Both the book and the new movie “Eat, Pray, Love” starring Julia Roberts has and will continue to create a lot of interest in traveling solo. While traveling alone may seem terrifying to many – myself included – it’s not to contributing writer, Val who has taken off on her Italian adventure. (I’m both envious and terrified for her at the same time…)
So why am I terrified of traveling solo and scared for my daring friend who has the balls to do it? Perhaps it goes back to being a latchkey kid and having to check every closet and under all the beds when I came home from school, but that’s another story… In a nutshell, being a girl and traveling alone just sounds dangerous to me. (Um, we were almost kidnapped in Brazil and I wasn’t alone!) But traveling alone doesn’t have to be dangerous, or so I’m learning.
Before You Go
- Get out of your comfort zone. Go out to dinner or the movies by yourself, take a day trip outside your ZIP code do something that you wouldn’t normally do alone to get a feel for it before you try traveling alone.
- If you’re traveling internationally make sure to research your destination to learn about cultural nuances and rules. One may not think making eye contact with a friendly male sales clerk would be flirting but in some cultures it could get a girl into trouble. It’s also a good idea to understand how women dress in the areas your visiting to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb. Blending in when traveling alone is a good thing.
- Consider taking a women’s self-defense course. Knowledge is always power. Besides, it’s better than mace seeing as that will be confiscated at the airport.
- Pick your luggage wisely. Packing light is key but extremely difficult for women. Consider having two bags – one small, light one with the essentials and a larger one with clothes. The larger one can be ditched if you get into a “situation” – clothes are replaceable, you’re not.
Traveling Safety Tips
- Common sense is the basic safety tip. In other words ladies, don’t walk around alone late at night, don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t drink with strange men, don’t ride in empty compartments on trains, and know how to use a pay phone in the country/ies you’re visiting.
- Make sure to check out the The Solo Travel Society, it has a wealth of additional information to help people traveling alone, including safety tips.
- When filling out guest registration forms at your hotel use your first initial instead of your name, and skip the “Mrs/Miss/Mr” check box.
- If you’re at a hotel that requires you to leave your keys at the front desk, make sure a desk clerk is there to put your key in a safe place. Never just leave it on the counter.
- Don’t hang a filled-out breakfast card on your door. Doing so lets people know you’re alone in the room. You could order an extra muffin and juice though to look like there might be more than one of you in the room.
- Ask your hotel or the tourist office if there’s a neighborhood or area of town you should avoid, and mark it on your map so you don’t end up there.
- If you want to avoid being approached during lulls in activity, such as while waiting for or while traveling on trains, it can be a good idea to carry a book, magazine or something else to read/write. By looking busy you’re less approachable.
- Pretend you can’t hear or see catcalls and advances by wearing headphones (unplugged so you can still be aware of your surroundings) and sunglasses.
- The sentence for “leave me alone” is a good line to learn. You may also ask a local woman for just the right thing to say to embarrass jerks. Learn how to say it, loudly. (The Rick Steves Phrase Books have a whole section on phrases handy for women.)
Stay Checked In
- It will be important to have a few regular contacts who can keep tabs on you, be it a friend, neighbor or family member. Share your itinerary with someone and set up a time when you’ll be checking in with them. It can be a simple email you send when you arrive/leave each destination.
- You can also register your trip with the Department of State online. This way your trip is registered with the embassy and they know you’re in the country. This could be very useful is there was a natural disaster or other type of threat.