. Although the compartment doors are supposed to be locked, one of your roommates may exit during the night and forget to lock the doors again. I keep the most important documents with me, just in case someone decides to steal my heavy luggage bag.
2. Find good accommodations.
If you’re traveling alone, hostels are the way to go. You meet travelers from around the world and find companions for your journey. Although I plan adventures alone, I
usually find a traveling partner when I’m at hostels.
Hostels are nice, but research them before booking. I use hostelworld.com or hostels.com to book my hostels. Read the reviews carefully. Make sure the location is safe and not too far from the city center. I made the mistake of choosing a hostel in a risky location once and almost got mugged near the doorstep.
3. Safety is the number one priority.
You can’t enjoy a vacation if you’re in a hospital. When I travel, I take precautions to ensure I’m in comfortable surroundings. Stay away from narrow streets, especially at night time, and stick to more open areas. In tourist areas, many people will approach you, especially if they see you’re alone. Look confident, and ignore uncertain people. Don’t be afraid to be rude, and trust your gut instinct when it comes to perceived danger. Is this person or the area dangerous? If you feel the slightest inclination to retreat, do so. It’ll save you more often than not.
4. Be open to talking to strangers.
Sometimes, you will get lost and need help. Luckily, most Europeans can speak sufficient English. I usually seek the help of friendly locals or police officers. They often provide reliable help and information that isn’t listed online, such as good places to eat or hidden spots to visit. You also need to be able to approach them so they can take good Instagram photos of you.
There’s a fine line between avoiding sketchy characters and making friends. Knowing who to talk to comes with experience, but when you have an opportunity to meet new people, take it. For example, you could be at a bar or at your hostel. If someone starts a conversation, reciprocate. Make certain, however, you feel safe.
I’m not an outgoing person, but backpacking alone prompted me to change. Meeting new people is one of the best parts of solo traveling. You can make friends with people who you normally wouldn’t talk to. Keeping to yourself isn’t a fun way to roam. Embrace the spirit of traveling and be sociable.
5. Embrace loneliness.
Even if you do make friends, you’ll feel lonely sometimes. For long train rides, I suggest you download podcasts beforehand or bring a book. Either of those will help you fall asleep. If you’re lucky, however, you’ll find people to talk to. If you’re at the hostel and don’t feel like going out, hang out in the lobby. Hostels usually have nice lobbies with bars, where you can just relax and read a book, or socialize. If you’re outdoors, enjoy the beautiful city you’re in. You don’t need company to appreciate with your eyes. Being lonely sometimes isn’t that bad; everyone needs time to themselves once in a while.