Traveling alone can be as easy as just booking a flight and jetting off. But if you are doing this for the first time, it takes much time and courage to actually decide to embark on a trip. Throughout your decision making process, there would always be voices convincing you to dispel this thought (particularly if you are female). By voicing their concerns, raising objections and telling you how bad it can be, they hope to scare you from the seemingly awful idea of traveling alone.
1. “It’s so dangerous, you may die”
Almost everybody said that to me when I first mentioned my thought of traveling solo. However, soon I realized that none of them have actually been to the places I suggested. They have heard bad news from the media and have taken these isolated cases as the norm in those places. I would suggest that you talk to people who have really visited these places before. Their answers are probably very different from that of your dissuaders.
Moreover, if misfortunes were to befall, they don’t have to wait until you go on a trip because they can happen anytime, anywhere. Why let your fear for the unlikely scare you from doing what you want?
Photo credit: Intrepid Motion
2. “What if…”
What if you lose your way? What if you miss your flight? What if there’s an earthquake? What if you hurt yourself? What if you get scammed? What if you meet a robber? ……
When “what ifs” happen, does it really matter if you are alone or with a group of friends? In Tokyo or Singapore? When a problem arises, solve it. Whether you are traveling alone or not does not matter because you will simply employ your same thinking processes to respond to various situations. If you lose your way, ask for directions or use your GPS. If you get robbed, make a police report. If you can do that at home, what is stopping you from doing that anywhere else?
Furthermore, having to deal with unexpected situations enhances your alertness to your surroundings, and forces you to become more flexible and independent as a person. As a result, the more you travel solo, the chances of “what ifs” happening gets reduced greatly, since you would have done your research about what you need to be cautious of, or gained experiences from having travelled.
Photo credit: Namita Kulkarni
3. “But you are a girl”
My mum constantly implants her idea of “females should not travel alone because the world is extremely dangerous” in me by discussing ‘relevant’ incidents, such as the gang-raped Japanese tourist in New Delhi.
It is true that sometimes, you don’t have control over the external environment and what is going to happen. It is also true that females do seem like ‘easy targets’ of crime. However, that does not mean that you are entirely powerless and weak.
Do your homework. Understand the local culture and customs, not only to respect the locals but also to prevent getting into unpleasant situations. For example, if you are going to a Muslim city where females dress conservatively, don’t wear revealing clothes.
Know what are the potential hazards and avoid them. While enjoying your freedom, be very alert. If you feel that something is not right, have a contingency plan in mind to counter any encounters. If you are alert and have a plan on how to escape the situation, bad people can’t take advantage of you even if you are a female.
4. “You better go with a partner so that you guys can take care of each other”
Let me show you another perspective by telling you some of my personal travel experiences.
Last year, my friend S and I were in Sydney. Everything went quite well until the very last ride to the Sydney Airport (International). Since taxi fares in Australia were expensive, we decided to use the public transport. We went by the rail station but decided to take a bus instead since S had access to GPS, and so she would know exactly which bus stop to alight at, and we still had more than 1.5 hours of buffer time (which is 3.5 hours prior to departure).
However, we still missed our stop and the bus entered a highway. That one stop on the highway was about 10 minutes away and I believe you know how far a 10-minute bus drive is. We tried to wait for another bus from the opposite direction, and then we tried to flag a cab and even attempted to hitch a ride but neh, there was NOTHING. After a long while of trying to get some kind of transport out of the highway, we gave up and decided to just walk back. As expected, we missed our flight back to Singapore. If S did not have GPS and we didn’t have so much confidence in Google Maps, would we still have missed the flight?
Through my prior travel experience, the most important safety tip I got is to act like a local, which makes you less of a target for crime. One of most obvious ways of not acting like a local is to walk around holding a large map. And the worst, to open that big map in the middle of a crowded street. This is the same as telling everyone “I am a tourist, come rob me”. So that happened several times when my group of friends and I were in Hong Kong.
Just because you have travel partners does not necessarily mean that you are safer or better off. Sometimes, the potential enemy might just be your travel partner.
Photo credit: Localeur
If you are thinking of a solo trip, I encourage you to be brave and just go for it. It will be incredible. If other people manage to scare you so much into not travelling, maybe you should ask yourself what you really desire, instead of just doing what other people tell you to.
Still unsure? Check out our previous post on how to travel solo.
Written by: Han Yu Chen