Whether as a healthcare professional traveling for an assignment or as an individual on vacation, solo adventures are a liberating experience! Are you the super-social type that loves to be around people, but hates waiting for friends to commit to joining you? Maybe you’re intimidated about the whole idea and can’t decide if you’re ready to try solo travel? No matter what end of the spectrum you’re at, learning how to travel solo and travel safely is the first step!
Finding Safe Housing
If you’re taking an assignment in a new city without any connections, it’s best to start your housing search ASAP! Travel healthcare professionals find the following sites helpful and trustworthy:
How to Search for Housing
Check Facebook groups! Once you’ve found some groups, search the name of the hospital or the city that you’re moving to and look at different posts with rentals. Be sure to read the comments to hear what other professionals think and to see if any landlords have chimed in with their properties.
When you find one that looks good, research the area, making sure the neighborhood is safe. From there you can message the landlord to set up a time to FaceTime or Zoom with them to see the property. While it’s rare, there are instances where the property looks nothing like what was described or it is a total scam. Get a walk-through visual of the property before you move or pay any deposits!
Trulia and Zillow can be a little harder to find short-term rentals, but use them as Plan B when you’re having trouble finding housing via other channels.
Exploring with Care
One of the main reasons you’re on a solo adventure is to explore the city or town you’ve landed in. While it is thrilling to wander, it’s best to do so with care and awareness.
- Carry a Birdie Alarm. This lightweight alarm is loud and bright with its strobe light. If you feel that you’re in danger, pull down on the device, the strobe light flashes, and a loud noise sounds, alerting others that you need help. The sound should also scare off the potential predator.
- Pack pepper spray. Similar concept to the Birdie Alarm, pepper spray can be carried with you and used on anyone that may be aggressive. Remember, if traveling by plane, this will have to be packed in checked-luggage, not in your purse or backpack.
- Stay very alert. If you’re walking, running, biking anywhere alone (especially at night) know your surroundings and trust your gut. Stop looking down at your phone, keep your head up, and never use headphones or earbuds!
- Tell others. Heading out in an Uber, visiting a local hot spot, or clocking miles on a trail, you must tell others! Text a few close friends or family, letting them know where you’re going and the estimated time you expect to return home. Sharing a picture is also helpful.
- Make connections. If you are a solo traveler for work as a healthcare professional, use a community app, like MedVenture, to help you make connections with others that may be on their own in the same city.
- Car care. Trunk space is probably limited, but be sure to get a small battery booster / jumper that lets you start your car without help from someone else. The battery pack is a self-contained unit with cables attached. Also throw in a flashlight and a blanket just in case. Optional, is an emergency road kit that includes warning triangles and lights. A subscription to AAA is never a bad idea either.
- Keep your identification close. You never can plan for an accident or something worse, so it’s always good to keep your ID on you just in case! RoadID is a bracelet for outdoor enthusiasts that engraves your info onto a metal faceplate. You can include your name, birth-year, blood type, contact phone number etc. Think “If I was hurt, what info would rescuers or EMTs need about me?” (RoadID also has a First Responder/Medical Professional Discount Program).
A few more thoughts on hiking alone…
Most people suggest not hiking alone. However, when you’re in a new area and you don’t know anyone, hiking alone may be your only option.
- If you do decide to hike alone, pay for the AllTrails app and download the map of the trail you plan to hike. It works offline and can save you from getting lost in the woods. MapsMe or Google Maps help get you home when driving back from your hike.
- If we’ve said it once, we’ll say it again…let someone know where you’re hiking! Send a photo of the trail map, name, milage and an ETA on your return. If you get lost and don’t check in, they’ll know something is wrong.
- Bring more than enough food and water and maybe even an extra layer of clothing to keep you warm in case something goes wrong or you get lost. Pepper spray / bear spray are good to have. Some places, like Glacier National Park, require that you hike with bear spray because of the Grizzlies that live there.
- Packing the first aid kit may seem like a silly reminder, but it’s important for a solo traveler or any traveler. A top-notch kit should have a whistle and a mylar thermal blanket included.
Stay Safe, Pack Smart, Have Fun!
With a little extra thought and preparation, the experience of traveling alone can be exciting. Not only will you have the opportunity to meet new people and see new places, but you’ll also build your confidence and resilience to tackle the unexpected!