The idea of traveling can be a scary thought, but the idea of traveling alone is another level. As soon as I become an ‘adult’ I decided to go overseas and see the world. It wasn’t exactly a preference but none of my friends had the time or money to join.
Being in a foreign country where the culture, language and way of life is so different to what you’re used to can be intimidating. Sometimes it’s almost a game of Pictionary as you try to explain to locals what you’re looking for. If language wasn’t a barrier enough, there’s also the “Oh shit I forgot to pack that” moment that every traveler experiences.
But no need to freak out, with 3 years of experience, I’ve created the top 10 ultimate life hacks for anyone traveling alone.
1. Know the ‘who, what, when and where’
Knowing where you want to go and what you want to do/see is important whether you’re traveling alone or not. Winging it when you get to another continent is probably not the best idea.
My suggestion is to write your top five places to visit and top five things to do before you die. Look at your list and think about what you specifically like about each destination.
Food? Scenery? Culture? Party life? It doesn’t really matter.
Search photos on Instagram or videos on YouTube for a better idea of what your place of choice has to offer. I spent hours searching #wanderlust on Instagram in order to find my next must see place- Bora Bora!
If you plan your trip in a smart way you’ll be able to go through quite a few countries. Crossing borders in Europe is usually pretty easy, so catching a train to different parts is a funky and cheap way of sussing everything out.
Also, take this prep time to know what the weather will be like when you’re visiting. I learnt this the hard way while visiting Amsterdam. Apparently it rains frequently in the Netherlands even through its summer season.
2. The travel essentials
Once you know where you’re going, it’s time to pack the ultimate travel kit. Don’t underestimate the importance of any of the things listed:
– Headphones and an endless playlist of music that you won’t get sick of listening to on repeat for hours on end because let’s face it, sometimes there won’t be anything better to do.
– Charger (and spare charger) along with a universal adaptor. Opt for the slightly pricier choice and get an adaptor that will work in no matter what continent you end up.
– Neck Pillow. If you want to save yourself the neck pain, invest in one of these bad boys.
– Folder with important papers (bookings, flights, etc.), it’ll be easy to keep a track of everything.
– Compression socks to stop those nasty cankles. There’s nothing sexy about cankles. Ever.
– Locks for your luggage.
– A backpack (dear girls, do NOT use a side bag as a carry-on, trust me on this).
These things may seem like a no-brainer but sometimes it slips your mind.
3. Stop-over? No biggie!
Everyone usually makes a big deal and has a sook about having long stop-over times between connecting flights. Sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to get away with minimal wait and other times you’ll be stuck roaming an airport.
Your stop-over destinations will usually be at a main airport overseas like Abu Dhabi, and fortunately these developed airports are also home to endless amounts of retail stores. Load up on the duty free goodies and ship them back home!
Or better yet, pack light (like super light) and buy new clothes as you go. I’ll always be so thankful for the stores in Singapore for keeping my need for retail therapy controlled.
4. Experience everything
My golden rule for traveling is to never miss a once in a lifetime opportunity.
If you’re in France, eat those snails and frog legs!
If you’re in Switzerland, rent a bike and see it all!
If you’re in Germany, drink your body weight in beer!
If you’re in America, clog those arteries with every type of food imaginable!
If you’re in Ibiza, party till you don’t even know what year it is!
The last thing you want is to come back to reality and regret not doing something for one reason or another. Drop every fear, take every chance.
5. Leech off that Wi-Fi
Some accommodation overseas will have at least limited access to Wi-Fi, but a lot of it probably won’t (especially if you’re opting for the cheaper choice in accommodation). For anyone traveling alone, internet connection is almost the only thing keeping you from getting totally home sick.
My tip is sus out the local cafes, bars or restaurants. These places will usually have Wi-Fi available for any of their customers. So, for example, even if your hotel doesn’t have Wi-Fi, check the café next door and acquire their password. Once you make that first connection, you won’t really ‘need’ to go inside and make a purchase to use it again.
6. Have a back-up plan….. and then another
The hardest thing that I found when traveling solo was that I had to know everything; where to go, what to do and who to ask for help. There was no one to rely on when things got bad. It’s important to know that the craziest things can happen, so always expect the unexpected.
The unexpected usually can come in the form of a lost phone, wallet, luggage or even passport. It’s important that you know what to do in case any of these things happen. Don’t panic, just ‘back-up plan’ it.
Bring a spare phone (especially if you’re travelling for longer than a month) and keep spare money cards in different parts of your luggage. As every mum would say, “it’s better to be safe than sorry”.
7. Don’t be afraid to make friends
If you’re naturally a shy and reserved person, I can almost guarantee that after traveling alone and meeting all sorts of new people, you won’t be.
Forget what you were told while growing up. Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. The people you meet while traveling are generally like-minded and will share the same interests.
I went to the Greek Islands in the first year of my solo travels. Luckily I started talking to another girl that was collecting her baggage by herself. She was also travelling alone. We ended up spending the whole trip together and had a blast.
8. Collect memories
Buying store souvenirs or magnets is a really cool way of bringing a piece of your travels back home. The worst thing you can do is not get something that reminds you of your travels.
The crazier the items, the better!
If you’re on a tight budget then just get a postcard from every place you go. It’s a typical touristy thing but just do it.
9. Keep safe
The freedom of being alone and having no rules can be extremely tempting. This is your chance to do everything you weren’t allowed before. The key thing is to not go overboard with your daring choices (or else you probably will end up for sale on the Black Market).
Even though I do highly recommend you talk to strangers and make friends, be smart about it. Trust your gut instinct and don’t do anything that feels ‘off’.
A trick I picked up while partying in Barcelona was to write your hotel address on your arm or some other body part of choice. This is the perfect way to make sure you get home in one piece after a messy night of drinking. It may be dorky, but it’s handy.
10. Enjoy every moment
Your trip is going to have its ups and downs- enjoy every single little bit of it. Don’t spend your travel time wishing you were somewhere else. Make the most of it. Be selfish. Do what you want.
Figure out who you are and what you want to do in this world.
by Seka Mitrovic