Short answer, yes.
I have been traveling alone many times and I always feel safe. Yes, I do a small amount of research before I go somewhere but you learn along the way. You meet people who will tell you where to avoid. I never carry a guide book with me but if I did I would use the ‘Lonely Planet’ books as they are packed full of useful info. You just have to make sure you get an up to date version. (I started off using them but found them to be too heavy and I found it more fun ‘winging it’). Unless you are using the current year, often you will try and find places that no longer exist or prices are incorrect so it’s worth investing in a new one.
I consider myself to be reasonably fearless and carefree. I don’t put much thought in what I am doing tomorrow, I live for today. I didn’t start off that way though. I was overly protective of my excessive amount of belongings and my general safety. Which obviously, is a good thing to be conscious of. It was getting too much though. At one point I didn’t trust anyone in Hostel dorms so I would sleep literally with my backpack attached to me, even taking it into the shower cubicle. I would sleep with my bumbag on. I would never go anywhere after dark and was wary of just about everyone.
However, you can learn to relax a little bit. Not everyone is out to steal your belongings, to harm you or make you feel unsafe. It took some time but after making some friends I totally cooled off to the extreme that I might leave my Ipod on my bed or my money lying around, not giving it any thought anymore. It was about this time when I was on a path to learning a few valuable lessons, one night I was out at a nightclub with some friends when I went to the bathroom left my phone on the side with a ‘friend’ nearby doing her make up. I came out to wash my hands and to grab my phone and it was gone. I asked her about it and she said she was busy not taking any notice! We later found out a Thai girl no older than 10 (yes in a nightclub!) was caught on camera running out the club with it in her hand. I never saw it again. I was distraught, all my pictures were on there, how was my Mum going to contact me?. I didn’t tell her I didn’t want her to be worried.
The next time I was traveling on a night bus from Bangkok to Krabi, blissfully unaware that a man who was hiding in the luggage storage compartment was rummaging through all the bags to find anything of value. I got off the bus to my guest house and then I realized all my money I had stupidly put into my back pack had gone, my camera charger, my fake iPad which I had bought at a dodgy Thai market! I was beyond hysterical, so much so that the guest house owner came to my aid and tried to console me and tame my emotional out pour. I was telling her I had only just packed my bag before i got onto the bus and now it’s gone. She was furious with the bus company and told me this sort of things happens a lot. They hide a small Thai man in the back so he can go through all the bags and take anything of value, anything.
Whist I was mourning the loss of my hard earned money she was tracking down the thieves which I was unaware of at the time. About an hour later a man appeared and offered me a about half of what I had lost, he apologized and offered me some free lychees. I was only 21 at the time so I was so confused about what had happened but grateful I had some of the money I had back. The woman had gone to so much trouble for me and later told me she threatened to kill him if he didn’t return my things. I found it amusing at the time but looking back I’m sure she was totally serious. I gave her half the money that had been returned to me and she treated me like I was the Queen of England for the rest of my stay.
The last time I was so blazay about my safety, was when I was at a Full Moon party on a small island in Laos. Their idea of a G&T is a bucket full (literally) of a whole bottle of gin and a whole bottle of tonic with a ton of ice and a million straws. You only need one really to be quite, ‘merry’. People were throwing them down though. I mean it’s the most fun, ever. But, I was having so much fun that I finished my bucket of vodka redbull (heaves as types) and decided to follow suit and get another one, and another one until I passed out with my toxic bucket clutched in one hand and overloaded with neon glow sticks in the other. I woke up about an hour later none the wiser that a girl-friend I had made THAT DAY had seen me and decided to piggy back me home and put me to bed. I woke up feeling embarrassed that I hadn’t looked after myself and ever thankful to her for bringing me to safety. I was grateful it was her that found me in that state and not someone with a different motive.
It was around this time a beautiful girl from England suffered the worst kind of fate and was murdered in Thailand and for some reason this hit home. I still often think about it and even though I did not know her she was just like me, wanted to travel, see the world. Harmless and innocent. I thought back to that night thinking something similar could of happened to me and I needed to be more conscious.
I don’t mean to scare you or put you off with my stories but I think it’s important to express the fact you need to learn along the way. It’s a part of life and you will become wiser for it. Your parents will probably say “well you can’t go there, because something happened in the news” or “it wasn’t safe there in my day, you should avoid that place”. Let’s be honest, everywhere in this world has it’s dangerous, no go areas. We know the obvious places to avoid. But we are blessed in this age, we have inordinate amounts of opportunities, resources and information available to us.
I realized I had to find a balance. I had to be wary of what I was doing but also not taking it too seriously. There’s no point in stressing about everything. Things will go wrong. You’ll learn. I quickly realized I didn’t need to have so many valuables with me, I didn’t need to drink myself to the ground to have fun, if I felt a little unsafe I could turn around and go somewhere new.
My fears about living in a hostel were also quickly dissolved. I realized every person that goes through a hostel is in the exact same position as me. Doesn’t mean everyone is trust worthy that’s why it’s good to have contingency plans in place. E.g someone might try and get into my backpack when I’m not here, buy a padlock.
I have found traveling solo as a female can make you feel quite vulnerable at times. Especially at night time. I sometimes think people are looking at me or are out to get me. All in my head of course. It’s only natural to think this way. Now a days I accept you can’t predict what the world has in store for you, you can just live every moment and be aware of what you are doing.
Traveling alone is unbelievably liberating. You have time to connect with yourself. You are on your time and no one else’s. I think the most important thing for me is I learned to enjoy my own company. I don’t rely on others to make me feel safe or entertained. I can literally be alone for days on end and not be bored. It’s an amazing thing to just get up and go, all by yourself, just you, your thoughts and dreams.
So don’t be afraid, you can do it.