Traveling Alone

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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Gman on Tue Dec 09, 2014 7:34 am

Well, even though it isn't final just yet, I am still very excited about this so I just can't wait and I need to vent about it now already.
So, earlier this week, there was a dancing event in my town and many people from the scene that I know came there too. I started talking with one of more serious and (seriously) talented dancers there and he told me about a bachata dance festival taking place this march in Milano, Italy. He explained it to me in details and noted that top dance performers and instructors from all over the world (including world champions!) will also be in attendance. He pretty much managed to convince me to attend it. So after checking with my old folks about the funding of this (tickets to events + flights + misc expenses) and checking some details at the events website, I pretty much have a greenlight to go ahead with it! I am SUPER EXCITED to go to this - flying to Italy, meeting people from all over the world, dancing with world class dancers, etc.

I decided to delay the purchase itself to thursday, just so I can make sure I am absolutley sure about going ahead with this and everything. While I won't technically be alone there (other people that I know from the scene are also going to it, so we'll probably travel together), it will be the first time that I travel abroad on my own (read: without my family), so it's still a serious decision to make for myself.

I am also thinking about extending my stay there, because it will be my first time in Italy, so If I'm already there, might as well go sight seeing and such :-). Problem is.... I still don't know who will stay with me after the festival. I also don't want to do it with someone I don't really know - it's fine enough for the festival (where all the technical aspects are taken care of for you), but I want someone I can trust while touring a foreign and distant city where you have to manage on your own.
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Autumnflame on Tue Dec 09, 2014 2:36 pm

That's awesome and super-exciting, Gman! Grin Honestly, even if you can't find someone you know to stay with, I'd wholeheartedly recommend just finding an AirBnB (I've had only good experiences with that) or a hostel (generally more threadbare, but you also get to meet other young people in a similar boat as you) and staying on your own to sightsee and travel. Traveling on your own is a different game from traveling with others - you get to set your own schedule, do exactly what you want, and you're more open to opportunities to interact with others. (It does require a sturdy sense of self-sufficiency and not minding solitude and/or liking the feeling of anonymity by numbers, so there's that as the main downside.) Plus, Italy is pretty familiar with tourists and is a really popular destination, so there'll be tons of resources online and in person to avail yourself of! I recommend Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor and Wikitravel to start with.
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by reboot on Tue Dec 09, 2014 3:23 pm

Autumnflame wrote:That's awesome and super-exciting, Gman! Grin Honestly, even if you can't find someone you know to stay with, I'd wholeheartedly recommend just finding an AirBnB (I've had only good experiences with that) or a hostel (generally more threadbare, but you also get to meet other young people in a similar boat as you) and staying on your own to sightsee and travel. Traveling on your own is a different game from traveling with others - you get to set your own schedule, do exactly what you want, and you're more open to opportunities to interact with others. (It does require a sturdy sense of self-sufficiency and not minding solitude and/or liking the feeling of anonymity by numbers, so there's that as the main downside.) Plus, Italy is pretty familiar with tourists and is a really popular destination, so there'll be tons of resources online and in person to avail yourself of! I recommend Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor and Wikitravel to start with.

Strong second on the traveling alone! It is so much fun and Italy is easy to navigate and safe (as opposed to, say, trekking in the Tian Shan mountains alone). Since you dance, you even have ready-made social events because every city will have a dance venue and Latin dance is crazy popular.
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Gman on Tue Dec 09, 2014 3:42 pm

reboot wrote:
Autumnflame wrote:That's awesome and super-exciting, Gman! Grin Honestly, even if you can't find someone you know to stay with, I'd wholeheartedly recommend just finding an AirBnB (I've had only good experiences with that) or a hostel (generally more threadbare, but you also get to meet other young people in a similar boat as you) and staying on your own to sightsee and travel. Traveling on your own is a different game from traveling with others - you get to set your own schedule, do exactly what you want, and you're more open to opportunities to interact with others. (It does require a sturdy sense of self-sufficiency and not minding solitude and/or liking the feeling of anonymity by numbers, so there's that as the main downside.) Plus, Italy is pretty familiar with tourists and is a really popular destination, so there'll be tons of resources online and in person to avail yourself of! I recommend Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor and Wikitravel to start with.

Strong second on the traveling alone! It is so much fun and Italy is easy to navigate and safe (as opposed to, say, trekking in the Tian Shan mountains alone). Since you dance, you even have ready-made social events because every city will have a dance venue and Latin dance is crazy popular.

A good friend of mine just told me exactly these things too.

But I don't know though.... thinking about it is still making me quite nervous in general... Because what if something bad happens (someone robs me of my cell, passport, etc...) , then what do I do? I just don't want to find myself in a bad situation all on my own, far away from home, in a foreign country. With at least one other person, I have someone who can aid me if things go wrong (and vice versa). It's not that I am afraid of travelling alone, it's more of a practical thought and trying to cover as many bases as possible with minimal sacrifice of my own as possible. If that means travelling with someone else and having to adjust to that person (schedule/interests), then so be it.

But there is still plenty of time left to decide about that anyway, so maybe by then the nervous jitters will pass somehow.
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by reboot on Tue Dec 09, 2014 3:55 pm

Gman, start a thread on traveling alone internationally. I and many others here have a lot of experience and can give advice. I can move these posts if you like. Everything you listed is more a pain in the ass than an actual crisis, even losing your passport. There are so many work around and backup options!
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Autumnflame on Tue Dec 09, 2014 4:01 pm

^ what she said, but I'll wait to see if the thread is created before expounding. Smile
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by eselle28 on Tue Dec 09, 2014 4:53 pm

I have also traveled alone internationally (and, coincidentally, am vaguely planning to do so in Italy in the future) and would recommend that people give traveling alone a shot at least once in their lives. That being said, I do understand the safety concerns.

One  thing that doesn't seem to have been mentioned as an option is something in between having someone who's with you all day and whose interests and schedule you need to adjust to and going completely solo. It sounds like the festival you're interested in is the sort that will attract people from all over the world. Some of them will surely want to make the best use of those expensive airline tickets and do some touring after the festival is over. Perhaps you could network with some of them ahead of time, exchange hotel information, agree to assist each other if there are problems, and perhaps have dinner one night or something, while also agreeing that most of the rest of the time you'll look after yourselves?
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Traveling Alone

Post by Werel on Tue Dec 09, 2014 5:46 pm

^ What they said. Traveling alone internationally is scary, but can also be insanely rewarding, and there are tons of ways to work around the concerns you've got. I'll wait for the thread if discussion would be useful. Grin
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by eselle28 on Tue Dec 09, 2014 6:45 pm

Since there were so many replies and this seems like a topic that might be interesting or useful to multiple people, I split it from the Joys thread. If you'd rather drop the topic of your specific trip, Gman, let me know. We can always direct discussion along more general lines if you'd rather think about this later.
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Gman on Wed Dec 10, 2014 3:14 am

Hey all, it's totally cool that you guys split the thread, feel free to keep the disscussion going on (wether it's about my trip or others).
I thought about it a bit more too and most chances are that I won't be extending my stay there too long (most likely an extra 2 to 3 days more) just so I could make a quick tour of the city.
But like I said, I still feel that there is a lot of time left till then and that I have other things to worry about before then anyway (like my final exams of this semester).
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by BasedBuzzed on Wed Dec 10, 2014 8:40 am

To comfort your anxiety: have back-up plans for scenarios if something goes wrong(where to go if you lose your passport, where the Western Union is in case your money gets nicked). Your knowledge of this can also help other folks, which will endear you to them.

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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by reboot on Wed Dec 10, 2014 9:51 am

Since it seems like eselle opened this up for general advice for those traveling alone, I am going to toss some ideas out there in case they are useful to anyone:

General travel advice for those in groups of 1 or 1000

* Scan and make a paper copy of your passport information page. Have the scan attached to a draft email and also send it to 1-2 friends/family. Take two copies of your passport information page and put them in two different places in your luggage and (should go without saying) separate from your real passport. This can cut the wait time for a temporary travel documents (for Americans at least) down to as little as 12-24 hours.

* Register at the Embassy. Americans can do it online here This makes replacing your passport with temporary travel documents much, much faster. It also comes in handy if you need to be evacuated.

* Create a "public computer" email address for internet cafes/hotel computers and send your  flight itinerary to it and other travel related documents, but nothing else. This email should have nothing that sensitive or hackable. Change your password for each trip.

* Let all your credit cards  and ATM know where you are going and for how long. I am terrible about remembering to do this and my biggest travel hassle is getting back to them before they cancel my card because I tripped their fraud system.

* Carry 2 credit cards, one you take with you out and about and one you keep in your room. I like to hide mine as a bookmark or stick it in my toilet kit.

