1. Be aware of your surroundings
I don’t mean for you to be tense and constantly flinching at any sudden movement like you’re in a horror movie. Thinking Freddie Krueger or Jason is right around the corner. I mean when you get that guttural feeling you’re in the wrong place, leave that place physically and immediately. Even if the church or whatever attraction you want to visit is right around the corner.
On my travels I have been lost numerous times. I have a tendency to lose my sense of direction even inside a shopping mall in Toronto. So maps are great.This past summer I took a bus from Singapore to Melaka Malaysia. Instead of going to a bus terminal, for some odd reason that I don’t understand, the bus driver dropped us off at the side of a busy street. Typically I heavily rely on the info desk at bus terminals, train stations and airports for maps and directions to my hotel. This time I had nothing. The others from the bus scurried on their way and disappeared before I could ask them for help. I was left to fend for myself.As scared as I felt, luckily it was early in the afternoon the sun was shining, actually baking hot is a more accurate description. I just started walking in a direction and found a store with a lady working inside. I showed her the address to my hotel and she pointed in the direction I have been traveling. Well at least I know I was on the right track. My sigh of relief came when I saw my hotel across the river and noticed a footbridge not too far away.
So my advice – chose to ask for help from women, older adults, people with children, people in uniform or store clerks. When I was lost in Buenos Aires, I stopped at many newspaper kiosks to ask for directions. Remember, fellow travelers are great for help as well.
When I travel I try not to look like a tourist. My camera stays inside my bag and not around my neck. But I do sometimes carry the camera with the strap wrapped around my wrist because I have a trigger friendly finger. I also have a Canadian flag stitched onto my daypack for easy identification. However, I do not fan out my map in the middle of the street. I keep it fold at a manageable size, to the area that I’m visiting that day. This is why most of my maps are shredded by the end of the trip. Also, I tend to step into a store or bank to look at my map, if I feel extra vulnerable. This way, I can also ask the store clerk or security guard for help.
5. Keep expensive/sentimental jewelries at home in the safe deposit box
If you’re married or engaged, swap your diamond ring for something simpler. Do no bring the family heirloom necklace nor the earrings from your great-aunt Zelda. I’ve known friends who has a backup wedding band that’s cheap that they only wear when traveling. This way, no tears will be shed when you lose it or [knock on wood] when a robbery happens.
If you’re worried about getting questioned about your marital status – I HAVE told white lies before to deter unsolicited men!! I’ll tell them that my boyfriend/husband is at the hotel. In a few countries, I have worn a plain ring on my wedding ring finger. Men (old and young) in South America likes to strike up a conversation and within the first 3 question, it will be about my marital status! Men in Asia doesn’t even ask. So be warned!
Extra Thought: How to deal with anxiety
Trust me, I’ve had my share of anxiety attacks while traveling solo. It may take a lot of deep cleansing breaths. Talking to myself aloud or inside my head or under my breath helps sometime. Sometimes I have to work myself into excitement and look forward to another day of exploring the world on my own. It’s worse if I’m not feeling well or if it’s that time of the month for me. So when it’s necessary just take a day off from the pressures of being a tourist.
As an extra note – I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or because of population density or a bit of both – many places I have been to, they are not as respectable regarding personal space. I still remember when I was walking through the market in India after the bombing, men walked super close to me, intentionally, and peered into my tote bag. So be warned and remember to use bags and purses with zippers!! Preferably worn across the body or in front – especially in crowded areas.
Yes it can be daunting to travel solo but it’s all worth it in hindsight.