These days, there is no dearth of headlines and stories that urge you to travel alone. Why should there be? It’s something that should be done at least once in your life. Sure, there is the fear that one may not like it, but more often than not, the sheer challenge of travelling alone and then the sense of accomplishment that accompanies it is far beyond what anyone can imagine.
When taken in the larger context of one’s life, travelling solo is like a litmus test. Sail through a solo trip, and you know you’re equipped to brave and handle even the trickiest of situations that life throws at you. For most, alone travel is not only a life lesson but also ends up being spiritual as well. When you have no one but yourself and the universe to rely on, things can get pretty intense. In order to make sure the intensity is of the pleasant kind, there are some basic measures that you can keep in mind, for everything else… there are helpful strangers! No, really!
1. Convincing the parents: No matter how old you are, Indian kids are mostly still very much attached to their parents. Living at home or in a different city, there is likely to be a disapproving “hmmmm” when the subject of a solo travel is broached. In such a scenario, always give yourself time to ease them into the idea. Don’t just announce your plans. Take a while to make sure they get accustomed to the idea. It helps if you’ve done smaller day trips before, or you know of their friends who have done solo trips. Promise (and fulfil) to call them every day, or send lots of photos when you’re back to the hostel/apartment – that way they’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re safe and get an update. Do it the first time, and trust me, thereafter, it gets a lot easier.
2. Do a short trip first: There many times when you would have heard the advice to go the long haul in one go, but when it comes to taking on a solo trip for the first time, small is always better. Do a trip for two-three days. Not only does that give you an idea whether going on alone is for you or not, but also helps sort a lot of kinks along the way.
3. Choose an unknown destination: This is where you push yourself. This gives you a nice balance of putting yourself out of your comfort zone, but not too much. If you go for a short while, then it would give you confidence to research a place from scratch. Going to a place you’ve been before might give you a sense of comfort, which defeats the purpose of adventure.
4. Research thoroughly
Love the idea of going with the flow, and want your trip to just take you along? Great! But not the first time. Remember that you’re not really going to have anyone to fall back on should things go awry, so the best way to make sure you see many more such trips is to be well prepared. Know where you’re going; the key locations; the best way to go around; familiarise yourself with the major tourist spots and their areas so that you don’t get lost; keep a plan ready for each day; etc.
5. Finalise your accommodation smartly: A lot about how your trip goes and that sense of safety comes with choosing the right location for your stay. Always, and I really mean always, choose a place that’s central. Even if you have to pay a bit more. It’s always worth the extra buck. If you’re out late at night, or even if you need to duck in for a quick change or snooze in the middle of the day, if your apartment/hotel/hostel is centrally located, not only can you get to it sooner, but it will always be better connected to rest of the city. The buzz around will always be till much later, which means you don’t have to do a Cinderella, ever!
6. Multiple copies of documents: When you’re travelling alone, it’s always smart to have copies of your basic IDs and documents. Not only do you have multiples for cards, etc., but should you lose something, it’s easier to lodge complaints and get your details if you have a copy of everything, especially if you’ve travelled abroad. Also keep two copies of all your credit/debit cards. In fact, be prepared for tech malfunction and keep physical documents for everything. At least one copy, if not more.
7. Get the transport sorted: Part of figuring out solo travel is to get the travel part sorted. So, even though it’s understandable that you’d want fluidity, know the working times of all the public transport systems. Keep an offline map on your phone, and/or grab a map from a station. Mark your accommodation on the map for convenience. And for your first trip, book your return tickets in advance. Leave the last-minute ideology for later.
8. Get a local SIM card: If you’re travelling abroad, no matter how short the trip, always get a local SIM card with a data connection. You can skimp on the talk time, but data is of paramount importance. This would ensure you’re always connected and there is always an opportunity to check directions, reviews and even people, on the move.
9. Keep a bunch of knick-knacks handy
When travelling alone, it’s important to travel light because it’s highly likely you’d end up carrying everything yourself. But there are some things you should always have on you — a Swiss knife (or each of those components separately), needle-thread, pepper spray (if you’re a woman traveller), an additional purse/wallet to keep your cash hidden, a medicine kit with the basics and any personalised medicines you may need, one feature phone if it’s a longer trip and your smartphone battery runs out, pack of tissues (and some loose ones in your pocket), extra socks (it’s insane how handy they are), but most of all, stay alert at all times.
10. Have fun, but be safe: A solo trip is a great lot of fun only if you stop worrying and go with the flow. There will be upsets and detours — that’s all fine. Meet people, be open to ideas and trust the energy of the universe, but keep a keen sense for signs and vibes. When travelling alone, stay alerted at all times, but let yourself loose just that much more that would ensure you have a great time. This may not happen on the very first trip — and most travellers tend to go on either of the extremes — but the more you travel, the better you will be at attaining that balance.