* I carry a crappy old dumb phone with a pay-as-you go SIM in case my phone gets lost or stolen. Make sure any "must have" numbers are programmed in, including those of your airlines, hotels, credit cards, bank, embassy, etc..

* If you have a smart phone and work in academia, any sort of government, or any field [edit] of any interest, which can be dammed near anything, to certain governments (e.g. China, Russia) and you visit, your device will be snooped. Do not have anything or any contacts on your device you are not happy to share with them. Most people I know have second devices with no information on them for these trips.

* Make sure someone back home knows where you will be, when and how you are getting from point A to Point B.

* If vaccines or medication is recommended, do it

Traveling alone

* Look for short (<= 1 day) guided tours to sites, it is a great way to meet other travelers

* If you have a hobby, look for groups/events/venues in the cities you visit. I tend to do Hash House Harriers because I like running and beer and it is full of embassy staff and expats, many of whom are on assignment alone and open to meeting new people.

More on traveling alone later....

EDIT: Later

* Solo travelers need to take the same precautions as a you would visiting any strange place alone. Do not go to someone's home right after meeting them, know where you are at all times, do not jump in cars of people you do not know, etc.. That said, I ignore most of this advice and only ended up in 1-2 sticky situations (in cities/places that are notoriously high risk), but those only avoided going hideously wrong through luck.

* Find some Australians, who do a lot of travel alone, if you are younger or into the backpacking thing or need to do something on the cheap. Most spend a decent amount of time in places and know the local ins and outs. They are also fun to drink with.

* Research, research, research. Find travel writers who seem similar to you and your interests and budget. Print out key information if you are in a place with unreliable electric or internet.

* Have a camera that you will not be too sorry to lose that is separate from your phone for getting people to take pictures of you when a selfie just will not do. Some people I know bring a separate card for each day just so they do not lose all pictures. I do not go that far. I just carry a cheap ass digital that only the most desperate thief would take.
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Barretts_Salt on Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:48 pm

Reboot @ 0751

Saved to hard drive.

Many thanks:)
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Werel on Wed Dec 10, 2014 3:21 pm

Everything reboot said x100.

Also: money belts, the kind worn under your pants, may make you feel goofy (I have worn them a million times and still feel like a pud putting one on), but they give me a lot of peace of mind in crowded pickpockety places.

& obviously: if you can, learn enough of the language to negotiate prices, ask directions, say hi, etc. Even if you're not very proficient, most people will be more likely to help you out if you're making an effort.

Maybe silly but: bring lots of shareable goods of a type which many people in that country enjoy (gum, cigarettes, betel nut, whatever). Helps in striking up conversations, and sometimes folks will be unbelievably kind to a foreigner who has given them some small good-faith token. A guy in Seoul once took me to his restaurant that he owned, called me a cab to my destination and PAID FOR IT, and gave me free tea till the cab came, because I'd offered him some gum when asking for directions in terrible Korean. Shiny/thrilled

edit: should specify it was a restaurant that was open and had a lot of people in it. Same rules apply about going with strangers to non-public spaces wherever you are!
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by reboot on Wed Dec 10, 2014 3:45 pm

Werel wrote:Everything reboot said x100.

Also: money belts, the kind worn under your pants, may make you feel goofy (I have worn them a million times and still feel like a pud putting one on), but they give me a lot of peace of mind in crowded pickpockety places.

& obviously: if you can, learn enough of the language to negotiate prices, ask directions, say hi, etc. Even if you're not very proficient, most people will be more likely to help you out if you're making an effort.

Maybe silly but: bring lots of shareable goods of a type which many people in that country enjoy (gum, cigarettes, betel nut, whatever). Helps in striking up conversations, and sometimes folks will be unbelievably kind to a foreigner who has given them some small good-faith token. A guy in Seoul once took me to his restaurant that he owned, called me a cab to my destination and PAID FOR IT, and gave me free tea till the cab came, because I'd offered him some gum when asking for directions in terrible Korean. Shiny/thrilled

edit: should specify it was a restaurant that was open and had a lot of people in it. Same rules apply about going with strangers to non-public spaces wherever you are!

Great point about the snacks/gum/cigarettes. Always accept (or decline and offer something of your own in the case of cigarettes for nonsmokers) if you want to have a conversation. Do not accept if you are not up for interaction. In most places the offer is the equivalent of "Hi how are you? Want to talk?"

