Traveling and immersing yourself in new cultures can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life, and doing it alone can be a very different and powerful experience. You will meet interesting new people, see incredible sights, and get to know yourself better. If you’ve travelled enough, chances are you have a horror story or two about the time you got lost and couldn’t find your hotel, showed up for your flight on the wrong day, or were even pick pocketed. It’s almost a rite of passage – but certainly one you should do your best to avoid!
No one should let fear and anxiety keep them from having the trip of a lifetime. If you’re careful, away, and rely on your common sense, you’ll have a fantastic time and come back overflowing with exciting stories to tell. Just take a few basic precautions, and go book that trip you’ve been dreaming of!
- Copy, Copy, Copy
Don’t leave without multiple photocopies of all your important documents — your passport, driver’s license, visa, traveler’s insurance, and health insurance. If you get into any trouble, you’ll be glad you protected the most important things! Keep one copy easily accessible at all times, one in your hotel room, and one permanently online on a service like google docs or dropbox, or emailed to a friend or family member. As for the originals, they should always be in the safest place available to you. If your hotel does not have a locked safe, keep your most important documents on your person.
- Keep a Secret Money Stash
Duh, right? But the important point here is to hide it in several different places. Keep only a few small bills in your wallet, enough for one day’s worth of shopping or mail. That way you’ll never accidentally flash a wad of big bills when you’re hurrying to get change for the bus. Not only would that be a tempting target for crooks, it could also show vendors that it would be worth their time to overcharge you. Just in case your main bag is snatched or left behind, carry an emergency stash of money in a hidden place, like a shoe, concealed pocket, or undergarment. Make sure you always have at least enough money hidden on you to get back to your hotel if you were to need it.
- Hug Your Bags Close
Hopefully, of course, you’ll never have any need of that emergency stash! To protect yourself from thieves, never let your bag out of your arms in public. If your bag has a shoulder strap, put it over your head so that it is harder for for someone to snatch and run off. If you’re worried, consider investing in a slash-proof bag with reinforced straps. Backpacks are practical, it’s true, but it’s easy for a pickpocket to get behind you in line and ease those zippers open without you feeling a thing. On public transportation, don’t just set your bag on the seat beside you, loop an arm through the strap and hold it in your lap if possible. Finally, if you’re distracted pulling things out or talking to a cashier, keep your bag between your legs or between you body and the counter to make it harder to grab and run.
- Call Mom
No matter who it is, make sure you leave a full copy of your itinerary with someone back home, and schedule a regular check in time with them. Someone should always have a general idea of where you are, and no when you’ve arrived there safely. If phone calls for skype don’t make sense, Whatsapp can be counted on almost anywhere in the world.
- Keep your Maps a Secret
If you lose your way, no problem — you brought maps! But be careful to never take out a map or check your smart phone in the streets. It just screams “I’m a tourist, I’m vulnerable and I’m not paying attention.” Instead, duck inside a cafe for a few moments while you get your bearings and head back out with confidence.
Finally, it’s a good idea to register with the U.S. Department of State. If anything important happens back home or in the country you’re visiting, they’ll give you the information you need ASAP. They even have a handy Smart Traveler app.
You can check out some more tips here. Most of all, remember to have fun! Be careful, but also know that sometimes the unexpected or even scary moments will become your best stories and your favorite memories. Bon voyage!