By Lily Jang
Exuma Island, Bahamas
Dublin, Istanbul, Bruges, Prague, Cabo, France. Just some of the places I’ve traveled alone. People have always asked me why I love to go on solo trips. I guess the answer is that I was born with wanderlust. It’s in my blood to discover other cultures and traveling alone has made those experiences richer. It is the ultimate escape and self-indulgence. I can pop into a sidewalk pizzeria in Italy and enjoy a leisurely three-hour lunch and people watch, take a four-hour bus ride through Ireland and gaze at the castles and the rolling hills, explore old city Prague on foot for hours at a time, and take a quiet canal ride in Bruges, Belgium, if the mood strikes. I am completely on my own time frame and only rest when I want to. I enjoy every second I have of the silence, self-reflection, self-discovery, and I do exactly what I want to do—all the time. If I want to spend six hours inside a Paris museum, I can discover as I wish. If I decided to visit an Istanbul Mosque and spend the day watching people pray, I can do that. It’s the few days a year where I don’t have a 2:30 a.m. wake-up call, no responsibilities, no events to MC, no deadlines to meet, no emails to return, and no one to answer to. It’s just me and the world and I come home with the most amazing stories about my travels. No matter whether I’m solo or with someone else, my travel rules are always the same. Here are my tips for a safe and fun vacation.
1. Pack Light. I’ve gone to the Far East (Thailand and Vietnam) carrying only a big backpack which is equivalent to a carry-on bag. The more you tote around, the harder it is to get from one place to another. Simplify. You won’t miss those extra pair of shoes, I promise.
2. No flashy jewelry. Never wear big diamond rings, bracelets, pearls, or pricey watches unless you want to be a target of theft. I don’t even wear earrings. Be under the radar and leave your valuables at home.
3. Plan in advance. This means research subway/bus/train schedules and routes inside your hotel room before you venture out. Do not hold a map while standing on a street corner looking confused. This is the easiest way to be vulnerable and have someone target you because you’re not paying attention. If you get lost while you’re out and about, pop into a coffee shop or restaurant and get your bearings.
4. No purses. They attract pickpocketers. All you really need while out discovering a new city is a photocopy of your passport (keep your passport in the safe at the hotel), some cash and a credit card for purchases. Place those somewhere inconspicuous like a travel scarf that has a zipper or a wallet that you can wear around your neck that you can tuck inside your jacket. They sell all kinds of secret money stashes for travelers at the store. If you do carry a purse, use a cross body and have your hand on the purse in front of you. You can’t be too careful.
5. Ditch the plastic shopping bags. We’re bound to buy souvenirs, but bring your own tote bag. Plastic shopping bags mark you as an out-of-towner.
6. Lie. Yep, I said tell a white lie. While traveling solo through Ireland in the summer of 2012, I wore a fake wedding band. No one assumed I was alone. Never tell anyone you’re solo no matter how “safe” they seem. Lie if you have to that your husband is down the street or at the hotel room waiting for you.
7. Stay in touch. Always leave your itinerary with family so someone knows where you are at all times. Check-in with an email at the end of each day.
8. Avoid excessive drinking. It’s easy to have a glass of wine with dinner and walk back to the hotel, but avoid more than one glass. It’s hard to maintain complete control over your surroundings when alcohol can affect your instinct. If that second glass of wine is calling your name, order from your hotel restaurant or bar when you’re already safely back where you need to be for the night.
9. Wear sensible shoes. I’ve traveled all over Italy with only ONE pair of closed-toe flats. My Toms were comfy, easy to slip on and my feet never hurt. They were easily paired with whatever I wanted
to wear: pants, jeans, skirts. This, again, is all about simplifying.
10. Just sit and BE. Enjoy the world around you. The best part about traveling alone is to watch how people live. I love discovering other cultures. I sat in the town square in Prague and watched locals go about their day. I listened to them talk, laugh and make plans while I was sitting at a sidewalk café. These are the moments you will cherish for the rest of your life.
Jaco, Costa Rica
Lily Jang is a news anchor at KHOU in Houston. She's worked all over the country in Seattle, Birmingham,
Alabama and Amarillo, Texas.
Lily is an Emmy-nominated journalist who leads the country when it comes to social-media interaction with viewers. She is an avid social-media user with a loyal following on both Facebook and Twitter. Lily has been honored twice by The Huffington Post as a Twitter Powerhouse.
Lily is happy to donate her time and energy to worthy charity causes in the community. On a typical weekend, you'll find her emceeing a non-profit event in the area, throwing a tweetup or speaking on a panel about social media. Lily is also fluent in Cantonese and Vietnamese.