By Emma Lamke, Florence
Everyone has a different idea of traveling and what should be accomplished - seen, eaten, experienced - when they are exploring a new place. If you are having trouble finding someone you would like to travel with or are just feeling spontaneous, why not hit the road solo?
I am a huge proponent of traveling alone. Just this past weekend, I made the trek from Florence to Barcelona alone and had one of the most memorable weekends of my life! Exploring an unfamiliar place and meeting new people when I wasn’t with a companion or group provided a fulfilling experience that could have been hindered by others' plans. Don’t get me wrong; I love adventures with my friends, but my solo travels have also given me a unique perspective on the world and myself.
Although venturing out on your own can provide an eye-opening and exhilarating adventure, your safety could be put at greater risk when the buddy system is not in place during your travels if you don’t take certain precautions.
Here are some general and safety tips for your solo travel internships:
1. Stay Organized
When you're traveling alone, there won't be anyone trustworthy there to watch your items when you go to the bathroom or to remind you where you put your boarding pass. Create a system for yourself so you know where your belongings are at all times. Make the items you will frequently need readily available, and remember: never leave your things with a stranger, no matter how trusty they seem.
2. Pack Lightly
You will most likely be doing a lot of walking, so you’re not going to thank yourself for packing your entire closet for your weekend getaway. You’ll also probably be spending time in bustling airports and train stations, so having both hands available at all times is key to the safety of yourself and your belongings.
3. Lay Low
The Europeans can virtually always tell that you are an American, so, although there may not be any way to completely fool them, try not to draw any unnecessary attention to yourself. Since no one has your back for a few days, it's important that you always have your own. As usual, use your common sense and don’t put yourself in any situation that could compromise your safety. If you are lost, don’t make it obvious. Traveling alone could make you stick out even more, so the trick is to always look like you know what you’re doing.
4. Take extra care with your money and important documents
Your passport, cash, cards, and plane or train tickets are your lifelines when you're traveling. Unfortunately, they are also the favorite items of pickpockets. Always have these items secured in a reliable place. If you lose these important items when you're traveling alone, you don't have a backup person with extra cash or ID pictures readily available, so keeping them safe is imperative.
5. Choose the optimal place to stay
Safety and location of your temporary accommodations are, as usual, top priorities. An uncomfortable situation can be even worse when you don't have the support of someone you know, so your sense of security is very important. An important factor to consider specifically when traveling alone is the social rating of a hotel or hostel. Many hostels have common areas and organized activities for travelers to hang out and get to know one another, all of which are great for solo travelers to help meet new friends! The ratings and reviews on HostelWorld.com can be very helpful.
6. Relax and have fun!
Although it may be a new idea for you, expanding your bank of worldly experiences doesn't always have to include companions. Keep an open mind. New things are usually nerve-racking, but you'll get into the swing of traveling solo in no time at all. As long as you're being cautious, traveling alone is just as safe as traveling with others. Just remember these tips and all of that good advice Mom gave you before she shipped you out of the country, and you’re golden. Happy travels!
Emma Lamke is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Florence, Italy. She is currently a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
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