Recently I wrote an article called ‘Advantages of Travelling Solo‘ where I talked about all the things you will be gaining or experiencing when travelling solo. I cannot emphasise enough on this; it just works and it works wonders! You should really check it out if you are skeptical about travelling solo.
Here I remember one quote by Henry David Thoreau –
"The man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready."
Maybe you always had this idea of travelling solo or you got inspired after reading my blog, you need to take the first step right? And the first step would be preparing yourself for it.
I have divided this blog into two broad parts – Before the Trip and On the Trip to share my points better.
Before the trip
Pick a place you feel will be safe
I congratulate you that you are thinking of making a solo trip and let me tell you, this is the best decision you will ever take. Trust me! Now as you want to do your first solo trip, the one step that comes without telling is ‘choosing a place’.
When it comes to choosing your destination, it would be clever to choose something that you feel safe. Like for example, I am from Guwahati, Assam. If I wanted to make my first solo trip, I would choose a place like Jorhat (my maternal uncle’s place) or Shillong, Meghalaya (the favourite weekend spot for all Guwahatians). These places are usually packed with people I know and so would be great for me to start with. Same for you, if you are planning to start, start small to get some practice.
If you want to go some distant place, I would suggest you to do some homework and know how your shortlisted places are in welcoming tourists because a lot of places aren’t quite tourist friendly and you, being an amateur, might face a lot of discomforts. [Image Source]
Convincing your family
After you have crossed one little pebble-sized hurdle of choosing the best place to travel, the next big hurdle would be convincing your parents and your closed ones whose decisions might alter every plan of yours. Literally.
When it comes to convincing, you need to play it safe.
Firstly, know as much as possible about the place you are going to visit because you need to be ready with the missile-like questions that will be thrown towards you once you announce.
Secondly, when you go to announce, I would advice you to take a mild path instead of directly throwing your decision onto their face. Yes, things will be different for different types of parents – some parents might be super cool about this, for some you might have to start building the atmosphere for months before you are planning and for some – well, you may not have any chance at all. Sorry for you guys. :p
Convince them that this is what you would love to do. You will always stay in touch during the travel. You know everything that needs to know about the place. You know what to eat, where to go and where to stay. You also convince that you aren’t going to eat anything from any stranger.
This isn’t practical because everyone will be a stranger to you but it will surely give them a sense of satisfaction when you are in a foreign land. [Image Source]
Get your documents straight
If you are someone who doesn’t want to land up in jail or an office for hours because you lost your documents or maybe doesn’t have them at all, then I would suggest to get them all with you. Documents like Passport, Visa, Driving License, your other identity proofs – everything should be with you.
To be on the safe side, always make digital copies of them and mail them to yourself, your family and your friends. Also make copies and store those in cloud services like Google Drive, etc. This will save you a lot of hassle if you somehow misplace them and need to apply for a fresh one. [Image Source]
Check if you know someone or have any mutual friend in your new place
If you are going to a new place, I would advice you to do some research and find out somehow who might have visited that place before or stays there already. This helps you out in a lot of ways like knowing all the good and bad places, what to do and what not to do. There are places which might be completely opposite to the culture you were raised in – you don’t want to be that traveller who upsets locals along the way. Not a wise thing to do.
It is always better to find someone you know or make friends with some locals – ideally before visiting. That will be your best move. [Image Source]
Book the first few days of accommodation in advance
It is best to book a few days of accommodation in advance at the place you are travelling, unless you have someone waiting for you at the other end. Booking the first few days in advance will save you the hassle of finding your place of stay in an unknown place where you do not know any street or people to talk to. [Image Source]
Practice solo travel to a place you know or close to where you stay
As this trip of yours is the first of its kind, you can start small by going to places near your hometown to get a hang of it. You can choose a place that you know well and spend some time there. You can use all the tips given in this blog and experiment there. You will have more confidence after you do such small solo travels before you jump onto your big journey.
Make a loose plan of your stay and the places you will visit
When we go through all the posts, blogs, videos of the place we are going to visit, we tend to get overwhelmed thinking how to cover all these places in such a little time. To help with that, make loose plans of your accommodation and the place you want/have to visit.
Suppose you are coming to Assam for 2 weeks, make a loose plan like you are going to stay 3 days in Guwahati in a hotel – visit and see all the places to see in and around Guwahati and then head to Sivasagar and spend the next 2 days there. Then you will go to Majuli and spend 2-3 days there, spend a day in Kaziranga and then head back to Guwahati. Then will spend 3 days in Meghalaya and watch all the beautiful places there. You can keep 2-3 days in buffer if some things come up.
