How To Get Lit But Stay Safe When You’re Traveling Solo
Eat Pray Love may have peaked with the film adaptation in 2010, but that doesn’t mean a girl’s desire to travel solo to a foreign country has curbed. In fact, we’d argue that it’s stronger than ever. These days it seems like everyone knows at least one person who moved to Thailand to teach English or a friend of a friend who started a successful travel blog.
Chances are, you’re at least a tiny bit jealous of these people, especially if you’re confined to a boring desk job in the US of A — which currently seems to be falling apart.
But whether you’re planning a short summer vacay to Bali solo or you’re saving up just enough so you can quit your job and travel full time, you’ve probably worried about safety. After all, it’s dangerous enough dealing with men in the US, but what about dealing with men in a country where you don’t even speak the same language? Or have friends and family to make sure you’re safe?
We talked to Jen Morrilla, the blogger behind The Social Girl Traveler, about how she’s traveled alone for the past few years without compromising her love of partying, but always manages to stay safe. Take notes!
What’s the best way to make new friends while traveling alone?
First off, you have to be open to making new friends while traveling. If you’re traveling solo, you’re more likely to make new friends than if you’re traveling with a friend.
If you are traveling solo and you’re looking for a good way to connect with other solo travelers, hostels are so helpful and if you’re not a fan then I would suggest an app called Travello App. It’s where solo travelers have the opportunity to meet other solo travelers. I’ve used it a few times and have met some pretty cool people. But certainly the easiest way is staying at hostels or jumping on a group tour.
When do you feel safe going to a new friend’s apartment in a new country?
I usually have only been ‘invited’ to a friend’s house when I’ve been living in a country for a while. Usually when I am traveling solo, if I want to make friends, I will stay in a hostel. When I am in hostel I am more likely to make friends and go out or ‘party’ with those people. I usually don’t go to anyone’s house until I’ve really gotten to know them.
I am also a big believer in intuition. And if for someone reason I’ve met someone and my gut tells me there is something wrong, I listen to that 100%. Listening to my gut is so important. I truly think as women we have much stronger feeling about things than men do.
Have you ever been in situations that made you uncomfortable and how did you get out of the situation?
Oh absolutely! I think if you travel as much as I do, it’s bound to happen. Thank God nothing major has happened. A good example is one time when I was living in London, I was walking home from a night out and I had the cab driver drop me off a block away from my flat because I was a little nervous about letting him know where I lived. I lived alone at the time and he asked a lot of questions. I don’t like when people ask too much questions.
Anyways, he dropped me off and I was walking, only about a block and half away from my flat. I lived on a quiet street so I was walking and I noticed a kid come around the corner as soon as I passed. I turned to watch him and he crossed the street (to my side) and started walking faster to me.
In London its very common for people to get mugged by kids. And lets be real, I am a girl and this kid was a pretty big kid. I always travel with pepper spray, pocket knife, and a whistle, so I saw him walking towards me and I had my keys between my knuckles and my whistle in my hand. I turned around and started walking much faster. I was in heels. Probably only like two houses away.
He knew I knew what he was doing because he stopped right next to me and said, “Hey! Girl.” It completely scared me, so I blew my whistle as loud as I could. It scared him, because he stopped and said, “Fuck,” and I ran. When I ran into my building I locked the door as quickly as I could and he was right behind me banging on the door. I called the police right after.
I think the most important thing is to be aware and alert! It’s about using your common sense, being aware, and honestly relying on strangers if you need help. I’ve had many other situations where strangers have saved my situation. Not everyone is evil! But common sense is very important.
What’s the safest way to travel from place to place while traveling solo?
I think that depends on what country you’re traveling in and obviously budget is a big factor. If budget isn’t a factor, then usually planes are the safest. If you’re traveling from city to city in Thailand, then bus or train. Most buses and trains in South East Asia have Economy, First Class, Lower Class, etc. So you can pick and choose what you’re comfortable with. Some even have all female trains.
If you’re traveling in South America, sometimes it isn’t the safest to ride a bus, but sometimes it’s the only way you can get to where you’re trying to go. In those cases, I would highly recommend finding/making friends and inviting them to join you. You will feel safer.
How do you politely decline drinks from strangers?
I am at an age where I’ve learned that if you really don’t want it, just say “no, thank you” and it’s cool. If the person keeps on pushing or maybe they get the drink for you anyways, you don’t have to drink it. You said no. They will live and you will most likely never see them again.
Do you worry about getting too drunk when you’re in an unfamiliar country? Would it be different if you were traveling with other people?
Who doesn’t worry about that? It’s easier when you’re traveling with people you know because we have each other’s backs, but when you’re solo it’s certainly scary. I really try to not over-drink. It also really depends on the type of “drunk” you are. Are you a wanderer? Like, if you start drinking with friends at a pub and you drink too much will you disappear halfway through the night? Are you a sleepy drunk? Are you going to pass out after x drinks? These are things you need to be honest with yourself about.
I am a fun, can’t stop dancing drunk. So if there’s a dance floor, I am there. I always keep my eyes out for familiar faces. Also, I am kinda of a mom so I am usually keeping an eye out for everyone, no matter how drunk I am.
Do you carry any sort of defense mechanism with you? Why or why not?
I always travel with pepper spray, a pocket knife, and a whistle. I believe those things will give me a head start to run or scream for help.
Any other female solo travel tips?
Besides really trying to use your common sense, I would suggest trying not to stick out so much. Like, don’t wear fancy clothes or expensive jewelry or shoes. Try not to stick out if you’re traveling solo and going out. Try and blend it with the backpackers! And try not to stay out too late.
Oh! Another thing, Don’t walk home from places at 3 am. Pay for a cab home. I promise that cab will be cheaper than if anything actually happened because you were trying to “save money.”