The response was warm and immediate! Turns out we all have something to say, smile. The following tips—in no particular order—come from Sarah Hilkemann, Ruth Lemmen, Ruth Ann Rooney, Krista Roth, Jaimee Silva, Emily Smith, Bayta Swartz, two single siblings, and several anonymous tips.
- Actually Travel. Find a friend to travel with. Meet people on the other end. Go by yourself. Do what is comfortable and exciting for you, but find a way to travel. If you are someone who avoids traveling single, discover what keeps you from going places and find ways to make it happen.
- Choose safety over money. This could mean getting a hotel or a taxi. Or getting the slightly more expensive flight that doesn’t arrive at 3:00am. Or making sure you activate international roaming on your phone. Or whatever your gut is telling you is the smart thing to do. Your safety is worth the cost.
- As silly as it sounds, have a story ready about why you are currently unavailable and cannot accept marriage proposals from strangers in airports (or anywhere). Most notably, I received two proposals in the airport in Ghana. The first was from a customs official as he studied my passport. The second proposal came about 20 minutes later from a man doing a survey for the board of tourism. They both insisted it would be in my best interest to be traveling with a husband … and they could fix that problem for me. I politely explained the very true reasons why I was in Ghana. Thankfully, they both gave up saying they “would not try to steal the beloved of a Ghanian brother” and we were all still laughing in the end.
- Don’t feel you still have to travel like a student once you’re into your 30s and beyond, just because you’re single! Feel the freedom to spend a bit more to get a flight at a decent time, a taxi to the airport, and other parts of traveling.
- If you have to sleep overnight in an airport sometimes the chapel or a room for nursing moms is a quieter place where you can feel safer and there are softer chairs.
- Pack light: Intentionally leave behind some of the essentials so you have to ask people how to get them and you can have reasons to interact with people.
- Ear buds are essential when you want people to leave you alone.
- Always be sure you have a good book to read. It makes any flight shorter.
- Plan ahead. If you aren’t familiar with the airports you are travelling through, research them. Figure out the layouts. Find where the food courts are. Find the free showers.
- When travelling alone, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is always at least one kind person who will give you directions.
- When travelling to a new city and staying in a guesthouse, know what the guesthouse looks like. You may need to help your tuktuk driver find the place.
- For my last trip flying from Canada back to my station, my mom sewed a secret pocket inside an infinity scarf to keep my passport, phone & a pen handy at all times. This was so handy, especially when I had so many bags to keep track of but only 2 hands.
- Always travel with snacks. It saves you the headache of trying to maneuver your bags into the tiny, crowded restaurants & it saves your bank account! And sharing snacks is a sure way to make friends along the way!!☺
- Sit Strategically: before choosing a seat in an airport waiting area or on a bus, scope out the area first and locate a family or another single woman to sit by.
- Make sure someone at your destination or origin has your itinerary and contact information. It never hurts to have an extra mom or sister checking in on you.
- Pray lots: My first time traveling solo was in Italy and I had heard many stories of pickpockets and aggressive men. While on trains and buses, walking around the city and in coffee shops, it felt like the Father put me in a little bubble. Not only did I feel his protection (no one bothered me at all), but also it became an opportunity to practice praying continually, having intimate conversation with him about everything happening around me.
- Put the items you won’t need on the flight in the bag you keep in the overhead bin.
- I splurged for a roller carry on. When zipped smallest it’s allowed on the plane as a carry on. But when unzipped it expands a couple of inches for use on trains/busses. Because it is a roller (rolls in every direction) I can put my other smaller bags on top and keep one hand free. It’s also hard so things inside are less likely to break.
- Always arrive a few hours early, especially when you’re alone. You never know what could happen. This seems like common sense, but it should be your mindset when traveling.
- Make sure you know who your contact is going to be when you land. Communicate clearly with them so that both parties are sure what is going to happen when you arrive. I went to Africa once and had no idea if I had someone waiting for me at the airport.
- Research power converters, plug converters, and important information on all your electronics and electrical devices.
- If you have a favorite food, shampoo, body wash, et cetera, you might want to pack a few extras in case they don’t have them overseas.
- Don’t be afraid to travel by yourself, but know your limits! Sometimes it is worth it to pay more for a hotel in a more convenient location or flying instead of taking a train or bus, if it will make you feel safer or make life less complicated. Traveling can be complicated and stressful enough as it is, sometimes paying more for less stress is worth it. For instance, I’ve taken long bus trips (with others) a couple times, and I know that’s not something I want to do by myself.
- If you get an opportunity to travel with others, take it. Last year, friends of mine—a family with teenage kids—invited me to join them on a trip. I wondered if it would be awkward to sort of crash their family-travel, but it was awesome. I would not have taken a nine-hour bus ride through the Chinese countryside by myself, and my more advanced language skills made it easier for them.
Traveling single or alone, these tips will help you remember we never really go alone, even if we have to schlep all of our stuff into a small bathroom stall!
What tip do you have for us? Which of these tips inspires or empowers you to try something different when you travel?