So, it's time to take the first step to a whirlwind solo adventure. Did plans fall through with a group? A friend? A lover? Do you just want to experience things now on your own? On your own schedule? In your own style?
Chances are, at some point during the planning, someone you know will tell you that you can't, shouldn't or won't travel alone. Hold your ground and keep in mind people always project their own fears onto you. Don't let anyone talk you out of it.
There is a HUGE community for solo female travelers, LGBTQ travelers, black travelers, black female travels, transgender travelers, queer solo travelers, you name it, there's a community! I would turn to Facebook groups, blogs, vlogs and lots of online resources. Share your plans in detail with suportive friends and family. Keep a journal of your feelings, excitements and worries.
I cannot stress enough how easy it is to make friends abroad. Backpackers from all over the world congregate and support each other while over seas. I have sometimes found it is easier to meet new friends when you are alone, rather than with a partner or in a group.
Before leaving your country there are a few things you can do to be safe. Start by checking travel warnings. You can find official travel warnings on government sites like travel.state.gov .
Other things to observe would be local laws. For instance, traveling to areas of Europe like the Netherlands, it's legal to smoke Marajuana, in contrast the tropical paradise of the Philippines, Marajuana punishments can mean 12 years to life in prison, and sales can result in the death sentence. I always enter local police phone numbers into my phone in new places I travel.
Learn a little bit about the culture, you may unknowingly offend a local, which may not necessarily be dangerous ground, but will definately not be a positive thing. For instance, Thailand is a predominately Buddhist nation, and in Buddhist beliefs, the most important part of your body is the top of your head, and the dirtiest part is the bottom of your feet. It's offensive to prop your feet up, while sitting, on a bus or doing a silly yoga pose for an Instagram photo. Especially offensive to Thai people is having your feet facing a Buddah statue. Take a little time to research where you're going.
From the moment you enter the airport, to the bus ride to a new town, and the little beach hostel you accidently spent too long at, you can make friends everywhere and anywhere.
The most common way I meet other backpackers is in hostels. Bunk mates, common rooms, hostel activities, everyone is there to do the same things you are! There are different types of hostels, and different vibes. Some hostels are more like party hostels, that draws in a group of travelers who relish in the nightlife. Others are more low-key and almost resort like. Some hostels are chains, so they are more consistent with cleanliness and vibe. Some might be a family's spare room in a rural area, more like a homestay where the family will cook you food, and want to get to know you. Other hostels revolve around digital nomads with common areas that second as co-working places. Pick hostels in your price range and with good reviews. Choose a vibe that suits you as well.
Some hostels arrange small tours and events that can be great for linking up with people and sightseeing. Hostels are a wealth of information, and the staff members are there to help you. Not all hostels are amazing, some are dirty and run down, so keep an eye on those reviews.
Volunteering abroad is also an awesome way to meet people. Careful choosing a volunteer program. Some are not sustainable for the community. Remember volunteering is a way to help locals and give back, not take selfies to make yourself a savior. Finding a reputable volunteer program can help you get to know an area, and local people and customs. And to make friends volunteering that you can travel with or get tips on traveling the area.
"Backpacker Routes", a route that is very popular for travelers will often render travel mates and new friends. One example is the "Golden Triangle" in Rajasan India.
When traveling alone, one is never truly alone. Wherever you go on earth you are surrounded by others, most with good intentions, some not. To enter a new unfamilar land alone is daunting, but going alone as a women can seem even more scary.
Traveling alone can be potentially daunting for all sorts of different groups, LGBTQ, female, and certain minorities. The fear that you can fall victim to someone with ill intentions because of who you are is a scary thought.
I have traveled alone for over 4 years, and from my experiences, most people in the world are kind, good natured and helpful. But there's always a possibility, though not probable, of something going wrong. Let me share what I know about traveling alone as a woman, because to me it is the ultimate freedom.
There are three most popular backpacker locations. Most start in New Delhi, take a bus or train to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and over to Jaipur to see the palaces, and back up to New Delhi. You are bound to run into the same backpackers traveling this route alone at the same time. Befriending them is a great way to have a group to branch out and visit other places with them along the way. There are so many different backpacker routes that span across countries.
Another thing to keep in mind, is the busiest time of year. If you want to meet more backpackers along the golden triangle for instance, would be November to February in the winter, when the weather is cooler. During breaks would be another time within the temprate months to meet more travelers. Even during off season, there are travelers and backpackers, and tourist sites are less crowded.
