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Solo Travel: Overcoming Challenges to Traveling Alone

Solo travel is exciting. It’s an opportunity to grow as a human being and to see parts of the world that are totally new and different. I love solo travel, and I love that solo travel can bring right, new experiences to our lives and help us grow.

Often, solo travel is an opportunity to get to know ourselves in a different way. We, especially as solo female travelers, often are defined by – and define ourselves by, the people who surround us and by what those people say that we are. When we travel solo, setting off all alone on an adventure that’s challenging and at times overwhelming, we have a unique opportunity to relearn who we are- and who we want to be- apart from the expectations of others. This learning opportunity makes solo travel incredibly enriching for many individuals- and is often part of a significant transition in life.

Becoming a solo traveler includes many challenges. In this, my resources on solo travel, you’ll find a basic guide to solo travel, both practical and psychological dimensions.

A solo female traveler wade in an infinity pool in morocco

Preparing and Packing for Solo Travel

If you’ve ever packed badly for a trip what someone who has, you know just how disruptive to travel it can be when you find yourself on the road without what you need! When we are traveling solo, we don’t have anyone to borrow things from, so it’s important to be extra thoughtful about packing and preparing for a great trip. To help you plan ahead and make good decisions as you pack for your trip, I’ve collected some resources:

Things to take on Solo Travel

When you travel alone, it’s up to you to have what you need and you to have the resources you need (or the resources to get it or make it) When I travel, I always travel with a few raw materials so I can be adaptable and create some of the things I might need on the road!

Preventing Theft

Safety is paramount when you are traveling solo. Although solo international travel is far safer our parents and grandparents might fear (and than it was in their generation!) it’s still important to develop habits and practices to keep your personal belongings safe. To that end, I’ve curated some resources to help solo travelers stay safe and be proactive about belongings and personal safety. Simple proactive measures like making it easy to keep track of important possessions and hard to lose them. Some of these simple habits I’ve collated into a document called 4 easy, essential ways to keep your wallet and passport safe during solo travel.

Personal Safety

Beyond just preventing theft, personal safety while traveling solo extends to finding ways to actively prevent yourself from becoming a victim of crime.

Be Wary of Anyone too Friendly too Quickly

Making friends with locals and other travelers is something all solo travelers hope for, but there are those who will take an eager openness to conversations and use it for criminal purposes. Essential to staying safe on the road is remaining very aware of your surroundings, and vigilant for those who might befriend you with nefarious intent.

As a solo traveler, I do so highly encourage conversation with locals other Travelers, but be wary of someone two nice or a little too friendly. Or someone who behaves as though they are your best friend after only having known you for a very short time. This can be a troubling warning sign of getting involved with someone struggling with an untreated personality disorder, and, even darker, is often a sign you are being targeted for a scam, assault, or even abduction (see a New York Times article that covers this genre of criminal schemes against solo travelers here).

Sometimes, meeting up serendipitously with a friendly, extroverted traveler who makes you feel welcomed, befriended, and your loneliness abate is actually the start of a scheme or a series of scams that prey on solo travelers. Be very careful about accepting invitations, meeting up with them in a second location.

A group of people board a plane in mexico.

Avoiding Scams as a Solo Traveler

While sometimes scammers pose as a friend, often their tactic is simple, aggressive, persistence. As a solo traveler, you can expect to be targeted more heavily by this type of scammer than if you were traveling with a group. Sometimes, you may find yourself unable to escape unwanted attention from a scammer or persistent street seller. These interactions will challenge your assertiveness and boundaries, but knowing in advance how to handle recognize and handle these scammers can help you be more prepared and ready with a response. Link to how to avoid conversations with scammers. Remember to be firm, boundaried, but not unkind: many persistent sellers are desperate to sell their wares to care for their family. Support local craftsmen and women through shopping in established markets or tourist shops that can verify goods are acquired fairly from local artisans (hint, most souvenirs in tourist shops around the world are manufactured and shipped from one region in Asia)

Traveling Solo in a Marginalized Body

We travel as embodied humans, and because we all have different bodies, we all have very different experiences in those bodies. I am a traveler who identifies as fat, and on several occasions during my travel, I have been “fat called,” harassed, or spoken about cruelly by those who anticipated I wouldn’t understand the language in which they degraded my body. Although my race, in many countries, affords me many embodied privileges as a traveler, because of my unique body’s characteristics I know what it’s like to feel threatened or uncomfortable based on the prejudice of others. For people in other bodies that experience marginalization here at home in North America, the circumstances may be different but the feeling the same. How do we still bravely set out on our travels, fully present to our bodies, and able to enjoy our solo travel, when we don’t always feel safe? Read more in my article on plus-size solo travel for a description of what it’s been like for me to travel on several continents as a fat woman.  I recommend for all travelers to grow an awareness of how their particular body or identity might be engaged by others while traveling, and practice skills to balance blending in (when blending in is a privilege that is an option) with boldly being seen.

For more content on solo travel, see these related articles: