It doesn’t take more than three minutes of scrolling Instagram to notice that #wanderlust is a full blown thing right now. It doesn’t take much longer than that to realize that wanderlust is an equal opportunity desire, with just as many—if not more—women wanting to see the world as men. But whether you’re a man or woman, safety while traveling solo should be a top priority.
While journeying on your own can be an amazing way to scratch that wanderlust itch without having to argue with anyone about the right metro route, traveling solo requires a little extra precaution to ensure an epic but safe adventure. Here are ten things solo wanderers can do to hedge their bets for happy travels.
1. Stalk your destination like a lion hunting an antelope on the African savannah. Get to know your travel destination thoroughly; understanding cultural differences, customs, social norms, gender roles, and acceptable attire standards can be the difference between being perceived as a welcomed visitor versus a clueless tourist.
2. Listen to your intuition. One of the best things about traveling alone is the ability to change plans on a whim. Sometimes that whim may mean that you wind up in a situation that feels sketchy or “off.” If you start feeling uncomfortable or on edge, stop, assess your options, and make a choice that feels better.
3. Go easy on the booze when you’re out solo. Enjoying the local food and drink should be on any savvy travelers to-do list, but always be sure to stay in a frame of mind where you can easily find your way back to your host’s house and stay aware of your surroundings. Making plans with locals that you trust (like your Couchsurfing host, for example) is the perfect chance to let the bartender whip you up the local specialty you can’t pronounce.
4. Get to know your host—and their Couchsurfing ratings—and other people you’ll be meeting up with before you meet them. Safety is paramount when traveling alone, so make sure to thoroughly read reviews about your hosts. It’s not rude to ask your hosts questions about themselves or to cancel your plans if you start to feel uncomfortable. For peace of mind, meet people in a public place before going off the beaten path or to someone’s home.”
5. Treat anything valuable like you’d treat your phone. That is to say, keep it on your person pretty much at all times. Losing something valuable in a foreign place can put a damper on your trip real quick, and in some cases can derail your itinerary altogether. Trust us, it’s no fun to spend days getting a new passport at the Embassy. Think twice before packing anything you cherish, and keep the valuables you can’t leave home without on your body whenever possible. The good news? Fanny packs are totally back in style.
6. Check in regularly with someone who knows your travel itinerary. Although one of the perks of solo travel is going off the grid, it’s a good idea to schedule some regular check-ins with someone who is expecting to hear from you and has a general idea of how to reach you. It’s okay to turn off communications for a couple days while you get weird at the local music festival, but going off the grid without warning should raise some red flags. Assemble a #SafetyFirst itinerary before you depart and use it wisely while you wander.
7. Walk with confidence and be aware of your surroundings. Most crimes are crimes of opportunity, and nothing creates an opportunity to be taken advantage of like being distracted by your music, your phone, or your super hot bartender. Have a sense of who’s around you, who’s paying attention to you, and what the general mood of your environment seems to be at all times. What’s going on around you is probably more interesting than what’s going on in your phone anyway.
8. Always remember: The freaks come out at night. If you find yourself walking home alone at night, choose the most populated and/or well-lit route available, stay hyper-aware of your surroundings, and consider holding your keys in your hand just in case you find yourself in a situation where a makeshift weapon is necessary (or where the appearance of one is a valuable deterrent).
9. Have a backup plan. Seasoned solo traveler and blogger at The Blonde Abroad says, “My biggest tip is to make sure you keep the address to your hotel somewhere on your person, in case you get lost, need directions or need a taxi to bring you back.” We’d also recommend being aware of local emergency numbers so you can access help quickly and easily if you need it. The Boy Scouts may have coined the ‘Always Be Prepared’ motto, but solo women travelers should use it as their own.
10. Take only what you need. Save the heavy baggage for your therapist’s office. Traveling light is not only a lesson in contentment and simplicity, but it means fewer things to keep track of and a luggage load that you’re able to manage nimbly on your own, no matter how many modes of transportation it takes to get to the next couch.