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Lady, Scared to Travel Solo? Don't Be.

I was skeptical about travelling alone. Solo travel and me? No way. My stomach started to churn when a friend suggested I take it up as a challenge. I felt stupid. I felt like a loner(shocking, as I am an extrovert). I felt weird having to make this trip by myself as no one was available to accompany me. But I did it. And guess what? It was so worth it!

Requested a stranger to take this picture Outside Riverside Church, Upper Manhattan, New York City.
Outside Riverside Church, Upper Manhattan, New York City.

Yes, I must admit if you travel solo to a place where they do not speak your language, it can be very frustrating. So for starters, why not choose a destination where the language is the least of your worries? Here are a few observations I made as a solo traveller that I would like to share with you. These tips will come handy no matter where you go.

“So for starters, why not choose a destination where the language is the least of your worries?”

1. Be confident. Not a bunch of nerves.

When I started out, I was so nervous that I forgot to pick up my handbag(with the passport and important documents) from the first luggage screening counter. I walked up to the airline counter and realised I had no e-ticket to show. I made a dash for the screening counter thinking the bag was stolen and the trip was over, thanks to my stupidity. The security personnel gave me a funny look. I sheepishly smiled, took my bag and rushed for my flight. But that was just one of the many embarrassing instances that stuck in my head. My point being just be confident, stay focused and don't let your nerves get the better of you.

2. Be mentally prepared to encounter new experiences. There are nice people out there.

Here's a short anecdote: I recall making a trip to Poitiers, France. I lost the piece of paper that had the address of my residence. My phone battery ran out of charge. The people who were meant to pick me up, FORGOT to do so. I cannot speak French to save my life. Locals refused to speak English. I was at the mercy of my faint memory. I had two huge suitcases, welled up eyes and a migraine to carry along with no help at hand. With great difficulty and pleading I managed to hop onto a bus and spoke in broken French pointing out to my "potential address" on the map. I say potential because I figured there were four roads with the same name. But I did not give up. After changing four buses, a 2 hour drive, asking a dozen people if they spoke english and no response whatsoever, the fourth bus driver gestured to me that 'this might be the place I intended to stay at'. I thanked him. Got off the bus. It was late in the evening and most shops were shut on that deserted road. I saw a Middle-Eastern lady walking up and asked her the same question I asked the 12 others: "Excusez moi parlez vous Anglais" and she replied "Yes I do speak English" I broke down right there and told her my ordeal. To my surprise, she stayed at the same address and helped me with my suitcases all the way up the slope to the residence. Moral? Do not give up at the face of defeat and keep your calm. Nice people do exist, stay confident and things will turn around for the best.

"Do not give up at the face of defeat and keep your calm."

3. Don't be glued to your phone.

I mean, come on! You’re on a holiday. Raise your head and look around you. It’s a new place, new people, new culture and new experiences. Unless you’re searching for directions to a location, just keep that phone aside and soak in memories. That’s what holidays are for. Check your phone once you’re in the hotel or if it’s an emergency. Else, relax, no one is in a hurry to reach you.

4. No place on earth is safe. Wo(man) up!

When I made my first few trips, everyone including family expressed their concerns about safety. While their concerns are justified, it should not stop you from travelling. It’s not like you’re visiting a war zone!(are you? If yes, then you need to take a vacay to a shrink first.) In fact, life is unpredictable if things have to happen, they will. So stop being paranoid and just think positively. The rest will fall into place. It always does.

"Stop being paranoid and just think positively."

5. Travel Light.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s a holiday not the Oscars. How is it going to be a pleasant holiday if you worry about stuffing unnecessary things in your bag. So take only what you need and NOT what you want or others want. Be practical and comfortable with your clothing and accessories. You are beautiful no matter what shape or size. Don’t you forget that ladies. And if anyone tells you otherwise, gift them a mirror.

Be practical and comfortable with your clothing and accessories.

6. When in doubt or in danger, talk to people. Make friends.

Don’t be too brave and adventurous to take the off beaten path all by yourself. Especially if you are a first time solo traveller. Be sensible. It’s not hard for a thug or local with bad intentions to sweet talk you and behave obsequiously till they get what they want. You might think “oh he is so kind and very helpful” and might blindly follow him into a dark alley. Be alert and hang out with fellow travellers or enquire for directions or ask for help at a local store, pharmacy or police station. Keep a translator app handy if language is a barrier.

7. Learn to say 'No Thank You'.

You are not obligated to say 'Yes' to anyone who offers you a drink, or tries to force you into buying clothing. When it comes to tourism, most local sellers have an agenda – to sell as much. A few others think you’re ‘exotic’ and an endangered species and want to befriend you, offer you a drink or show you around. Let’s hope that drink is not spiked. If anything happens, don’t throw yourself a pity party later. Only you are responsible for yourself on a solo trip. If you’re kidnapped for ransom, it’s a different story hahaha. Just kiddin’ ladies. Travel is not that bad.

Only you are responsible for yourself on a solo trip.

8. Eat Local.

What’s the point of going on a holiday and sipping coffee at a Starbucks for instance. It’s a new place. Try some local coffee. Find a local restaurant and eat authentic local food. Gastronomy is an indulgent experience. Find out what ingredients are used and choose something you can stomach. Also choose local restaurants that could benefit from tourism. Not just those that receive maximum footfall or those that have amazing reviews. Social Media is fickle business. Not all reviews are authentic. So eat Local.

Choose local restaurants that could benefit from tourism

9. Drink responsibly.

When you travel solo, you have only yourself to be responsible for. So make sure you don’t get sloshed. Drink responsibly. Preferably, a bottled drink. Don’t leave your drinks unattended. Don’t let anyone buy you a drink. It may be flattering, but avoid this one at all costs on your first solo trip. You never know what’s on that charmer’s mind. Be safe than sorry. Make memories, not nightmares or a spectacle of yourself.

Don’t leave your drinks unattended

This list can go on. But ladies, believe in yourself. Be alert at all times. Don’t lose sight of your luggage, the journey or your destination. Mistakes do happen too, but that should not discourage you. No one is perfect. There’s always a first. Take a deep breath and go for it. Believe me, you will surprise yourself. I hope my suggestions come handy. If you’re taking the solo travel plunge for the first time, do comment and let me know how adventurous it was. Happy travels!


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