I have travelled and explored in many ways. With my partner, with family, as part of an expedition, with friends. The list goes on, but nothing compares to travelling solo. Whether travelling alone in Australia, solo in Thailand or South America, it throws you head first into the culture of the host country and will give you the greatest opportunity to make life-long friends from around the world - the larger the group, the larger the bubble you will be in.
But, travelling alone does have its draw backs. Periods of loneliness, indecision of what to do next, no one to watch your back. It’s just you and the big wide world…. Or is it? Suddenly your bag and its contents become your new best friend and there are key elements of what you should consider taking with you that will help make your journey a success.
Keep it as small as possible. This is no longer something you want to lug around, it is now your travelling companion and carries everything you need for your comfort and entertainment. The front opening type travel bags (as opposed to a toploader, designed for trekking) will allow you to set up home quickly wherever you are and are easy to keep organised. A wheeled backpack has the added benefit of versatile carrying options, which is great for travelling alone as it means you can carry a daypack of essentials when travelling between destinations. However, a wheeled bag means you are carrying more weight, so theres pro's and con's to consider.
You will need a daypack for day trips and short treks, just pack what you need and secure your main bag at your accomodation. Many travel backpacks now come with a daypack that attaches to the main bag, which is great as you then have a fully versatile travel bag system. Personally, I prefer a shoulder bag like the iTravel Bag or the Sahara Indiana to a small backpack day sack, it's easier to keep an eye on and means your camera, water, notebook etc. are just at your hip when you need them. For most cultures this will help you to blend in and look less like a tourist. To find your perfect daypack, read the Daypack Guide.
It’s really, really important that you carry a medical kit and that it is comprehensive. If the worst happens there will be no one to pop out for medicine for you. Try to pack enough medication for a couple of days’ treatment, especially for traveller’s diarrhoea. We have a full range of medical kits for every type of travel, our most comprehensive for solo travel being the Independent. To find the right kit for you, read the Medical Kit Guide.
Securing your luggage is a big issue. There is no one to watch your bag, so having the means to secure it is very important. A lock and cable is invaluable. Most losses happen when you are distracted or fall asleep when waiting for a bus or train. Simply securing your bag to your chair will put off those opportunistic thieves. Many of the better travel bags are built with tamperproof, lockable zips, which are really great for peace of mind since thieves can easily unzip and rezip even a locked zipped when it's not tamperproof.
Like your bag, there is no one to watch your passport, cash and valuables. Always travel with a Money Belt; you can keep your most valuable items out of sight of thieves and close to you at all times. Also, think about the times when these may be away from you with nobody to take care of them. A good example would be swimming, whether around a pool or on the beach. For these times a waterproof pouch would be essential to enable you to keep your valuables with you. These are readily available, just make sure they are 100% waterproof even when submerged and not just water resistant. Make sure you've made copies of your important documents. I like to save copies of them to my email account so I've always got access to copies should the worst happen.
Going out to eat, in a bar at night, on a long journey. These are the times when you can feel the most alone as you will be surrounded by others. Modern technology is great and you can easily hide yourself away on your mobile (as long as you have a signal) or failing that in a good book. If you need to stay connected, taking a portable charger will keep you powered up. A portable speaker is great for hooking up to a smartphone or mp3 player when you want some music to keep you company. But what if you want to be open to approach? Travelling with cards or the Bandana Gameboard is a great way to meet people and have something to do which bridges cultural differences. To keep yourself entertained, consider the following; crossword books, Sudoku, writing a travel journal, sketch pad.