Traveling solo is a liberating and uplifting experience. You have no one to consult and no itinerary other than your own to take into account; you are free to point to any location on a map and be there within 24 hours. But solo travel also carries risks. When steering your course alone, you definitely need to exercise more caution and make more well-considered plans. These are some of the most common mistakes of solo travel to identify before they happen to you when you're thousands of miles from home.
Embarking on a trip with a group of friends without having done a lot of planning sometimes only adds to the excitement and adventure. If anything unforeseen happens, you have each other to fall back on and safety in numbers to rely upon. But when you travel alone, there is no back-up. If you do a little pre-travel planning, you can take a lot of the risk and possibility of unforeseen circumstances derailing your trip out of the equation. It is always a good idea to take a first-aid kit stocked with pain medication, disinfectant, and bandages with you when you are heading into the unknown. Copies of your important documents can also be of great help should anything happen to the originals, as are emergency phone numbers and a bit of extra cash.
Searching for the best-priced airfare is often a top priority in planning your trip. Unfortunately, the cheaper flights are also often the ones that depart and arrive at odd times, leaving you arriving in a foreign city in the middle of the night. Wandering around with a lot of luggage, looking lost can make you an easy target for unsavory locals. It is best to avoid these kinds of flights altogether and to rather pick ones that fly by night, and that will see you arriving at your destination early in the morning, once the sun is already up. If the low-cost airfare of a badly timed flight is too much to resist, make sure to arrange to have a reliable person waiting for you as you disembark.
Solo travelers are always encouraged to meet up with other travelers in order to not be left feeling isolated in an unknown land. However, your need to find company shouldn't lead you into compromising situations and into the company of someone who seems a little over-friendly. Being in a strange place with strange customs makes it hard to assess the situation accurately and to read a person. Even though they may seem very friendly and pleasant at the outset, they are strangers, and you are without the support system that you have in place at home should anything go wrong. Be cautious and always stay in a public place when you are in the company of an unfamiliar person.
When you're traveling on your own, not standing out too much is always a good idea. Doing some research on your destination before you leave and finding out about the local dress and customs will help you to blend in and not risk offending anyone. Remember to pack appropriately if you are going to be visiting churches, mosques, or other religious sites. If in any doubt, in a foreign country with a different culture, you can never go wrong by dressing too modestly.
Being intoxicated in a public place is never a wise idea. But being intoxicated while you're alone in an unfamiliar country is one of the biggest solo traveling mistakes you can make and can be downright dangerous. In many countries, public drunkenness is a serious offense and is accompanied by a number of fines and penalties. If your drunken display doesn't find you on the wrong side of the law, it can very well make you an easy target for unscrupulous people. Complete abstinence from alcohol is not required, but becoming inebriated while you're far from home should be avoided at all costs.
Even though you're traveling alone and are free to choose your own schedule, that is no reason to not let anyone know your schedule or travel plans. Tell someone at the hotel you're staying where you are headed. Even mentioning it casually to an authoritative person can come to your assistance should anything go wrong. Sharing your itinerary with a trusted person will, at the least, give them an idea of where to look for you, should you not arrive at your anticipated destination.
Traveling solo doesn't mean spending the entire trip in your own company. On the contrary, being by yourself can open you up to far more opportunities to be social and to meet other people than you might have when traveling with a friend. Being on your own can also make you far more perceptive of the local culture and accessible and interested in meeting people that you would never get to meet in your regular life. If meeting up with others is on the top of your to-do list, make a point of finding tour groups that specifically cater to solo travelers or local friendship groups that welcome new additions. This should dispel any notions that you are alone.
Most travelers experience culture shock to varying degrees when arriving in an unfamiliar place. The feeling of disorientation can be a lot more intense, however, when you have no one familiar with you to share it with. To not let yourself be overcome by the strangeness of your surroundings, try to realize that what you are experiencing is culture shock and that it is much easier to adapt to it if you accept the foreign culture. Informing yourself as much as you can about your new environment will give you insight into, and understanding of customs and behavior and will make it much easier to adapt. Learning a few key phrases in the local language will also help you to assimilate with much greater ease.
Although a lot of the solo travel experience involves trying to meet up with others to have a full appreciation of the new environment you find yourself in, you can also find yourself feeling uncomfortable in the company of an unfamiliar person you have become acquainted with. We have been trained to always be polite, but some unfamiliar situations will require you to be more assertive than you are used to being at home. Don't be afraid to say no and to decline the advances of a new acquaintance for fear of being rude. If you feel uncomfortable in someone's presence or in a particular situation, just get up and walk away.
Even though the thought of being carefree and not having to check-in with anyone at any given time was one of the reasons that drew you to solo travel in the first place, your family and friends at home should know your travel itinerary. Keeping your family appraised of your movements and any changes in your schedule can only make your travel experience more stress-free as you won't have to constantly deflect worried calls and messages from family members that have begun to imagine the worst after not hearing from you for a couple of days. It can also only be a benefit to keep them updated on your travel plans as should anything not go according to plan; you will have others to enlist to help out in a tricky situation.