“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” – Helen Keller
One of the primary concerns most people have about travelling solo, is safety. A number of people have mentioned how brave I am to travel anywhere on my own. I wouldn’t really call it bravery in any sense. I would just say it is an act of wanting independence and embracing some alone time. You will be safe abroad if you use the skills you already have embedded in your head for living in your own country. You probably wouldn’t get into a car with a scuzzy looking person where you’re from, so chances are you won’t be doing that overseas as well. It’s completely natural to be afraid to venture off into an unknown area of the world, especially on your own, but it’s also really exciting and liberating once you land, get to your hotel and start exploring.
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Here are a few simple rules I stick to when I’m travelling alone:
Know Your Shit
It’s so important to know where you are going, how you are getting there, what time your train, plane etc is. You never want to roam around looking lost, especially at night, as you may draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Just keep walking and eventually you’ll come across something that looks familiar. If you find a restaurant, quickly duck in to take a look at your map, or phone GPS, or ask an employee for directions.
Trust Your Instincts
Should I? Shouldn’t I? If you are walking alone and head into an area of town and you get a gut feeling that something isn’t right, chances are that your gut is right. The term, “traveller’s gut,” is an actual survival instinct which quickly surfaces when you’re in unfamiliar areas abroad that you don’t know much about.I often notice my travel instinct go full tilt, when I need to determine if I’m being scammed, or determining who is safe to approach for help or directions. Listening to it often helps get me out of potential sticky situations. Travelling solo strengthens my survival mechanism, since I am the only one making the decisions that will determine my safety.
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Confidence Is Key
Hold that head up when you walk around. Occasionally make eye contact with locals. Put down the phone and don’t you dare bust out that massive guide book. Nothing screams, “Help, I’m lost and have no idea what I’m doing,” more than busting out those books. I admit, I buy them and I bring them with me on my travels, but I never take it out while walking around town. Do your research before leaving your hotel and if you absolutely need to take it out, duck into a coffee shop and gather your info, or directions. Walking with determination and looking like you know where you are going, even if you don’t, will make you look confident as hell. I remember getting lost at night in Munich, but I just kept walking until I noticed something familiar. I always tend to have a photographic memory and try to remember a church, restaurant etc to familiarize myself with the area.
Think, Act And Dress Like A Local
Nothing makes you a bigger target, or a bigger nerd, than walking around with a big ‘ol camera around your neck. Put. It. Away. Only take out your camera for photos, not as an accessory. It’s not a necklace. Try dressing like a local the best you can. I’ve had other tourists approach me in Oslo and ask if I lived there and if I knew where a monument was. I had just come from the place they were looking for, so I gave them directions. Don’t wear “I Love NY” shirts, or covering yourself in your nation’s flag. I don’t know HOW many people I hear saying, “Well, if you put a Canadian flag on your bag, they’ll treat you better.” That is pure bullshit. If someone is going to target and rob you, they more than likely don’t give a damn where you are from. All they see is tourist=money! Leave the nationalism at home. Period.
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Don’t Get Wasted & Always Watch Your Drink
People are always surprised when I say I don’t party overseas, especially if the city I am visiting is known for being a party town. I came to travel, not to get drunk. As a solo traveller, it’s just smart practice NOT to get hammered. It’s not exactly the safest, or smartest idea to be wandering around a strange city, not knowing where the hell you are going, or not have anyone you trust with you to help you out in a shitty situation. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a drink, or two with a meal, sometimes even just pop into a bar and grab a drink itself, I mean, if you’re in Germany, you ARE going to drink the beer. It’d be pure blasphemy not to.
There are many other ways to stay safe while travelling on your own, and I could sit here and list them all, but honestly, most of the bad things you, or your families think will happen, is all in your heads. Chances are that you will be fine and you will have a great time. Make sure to keep in contact with your loved ones if they are afraid and uneasy of you travelling alone, it’ll give them piece of mind and you’ll feel better knowing that THEY are at ease.
Happy travels! xo