To all those traveling sisters who just can’t find it in themselves to say “YES! I will travel alone” this is for you! I understand why you’d be scared, I understand the world is intimidating and the unknown always makes us just a tad more paranoid but we can totally do it! I have been doing it for five months and not only have I survived I have adapted and evolved and wouldn’t have had my trip any other way. So ladies, let’s get started on getting our bodies and minds ready for this venture.
It all starts at home I have to say; for me, coming from a “relatively” conservative Mexican family (if that makes any sense), women and men have roles and there are many things that girls just shouldn’t do because “that’s what men are for”. In most Mexican families at least you would never EVER see a man washing the dishes, even if he wanted to, the women just won’t allow it. Same as you won’t usually see women taking out the trash every week, checking the oil on their cars or even changing a light bulb. That’s how I was raised at least and I have a very independent and successful mom but that’s how she was raised and that is how it was at home. It wasn’t until I was eighteen that I moved out of my mom’s to my own place and realized I had taken all those things for granted and even though I had male roommates I decided to take charge and do it myself. It began with a bad breakup years ago where you know, “Men are useless”, “I don’t need a man in my life” and all that mumbo jombo we tell ourselves when we are mad but for me it actually worked because I was now fixing the lights, the electronics, learned how to change my tire, checked my car’s oil levels and it got to a point where I could even detect if and what was malfunctioning with my car. I was fixing the toilette, I was telling my roommates how to hang pictures and build furniture, I was my own little handywoman (my stupid autocorrect kept switching it to Handyman, let’s make sure this word is on the dictionary please. Thank you!) #girlpower
So that said.. take charge at home girls: if you plan to travel the world make sure you don’t feel like you NEED a man to be out there with you because not only will you fail miserably in your adventure felling like something is missing all the time, this will also make you a target for strange men who see you can’t pull it of on your own. So start doing things at home that you haven’t had to so far because you have had your dad, brother, boyfriend, neighbor, whatever it is. When you are out exploring the unknown it will only be yourself not you and that cute guy you met, not you and your friends from the bus, it’s the jungle out there and YOU look out for YOU. At the beginning I thought I would be scared of what could potentially happen to me if or when things went into a negative situation (yes I went all girly-dramatic with rape, kidnapping and what not) but I realized right away that what I was the most scared of was what I thought I wouldn’t be able to do on my own – I was scared that I would fail at traveling solo. But be not afraid girls because once you take the plunge and you learn to trust yourself to make the right choices and push you outside of your comfort zone you would have won that battle with yourself. Of course the world is still a huge place with bizillion inhabitants that don’t always have the best intentions or have not been culturally or intellectually educated to behave a certain way so here are some things to check out before you take the plunge. But do take it. Trust the millions of dollars Nike invested on its slogan and ….#justdoit
Do your Research
Yes I know you want to be free as a butterfly and not plan, be spontaneous and fall in and out of love and that is perfectly fine BUT do your research on the city you are visiting, on the culture you will be becoming part of and the way people think over there. It’s important not only so you don’t offend anyone unknowingly and unintentionally but it will also allow for you take extra measures at certain countries. Take India for example, we already know it’s a dangerous place because men think they can do whatever they want with women but to them a shoulder is far more provocative than showing off your entire belly so do take those little details into account and take the attention off of yourself.
You need a go-to-person, a person you trust with your life! A person that knows your whereabouts or yours “sort of” itinerary at least. The person that you consider the most reliable and resourceful if he/she had not heard of you or maybe has and needs to act. This person is your Liam Nelson and if – knock on wood – you ever found yourself in a negative situation this person will be an important person to have around. Sorry if I am being dramatic but it is necessary. This is the person you will send the plates of the car you were hitchhiking on with who knows whom or the address of the person you were couch surfing with. It might sound annoying, it’s almost like having to tell our parents when we are at all times but just think about James Franco cutting his arm off for a second, no actually do it for 127 seconds and you tell me if it sounds ridiculous to let SOMEONE know where you are going.
