I’ve spent more time on the road than I have at home over the past two and half years. I joke that I’ve probably spent more hours asleep on a United plane than I have in my own bed. An amazing combination of a job that sends me to every Levo community around the globe mixed with a personal passion for seeing the world has led to a lot of hours in different cities, countries, and continents as a solo female traveler.
The decision to take a trip alone, especially internationally, is a choice that I hope every woman makes in her lifetime. Whether it’s during your formative college years or when you’re gray and 80, it’ll touch a special part of your soul in a way few other experiences can. [Read: How I Took off a Month from Work to Travel]
But traveling solo can be a tricky thing. Whether you’re in India or Mexico, these peace-of-mind tips can help you wherever you do go. And just so you know, most of these come from having personally made them myself: luckily, with little consequence. Two-hundred thousand plus miles later, you learn a thing or two.
Whether this is your first solo trip or your 10th, don’t make these mistakes:
Before You Go:
1. Not sharing your travel plans.
From flight numbers, to hotel stays, to villa-landlord numbers, make sure they know where you should be in case something were to go wrong. They’d know how to track you down. I went on a trip to the other side of the world once, realizing there wasn’t a soul on this planet that knew where I was supposed to be and when besides me. Not smart. It takes two seconds to forward confirmations and itineraries.
2. Not putting thought into your currency.
From debit cards to credit cards, they need to know you’re going abroad or they’ll put that plastic on lockdown. Coming from the girl that once ended up in a foreign country with just a bit of un-usable USD and cards that didn’t work for 24 hours…it’s not a fun one to learn the hard way.
[Related: How to Get Work Done While Traveling]
3. Being medically unprepared.
Ohhhhh Delhi Belly. Or Bali Belly. Or foreign country belly. This is a broad spectrum antibiotic that you take if disaster hits your tummy. Take the 30 minutes out of your day to have your doctor call it in for you.
4. Only having your passport.
While you shouldn’t plan on losing your passport, it’s good to have back up just in case. I make a copy and put it in each one of my bags AND keep a picture on my camera roll. I’m hoping that I’ll never have to be glad I did.
5. Assuming your phone will work.
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But you want to make sure. I always call before I head out and have my provider add on an international package for me so I can text, iMessage, and make a call here and there if I really needed to. It costs anywhere from $30-$60 dollars for a package if you do it ahead of time. Otherwise you’ll pay a lot in money and inconvenience if you wait until after the fact.
While you’re there:
1. Saying your room number out loud.
I still make this mistake. It requires being very mindful. Because whether you’re having towels sent up to your room or ordering a coffee, hotel staff needs to know what room you’re in. Make sure that in a crowded lobby you never say it out loud. Simply point to the number on your room key or hold up your phone with the number in your notes.
2. Letting the driver take you directly home.
Once upon a time last week I snagged a motorbike taxi (basically hitchhiking lol) and as I directed him where to go, I was like my god, I’m basically showing this stranger where I live. When I realized what I had done, I had him drop me off at a house a few blocks away from mine. I paid him and walked up the driveway as if it was mine. If you’re ever taking unregulated transportation, this is a good one to keep in mind.
3. You left your ring-finger bare.
While I rock my singledom, there are some countries that I’ve been to that a tall red-head sticks out like a sore thumb. And in cultures that will naturally leave you alone if they think your husband is right around the corner. I basically take around an imaginary husband with me to many developing countries. And I have my grandmother’s band on the wrong finger to prove it.
4. No one has a clue where you are for weeks.
When you’re traveling alone, part of the beauty of the experience is your complete uninhibited freedom. But, people should also know your vague whereabouts just in case. My favorite way to track this without feeling like I’m having to check in is the app Find Friends. My whole family has me on it so they can get updates when I change locations. It gives me peace of mind that my parents know where I am halfway across the globe…And I’m sure they enjoy it too.
5. Traveling in your safety bubble.
This may seem contradictory to the rest of this post that’s all caution! caution! caution! But travel wouldn’t be as exhilarating if you didn’t throw caution to the wind every once in a while. When you do, just make calculated “mistakes.” Ones that you think through and then decide to go for adventure anyways. I’ve done this from 4 hour long bike rides on the back of my guide’s motorcycle, to whiskey on a rooftop at midnight with a bunch of strangers, or renting scooters that I have no idea how to drive. To get the most out of your trip, step out of your safety box, just be smart about it.
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Photo: Chris Tobin / Getty Images