Solo travel is often credited for being the catalyst for many GGI’s decision to move abroad. But whether you intend to stay overseas long-term or are just looking to escape your daily routine for a while, when you go at it alone you need to be prepared for some culture shock. These are our top tips to help you make the best of your upcoming solo trip (or move) abroad.
1) Visit your potential new home at least once before making the big leap
If you’re moving to a new city, it helps to see the place before you move everything over. Not only to figure out where you do and don’t want to stay but also to see if it lives up to your expectations. Stay there for a month if you can. Rent a room or an apartment and live like a local — go grocery shopping and take out the garbage. But also listen to your own instincts.
Do you feel safe there? Do you feel confident walking around alone? This is a great opportunity to investigate the local expat community to learn more from people actually living there, rather than relying on online searches. Talk to other expat women and get a real feel for safety and security on a full-time basis.
2) Understand the local customs
As a female travelling alone you are responsible for your own safety. If you are moving to a foreign country, you need to do some research on the culture you will be immersed in. You need to find out beforehand if women are expected to dress or act a certain way, or are not allowed in certain settings. Also understand that in different cultures, men may be more vocal or even physical in their attempts to talk to you. It’s important just to be aware of what can happen and not to get caught off guard.
To many women, cat-calling and approaches is intimidating. If it bothers you, you could make up a boyfriend or husband back at the hotel. Or if you feel secure enough, be forceful and vocal about being left alone, this may cause some problems in other cultures though if you fight back so research as much as possible and ask other women for advice on the best approach to take.
3) Blend in
The more you stand out, the more you will catch the attention of pickpockets and other criminals. Research your destination in advance, leave valuables at home, observe how people dress, and try to pass as a local – or, if that’s impossible try to pass as a longtime expat.
Look confident when you’re walking around, with your head up high and don’t panic if you’re lost. If you do need to find your way, sometimes it is best to find a cafe or shop to go in to have a look at the map or ask someone.
4) Keep your valuables on you while in transit
You shouldn’t really bring valuables with you in the first place. But we all like to bring a fair bit of technology with us, a smartphone at the very least, laptops, tablets, kindles, DSLR cameras etc. These are also expensive valuables that you don’t want to have to replace. Not to mention losing photos you haven’t backed up yet!
You should keep a day bag where you can fit all your important items in, passport, camera, jewellery, credit cards, phone etc. And never leave these items around anywhere, or even in your larger backpack, to go into the hold on buses and planes. Keep it with you all the time.
5) Befriend other women
You will meet new people every day — be bold and start conversations: talk to the bar owner, the shop manager, the restaurant staff.
An area with a solid expat community will bring you into the fold almost immediately, but you have to open yourself up to those opportunities. In the States, I would never presume to walk up to someone randomly and ask them their life story. But moving abroad, everyone has a story and everyone wants to learn yours. Don’t be offended by personal questions — expat communities are typically open and eclectic, and they just want to know the real you.
Other expat women will be your new safety net. They will guide you and empathize with you, and they will be the ones watching out for you most. Be open to spending time with new people.
6) Don’t trust people too quickly
When you’re travelling on your own to a new place it can be tempting to team up with someone or find a group that you can cling onto. Sometimes this works out great and you become friends for life, but they don’t always.
Some people are con artists who have been well practiced with the foreigners by making friends and then robbing them.
This includes romance, you may want to be careful when getting too excited about someone special you meet along the way, and slow it down a bit. You can’t always trust people, as we all know. We just tend to be too kind hearted sometimes. It isn’t rude to be careful, taking your time and waiting for someone to earn your trust is ideal when travelling solo.
7) Keep in touch with someone back home regularly
Keeping in touch with your friends or family back home will help you feel safer, it will let them know where you are occasionally incase anything happens and it will assuage their fears for you as well. Be honest when you talk with them about your new life. If you’re unhappy for any reason, they will keep you grounded.
Becoming an expat is a wonderful option for so many women who might be a bit stuck in their lives and looking for a new path. If you are already thinking about making the move, now is the time to act. Be brave! And if you want more guidance and tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our GGI girls, there are lots of groups you can join in cities to be apart of our meet ups and events. It’s always comforting to meet other women just like you while you’re abroad.
8) Watch your drinking
I know this is one that can be tough to control because you’re letting lose and being free, but it is a tip that doesn’t get said often enough. When you drink alcohol, you dull your senses and slow your reaction time, which in turn makes you very vulnerable.
We are not saying stop drinking altogether, just pace yourself and eat a good meal beforehand. Perhaps a glass of water in between drinks and always watch your drink, don’t leave it anywhere.
You don’t need to keep up with those heavier drinkers, or give in to peer pressure. It is important you stay in control of yourself while you’re abroad because otherwise you could get in some dangerous situations.