This is very important; luggage or backpack? With wheels or without? If you are seriously having these questions you are clearly not ready for a solo trip. If you were planning on coming with those 25 Kilo hard case pieces of luggage (oh, with wheels please) you are officially the girliest-girly-girl in the eyes of men and women from other countries and this makes you vulnerable. Sure it’s cute but you don’t want to look cute or helpless. Pack a backpack you can carry on your own and make sure you can handle it by yourself. I trained my backpack to be a part of me, I am being dead serious. Before leaving on my trip I packed it up with books and I would wear it around the house for at least half an hour so I could get used to the weight, so I could make sure it didn’t hurt me at all and to develop the muscles needed to carry that particle weight with this one particular pack. You might have to run with your pack on several times and not because someone is chasing you necessarily but because you might lose a train or just because I don’t know, and you don’t want to hurt yourself and expose yourself to needing the help of a stranger. You will also need to be setting up on racks on trains and need to make sure you can lift it on your own so this is also a way to get rid of all the unnecessary weight (trust me you won’t need those extra shoes for a fancy dinner, no that extra conditioner for days your hair needed the lavender and not the mint conditioner, and no you won’t need a lot of the things you are brining you will realize that when you begin your travels. (I have given away many things and I am not the girliest-girl ever)
Be mentally prepared that you will struggle with the language in several countries but learn to remain calm. If you are one of those impatient persons or know that you will loose your cool with these things attend some yoga or meditation classes that will help you become more patient. This will help you stay sane trust me and you will have a far better time if you learn to relax. So make sure you know how to trigger that guru inside of you when needed. I had taken several meditation courses just as a hobby but they have come in handy I must say.
One of my main concerns of traveling alone was, “What if I get sick?” Not a flu or a cough you know, sick as in I can’t stand up because my pressure is low and I can’t stop vomiting – those kinds of things. So make sure to go to the Dr and have so meds that will or have worked with your body and have not given you any bad reactions (traveling is not the place to figure that out by the way). Make sure you take several blood tests before coming on a long trip so you are aware of your weaknesses and can avoid over exhausting your body.
Yes, yes, yes. You must learn how to throw some punches and good kicks you know where. There are several tactics that are essential to learn and don’t require much strength or ability it’s just knowing about them. Like when someone has you held by the hand, even if this person were twice your size there is an easy and effective way to unhook out of it. If you are going to have to check in your backpack for flights (I somehow managed to fit it all in a 40lt carry-on size pack) you might as well get yourself some pepper spray, wouldn’t hurt to have it but will hurt whoever tries to hurt you. Win-win!
Talking to fellow travelers and those that have been to the countries where you plan to go is always a good idea. They will give you specific tips for the specific cultures and dangers of a certain country so reach out to them! We are a big traveling family, one for all and all for one peeps.
If you are planning an itinerary ahead make sure to avoid, as much as possible, any night transportation even from the airport to the hotel. Do your research and pay extra if necessary to arrive early in the morning, specially when arriving into unknown territory, this will give you time to find your hostel and drop off your backpacking which big or small gives you out as the tourist to locals so you will try to avoid wearing it all day and rather leave it at the hostel or a locker at the train/bus station etc. I don’t think you MUST always know where you are sleeping the day of arrival, I have actually found really cool places by not booking ahead of time BUT I always arrive in the morning so I don’t have to be homeless in the dark.
Invest on a GPS or Data Plan
This will be a big advantage for male of female traveler but as a women alone it helps even more, booking a stay on the go, looking up directions yourself and not asking for them which many times are just misguided intentionally anyhow. Being able to do research on your phone instead of an actual map or book won’t send out a clear image of you being lost. It helped me a lot in India when those ferocious tuk-tuk drivers insisted on taking me to the wrong hotels or to fake tourism offices. Trust me it will save you many headaches and yes maybe your life.
On the trip it all comes down to trusting your instincts or at least to make it look like you do, your confidence is what will repel any dangers. So be confident that you will make the right choices and that you are indeed the smart person you think you are and learn to listen to yourself. You will be way more confident if you have an idea of what you are heading into so read about the countries you are visiting and make sure you know about the types of scams they run in India, for example, or the fake desert tours they run out in Morocco. Yes, it will get scarier as you do more research but grow a couple of cojones my dear explorers and go venture into the world, you will not regret it!
Stay tuned for tips once you hit the road and the benefits solo-travel has given me.