As a single person, traveling alone becomes inevitable. When the choice is to stay home, or to explore the world, I hope everyone chooses to explore! But traveling alone is a bit of a scary prospect.
Recently I went on a business trip to NYC. I had never visited the Big Apple, so I decided to go a couple days early to explore the city. I had never taken a vacation on my own before and was more nervous than I’d hoped I would be. I think of myself as a very independent girl. I am strong and tough and confident. But I was still so nervous. I talked with a single girlfriend of mine who encouraged me to just go for it. Her advice was perfect – in all situations, show confidence! I was determined not to let my trepidation get the best of me, so, being a planner by nature, I figured out the things I most wanted to do and see while I was there. It’s easier to be confident when you have a plan.
In the cab on the way from the airport, I gave myself a good pep talk. I have to admit, seeing downtown NYC from across the Hudson brought up excitement and extreme nervousness. The entire drive over, I followed our path on my phone’s mapping application and planned out what to do first. I discovered Carnegie Deli was a block away. A few people had recommended the pastrami sandwich, so that was definitely on the list. A block from the hotel, I saw an Irish pub. Irish pubs are nearly a second home to me! I knew I’d be comfortable in that setting, so that made the list for the evening.
I checked in and went up to the room. I have to admit, I waffled a bit. I thought about turning on the TV and relaxing. Even with the planning, the urge to hunker down was overwhelming. I wasn’t scared for my safety – I’ve lived near the city my whole life. It was just the idea of being alone. But, heeding my friend’s advice, I changed into a cute top and super hot heels and marched my butt out the door.
It ended up being a fantastic night. I ended the night so terribly proud of myself. When I got to the Irish pub (after my pastrami sandwich, of course), I asked the girl at the door if they served hard cider on tap, which they did. (That really is the sign of a good Irish pub). I looked around and saw a seat open at the bar. I immediately plopped myself down, ordered my Magners (On tap, of course. I couldn’t believe the bartender actually asked if I wanted a bottle?!). I turned and struck up a conversation with a couple of Irish guys sitting next to me. We spent the next 3 hours drinking ciders and talking. They were bartenders (at a different pub) and gave me the best compliment I could have asked for. They told me that they see tourists all day every day, but would never in a million years guessed that I was a tourist. Or that I’d only been in NYC for 3 hours when I stormed the bar. They thought I was a regular. That comment alone gave me the confidence I needed for the rest of the weekend. I knew if I could fool these guys, I could conquer NYC for sure! And, I DID!
1. Plan ahead. At least have a list of all the things you want to do, places to go, and sights to see. Don’t give yourself the time to try to figure out what to do while you’re there – it will be too easy to do nothing.
2. Make sure you have friends and family that know where you are, where you’re staying, and your general plans for each day. Check in throughout the day, via calls, texts or emails. It’s easier to be confident when you know someone knows where you are!
3. Talk to the concierge or front desk clerk. Ask for recommendations for safe places to spend time, or fun things to do nearby. They’ll be able to tell you about the locations, the safety of certain areas, and may have ideas you’ve never thought of.
4. NEVER look like a tourist. Memorize the map for your day’s activities before you head out. Know where you’re going. If you need to look at the map, do not do it on the sidewalk or in a public location. Go into a store and ask for directions. Take your map into a coffee shop to read it. Standing on the sidewalk with a map open paints a big target on you and leaves you very vulnerable.
5. Always be aware of your surroundings. Know what stores are open around you. Notice where possible safe areas are – places with lots of people. Don’t walk and text or play on your phone – it will distract you from knowing what is going on around you.
6. If the idea of dining alone intimidates you, feel free to bring a book or a notepad. It will keep you occupied and less aware of what you think are people staring at you. But don’t be paranoid – if anyone is staring at you, it is because they are so impressed with your independence! I would encourage you, however, to not read the book. Take in the atmosphere, absorb the sights and smells and tastes in a way you couldn’t if you had someone with you. You can even play a game with yourself, making up stories about other diners.
7. Be open to making friends. Talk to people sitting next to you on the bus tour, introduce yourself to someone enjoying the same piece of art at the museum, invite another solo traveler to share your table. But always be aware and trust your instincts – don’t let your new friends take advantage of you, or allow yourself to be put in danger.
*Please note that I have not included tips for traveling abroad. If you are traveling to another country, there is so much more to take into consideration. Local customs, attitudes towards women, appropriate attire – these are all things you’ll need to research and consider before traveling to another country.