It’s commonplace these days to see or hear about your friends’ solo adventures, be it through their stories or Instagram posts with the hashtags “wanderlust”. However, for many people the idea of solo traveling – being in a foreign land without the linguistic skills to communicate, or the know-how to get around – is daunting. To take some of fear out of it for first-timers, we’ve put together a helpful guide to flying solo.
Start on “easy mode”
Everyone walks before they learn to run. The trick behind solo traveling is to build up your confidence navigating a foreign land. Visit places like Bangkok, Taiwan, Korea or even Malaysia. In doing so, you’ll realise that navigating your way through a foreign land isn’t so difficult after all, even if you don’t speak the local language.
While some people can dive into a completely new culture with no plans or itinerary, others might be uncomfortable at the thought of not knowing where to go, what to do or even where to eat. Our suggestion? Plan for at least one thing to do a day – it could be a specific café or restaurant, a tourist attraction or even a short shopping trip – and then build your day from there. And remember, Google is your best friend when it comes to sourcing out nearby things to do or places to eat.
Meet up with fellow travelers
If the thought of not having any company while on the road makes you uncomfortable, then meeting up with fellow travelers is the perfect solution. The most basic way would be to stay at a hostel, where it’s almost impossible to not meet people. Contrary to their reputation, hostels these days are typically clean and comfortable, with some even offering ensuite bathrooms and room cleaning services. Most importantly, of course, they will usually have free Wi-Fi! One such hostel would be the Mad Monkey Hostel which has quite a few hostels all over Asia. Most of its patrons are young adults who are out to make friends and meet new people so this might not be a bad place to drop by!
If staying at a hostel doesn’t sound like your thing, fear not: there are dozens of apps out there, all designed to link you up with fellow travelers who share the same interests. One such app is Meetup, which allows you to search for activities based on location, interests and even the sort of people you would like to meet.
Have an emergency pharmacy
It’s never fun falling sick overseas but there’s always a chance it can happen, so best be prepared: you don’t want a mild flu or fever to completely ruin the mood of your entire trip. Certain countries such as Japan, do not sell simple over-the-counter medication at convenience stores. To procure medicine, you would have to visit a pharmacy which may not be open at all hours. Having a stash of your own medication is certainly a good idea. We recommend, paracetamol, flu medication and charcoal tablets in case the local cuisine does not agree with you.
One of the biggest problems when traveling is the lack of connectivity, or sometimes accidentally incurring jaw-dropping auto-roaming charges. Fortunately, most airports nowadays have affordable local SIM cards on sale with data plans to suit just about anyone’s needs. In the era of the smartphone – with Google Maps and myriad travel apps to assist you while on the road – staying connected is often a must.
Stash some spare cash
Traveling alone in a foreign country, probably the number one fear is losing your wallet, with all your credit cards and cash. The idea of being penniless in a strange place can indeed be terrifying. What’s the safest solution? Always have some emergency funds separate from your spending money. This way, should disaster strike you will always have some backup funds to tide you over. A sensible amount to keep would be a day’s worth of spending money plus enough for transport to the airport.
Last of all… have fun!
No trip is complete without a positive attitude. Traveling in a foreign country alone can be scary but it’s also a huge adventure and can be very liberating. Solo travel means doing whatever you want, when you want and it’s a great way to discover things about yourself. Embrace the culture and people around you and you’ll not only survive traveling solo, you may also find it developing into an addiction.