Also, if you are traveling alone and on a train or bus next to someone much older or a family, be prepared to be fed things.
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Gman on Sun Dec 14, 2014 7:54 am

Update time - well, I just got in my email the eticket itself for the festival!!! AHHHH!!!!  Loopy Grin rofl


I also managed to talk with my friend who convinced me in the first place and turns out that he and his other friend won't mind me joining them while travling after the festival. They plan on staying in the area for also a week, so I'm happy I managed to sort that out. I know a lot of you here are really pro "lone travelling" but I'm just not that kind of person. If I can find people who I like and I think I can trust, then I'll always prefer that than travelling alone. 

Now I just need to contact the hotel of the event and order an extra night for the night before the festival starts - my friend told me there is supposed to be a really cool "pre-festival" dance party the night before, so we want to make it to that as well :-)
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Wondering on Sun Dec 14, 2014 5:26 pm

reboot wrote:
* Have a camera that you will not be too sorry to lose that is separate from your phone for getting people to take pictures of you when a selfie just will not do. Some people I know bring a separate card for each day just so they do not lose all pictures. I do not go that far. I just carry a cheap ass digital that only the most desperate thief would take.

I actually take disposable cameras on my trips. The only camera I own is on my phone, but I rarely use that when on vacation. I am too prone to losing or dropping things for an expensive camera, and I don't want to lose all photos if I do.

And seconding Werel on the money belt thing. I use that for cash, and put my passport in it, too. Also, and this is hard in a lot of places where they want to use my passport as standard ID, I never hand my passport to anyone who is not the official customs/government agent.

As someone with a chronic medical condition, I also advise that if you have medical needs, have a letter from your doctor saying what you should be carrying with you in addition to all your prescription labels. And know how to get new meds and supplies in the place you're going. If you're American and traveling abroad, that also means knowing the metric conversions for any meds/supplies that you get at home under non-metric amounts. When traveling, have back up supplies left in your room and some to carry with you. Separate them into separate bags, like carry on and checked, when on the plane or other transit. Even when I just take road trips around the US, I have meds left in the car and those I carry with me. (Pro-tip: If you have an insulin pump, your pump company will likely offer you a loaner spare pump if you're traveling abroad or to Hawaii/Alaska. If you have a different condition that requires a medical device, check with your supplier to see if they offer the same.)

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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by Autumnflame on Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:09 pm

Reboot's and Werel's advice is great for avoiding the worst of the things that can go wrong on a trip, and I don't have anything better to add in that vein. If it sounds super-daunting to go through all those preparations, though, I can say that I don't do half of those things when I'm traveling abroad, and I have had some ill things happen (phone got stolen in Oxford, wallet got stolen in New York, I've gotten horrendously lost in Tokyo). In none of those cases did the world end. It was a hassle that I'd rather not deal with (especially the phone) but most of the time your important documents/items aren't all going to vanish at once, and most discomfort and stress is temporary; I wouldn't give up the experiences I've had despite the occasional tears and stressful times. (Mind, I've never been assaulted or mugged, so I'm speaking from a position of comparative safety.) In the cases I mentioned, it was a matter of finding the local police stations and reporting my lost items, getting a temporary mobile to tide me over, canceling cards and going to my bank to request a new one, and asking for help in broken Japanese from the police officers around or from store clerks. People are generally willing to help, if you approach people who look like they'd have a moment and are apologetic/polite.

Of course, it's a bit more difficult to deal with the unexpected bumps like that if you're traveling on a shoestring budget. I'd definitely advise having an emergency fund, cash or linked to a card kept in a place like a shoe or underwear wallet.

In general, I find the same tactics you'd use at your home/nearest Big City to be similar to any other metropolitan area you visit. I can't speak for more rural/undeveloped areas, as I haven't traveled to such places, but many cities are similar as far as the resources available. Don't leave your personal belongings unattended, keep a peripheral eye on the surroundings, don't go with anyone you don't know, etc. (I have broken that last one, but only with people I'd already arranged to meet, not with strangers off the street trying to sell me stuff.)
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Re: Traveling Alone

Post by reboot on Sat Dec 20, 2014 12:26 pm

I also do not do everything I listed every time and some of them (scanned/copy passport) are one off until your passport expires.

For example, I am using my travel email and pinging back through my home network here in Hong Kong but that is more to protect some contacts than anything else. I am not registering with the embassy, I am carrying my phone as a camera, etc.. It really depends on where you are going. If I was visiting Karachi, Beirut or Kinshasa I would take all of those precautions. In Hong Kong the bare minimum is needed.

Oh and PS, Hong Kong is lovely

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