One of the very best things I’ve ever done in my young Everythingtarian life is travel solo.
Now, as a 20-something American woman traveling alone through the tropical islands of Thailand, you may be thinking that I’m not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree (ahem, dim) or the sharpest crayon in the box (ahem, flat), and here’s the thing, you’d be right. But despite the million and one worries you could waste your whole life imagining and rationalizing as reasons not to travel alone, I did it.
And I don’t regret not one single moment.
So when a lovely reader who I can’t remember the name of brought up the subject and asked me to write a reader’s request post all about traveling solo as a woman, how could I possibly resist?
I traversed three different Thai islands and survived to share my story!
I stayed in a hut 50 yards from the beach and managed not to get kidnapped, sexually harassed or stalked by a mysterious Thai suitor!
I burned myself silly into a red lobster within the first 30 minutes of laying at the beach and still managed to get a lovely bronzing anyways!
I made international friends, rock climbed, ate good food (fresh pineapple, guava + rose apple bowls everyday), hiked to the gorgeous outlook on Koh Phi Phi, snorkeled, learned Iranian from a new acquaintance on a boat ride, ate an awkwardly silent breakfast of two chocolate-filled doughnuts at a shady roadside cafe with the owner of the hostel I was staying at and enjoyed the independence of doing what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted.
In other words, I traveled solo as a woman and lived to tell my tale.
And so can you.
(1) Do your research. Buy books (I highly suggest Lonely Planet) and magazines, scour websites and figure out the activities you want to do, places you want to stay, landmarks you want to see and restaurants you want to eat at before you go. Cross-reference sources to ensure they are reputable, safe places and destinations, and plan, plan, plan!
(2) Write down the exact itinerary of where you plan to go and give it to family, friends and anyone else you deem relevant. When you book that flight to go explore the beaches of Phuket, traipse the Roman ruins in Italy or make the historic trek to Machu Picchu, don’t forget to also include information on the hostels/hotels you’re staying at, phone numbers, names of places you want to visit, personal contact information, EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING.
No detail should be spared… clothing you brought…the color of your backpack is…flight numbers…passport info…medication…the brand of acne cream you use. It all matters.
(3) Use common sense. Would you go out exploring the neighborhood you live in right now at 1:30am? Yeah, I didn’t think so. So don’t go thinking traveling through a foreign country is any different. Pick well-lit paths. Don’t engage with strangers. Carry your purse snugly under your arm. Travel in groups. Don’t get so belligerently drunk that you make out in the back of a cab with someone and don’t remember how you got home (<- oops, have I said too much?).
(4) Take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities before you. But make them smart ones! Scope out reputable travel companies and take a day-long snorkeling, rock climbing and beach bumming tour with other travelers looking to do the same (I did! It was UH-MAY-ZING!). Tourist traps are traps for a reason – they are often the most exciting, interesting places to see. Go see them. Talk with your hotel concierges and hostel front desk people and ask them what they think are the best things to see and do. They’re most often right.
(5) Eat lots of food. Especially the kinds of foods you can’t get back in the U.S. ‘Nuff said.
(6) Make friends! I am continually astounded by the incredibly large number of people who choose to make traveling the world a high priority in their lives. I have friends from Israel, Slovenia, Australia, England, Scotland, Thailand, South Korea and Canada that I’ve all met traveling this crazy world. While you should definitely be cautious when meeting strangers, never turn down a beer with an adorable couple from England who are traveling the world for a year or a young member of the Israeli army backpacking through Southeast Asia.
You’ll miss out on meeting amazing people.
(7) Take ample time for self-reflection. The most beneficial thing about traveling solo is the ability to sit with your thoughts, sift through the multitude of things swirling around in your brain and really take time to decide what YOU want. Not your mom…not your dad…not your husband…not your friends…YOU! It was traveling along through the islands of Thailand where I truly learned to be content by myself and enjoy the company that is me, in all my crazy-haired, klutzy and monkey mind glory.
I finally realized that I, and I alone, was enough.
Have YOU ever traveled alone? Would you ever want to travel alone? Do YOU have any tips for solo travel? Never forget…sharing is caring!