Taking Care of Yourself
Going off and travelling alone can be a very liberating experience as well as a great exercise in personal development and a resounding statement of independence. But it's not just about vainly trying your luck against the challenges that lie ahead. It's a steep learning curve that we attempt to scale when we set off on an adventure alone for the first time and the thrill of achieving such a goal does not come lightly.
Certain qualities are required of a lone traveller to enable him or her to get by safely, securely and, as it says on your passport, 'without let or hindrance'. Although a British passport is enough to get you into most countries, it'll take more than a polite request from Her Majesty for you to have an all round successful trip. Common sense and an acute sense of personal responsibility are also essential.
Familiarise Yourself with Your SurroundingsDoing as much research as you can squeeze into your life before you go helps to reap great rewards later on. Learning about your destination(s) allows you to have a good idea of what to expect and therefore a solid foundation on which to begin your adventure. Learning about the fundamental cultural differences is essential, and learning a few words of the language doesn't go amiss either.
Getting lost can open the door to an even more eventful adventure than you bargained for, but it can often happen at the most inopportune times. A good map is invaluable and so is some knowledge of the public transport system.
The former can be found online, courtesy of Google, and printed off before you get there, but most big cities offer tourist maps for free that can be found in brochures and the like in public areas like the train station. The latter can be more tricky to master, but here's where you make use of tourist information services and again, online research.
Being well organised and pre-empting problems such as transport strikes by giving yourself lots of time can save you from missing planes and trains. Of course, some of us are naturally more organised than others, but at least bearing in mind that surprises are invariably in store gives you a head start.
Staying on the BallYou're out to have a good time, of course, but remember that as a tourist you are a target for thieves and muggers and sometimes worse things. Getting excessively intoxicated with alcohol or other substances makes you extremely vulnerable, not to mention the fact that it's dimly looked upon by most other cultures. Binge-drinking is a typically British trait, and apart from emphasising a negative stereotype it doesn't do you any favours with authorities in foreign countries. Penalties for flirtation with illegal substances can be more severe outside of Europe too.
Another unfortunate British characteristic is violent and aggressive behaviour. If you are the type of person that has been known to pick up a few battle scars out on the town now and again, it's advisable to make a special effort to keep this aspect of your personality under control. Remember you're on foreign ground and there's nothing that makes people - and the police - more fiercely patriotic that the sight of one of their own taking a beating from a stranger.
It's often the case in other cultures, that a shouting match does not come to blows in the way that it might in a busy city centre in Britain on a Saturday night. If you do happen to get into a disagreement with a local, stay calm and do not lash out first.
Taking care of yourself while travelling abroad on your own encompasses many things, from protecting yourself from harm to staying healthy, from staying out of trouble to avoiding being robbed. How to go about it begins with your own self-awareness, followed by some thorough preparation, and rounded off with a nice helping of common sense.