How many of you have said at least once in your life, that you’d like to travel alone? I remember thinking about travelling alone, and to be honest, it scared me to bits. You see a confident traveler theses days on nearly every social platform in existence – but how do they do it? I mean, hello direction challenged me. Although, admittedly, I’ve gotten a much better since my first time living in London. You walk everywhere, and practically need a decent sense of direction to get around in this city.
However, even with navigating such a city as big as London – even still, the idea of navigating an even more unfamiliar city on my own made me a bit nervous. As an only child, I’m quite good at being alone. I actually find that I’m more independent and open-minded because of this. Thus, the idea that I’d only have myself to rely on for entertainment didn’t bother me very much. What did bother me, other than navigation, was finding and staying at a hotel by myself, braving thick crowds on my own and (GASP!) eating alone at restaurants. Looking back now, the last one seems a bit silly. I actually had a bit of a laugh when writing it down.
The question still stands, how did the girl terrified of eating alone and challenged at navigation become one so keen on solo travel? Did this new, confident traveler just appear out of thin air? It seems to me, that in order to become a confident traveler, I just had to step out of my comfort zone. In my case, my first entirely solo trip was to London. However, I do realize that for some, it may not be as easy as getting out and doing something. Sometimes it takes a bit more than that.
As I’ve traveled on my own, more and more – I’ve noticed a set pattern that can easily translate to becoming a more confident traveler. They were techniques that I was using without really paying much thought to it. These tips may not be groundbreaking, but there will definitely be times that they will come in handy. I’ll give you the top five that I use – but, I challenge you to leave some of your tips in the comments for me to read, too.
1. Talk the Talk
You may have heard – many times over, probably – that if you’re travelling to a country in which you know you’ll have a language barrier, you should try and learn some helpful phrases in that language. My recommendation is to learn phrases that cover any diet restrictions you may have, greetings and polite exchanges, some foods and the numbers one through five.
My go-to list of phrases to learn:
- Hello / Goodbye
- Please / Thank You
- Can you help?
- Do you speak English?
- Where is the bathroom?
- Do you serve (Vegetarian, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan) food?
- My name is…
- Numbers 1-5 (or the highest number you think that you would use; like when ordering food)
Language can be intimidating. Often, I find we take it for granted. Why? Because often we find ourselves never without the luxury of being able to verbally communicate with each other. Imagine what it would be like if you spoke to someone, and they were to look at you with a face of utter confusion? What if they couldn’t understand a word of what you were saying? It’s a very humbling thing to experience. It also teaches you to value language so much more.
Learning to speak with those who live in the area in which you are travelling to will make you a much more confident traveler right out of the gate. Especially if you know how to ask where the bathroom is. I mean, talk about a lifesaver.
2. Walk the Walk
If you’ve ever been on holiday to a city – especially somewhere in Europe or in the UK – you’ll know that something in which all cities seem to share is that everyone seems to walk incredibly fast. This is especially true in London. Almost as though if you don’t walk fast, you’ll get run over.
As someone who would no longer consider myself a tourist in a place like London – the one thing that always bothers me is when people that are tourists either walk at the speed of a cricket or stop and check their phones in the middle of the pavement. It makes them stand out even more. My best advice when travelling is to do as the locals do. In turn, you’ll become a more confident traveler as a result. Walk with purpose and familiarize yourself with the area around where you’re staying. Then, if you do need your GPS, have it playing through an earbud whilst you’re walking.
3. Research the Culture
Certain areas have very specific aspects to their culture that you as a traveler may not be used to. It may even surprise you. The common term you’ll hear this often referred to as is ‘culture shock’. Culture shock can be mild or intense, depending on where you find yourself travelling to.
Being a confident traveler doesn’t mean that you’ll never experience culture shock. What it does mean, is that you have the tools to remain confident – even in a culture very different from your own. It’s actually easier than you think. Typically, it just requires a bit of research before you jump on the plane.
4. Maintain Awareness of Your Surroundings
When you’re travelling by yourself, it comes without speaking, that you need to be more aware than typically of your surroundings. That’s not to say that when you’re travelling by yourself that bad things will happen – not at all. What it does mean, is that you should take a few extra precautions than you would if you were with a larger group.
- Have your hotel/Airbnb/VRBO/local contact information saved to your phone (inclusive of address), so you have it when you need it, and that someone that you trust also has this information, too.
- Take care when walking at night, and try to avoid wearing both headphones when walking by yourself.
- Make it look like you know where you’re going – walk confidently (even if you’re lost), don’t make it obvious that you’re staring at a map (even if you are), have an idea of where you’re going before you leave a specific place. It makes you seem less like a tourist, and less of a target for pick-pocketers, etc.
- Don’t give out information freely (especially hotel, age, phone number, the fact that you’re alone).
- Always share a ride-share route with someone you trust.
- Download WhatsApp, Telegram or install WiFi-Calling on your phone if you need to make a call and don’t have service.
- Know what emergency numbers are local to the area in case you need help.
5. Have an Emergency Contact
This one goes in tandem with the previous point – but always have an emergency contact set. Set up one with your airline profiles, in your phone (under I.C.E – in case of emergency), set up one with your hotel if you can. Basically, anywhere you can provide one, do it. Better to have your bases covered and never need to use the number.
6. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
I can’t stress this one enough! Travelling alone, especially for the first time, can be a bit nerve-wracking. But the key is to not stress too much about being the perfect traveler or getting everything right the first time. You won’t – that I can guarantee. Sometimes, it’s just out of your control.
Travelling alone can be such an incredible experience, but it’s also one that you need to be prepared for. As long as you have all of your safety measures covered, don’t forget to not take yourself too seriously and to have fun.
Have you ever travelled by yourself? Do you have any tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments! xxx