It’s especially important for solo travel that you do some research about the countries you are going to. Some countries are notoriously dangerous and always make the travel advisory list. Others have specific issues you need to be aware of, and more so if you plan on solo travel. However, if you are informed and aware, you will likely not find trouble. (This is not to say that going to a country in the middle of a civil war, or traveling through jungles known for violent gang activity is safe. Of course, if you are going to Somalia or the likes, that is a whole different story. Not only will you be required to hire a personal bodyguard, but you might want to start praying too!)
It’s not a bad idea to read your government’s travel advisories, but don’t let them scare you off of going; remember that anything you do in life, including walking out your front door and driving down your street, carries danger. It is up to you to determine if the odds are strong enough to discourage you from doing something, as well as to make sure that you inform yourself so that you can take precautions to avoid many danger scenarios. Also, assess yourself honestly. Not everyone is cut out for solo travel. If you are very shy and find it painfully difficult or torturous to talk to random people, perhaps your should travel in a group. If you find yourself nervous or fearful in neighborhoods you don’t know, or so suspicious of people’s intentions that you can’t let your guard down, solo travel may not be for you. The point is to be alert and aware.
Solo travel: Doing your research and being prepared
In general, trouble strikes solo travelers most when they simply aren’t paying attention. Good resources for country-specific information are Lonely Planet guidebooks, which also give details on current scams happening in each area, as well as your government’s travel advice website. Don’t let it scare you, however; government sites seem to exagerate. The point is to be informed and aware. If you know what to look out for and act accordingly, you should be fine.
It’s a good idea to invest in a few things that will make you feel more safe and secure, such as a good money belt with wire waistband, a belt with built-in money stash, and a bag with strap that crosses your body. A hat which can help obscure your gender and nationality, GPS and whistle are some other items that are worth carrying if they will help you feel more secure. Do what you need to do to make yourself feel comfortable to solo travel; it is well worth it!
Solo travel versus traveling with a friend or group
Deciding on solo travel necessitates being more aware and cautious. Traveling in a group of course give some safety just from sheer numbers, and the luxury of letting your guard down a little. Please don’t let that discourage you, however; there are so many reasons to travel solo, and in doing so you are more open to meeting people who can not only enrich or transform your experience and perception of a place, but also become friends for life. I highly recommend solo travel. Just because you board that first flight alone, does not mean that you are relegated to solo travel forever. On the contrary, as a solo traveler you will be more approachable for other travelers and often the people you meet on the road can be more compatible with your travel style than your friends at home (the ones who couldn’t go because of their job, boyfriend, or fear of staying in hostels…). Sadly, many friends leave their country for a big international trip together and don’t return friends. Travel, and especially solo travel tests your character; traveling with a friend tests your relationship.