Travelling Alone For The First Time? Read This!

travelling alone for the first time sunflowers

I’m really excited today to share with you a post from one of my favourite travel bloggers Absolutely Lucy. Both avid solo travellers, and women of colour we have a unique perspective on what it’s like to travel alone as a woman. Four years ago Lucy began her adventure, travelling alone for the first time to Australia, South East Asia and New Zealand. These days she is pursuing the expat life in Hamburg, with her partner, travelling at every she chance she gets!

If you’ve been thinking about travelling alone for the first time or would just like to know more about what to expect I hope these stories can shed some light for you.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much I achieve in my life, how far I travel or who I meet. When people find out that I’ve been solo travelling as a woman for four years, the one question that springs to their lips is – is it safe? The very assumption that we as women cannot protect ourselves or are under threat from foreign bodies or that everyone is out to get us is one I find pretty insulting.

On whether travelling alone for the first time is dangerous

I want to be entirely honest about my experiences because travelling isn’t always as insta-worthy as it seems and there are hard, lonely or downright scary times when you have to have your wits about you. One thing I want to stress from the beginning is this.  Travelling alone for the first time – whether you are a man or a woman –  is no more dangerous than staying at home.

Throughout my travels, I’ve met people who have had the most perfect travel experiences with no problems, and I’ve met those who have had everything go wrong. Bad things will happen at times, still,  you could just as easily be in a car accident, be racially abused or get mugged in London as you could in Thailand. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take the risk and live in the sunshine.

travelling alone for the first time

Since travelling alone for the first time I’ve experienced amazing highs and some serious lows. Consequent trips were somewhat of a rollercoaster. And yes, there were times when I was at risk. But it was quick thinking and street smarts that got me out of each situation. There are very few situations that being prepared and planning ahead cannot solve.

On my worst travel experience

I think my worst travelling experiences mostly centre around bus crashes and someone trying to mug me, coincidentally, both of these experiences happened within just a few weeks in Cambodia. Dubbed the “Wild West” of Asia, I warn you to be especially smart and safe when you travel there, particularly if you are a woman alone.

First, my mini-bus was run off the road by a lorry after the driver fell asleep/was drunk at the wheel. I still remember the terrifying moment I looked up from my phone to see a lorry about to crash into us. Thanks to the quick reflexes of our driver we swung off to the right. We narrowly missed the lorry then skidded back across the busy highway into a ditch on the other side of the road.

Of course, Asia doesn’t really grasp the concept of seat belts yet so my unbelted body went flying over the driver and hit the windscreen, I felt it crack against my back but luckily the driver grabbed my arm and pulled me back. It was terrifying, and the worst thing was that I was the only westerner on the bus, no-one could speak English or could explain when the police or ambulance would arrive.

travelling alone for the first time water

Luckily I wasn’t seriously hurt. Despite the bruises and the gashes down my legs, I could walk and that meant I was okay. That being said recovery wasn’t easy. Fortunately, I was lucky to be spending the next week at a yoga retreat. There I was surrounded by love and support from the very kind people who looked after me.

NB. This same experience recently happened to another travel blogger – Alyssa Ramos, My Life’s A Travel Movie, who luckily escape serious harm but was left very shaken by the experience.

Moving on from the bus crash there was also the time when I was nearly mugged by a taxi driver. Again, it could have been a lot worse. I caught the driver going into my bag and stealing money from me.  In the moment I was so angry that my reaction was not the smartest, but it worked and got me to safety. I confronted him and stood tall. He tried to tell me he didn’t steal my money and started to shout at me. There was a motorcycle helmet on the seat next to me, so I grabbed it and swung at him. In shock, he dropped my money so I grabbed it, and my bags, and ran to the nearest hostel.

travelling alone for the first time building

It was a horrible start to my time in Cambodia and was followed by the bus crash a week later, it’s safe to say after these incidents I was left pretty shaken and almost ready to give up on travelling. Thanks to a good friend who came across the country to look after me, I was reminded of how much I love to travel and that bad things happen to everyone. Focusing on the good changed my whole outlook on the experiences.

On how to stay safe

When you’re travelling alone for the first time don’t go expecting the worst to happen – but be prepared if it does. Your positivity and intelligence are your best tools for dealing with any situations that might arise. These are tips that have got me through and now you’ll have them to call upon too.

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  • Learn some of the language, download map apps and all the info you might need.
  • Always make a not of useful info like trustworthy taxi drivers and your hostel’s address.
  • Always have a working phone with you.
  • Don’t get out of control on drugs or drink if you are not with people you trust with your life.
  • Have a back-up bank card in case you are robbed.
  • Have two safe places to store your valuables. 
  • NEVER leave them in a bag that goes in the luggage hold of a bus/train.
  • ALWAYS keep your passport safe and with you, or locked away.

Remember, like me, you may have a lot of fight in you, but often flight is a much better option. Don’t be afraid to leave a situation if you feel awkward or uncomfortable. It’s okay to say no and it’s okay to jump in a taxi or go home.

On whether you should go

Abso-freakin-lutely. Travelling solo is, without doubt, the most valuable thing I have done in my life. It is an entirely life-changing experience that will change the way you look at yourself, the world, and the people in it. No amount of fear, worry, or any over-hyped comments from friends and family who spend too much time watching the news, should stand in the way of your adventure. Bad things happen everywhere, and good things happen everywhere. The trick is to embrace the good and make the best of the bad. 

You can find Lucy on Instagram and at her site Absolutely Lucy!

What about you guys? Are you thinking about travelling alone for the first time? Have you before?

Let me know in the comments!

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