When I meet up with friends, we talk about my travels, they say things like, “I could never do that,” “Weren’t you scared?” “You’re crazy for traveling alone,” etc… For me, traveling alone was always the answer to my wanderlust. I didn’t want to wait for anyone to pick up and come with me. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child and I’ve learned to live on my own. Maybe I just had a fire in my soul to get out of the country. Maybe, I’m just incredibly reckless. But I never second guessed this decision to move abroad and travel by myself but people second guessed it enough it for me.
I am a biracial, Jewish, inked, female, solo traveler. I do stand out more than the average person. And yes, I’ve been harassed because of my skin, my tattoos, for being a woman and more. The thing is, I get that walking down the street of my hometown just as much as abroad. I like to put it to people like this, driving your car is more dangerous than almost anything you can do traveling. It’s easy to say no but it’s so much more rewarding to say yes.
Solo travel isn’t for everyone, but hopefully, by the end of this article I can convince some people to try it out. And quite honestly, the scariest place I’ve traveled to so far, is New York City. If you can survive a weekend there, you’ll be fine almost anywhere.
But please research your destinations and make sure it’s safe for you. I wouldn’t say avoid dangerous destinations, just be aware of the issues, find advice online for traveling to those places and find your comfort level.
But the world is a scary place
Taken and Hostel are not statistically likely to happen to you. I remember I watched Taken with my dad before I studied abroad. He told me, “I love you but I AM NOT LIAM NEESON!”
I can count the times I’ve been tortured or sold into sexual slavery on zero hands; Not even a vague threat of either thing happening to me. Hollywood and the news make statistically unlikely situations seem more common and daunting than they are. You shouldn’t let a fictitious reality painted by Hollywood hold you back from having amazing experiences. Lonely Planet has a safety section for every country with everything you’ll need to know with concise and up-to-date information. Here’s a list of countries you should be wary of.
Brokedown Palace and Locked Up Abroad are things that happen, so just be smart and don’t take hallow gifts from strangers, avoid drugs, selling your body and any type of violence. Hopefully, you already avoid these things!
People are inherently good but they also need to survive. Trust people with caution. Most people, no matter their nationality, are happy to help someone. It should be noted, that tourists are easy targets and people have families to feed. So be aware of your surroundings. Use your common sense because even in your own hometown people try to swindle you. I’m sure you’ve gotten a call from “Microsoft” saying your computer has a virus and they need your credit card number, or a Nigerian prince desperately needs your help or Christian missionaries want to sell you a house as long as you wire them a deposit first. This probably won’t be a novel experience for you unless you are Rori Gilmore from Star Hallow.
But I’m a girl. So am I! It’s true, I’ve been harassed and grabbed at. However that happens to me in America too, so what am I supposed to do? Run and hide because men are pigs? No, I do what I want and I want to travel. My biggest suggestion is keep a level head. If you want to party take advantage of pub crawls. Just don’t get wasted! You’ll be fine if you keep a two drink maximum, watch the bartender pour your drink, don’t take drinks from strangers and cover the top of your glass if you aren’t drinking it. These are college rules, again, this shouldn’t be news to you.
What about money? Plenty of broke college students go abroad. Make a budget, use the resources like workaway.info and couchsurfing.com to find free accommodation and/or free meals. Use your skills to make money. It’s all about the hustle whether you are tutoring people in English, playing a guitar on the street or using crowdfund. You can hitchhike for free travel too (I don’t hitchhike but that’s a personal choice). It’s cheaper to travel than people think.
I have dietary restrictions and/ or health problems. I’m vegetarian and it does take adjusting but you can find places that will fit your needs. Researching your country and creating an itinerary that will suit your needs will be the key to traveling. Happycow.com is a great website /app for finding diet friendly food abroad. If you are really worried, there are organized tours for every niche, whether you are deaf, a senior citizen, in a wheelchair, vegan, etc… Check some blogs of nomads with your same issues. Don’t simply say, “I can’t.” You can do anything, if you do the research, make a plan and make it happen! Here’s some examples of blog from nomads with special diets or disabilities:
But I’ll be bored/ lonely/ scared
You’ll meet people! You’re great just introduce yourself and everyone else will realize it too. Hostels are great places to meet people. Take advantage of meetup.com, couchsurfing.com, travbuddy.com to find friends and events. Facebook groups like Meeple, Nomads- a life of cheap/ free travel or couchsurfers are great resources. Social media makes it so easy to find a friend. In New York City, I posted on a facebook group for a party buddy. I met up with a local girl, Jen and she took my to Pacha where we danced the night away. I had so much fun.
You can be your own boss when you travel by yourself. You can plan what you want to do with no compromise! If you keep waiting for a partner, you could be waiting your whole life. Besides, you’ll learn to be confident, independent and love yourself. I personally love my alone time. I’ve tested my abilities and been surprised with myself.
Homesickness/ Expat Fever It happens but take time to message and video chat with your family and friends. Reach out to the travel community for advice and encouragement. Take time to physically and mentally take care of yourself. Keep a few mementos from home to give yourself some comfort. Create a list of travel goals to stay motivated. You’ll never regret persevering but you might regret going home.
Loneliness is real. I was so lonely in Amsterdam but I’m glad I did it. While I wish I had someone to smoke a joint with or drink a beer, I’m glad I can cross it off my bucket list. The thing I remind myself is, if I wait for someone to come along to have an adventure, I might never have an adventure! People are flaky but I can depend on myself. It takes a lot of drive to travel and be away from home. It’s worth it to know I’ve lived my life to the fullest with no regrets.
But my parents!
My parents say it’s too dangerous for me. Well, I hope you can show this article to your parents and it will calm their nerves a little. I called my parents at least once a week and regularly updated my facebook. What I want to reiterate is, people of all sorts travel abroad and thrive. The likelihood of getting harassed, kidnapped, murdered etc… is low. And if you think about it, you might even be safer abroad. The likelihood of getting in a car accident is higher than anything else you can make up in your little head. In 2012, 33,561 people died in car accidents in America. I literally can’t even find a statistic for how many American civilians get kidnapped because it’s so rare. If you avoid war torn countries, you’ll be fine. And the minor risk of traveling abroad alone is well worth it. Solo travel helped me become a more confident, self-sufficient and enlightened person.
This isn’t to say that travel is for everyone. Not everyone can stand the loneliness, the stress, the confusion, the work and that’s something you have to look within yourself to decide. There are rewards and challenges in every endeavor whether it’s traveling the globe, starting a family, going to graduate school etc… What will make you happy? Where is your bliss? How can you live your life to the fullest?
You can be anything you want to be or go anywhere you want to go. Where there is a will there is a way!