Making such small loose plans can help us estimate the time of stay, places that can be visited, meeting your friends, etc. Make a loose plan and share with people close to you. More on this topic below. [Image Source]
Once the first few things are done, the next major task is to pack your bags. When travelling solo, it is always great to pack as light as possible.
Make an honest calculation of what you actually need and what you just want to carry with you. Just take what you need. There is no need to pack 10 different tees or tops for a one week journey to a place because in the end you will use only two of those or three at max. Pack your bag with the bare minimum and set off to the unknown land. Because, in the end, you wouldn’t want to be the traveller who is carrying around a huge suitcase which you need someone else to help you lift. And when it comes to budget travelling, a backpack is all you need. Depending on the climate of the region, you will need 2-3 tees, 2 pair of pants, one jacket (maybe), one shoe, one flip-flop, 3-4 pair of under wears, 2 pair of socks. Other things can be bought after your arrived at your destination. Those are the only things you will need. For me, at least that works great. [Image Source 1] [Image Source 2]
One pro-tip, pack your bag as light as possible – taking only the bare minimum, and then bring out 5 more items from the bag. You will be very thankful later in the trip for that decision. You can now travel light and walk more, you can bring in souvenirs now as well because you had that extra space in your bag.
On the Trip
Talk to the locals and follow the 3 person rule
When you are on the trip, it is always great to talk to the locals. They are your greatest source of information when you are away. Yes, there are times when there is a huge language barrier and most of the times, Google Translate will help. If there is Internet connection, there isn’t a great issue as you can translate the language or can show images of the things you might need. When you are out of any network, sign language can be something that you can use.
But as it will be your first solo trip, I do not think you will end up in a place where it is difficult to communicate with the locals. So you are saved on that part.
Now coming to the main point, it is best to talk to the locals but mind it, some locals might mislead you as well. Happened to me a lot of times. Instead of telling that they don’t know where a particular place is, the locals might direct you to some other direction – probably they thought it was there or just was in the mood of some fun. So the best practice will be to talk to 3 different people. If things matched, you are good to go. If it didn’t then increase the number to 4-5 people. You will end up getting the right information eventually.
Share your plans with people you are close to
When you are travelling solo, it is wise to take the steps which will mark your safety. One such step is letting your family or people close to you know where you are going and where you are staying. You should share your travelling plans, your location of stay or any other important information that might be helpful for them if by any chance you got into some trouble and need assistance. [Image Source]
Start early – every time, every thing!
If you are in an unknown or unfamiliar place, it is always great to travel during the day and avoid night-time as much as possible. Yes, you can do overnight journey by train or bus but doing night walks in-and-around the city isn’t something that should be in your bucket list. Most places aren’t people friendly during the night and the more you can avoid it – the better. [Image Source]
Trust your gut – always!
Your gut always works in favour of you. If you feel something isn’t right, it is always best to leave the spot right away. If you feel something will be good for you, do it. You will never regret your decision of following your gut. [Image Source]
This is important. When you are on a trip – be it solo or in group – do what the locals are doing. You do not want to be that person who can be recognised from 5 kms because you are wearing something completely different or doing something totally weird compared to the culture of that place. This sometimes might turn off the locals and they may not be ready to count you as one of them – which is bad.
Best way to travel is to be like the locals. Don’t we all get happy when a foreign girl wears a saree and walks down the street or a guy wearing a Dhoti with a Tilak on his forehead? This is universal. When you are in a distant place, blend in with the locals. [Image Source]
Carry Business Cards of all places you vist
It is very easy to get lost or forget the path to the place you were staying – there is a huge chance you might forget when you took the wrong turn and how to reach your hotel or the shop you just came from. So when you visit a place, it is always great if you could ask for their business card. You can use this card later to find your way back to where you were. [Image Source]
Keep some cash handy and hide it somewhere safe
As you will be travelling solo, there is also a huge chance that people might want to take advantage of you. You might get robbed or mugged in the street or in your hostel while you were asleep. Anything can happen. So it is great if you could keep some cash in hand and hide it somewhere safe – it can be inside your socks or shoes, can be in your underwear (properly wrapped in some plastic bag – you know the reasons :p) or anywhere else. These will help you a lot in desperate times. [Image Source]
So here you go. Hope that helped.
I will add more if I remember. Share it with your friends or family who you think might need to know these.
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Your Friendly Neighbourhood Traveller