How to Safely Travel Solo on Your Career Break
The recent death of a New York mother, Sarai Sierra, while traveling in Istanbul has led to scrutiny over whether it is safe for women to travel solo. Many comments on articles about the incident have asked why Sierra was traveling alone or have stated strongly that women should not travel on their own overseas.
Obviously, here at Meet, Plan, Go! we support, and even encourage everyone to travel solo – male and female. We also understand that incidents like the killing in Istanbul or the recent gang rape in Delhi, India, raise questions for individuals who may be considering traveling solo on their career break – especially if they have not previously traveled alone. To that end, we’d like to share five safety tips to keep in mind as you set out on your journey.
1. Let someone know where you’re going.
If you have a fixed itinerary, give it to friends and family before leaving, including information about where you are staying and any planned activities. On the other hand, if you tend to travel more spur of the moment, keep loved ones updated through social media – email, tweet or update your status on Facebook to let people know where you are and what you’re doing. Also take a minute to register with the U.S. State Department so they know you are in the country in case of political unrest or natural disasters.
2. Dress appropriately.
Women should be careful to dress conservatively in countries with more conservative cultures. Covering shoulders and knees and avoiding low-cut or tight clothing will help to defray unwanted attention from men and will help you blend in more. Furthermore, both men and women are less likely to stand out as tourists by dressing as the locals do and by not wearing expensive watches or other jewelry that thieves might target.
3. Expect to be safe
This doesn’t mean be naïve or oblivious to the risks – it means adjusting your attitude so you expect good things to happen as you travel, making decisions to maximize your safety and exuding confidence. As Lash World Tour explains:
“[I]magine a different traveler who goes out into the world nervous, scared, worried about their safety. What kind of body postures, facial expressions, eye expressions, and vibe do you think they’re going to exude? Do you think people -particularly importantly here ‘bad’ people- are going to pick up on that, either consciously or subconsciously? Of course they are. Will that traveler seem vulnerable, an easy target? Quite likely.”
4. Do your research
While some travel tips are universal, others may be specific to certain cities or countries. Refer to guidebooks, online travel forums or even simple Google searches to find out what neighborhoods you should avoid in your destination. Likewise, read up on what typical scams might so you know what to watch out for. Understand what the cultural norms are in the countries you are visiting so you don’t inadvertently offend someone with your actions.
5. Talk to locals and make friends.
As children, we are often taught not to talk to strangers. And when you are traveling alone in an unfamiliar place, it may be tempting to keep your guard way up in an effort to protect yourself. But to do so would be to miss out on one of the best aspects of traveling – meeting people! Not to mention, when you make friends wherever you are traveling, those people can advise you about where to go and what to avoid. More importantly, your new friends are more likely to look out for you if something goes wrong.
For more safety tips and perspective, see Travel Tips and Safety Advice For Your Career Break, as well as these posts from top female travel bloggers:
Solitary Wanderer: 5 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone
A Dangerous Business: Dear Dad: Please Don’t Worry (A Treatise on Solo Female Travel)
Journeywoman: She Travels Solo
Adventurous Kate: The Truth About Solo Female Travel and Safety
Travel Yourself: Yes, It is Safe to Travel Solo as a Female
Katie Going Global: No, It’s Not Stupid to Travel Solo
Flora The Explorer: Happy, Safe and Solo: Travelling in India by Yourself
Hole In The Donut Cultural Travel: Traveling Safely
Solo Traveler: Am I the Pollyanna of Solo Travel?
Grrrl Traveler: Is Solo Travel Still Safe for Women? …6 Safety Tips that make it so.
WAVEJourney – Women’s Adventures, Vacations & Experiences!: Travel Tips: Female Solo Travel Safety
Also be sure to follow the #WeGoSolo hashtag on Twitter and join the conversation this Wednesday, February 13, 11-11:30 a.m. EST.