Adventure Travel 101: How to Travel Solo

the Atacama Desert of Northern Chile
••• Two travelers embark on an adventure in Chile. Kraig Becker

For adventure travelers, one of the biggest challenges is often finding someone to join us on our crazy journeys. After all, most people would rather spend a week relaxing on a beach, rather than pushing themselves to their physical limits while climbing Kilimanjaro. But for those of us who love a good adventure, that sounds like the perfect escape, which is why you shouldn't let a little thing like not having travel companions keep you from going.

Chances are, you'll still have an amazing experience, and you might make some great new friends along the way. 

But solo travel isn't always easy, which is why if you are going it alone you'll need to plan ahead a bit more, think about the safety considerations, and use the tools that you have to stay in communication as much as possible. Here are some good tips to help you do just that. 

Share Your Plan

When traveling alone it is always a good idea to share your itinerary with friends and family, even if it is just a rough outline of what you intend to do. That way they can not only follow along with your trip from afar, they'll know roughly where you should be at any given time as well. If by chance something should happen while you're traveling, at least they'll know where to start searching for you.

And should your travel plans change unexpectedly – which happens frequently – be sure to update the appropriate people back home as soon as possible.

Having an out-of-date itinerary doesn't do them much good if you're not where you say you're going to be. 

Be Safe

Safety is probably the biggest concern for solo travelers, as it is much easier to be preyed upon by a criminal element when you don't have someone looking out for you. But beyond those concerns, even health related matters can become a problem.

If you get sick and end up in a foreign hospital there may not be anyone to assist in checking you in, providing information to doctors, or letting family and friends back home know what has happened.

When traveling alone, always carry good forms of identification with you, as well as photocopies of your passport. It is also a good idea to have a list of all of the medications that you are currently taking, or even the prescription for your eyeglasses or contacts just in case as well.

Also, don't forget to bring a first aid kit from Adventure Medical Kits. It could become your best friends while on the road. 

Communicate When You Can

Adventure travel usually takes us to remote places where staying in contact is not always an easy prospect. That said, however, with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and other communications devices, it is easier than ever to stay in contact with someone without adding lots of bulk to your pack. 

When in towns, connect to Wi-Fi or use pre-paid mobile data plans to send an occasional text message or email to your contacts back home. It will reassure them that all is good, and allow them to track where you're at too. You'll also be quite surprised where you can find an Internet connection these days, with even small villages often having some kind of limited service.

 

And if you're truly going to be off the grid, perhaps a Spot Satellite Messenger or DeLorme inReach Explorer may be a more useful tool. These devices use satellite communications technology that allows others to not only track your current position but gives you the ability to send them brief messages too. And if worse comes to worse, both devices also have SOS features that give you the ability to all for assistance should you need it. 

Group Up!

Just because you left home alone doesn't mean that you can't connect with fellow travelers while you're on the road. Chances are you'll meet another solo, or small group, adventure travelers too, particularly when staying in hostels, visiting restaurants or pubs, or joining group tours and activities. This is a really good way to meet friends, stay safe, and possibly even find future traveling companions.

It is also a great way to beat the loneliness that sometimes comes with solo travel too. 

Trust Your Instincts

Don't be afraid to trust your instincts while traveling as well. If you encounter a situation that seems a bit fishy, it probably is! Caution, skepticism, and wariness can help you avoid scams or finding yourself someplace that you really don't want to be. Over time, you're likely to become more comfortable with the place you're visiting, which will help you to blend in with the crowd more, and understand the parts of town that you want to avoid and recognize the people who are mostly looking to separate you from your money. 

On the other hand, don't be so cautious that you don't allow yourself to do or try anything. The whole point of travel to get out and experience the world, and you should be doing that even if you are visiting a destination completely alone. Keep your eyes and ears open, ask for advice on where to go and what to do with people you trust and don't be afraid to put yourself out there. 

Perfect the Art of Traveling Light

Traveling solo means being very self-sufficient and independent. That can best be accomplished if you're traveling light, as you won't have too many bags to lug around, and you can easily get yourself from one destination to the next without too much trouble. I'm a big proponent of traveling with a backpack, as they are not just lightweight, but super convenient for carrying your gear too. When you're ready to go, you just throw it on your shoulders, and you're on your way. 

Packing light has the added benefit of allowing you to move more quickly when you need to as well. Whether that is rushing through the airport to catch your next flight, hiking to your next campsite, or simply looking to avoid unsavory individuals, being fast on your feet can be very useful indeed. 

Revel in the Solitude

While you are likely to connect with others on your solo adventure, don't forget to enjoy having some time to yourself too. While traveling it is a good time for reflection, introspection, and self-discovery, all of which tends to happen more when you're on your own. Don't pass on opportunities to travel with others if the situation is right, but enjoy some of the solitude that comes with being an adventurous traveler exploring the world on their own. It can be incredibly rewarding, even though it will also bring on occasional feelings of trepidation and uncertainty too. With time and experience, however, those feeling will pass, and you'll feel more comfortable in your own skin, both at home and while traveling abroad.