When traveling abroad alone, safety is usually the main concern. This is even more true for women who dare to explore with only themselves to rely on. Since I am often asked about this, I figured I would write up my suggestions.
- Always let someone know your itinerary
I get it! It’s fun to just up and go. Whenever I book a trip, I rarely say anything about my plans until I am heading to the airport but once there – my family gets a detailed email from me. I include where I will be staying and the contact information I have for that place. I always leave a note on my desk with my account info for all of my travel messaging systems. It’s important for people back home to have some sort of footprint for you and not just in the the event of you disappearing but what if you’re injured and unable to contact anyone? This brings me to my next point..
- Develop a check in habit/system
Sign onto Skype twice a day, update your Facebook with your locations as often as possible. Take photographs and allow them to be geotagged. Maybe you email your sister every night a run down of what you did during the day. The point is to develop a habit so that those who know you will know when something isn’t right. I never worry when I travel because I know that if needed, my mother could board a plane and come right to the address and follow my footsteps digitally. Use social media as often as humanely possible when abroad.
- Use common sense
If you wouldn’t walk down a dark alley at 1am in Utah, why in the world would you do it in Panama? Just because you’re in a different country doesn’t mean you are covered by an invisible shield of defense. I am very aware as I explore each city and country. The balance is learning how to be consistently aware of your environment without allowing paranoia to set in or wearing the angry American scowl, I avoid bringing cash out in the sight of others, I keep my valuables close and tucked away, I don’t take candy from strangers (stranger danger!).
- Trust your instincts
This is similar to common sense but for argument sake, let’s say you didn’t use common sense and you’ve found yourself in a less than favorable situation. Trust your instincts! Learn to honor that voice inside of you that fights through all of your internal noise to send you a message. If your instincts tell you to leave while you see a cap outside of the restaurant, then go! Always think of your safety first.
- Know where you are
Find a bit of home no matter where you go. This is knowing where the embassy is, not just in theory but having the actual address and phone number on you at all times. I think this is the part many people forget to do. We remember to register our trips but fail to remember where to go in the event we need assistance once abroad. Put the info in your phone and also keep it written down in your journal or something physical. You may lose your phone in the ocean! it happens every day.
- So you’re going to wear all of your jewelry out? really??
Do you hear my sarcasm? In my travels I’ve always been alone. Not once have I found myself in danger and it’s because there are certain things you just don’t do to avoid extra attention. I don’t need all of my jewelry on and although walking along the beach at night as the waves crash ever so gently on the shore sounds beautiful – when alone, it’s dangerous. I may sound redundant but it goes back to common sense.
- Drinking is okay, but not getting drunk
Self responsibility and moderation is a beautiful thing. I limit my drinks when I travel and it’s during the day. I never get drunk and I sip water with my drink to help dilute it. I want no parts of drowsiness when alone in a foreign country. If you are a drinker and including a wine tour or beer tour on your journey, do it with a group tour. It’s far more safe than bar hopping.
- Be firm with your NO
Seriously. Being cute and coy isn’t advised. I learned that a stern no got my point across and I don’t make it habit hanging around to be hassled. You don’t need permission to be excused after you decline a drink, a dance, a date or whatever situation you may find yourself in.
- Talk to people! Be social!
It sounds odd but the more you speak to people, the less you look alone and the less you stand out in the crowd. I speak to everyone from the waitress to the people at the next table. I have regular conversation, I focus on those around me and appear as if I belong there. I smile and say hello just as I would at my favorite book store back home. The best piece of advice I’ve gotten was to develop a confidence when you walk down an unfamiliar street. Walk as if you always know where you are going.
Be aware, be cautious but lose the paranoia. Things unfortunately happen but in all truth, that’s life. No matter how much we prepare, it happens every second of every minute. Fear or paranoia can and will ruin your experience and not just in travel but in all facets of life. Listen to your instincts, use common sense and think but most of all – Enjoy yourself!