Another more organic way of meeting people, including locals, would be at bars, hitchhiking, and at festivals. Simply striking up a conversation with another train passenger could mean meeting a life long foreign friend. Talking to another traveler at a museum could also be someone looking for a friend with whom to explore town, and you two could spend the next week exploring together if plans line up.
One last way I have met some really genuine people are from events and jobs online. I enjoy using Facebook to find events around a new city. Taking walking tours I find online or at hostels to meet others. Organized tours to countries that are more politically unstable or lawsless can result in a safer journey. Couch surfing has casual events and meet ups.
Work aways are jobs that will not pay you, but provide you with accommodation and food instead. Workaways are a great way to get off the beaten path, meet a family and work a few hours a day with days off. Helpx, WOOFFing, and Workaway . Many of these programs, farms and homes have reviews that go into detail about other volunteers' experiences with the hosts, area and workload. If you're searching for a job that will also pay you try checking out Coolworks.
On arrival in the country you're visiting, start conversation. I always found hospitality workers to give such amazing information about everything. They often are aware of the safest way to travel, and the safest places in a city to see. Hospitality workers want you to be safe since you're staying at their establishment. Many hospitality workers get into the career they have to meet new people and travelers as well.
When leaving your hotel or hostel, make sure things are locked up. Bring a little lock with you or use a safe. I often use locks with 2-4 digit codes on them because I'm afraid of losing a key. When asleep at your hostel, lock the doors and windows, unless in a hostel dorm, try not to lock your roommates out. Try not to overpack, as that will just give you more items of which to keep track. Having a smaller, simpler backpack or suitcase is beneficial, because you can just carry it yourself. You don't want to walk through the streets struggling, you need to be self reliant and self sufficient.
Don't do anything you would not do at home. Try not to walk around strange places alone at night. Be aware of people around you. Pickpocketing is common in most countries. I keep cash in two places when I go out. Sometimes a little hidden fannypack, and in my purse with my wallet and phone, I make sure my purse is shut tight and not have it open, or even easy to open. I keep it in front of me with my hands on it.
Stay aware at all times, and it's better to not tell people where you're staying. Put your foot down if someone is being too touchy and say "no, please don't touch me". Scams are very common, so ask other travelers or hospitality workers about common scams. One example of a scam seen almost all over the world is the bracelet scam. Someone runs up to you and offers you a free bracelet, and they proceed to tie it on and insist it's a gift. They tie the string of the bracelet so tight it's stuck on you. Now they ask for money and accuse you of taking their bracelet. May be only a dollar to two, but some scams can leave you down hundreds of dollars.
Robberies are terrible, but they do happen. Falling asleep on public transportation can result in a stolen purse. You could get held up with a weapon or a threat. It happens in the USA, and it happens everywhere else in the world. It helps to travel in groups, and not to show you're lost. Getting a local phone plan, or an international one to download maps would be better than just relying of WiFi. It's not just locals who could potentially take your belongings. In my travels I have actually heard of other backpackers stealing from travelers more than anyone else. Follow your intuition with those you meet.
It's fun to go party while traveling, going for a drink, or two, or three. Know yourself. Know your tolerance. Blacking out in a foreign country can mean trouble sometimes. Taking drugs, drinking too much, or even leaving drinks unattended can be very dangerous, same as back home.
The last tip I have for those traveling is to tell loved ones at home where you are. You can text or call, keep find my friends on your phone, too. Some of my friends who hitch hike abroad will take a quick picture of a license plate just in case they disappear, it should be on their iCloud.
I like to talk to hospitality workers and tell them the next town I'm going to visit. Usually I say something like "Hey there, so I'm checking out today and my next destination is __ city. Do you have any recommendations on where to stay there, how to get to the bus stop, etc."
My style of traveling is a bit loser. I will often fly into countries with a lose idea of what I want to see and plan as I go, keeping my time open to meet other travelers and see something unexpected with them, or take up another travelers' recommendation on an amazing hostel. I don't like having to cancel reservations, so I often don't plan too much. This has resulted in some hostels being booked out when I arrive, or some plans getting turned around. But I like to go with the flow, talk to those around me, and stay on my toes. If something happens, you lost something, get swindled, items can be replaced. Your life is most important.