There is nothing more liberating than traveling. Traveling alone, or to “Travel Solo”, is becoming more and more popular for a variety of reasons. For those that have done it, you really are never alone for a long period of time. You are constantly meeting new and exciting people, both locals, and other international travelers. You get the opportunity to explore all the things that you want to do without having to plan your schedule around someone else’s preferences. You get time for reflection and deal with the hardest person you will ever spend time with – yourself. Many women will dream of going on a trip alone but fear that it’s not as easy as it seems. As long as you travel smart and safe, you are able to travel the world solo.
A vast majority of the places you will visit and the people you will meet are incredibly friendly and gracious. You will be overwhelmed with the amount of love and kindness extended by perfect strangers and will quickly realize that smiles surpass all language barriers. However, ladies, consider this your life insurance. You want to have it in hopes that you never have to use it.
A Dummy Wallet is a fake wallet that you will have some cash (I carried US$100) in it. Stuff it with a few receipts and fake cards (think old hotel keys, library card, fake mailed out credit cards). You want it to feel thick and real enough that it seems like your actual wallet. This will be placed in your day bag and you will carry it at all times. Place it in a pocket that is easily accessible by both yourself and pickpockets. In the event, you are pickpocketed the thief will find the wallet first and won’t bother trying to slice your bag or some other riskier action.
In the event you are put in a more compromising position, most people would rather have money than to harm. If you are in a dangerous situation, such as being mugged, pull out the wallet quickly and throw it in the opposite direction that you run. The thief will take off with the money and you will save yourself. You will also be glad that you still have all your money, passport and credit cards still available.
However please use your instincts and do not try to be a hero. When I was traveling there was a story about a British woman who was hospitalized because she refused to give up her bag when she was at knifepoint. Stories like this are incredibly rare, but it is a powerful warning to all travelers that nothing in this world is more important than your safety.
2. Split Up Cards and Money
On top of your Dummy Wallet you will also carry two more wallets. Each wallet will have your money and credit cards split up and you will carry them separately. In the event you are robbed from your hotel room or while you are out exploring you will be so happy that you still have access to money and credit. As long as you have access to money you are well taken care of.
When traveling with all your items keep one wallet in your money belt with your passport and keep the other in your day bag or a zipped up pocket that never leaves you. However, after you drop off your backpack at the hotel or hostel lock your passport and one of the wallets up in the safe and travel, shop and explore with the other.
3. Wear a Moneybelt but Don’t Use It
Your money belt should only be worn when your hostel or hotel does not have a safe for you to keep your passport and additional credit cards and cash or if you are commuting between locations. Many people wear their money belts, keep all their items in there and every time they go to make a purchase lift their shirt, expose everything they are carrying and make a small purchase. At this point, they can become a target for thieves as someone has seen how much they are carrying. Avoid this by doing a little preplanning before leaving your room for the day. Decide how much you may spend, keep that amount in a zipped up trouser pocket or zipped up pocket inside your daybag. If you fold your money always have small bills on the outside and larger bills inside to make it look like you are carrying less money than you are. Carry one credit and debit card in the event you want to make a bigger purchase or have to make a cash withdrawal. Try to always have plenty of small bills so you are not pulling out large denominations. You can always walk into any bank and ask to break up your large bills for smaller ones.
In the event, you are wearing a moneybelt and need to access it, please do it with discretion. Access it when you are in the privacy of a toilet stall.
4. Don’t Carry Weapons
Occasionally someone asks if they would be better to carry a knife. Although many people will have strong opinions I am a believer in not carrying one. For me, I have never used a knife in any self-defense capacity, and a “fight or flight” situation would be the worst time to try. Secondly I don’t want to have it turned against me in the event the attacker was stronger than me. Returning to the Dummy Wallet point, most people want money and they will run once they have that.
5. Consistently Keep in Touch
People are already going to want to know what you are doing and all the wonderful things that you are seeing. Whether that is keeping people up to date with your travels in a daily blog, updating your Instagram or Skyping your mom, do it and do it regularly, at least daily. There will be times when internet will be patchy when you are traveling through rural India or you are doing a 3-day volcano climb, but let people know this and get in contact again once you are back in reception zone. The last thing you want is to have a news story break out about a riot in a country or city that you happen to be traveling through and everyone is worried that you are in danger.
6. When in Doubt, Join a Tour
There are going to be certain places and countries that you are going to want to see that most people may never put on their list. Unfortunately sometimes the fear-mongering from the news and individual stories make some of these places seem unsafe. When I traveled I was determined to see India, despite the stories about what it would be like to travel alone as a woman, and Egypt, despite the civil unrest that was being portrayed on the news. Most of these countries will have professional tour operators that will ensure you are safely traveling. I chose G Adventures for both of these countries, a decision I am pleased to have taken. It gave me the opportunity to still experience local culture, meet new people and not miss a beat in my excursion.
7. Enroll with Your Embassy
Many countries will have a travel services on the national government web page. It is best practice to always enroll with your government with your passport number and the dates that you are expected to be in each country. In the event a natural disaster or some other unforeseen event was to occur the government will be able to search you out and will do their best to quickly evacuate you to a safe location.
8. Follow Your Gut
If it doesn’t feel right, just don’t do it. Even if everyone is going to the great party on the other side of the island, they all hired a bungee jump company that doesn’t give you a feeling of security, or you are debating walking 10-minutes through an area that your instincts are saying better to take a tuk-tuk, always, always go with what feels right. There’s something about your gut knowing what is best in that moment. I promise you will never look back on your life and say “I wish I went to one more beach party”, but you may always regret a decision that didn’t feel right in the first place.
Traveling solo is one of the best experiences you can ever encounter. You will never regret the time you took out and the time you took out for yourself. Stay safe and it will be the best experience you will have in your entire life.
What tips haven’t I included in this post that should be added?
This post is included as one of the chapters in Kim’s second book How To Be A Nomad, expected to be released early 2016.