While I was doing my 3 month solo tour of Belgium, Spain and Italy in 2016, it occurred to me that travelling solo has become more common. In fact, Airbnb recently published data that the number of Singaporean women flying solo doubled between January 2016 – January this year, a trend that’s also happening in Asia. Having done solo travelling for 3 months, I can tell you that it is the most grown up, liberating thing to do and there really isn’t much to fear, except when there is a cockroach/lizard/bug in your room/apartment 🙂
When I tell people I am travelling alone, I always get that furrowed eyebrow look and tilt of the head, and the accompanying question: ‘Don’t you feel lonely?’ And my answer is always, ‘My dear, I spent my entire work life talking to people 8 hours/day. When I am travelling alone, I actually feel the most relaxed and comfortable, and I make friends with fellow travellers along the way.’ Nothing beats having the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want and however you please without any restraint of your otherwise travel buddy’s budgets, food preferences, interests and schedule. (I’ve heard friendships gone sour due to traveling together, haven’t you?) Of course I also love travelling with friends on short trips, like my recent one to Vietnam. But honestly, who else has taken the exact same sabbatical from work as you to be able to do such a long trip and want to do the exact same countries as you?
Bring a book to read at mealtimes, or really just savour the food and watch the world go by. Sit beside a table of ladies and ask them a question or 2 and you will have instant friends. Its so precious to find fellow English speakers in Spain or Italy. I relish the opportunity to speak to fellow travellers to share experiences and possibly find out interesting places to go. I was asked by a fellow solo female traveller if she could sit with me for dinner and we did dinner 2 nights in the row in the end in Bagan! In fact, I am meeting her in Berlin in August 2018. I was also invited to join the BnB owner’s Xmas party during my stay. See? you’re never really alone all the time.
The next question: ‘Is it safe?’ Yes, it is, if you practice common sense and stick to safe
places and countries. For example, I never wander around late at night in dodgy neighbourhoods or when there is no one else around. ALWAYS check with your hotel/hostel/BnB owner on potential danger areas. There is no shame in asking if the neighbourhood you’re staying at is safe. I also read travel guides to ensure I know where are the safer places to go and which aren’t. Before booking a hotel/apartment, I read reviews of fellow female travellers to see how they rate the place. Booking.com and AirBnB (if you’re checking our airbnb, remember to use my referral code to get $50 off your first stay above $100!) have quite reliable reviews. I also learnt a good tip from a fellow traveller if you are being followed. Just turn back and SHOUT REALLY LOUD (her choice of words were F*** OFF) at the person. You will get enough attention for people to help you and for the person you shouted at to be embarrassed and turn around. I’ve never had to do this yet, and I hope I don’t have to.
Do not put all your money in your wallet. I always stash my day’s cash and 1 credit card in my wallet, the rest goes to my shoulder bag’s inner pocket, my money belt
(Fanny packs are making a comeback!) and in the hotel/hostel/apartment. My shoulder bag is held right below my armpit, I haven’t slung bags on holidays since my girlfriend had her sling bag picked in the metro in Paris. Most travel insurance policies also only covers you up to $300 cash loss per day, so separate cash wisely. I have 2 phones just in case one gets stolen, always buy the local sim card when I can for 1 of the phones. I heard a fellow traveller hide some money in her shoes, just in case.
Please do not bring/wear all your grown up designer jewellery, watch, bag and attract unwanted attention. Also, dress conservatively, for obvious reasons and limit your alcohol to 2 glasses (If it takes less than 2 glasses to get you drunk, DON’T DRINK), do not accept drinks from other people, always buy your own. DO make friends with the bartender or waiter so he can help you in case you do get pesky people around you. NEVER tell strangers where you stay. I usually get the number of my BnB owner so I can call/WhatsApp them if I need anything. They usually are very accommodating and will offer help if required.
Send your family and a few friends your itinerary so they can keep tabs on you. My parents know where I am on which day and I text/FaceTime them every morning and send them photos of where I am. This is so that if anything happens, they know where I was last and could possibly get help. *touch wood* so far they didn’t have to.
And my favourite question: ‘what if you get lost?’ I get lost ALL THE TIME! My bad direction sense even with a map (physical or google) means I sometimes walk the wrong direction, take a wrong turn or end up somewhere completely different. I just laugh at myself and say to myself, wow, I really HOLLAND (dialect in Singapore for getting lost) and then ask a local for directions. Most of the time, I enjoy getting lost because it has led me to very beautiful places. I once went the wrong way for a hike down the valley in Sicily. I walked for an hour to realise there was no way down so I turned back to where I started. Had I not gone on that route, I would never have seen the cows and goats grazing and making beautiful music with their bells. Sometimes, the beauty of travelling IS getting lost. Plus, because you are alone, no one will ‘complain’ that you’re wasting time walking/driving aimlessly. Oh, did I tell you I like to drive aimlessly towards the sunset? Because its just so beautiful?
My tips ladies, for doing it solo is – DO IT! You only live once!!!!
PS: Please always buy travel insurance! Oh! and also, no shame in using a hugeass Rimowa wheeler instead of a backpack 🙂