Traveling solo 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 in your own way. Understandably, traveling alone can also be a nerve-wracking experience. If you’re backpacking solo for the first time, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Prepare the basics
Some people think spontaneously flying off to a new place without knowing anything about it. I’m sure these people have interesting and exciting stories to tell. But if you’re not an advanced traveller and have the case of the nerves, then I suggest preparing for your trip beforehand. Aside from the usual visa and passport requirements, you should:
- Know the currency exchange
- Know where you’re going to settle for at least the first day/night
- Put your phone on roaming. You can also buy an unlocked cell phone, which you can load with a new SIM card from the country you’re visiting
- Download useful apps on your phone. To save on long distance calls, you can have free VoIP apps installed on your phone. If your company pays for a VoIP phone service, install the service provider’s app on your smartphone or tablet, so you can still stay updated on important business transactions while on the go. Currency converters, travel organizers, document sharing apps, and Google Maps are also must-haves.
- Resist the urge to pack your whole house. Pack light, so you can move freely. Get a backpack and a smaller sling-on bag.
Connect with locals and fellow travellers
If you’re traveling to a country with a different language, it would be helpful to practice the most common and useful words and phrases. Examples are: Hello, How much?, Thank you, I’m sorry, Do you speak English?, I don’t understand Where is…?, delicious, train, bus, left, right, straight ahead, water, bathroom, hotel, I would like…
It would also be helpful to have electronic translator or a smartphone app that could help you communicate. You’ll find that many locals will be delighted to discover that you can understand some words in their native language. Sometimes, this could even earn you a great meal or information on an amazing site you could visit. Many locals love talking about their country, so be prepared to ask some questions and share your own thoughts!
Other great ways to get to know more people would be joining organized tour groups, ing for a local tour guide, or going off and explore the beaten path alone. Don’t be afraid to strike up conversation and exchange emails or phone numbers with solo backpackers like yourself (be wise about divulging too much, though). One friend of mine made quite a lot of friends while traveling solo. He’s now sure to have a place to stay whenever he travels. Often times, these new-found friends are even the ones who insist on having him come over for a visit. There’s no shortage of exciting travel experiences if you know how to hold a conversation with the right people.
It seems exciting to just go off on your own adventure, but do so wisely. Inform at least one person about where you are. If you’re staying in a hotel, leave a note in your room saying where you’re going and personally inform the hotel staff about when you can be expected to get back. Stay sober during the whole trip and keep your money and gadgets safe and hidden. Ask or research beforehand the safe and fun places to visit. Also, don’t catch a ride with people you hardly know and never divulge where you’re staying!
Backpacking solo is a fun adventure. Be wise and prepared, and you’re sure to get around and keep beautiful memories, too!