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GUIDE FOR YOUR FIRST SOLO TRAVEL
After participating in an online chat invited by Worldpackers, I realized that there are many things that for me (or for other travelers) may seem obvious. And they are not. We become so easily accustomed to this nomadic life that we forget certain details that we have to take into account when we began our first journey alone.
It is normal to have fear and uncertainty. I’m not going to lie to you: despite being an overprotected child when I was younger, I never felt any fear of traveling alone, not even the first time. But I put myself in your shoes. Instead of getting carried away by negative emotions, follow these tips to accompany you on that first trip alone.
1. Get informed! I always repeat this and I think it is the best advice I can to anyone. There are things that just cannot happen, like finding your person in the middle of nowhere, without money, without transportation, totally helpless. Anticipate yourself before any eventuality. Today you have blogs, Facebook group, travel forums, where you can read the experience of other girls travelling the world.
2. Always double check the information. As I said, you can check Facebook groups and blogs. But always double check the information. Not always a blog or a forum contains reliable information. Believe me, I’m a journalist! Although I can also be wrong.
3. It is normal to be nervous. You do not have to pretend otherwise. It is your first trip alone and you will always have doubts and certain apprehensions.
4. Have an emergency contact. What I do is to have a very flexible itinerary where my parents have an idea of where I am going to be. I usually try to get in touch with them every second day. I try to warn them in advance if I go to a place without a phone or internet. Do not make them worry too much. A Whatsapp message is enough so that your mom can sleep at night.
5. Adapt yourself to local customs. Women should have the right to dress as they please, but that does not mean that you should disrespect the inhabitants of another country. They are their customs. “When in Rome, do as the Romans”. And the more unnoticed you go, the better.
6. Be careful with alcohol. Measure yourself with what you drink, but more importantly, do not accept drinks from strangers. For example, when I went to the Full Moon Party in Thailand, I preferred to buy closed bottles of beer and avoid buying those cheap alcohol buckets that they sell on the beach. It happened to me once in Chile that someone put something into my glass. Luckily there were people of trust nearby.
7. Always check who is behing you. If you think someone is following you, change your path, or go zig zag. Try to get into a store or somewhere you feel safe. It’s not about being paranoid, but being alert all the time.
8. Avoid dark places and alleys.
9. Buy a pepper spray. If you go to a country where they are prohibited, buy a spray deodorant and always keep it in a nearby pocket. If you use it you must spray it directly into the attacker’s eyes.
10. Preferably wear cross-over bags. Never leave open pockets or belongings in sight.
11. Bring carbon tablets (for diarrhea) and glycerin suppositories (for constipation). Our stomach is very sensitive to changes and it is better to avoid surprises.
12. If you feel alone, greet the people of your hostel, ask for recommendations, invite them a drink. It does not matter how, but just approach other people. Maybe that other person just wants to start a conversation and it’s very shy. You can also connect with other solo travellers through Couchsurfing or Facebook groups.
I have a Spanish speaking group called Chicas Con Pasaporte but there are a lot of other groups where you can find other female travellers that could help you in an emergency. You can also make arrangements to meet with them on any of your trips.
13. Find out if it is necessary to take out travel insurance. In places like Vietnam hospitals are so cheap that it is not much worth hiring insurance. Mine expired just before going there and did not get another one. But in places like Japan, health is very expensive. Find out, do your work, it’s the only way to find out. And when in doubt, you better make sure and hire one.
14. Do not blindly trust others. Sometimes people get carried away and believe that all travellers are good. I recently witnessed a very sad situation: in a hostel in Japan (the last place where you would think that you are going to get robbed) some backpackers stole money from other travellers. And it was a lot of money. Luckily the hostel reimbursed them the money. You know, that’s Japan. Which brings me to the next point.
15. Use your own padlock. Do not trust the lockers who have multiple keys or whose key work with another locker —that’s how they stole the money at the hostel in Japan.
16. Do not post on your social media exactly where you are. There ir a lot of bad people on the Internet. And it is not difficult to locate a person thanks to the information that they leave in their networks. In addition, someone might enter your house after finding out there is nobody there. I always go a bit outdated on my social media. When I uploaded photos of Vietnam, I was already in Malaysia. And in Chile I do not have my own house, so nobody could get there and rob.
17. Always plot your route on Google Maps. That way you will not get lost and you will ensure that a taxi driver take you to your destination.
18. Trust your intuition, even if it sounds cliché.
19. Do not expose your phone or your camera. Travel smart: never become an easy target. Do not use expensive jewelry or anything that seems expensive.
20. Always carry money spread between your things. If your wallet get stolen you can use the credit card you hide in your shoe!
21. Smile! I for example have a natural bad-tempered or angry face, as a Persian cat. If I just simulate a smile, my complete attitude changes completely. In fact, working on cruise ships I learned to make the fake smile for hours and hours, until my face got accustomed. Try to genuinely smile and have a good attitude wherever you go. A smile will open the doors for you.
I hope you keep these tips with you. You can save them on Pinterest or in the Pocket application (you can use it without Internet). and remember me when you feel the wind in your face. It’s freedom telling you that it has finally arrived to your life.
Now, where do we go?
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