The first time I traveled on my own I was 18-years-old, working a summer job in Madrid. The thrill of wandering around a new destination solo, getting to know its contours, is an experience that spoke to me. It was a sprawling, frenetic city, but the metro was easy to navigate, and I soon made friends and found familiar haunts. Every day, I was learning about a method of travel that felt new to me — independent, open, and without the comforts of a constant companion.
That was 10 years ago. These days, solo travel is more popular than ever. Google searches on the topic have doubled in just three years. Seasoned vagabonds and first-time backpackers alike are venturing out into the wide world on their own, no longer waiting for similarly adventurous friends. And while solo travelers still get the occasional, “Are you nuts?” when mentioning plans to train-hop around eastern Europe or wander the great expanses of Patagonia, the fact of the matter is that technology has made solo travel safer than ever. Here’s how:
You can carry a personal security system on your keychain.
Creepy and even downright dangerous people exist. They can be found from Los Angeles to Reykjavik and all points in between. Do not give them the power to dominate your mental space. Instead, consider carrying a compact, high-tech product like the Sabre keychain alarm — which is loud enough at 120 decibels to spook someone encroaching on your space and alert people nearby that something abnormal is happening.
You can go your own way.
If you’re intrepid enough to travel on your own, you’ll likely be up for the challenge of figuring out public transportation. Thanks to massive improvements to cellular technology, most major cities have apps that help you plan your public transportation route. You can also download third-party apps, like Rome2Rio (the company also has a highly functional website) in order to help you find your way around a new city or town.
If public transport isn’t your thing, there are also ride share programs like Uber and Lyft. If you’re not comfortable getting into a stranger’s car, carshares like Car2Go are now global.
You can talk to anyone — no matter what language.
Gone are the days when the language barrier spelled imminent doom (or, at least, unending frustration and wild hand gestures). Instead, you can use Google Translate to communicate the basics when you get stuck. In an emergency, you can get your point across to anyone.
If you’re ready for something even more next-level, check out Pocketalk — a translator that will allow you to speak in English, then offer you a translated phrase spoken aloud. This is a space-age feeling device that bridges even the widest language gap in a matter of seconds.
You can get world-class suggestions for where to eat, drink, and spend your precious time.
Before the internet gave you access to the world at your fingertips, finding off-the-beaten-path activities, restaurants, and bars was hard work. You had to be comfortable networking with strangers and exploring unfamiliar neighborhoods. These days, finding local hangouts, figuring out whether or not a historical site is worth your time, and avoiding overpriced tourist traps (which are often hotspots for pickpockets and muggers) is as simple as doing some research online.