Traveling alone is an exhilarating experience. It’s one of the best ways to get out of your comfort zone and explore a new culture, meet new people, and do your own thing on your own terms. Understandably, traveling alone can also be a stressful experience.
If you are backpacking solo for the first time, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Prepare the basics
Some people think of spontaneously flying to a new place without knowing anything about it. I’m sure these people have interesting and exciting stories to tell. But if you are not an advanced traveler and are nervous, then I recommend preparing your trip in advance. In addition to the usual visa and passport requirements, you must:
- Know currency exchange
- Know where you will be staying at least for the first day/night
- Put your phone in roaming. You can also buy a unlocked phonewhich you can load with the new SIM card from the country you are visiting
- Download useful apps on your phone. To save on long distance calls, you can install a free VoIP app on your cell phone. If your company pays for VoIP phone service, install the service provider’s app on your smartphone or tablet so you can stay up to date with important business transactions while on the move. Currency converter, travel organizer, document sharing app and Google Maps are also must-haves.
- Resist the urge to pack up your entire house. Pack light, so you can move around freely. Get a smaller backpack and sling bag.
Connect with locals and fellow travelers
If you are traveling to a country with a different language, it can be helpful to practice the most common and useful words and phrases. Examples are: Hello, How much?, Thank you, sorry, Do you speak English?, I don’t understand Where…?, nice, train, bus, left, right, straight ahead, water, bathroom, hotel, I want to…
It can be helpful to have an electronic translator or smartphone app to help you communicate. You will find that many locals will be pleased to know that you can understand a few words in their native language. Sometimes, it can even give you a good meal or information on an amazing site you can visit. Many locals love to talk about their country, so be prepared to ask some questions and share your own thoughts!
Another great way to get to know more people is to join an organized tour group, find a local tour guide, or go and explore the beaten paths on your own. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation and exchange emails or phone numbers with solo backpackers like yourself (be careful of giving away too much).
One of my friends made quite a few friends while traveling alone. He is now sure of having a place to stay whenever he travels. Often times, these newfound friends were even the ones who insisted on him coming to visit. There’s no shortage of exciting travel experiences if you know how to strike up a conversation with the right people.
It may seem exciting to start your own adventure, but do it wisely. Tell at least one person where you are. If you are staying in a hotel, leave a note in your room saying where you are going and inform hotel staff privately of when you are expected to return.
Stay aware on the go and keep your money and gadgets safe and hidden. Ask or research places that are safe and fun to visit in advance. Also, don’t hitchhike with people you barely know and never divulge where you live!
Solo backpacking is a fun adventure. Be wise and well-prepared, and you’re sure to walk around and keep some great memories too!