This summer has definitely instilled a love for travel into me – I’ve always had the desire to be a jet-setter – but not until recently did I get a small taste of that lifestyle when I visited 3 very different states in as many weeks.
My travels took me first to Houston on a semi-solo trip, then to Wisconsin with my family, and finally to New York City on my own. If I’m being honest I felt quite vulnerable travelling solo. I knew that I was opening myself up to a dangerous situation, but I also trusted myself to use good judgement and keep myself safe. I did a lot of research, and then I got a lot of real world experience, so while I’m not the most seasoned traveler, I do think I’ve got some good advice on staying safe while traveling solo.
I’m not going to go into depth telling you that you shouldn’t be walking into dark alleys and you shouldn’t party so hard that you’re black out drunk. I hope you already know that. So as far as the basics go, I just want to tell you to use common sense. More than anything, follow your gut. If something doesn’t feel right then remove yourself from that situation. It’s better to miss out on a fun situation that turned out to be safe than to push that gut feeling away and end up hurt.
When you’re travelling solo you are your own biggest ally – listen to yourself.
Carry a cross body bag.
You may have heard this one before – but I really think it’s essential – especially if you’ll be out at night! It is so easy for criminal scum to snatch your purse and run, disappearing into the crowd. But if you’ve got it draped across your body, that won’t be possible. I was kind of sort of (but not exactly) robbed in Central Park, and part of me thinks that it could have cost me a lot more than $7 if I had been carrying a handbag. (More on that situation further down!)
Take the long way…
…if that means staying in a populated area. If the most direct path has you cutting through empty parks, alleys, or even just an abandoned street – follow the crowd. Your GPS will readjust, or if you get lost someone will give you directions! Crimes can happen anywhere, but the severity tends to be a lot less when you’re somewhere populated.
Even if it looks empty, or you think that there are probably people in the buildings so no one would try anything, it’s not worth the risk to save five or six minutes on your commute.
Don’t be afraid to be rude.
This is where I got in trouble in central park. I try to always be polite and warm so people feel at ease around me – while it has made me friends it also lost me a few bucks. Walking in (very populated!) central park in the middle of the day I was approached by a man with his map wide open. I knew I couldn’t help him, but I offered him a warm smile and prepared to tell him that he should ask someone else. He held his map open in front of our faces and made me give him money. He didn’t touch me or threaten me with violence, he simply bullied me into it with his sheer size and rough tone of voice.
In hindsight I should have yelled, ran, and made a scene, but raising my voice is not in my nature, and as ridiculous as it sounds – I didn’t want to be rude. I fibbed and told him I only had seven dollars, he snatched it out of my hand, and ran off. As soon as I got home that night I took out the emergency money that I had been foolishly carrying with me and put it elsewhere.
And finally, don’t be afraid.
Yes bad things can happen and you are opening yourself up to a very slim chance that those bad things will happen to you, but don’t be crippled by fear. I was travelling solo for just one weekend and it was honestly so exhilarating and exciting. There is a certain freedom that comes with travelling alone and not having to take anyone else’s bucket list or needs into consideration. Be aware, but don’t be terrified.
And if you’re debating solo travel – do it! If I can come out (mostly!) unscathed, you can too! And I highly recommend a trial run like I did. One day I’d like to travel solo internationally, but I got a bit of experience before I go all in.
Like I mentioned, I’m a solo travel newbie so I’m sure I left some tips out. I would love to hear your best tips on safe solo travels!