Solo Travel – Five Rules to Live By

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As I have spoken about before, there are many advantages to traveling solo (i.e. on your own without friends or companions).

One of the great things about traveling is the freedom it gives you, and you’re never freer than when you’re on your own, as you can do exactly what you want, when you want and you’ll never have to make compromises.

Of course, traveling on your own comes with its own set of risks and problems, prompting you to be a little more cautious and sensible at times (anyone that’s watch the film ‘127 hours’ will understand why).

Bartley Kives of has come up with 5 simple rules to follow when traveling alone. Let’s take a look:

1. Choose a familiar, well-travelled route
Given the inherent risks of solo travel, it’s a good idea to hike on your own in places you either know or where the terrain is easy to navigate.

The first time I went on a solo backpacking trip, I chose a loop trail in Riding Mountain, where the paths are wide and practically idiot-proof. Once you’re comfortable on your own, you can tackle more difficult routes.”

This is good advice not just for solo travelers, but for all first-time travelers. Although you might have the urge to go off and explore the unknown, most ‘well-traveled routes’ are well-traveled for a reason – because they’re good!

2. Tell someone where you’re going
You don’t need to see 127 Hours to learn the wisdom of observing the No. 1 rule of wilderness travel. Always tell someone precisely where you’re going, how long you intend to be there and when you’ll be back.

If you can, leave them a detailed itinerary of your intended campsites. Also leave instructions about what to do if you don’t call in at a predetermined time.”

traveling soloTelling someone (or as many people as possible) where you’re going is good advice no matter who you’re traveling with or where you’re going.

Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group of 20 people, having friends and family back home knowing where you’re supposed to be is a great safety measure.

3. Carry a map and compass
With two or three sets of eyes, following a trail is pretty easy. On your own, it’s remarkably easy to get turned around. So pack a map and compass and use a GPS as backup, remembering to carry extra batteries.

Just keep track of where you are at all times. And if you find yourself off the trail, never forge ahead — it’s better to double back to the last trail marker or familiar place.”

This rule is really only relevant if you’re going hiking out in the wilderness, as you’ll never need these items if you’re traveling around towns/cities.

4. Don’t be too proud for electronics
If a cell phone works where you’re going, take it. You only have to use it in the event of an emergency. If there’s no coverage, consider purchasing ‘Spot’, a lightweight GPS device that allows your friends and family to monitor your progress in the wilderness.”

Having electronics (such as a cell phone) is useful, but you can’t always rely on them like you would a map and a compass (as batteries can run out or signal can be poor). That being said, whenever I go traveling I always make sure to carry a cell phone with me in case of emergencies. Luckily I’ve never had to use it so far!

5. Pack light, but not too light
A heavily burdened backpacker can’t climb rockfalls or descend cliffs as safely as someone with a lighter load. It’s simply safer to travel light, but do not scrimp on essentials such as a First Aid kit, raingear and enough warm clothes and extra food to survive bad weather.

If you don’t own a lightweight solo tent or shelter, borrow or rent one. And take hiking poles with you to better distribute the weight from your pack on uneven terrain.”

Packing light is ALWAYS a good idea when going traveling, and this rule should be applied wherever you’re going. As Susan Heller once said; ‘When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money’.

For more advice on packing light, check out my post on the principles of lightweight backpacking.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press.

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