Tips for First-Time Marginalized Solo Travelers

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More and more people from marginalized communities are discovering and appreciating the liberating benefits of solo travel in recent years. Many people from underrepresented groups go on solo trips because they want to better themselves by learning about new cultures and finding their own voice. For many, taking a trip alone can be a liberating way to test the boundaries of their own identity and push for change. It’s an opportunity to reclaim their stories, accept who they really are, and make meaningful connections with people from all walks of life.

However, people from underrepresented groups typically have additional concerns and hurdles to overcome while planning solo trips. One of the many difficulties they could face is communicating with locals because of language or cultural problems. Despite these challenges, marginalized people are motivated to use solo travel as a means to reclaim their independence, strengthen their resolve, and expand their horizons.

With careful planning, research, and support, travelers can continue paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse travel landscape. Here are ten tips for anyone who is considering traveling solo or has tried it and needs a little more guidance.

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

– Maya Angelou

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Plan ahead

It is essential that you have a solid plan in place before you embark on your trip by yourself. Do some research on your destination, especially concerning the culture and the local traditions. You should also make an effort to become conversant in the language, since this will enable you to communicate more effectively and understand the culture of the area more thoroughly.

  • Create a list of the places you want to see and the activities and sights you want to see and do while you are there. This will give you more insight into the lay of the land, what to pack, how much money to bring, etc.
  • Make prior reservations for both your lodging and your modes of transportation. However, make sure that you are booking through reputable means of accommodations and transportation so that you do not lose money. And whenever possible, book with a credit card versus a debit card in the event you need to get your money back. This will save you both time and money, in addition to providing you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you will have somewhere to stay and a means of transportation once you get to your destination.
  • Set a budget! Regardless of what your faves might be saying about “budget travel” on social media, traveling with more than what you need is best for safety and unexpected events. Determine how much you are willing to spend on your trip. Consider costs for transportation, accommodation, meals, activities, and any additional expenses. Be sure to also opt for travel insurance, for which you can find some affordable options here.
  • If traveling internationally, make sure you have a valid passport (with at least 6 months until expiration) and any visas that may be required well before your trip. You should make copies of all the crucial documents you have and keep them in a location that is separate from the originals. Determine whether you need any vaccines, and if so, schedule your appointment as far in advance as the destination requires.
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Pack wisely

While you may hear the arguments of carry-on only versus checked bag, our biggest suggestion is to pack based on what works best for you. Do you often get cold? Carry a blanket. Are you someone who needs snacks? Put them in your carry-on or personal item. Traveling abroad? You may need a conversion charger that’s suitable for the destination you’re traveling to.

Create a packing list that takes into account your travel destination, the expected weather, and the activities you intend to participate in. Do not forget to pack your essentials, including but not limited to clothing, toiletries, medications, travel documents, and any electronics or equipment that may be required. Remember to take into consideration any limits that may be imposed by the airlines or the local legislation.

For example, London’s Heathrow airport is the worst for toiletries. You’re only allowed 100mL or less of liquids, including makeup, sunscreen, fragrances, etc. Ask us how we know that they’ll confiscate the rest. A good rule of thumb for all toiletries is to always keep them in plastic, see-through bags. But also research the rules of all entry and exit airports, so that you’re not having to throw out your things.

Keep your essentials with you at all times, such as your passport, credit/debit cards/cash, medicine, and anything you would need on-hand at a moment’s notice. For example, for long flights, we recommend keeping deodorant and other toiletries in your carry-on to freshen up.

“Pack light!” -Erykah Badu

Make safety a priority

Safety is your number one priority when traveling solo, especially as a marginalized traveler. One of the most basic rules of travel is to look like you belong somewhere versus off into the sunset like a tourist.

  • STOP looking down at your phone. This can be an easy way to get your phone snatched, get robbed, or miss anyone who’s paying attention to you too closely.
  • DO NOT post where you are in real-time. And also reconsider geotagging your location while you’re there. Anyone can see your page once you do this and can use this as a tool to find you.
  • Let a reliable friend or member of your family know about your vacation intentions, including your itinerary, specifics about your accommodations, and your contact information. Keep them informed of your whereabouts on a consistent basis throughout your journey. Some people even opt to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Plan (STEP), which will send their trip data to the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate.
  • Be wary of strangers. While it’s always exciting to make new friends while traveling, you should always proceed with caution when engaging with someone you don’t know well. Use your judgment and trust your instincts. Watch out for anyone who looks overly nice or invasive, and make sure to keep your personal space boundaries intact. And NEVER tell strangers where you’re staying or going.
  • When taking a taxi or rideshare back to your accommodations, always get dropped off somewhere close by but not exactly where you’re staying.

Keep in mind that the aforementioned suggestions are basic principles; it is imperative that you adjust them to your particular location and set of circumstances. During your time traveling by yourself, your safety should always come first, you should trust your gut feelings, and prepare yourself for any unexpected events that may happen.

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