1. Recognize the possible dangers and limitations of being on your own.
Not to be a downer from the start, but I honestly believe this is the most important thing you can do before heading out. Traveling on your own can be dangerous—and it probably will be at some point. The “It Could Never Happen to Me” mentality will not actually protect you, so use your head. Don't walk home from that club by yourself, leave a rough itinerary with someone you trust, don't get into an unmarked taxi at the airport. Simply: Think and be aware.
2. Don't be afraid to do a little work (exchange).
This, for me, has been one of the key factors in my attitude change about solo travel. Help exchange is a potential godsend to apprehensive solo travelers, not to mention a huge money saver and a great way to meet new people. Help out at a bar, restaurant, lodge, orphanage, organic farm—you name it—in exchange for room and board.
Often your hosts are fantastic travel guides, and you’ll get an inside look at the place you’re visiting. For someone who doesn’t like the idea of being alone, this is a great alternative, and a good option for safety.
3. Hire a private guide.
Most solo travelers cringe at the thought of a tour group, but hiring a private guide allows you the inside scoop without the sterile megabus experience. Most of the time, a guide can be arranged way ahead of time, meaning you can sculpt your own itinerary and have the peace of mind of a stress-free day before you even land.
4. Do your research.
Yes, I harp on research a lot, but it’s important. At the very least, study a map. Looking lost while you’re on your own is the same as wearing a target on your back, asking for trouble. Learn a few key words and phrases in the host language of wherever you are, so you can communicate the basics and not appear completely clueless. Confidence is a key part of being safe.
5. Meet fellow travelers and make use of local contacts.
I’m a firm believer that you’re only really alone when you choose to be so, especially while traveling. You might start out solo, but you never know who you’ll meet. Stay open to meeting local people and other travelers who are almost sure to provide good advice, inspiration, and company. On the same note, keep in mind anyone you may already know in the place you’re traveling, be it a long lost friend or a friend of a friend, who may be willing to show you around. For safety purposes too, having someone local you can contact can be invaluable if you’re solo. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
6. Keep a cell phone on you at all times.
This might go against the whole “leave the world behind” idea that often comes with solo travel, but it ties back into the safety deal. A cell phone saved my life once (I think) and I can’t stress the importance of being able to connect if you need to. Since your international roaming charges will likely be insane anyway, you probably won’t use the phone all that much (or, if you want, buy a cheap phone when you get to your destination, with a country SIM card, which you can change as you change locations). But, believe me, you’ll be glad you have it when you really need it. Not only that, but you can keep in contact with all those new people you meet.
Created with images by Hanna Viellehner - "When I was younger, I didn’t like hiking. It was to much effort and getting up early in the morning just didn’t seem to be worth it. Since I moved to Northern Germany for my studies I miss views like this. So.. somehow I love hiking now." • David Marcu - "Cycling in the countryside" • Arun Anoop - "untitled image" • Sasha • Stories - "untitled image" • Philipp Kämmerer - "Mountain Backpacker" • Pexels - "adult boardwalk bridge" • kirkandmimi - "woman solo traveler" • Tamara Schipchinskaya - "Observer" • Finding Dan | Dan Grinwis - "This photo was captured on an adventure across the beautiful Namibian landscape, in Africa. Endless rolling dunes shadowed shapes onto the sand as far as the eye could see. The only trace of life is left in the wake of footprints briefly following your lead, before being swept away by the wind. What a beautiful place." • Artem Beliaikin - "Beautiful woman swings near waterfall"